Ontario Government’s Plans on the Environment: Impact on Brownfield Development

The Ontario Government released a Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan in late 2018 in partially in response to criticism that it had no plan for addressing climate change after it cancelled the greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade program of the previous government. The plan includes several proposals that should be on interest to persons involved in brownfield development.

The Ontario government 52-page document (entitled (“Preserving and Protecting or Environment for Future Generations: A Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan”) commits to protecting air, lakes and rivers; addressing climate change; reducing litter and waste; and conserving land and greenspace. Many of the measures establish a direction but the details will have to be further developed.

With respect to contaminated sites and brownfields, the document talks about the “polluter pay”, and engaging environment business and entrepreneurs. However, it is lacking in details.

Generating GHG from Brownfield Projects

The Ontario government’s proposed replaced to the scraped GHG trading regulation is the Creating the Ontario Carbon Fund. While details are to be worked out, the plan proposes to use $400M of government funding with the aim of leveraging additional private funds on a 4:1 basis to support “investment in clean technologies that are commercially viable.” The fund will also support a “reverse auction” model whereby emitters will “bid” for funding to support their GHG reduction projects.

There is a possibility that developers involved in brownfield redevelopment could be eligible for government funding depending on if clean technologies are employed in the clean-up and GHG reductions are realized versus the traditional dig-and-dump approach to site clean-up.

2010 Photo of the former Kitchener Frame Building (Photo Credit: Philip Walker/Record staff)

Streamlined environmental approvals

The Made-in-Ontario Plan notes that environmental approvals should be prioritized for businesses that want to implement low GHG technology or approaches. This is the latest promise from the Ontario government to speed up the approval process.

Seasoned veterans in the environmental sector remember similar promises made the government on fast-tracked approvals. There are still those who remember the Environmental Leaders Program in which speedy approval was promised to companies that committed to above-compliance environmental activities and targets.

With respect to this latest promise on speedy approvals, the document is silent on if “speed” will be applied to the Environment Ministry review of site specific risk assessments (SSRA’s) that are submitted to the Ontario Environment Ministry for approval instead of following the generic clean-up standards.

Measures to promote healthy, clean soils

The Made-in-Ontario Plan plan commits to “revise the brownfield regulation and record of site condition guide” as part of a basket of measures to promote clean soils. Again, the document is lacking in details.

The previous Ontario government had proposed reasonable changes to the Record of Site Condition Regulations (O. Reg. 153/04). One important aspect of the proposed change is related to road-salt impacts on a property. As the regulations currently stands, road salt-related impacts can only be exempted from clean-up if it can be proven they are related to the application of de-icing salts on a public highway. Under the proposed changes to the regulations, the exemption will include road salt applied to a property ‘for the purpose of traffic and pedestrian safety under conditions of snow/ice’. This one change, if implemented, would save thousands of dollars in clean-up costs at many sites undergoing redevelopment in Ontario.

The previous Ontario government had also proposed a much-need excess soil regulation. There has been extensive consultation on the proposed regulation over a five-year period. If implemented, the regulation would address the gaps surrounding the ability for enforcement on mismanagement of excess soils in Ontario. It would also open up the opportunity for beneficial reuse of excess soil.

Clean-up of Potential CFL Stadium Site for Halifax Schooners

Shannon Park is located in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, across the bay from Halifax. It is the the site of a former military housing complex. Environmental studies show that the site is contaminated with approximately 24,000 tonnes of soil containing arsenic and hydrocarbons.

The site has been empty since 2003. In 2014, it was purchased by Canada Lands Company, a federal crown corporation. In 2017, all buildings on the site were demolished.

In November 2018, the federal government issued tender documents for remediation of the site with the goal of it being cleaned up by the spring of 2019.

In December, it was announced that Dexter Construction Company Ltd. was recently awarded a contract to excavate, transport, and dispose of the contaminated soil from the Shannon Park site. They are also required to backfill the excavated area with clean fill as part of the contract. The value of contract is $900,933.

Dexter Construction, located in nearby Bedford, is the largest civil contractor in Nova Scotia with over 40 years of experience in infrastructure, mining, and the environment. Dexter Construction Company Limited is a subsidiary of Municipal Enterprises Limited and is the construction arm of the Municipal Group of Companies.

Previous environmental projects that Dexter Construction has been involved with include the Halifax Regional Municipality landfill development and the Halifax Harbour sewage treatment system construction.

With respect to the site being the home to a new stadium for the Halifax Schooners of the Canadian Football League, there is much to be done including the football team purchasing the land, raising $200 million to build the stadium, and getting approval for construction.

Plan for Football Stadium at Shannon Park, Dartmouth

Canadian NCC Awards Contracts for Environmental Site Assessment

The Canadian National Capital Commission recently award contracts to a number of environmental consulting firms to conduct environmental assessment of contaminated sites in Ottawa.  A number of firms were awarded contracts of $833,333 for providing contaminated site assessment services.  The firms were DST Consulting Engineers Inc., Geofirma Engineering Ltd., GHD Ltd., Golder Associates Ltd., SNC-Lavelin Inc., and Terrapex Environmental Ltd.

Under the contracts, the NCC may request as part of the purchase order process, but is not necessarily limited to the following consultant services under the resulting Agreements:

  • Provide environmental reports (either English or French);
  • Contaminated Site Identification and characterization associated with various sources of contamination;
  • Historical review of site activities, including consultation with municipal, provincial and federal regulatory agencies;
  • Field surveys;
  • Site investigations (sampling of contaminated or potentially contaminated media);
  • All parameters analyzed should be compared to both the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Federal Guidelines as well as the applicable provincial criteria;
  • Interpretation of laboratory analyses;
  • Contaminated area delineation for soil and groundwater, which includes coloured maps that clearly identify and illustrate the testing locations, the contaminants found, the dimensions of the contaminated volumes and the affected area;
  • Recommendations of further investigations, if required, with all the associated costs;
  • Provide guidance and expertise with Federal Regulation compliance;
  • Provide maintenance and repair services for existing monitoring infrastructure;
  • Evaluation of remediation technologies, which includes, identifying the different remediation options and the costs associated;
  • Evaluation of strategies to optimize recycling of material during remediation projects;
  • Completion of risk assessments (human health and ecological) under federal and provincial guidelines;
  • Provide Engineering Plans and Specification documents for remediation and construction projects (French & English);
  • Provide site surveillance during remediation and construction activities;
  • Provide project management and construction management services;
  • Provide landfill engineering and management services; and,
  • Provide long-term management strategies for complex contaminated sites.

The NCC has a number of development and rehabilitation projects underway in Ottawa including the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats, a property just west of Parliament Hill in Ottawa.  The property is contaminated from historical industrial activity and must be remediated before it can be redeveloped into a commercial and residential community.

In the past, the NCC spent $6.7 million to decontaminate the soil on a 5.7-hectare site. The process involved removing and remediating 110,000 cubic metres of soil.

With the current area awaiting remediation being just over three times that size at 21 hectares, RendezVous LeBreton, the development company that is partnering with the NCC to develop the site, has a considerably larger and undoubtedly more expensive amount of soil to remediate.

As of the Spring of 2018, the total cost of the soil decontamination at LeBreton Flats is undetermined at this time, but is estimated to be around $170 million, according to RendezVous LeBreton Group.

The empty land in LeBreton Flats awaits its redevelopment, but the soil that lies beneath its surface is in need of a cleanup, as well. Photo By: Meaghan Richens, Centretown News

 

Financing Soil Remediation: Exploring the use of financing instruments to blend public and private capital

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) recently released a report entitled Financing Soil Remediation: Exploring the use of financing instruments to blend public and private capital.

The report makes the statement that governments around the world are looking at opportunities to attract private capital participation in both land remediation and its productive use and redevelopment thereafter. The business case is intrinsically the value capture in the increase in retail price of land and related business opportunities once the remediation is complete. However, where land value capture is lower and related revenue streams remain uncertain, the case for private capital participation is much less compelling. Governments, in this case, have to fund the remediation through public budgets and thereafter seek opportunities to partner with private counter-parties to use the land as “fit for purpose.”

The IISD report presents 17 case studies on a variety of financing instruments that blend public and private capital. Each case study includes a short discussion on the extent to which each instrument could be used to finance the remediation of contaminated soil. The case studies in thereport demonstrate a variety of financing strategies, from index-linked bonds to savings accounts and from peer-to-peer lending platforms to debt-for-nature swaps. Find out more about Loanpad by reading this review, if peer-to-peer lending is something you have been considering to do for your business.

This report is a part of a series of outputs of a four-year project, Financing Models for Soil Remediation. The overall objective of the project is to harness the full range of green finance approaches and vehicles to manage the associated risk and fund the remediation of contaminated soils.

The series of reports focuses on the financial vehicles available to attract investment to environmental rehabilitation of degraded land and the financial reforms needed to make these vehicles a viable and desirable means of investing in land rehabilitation. The IISD draws on best practices worldwide in funding environmental rehabilitation, with a special focus on the design and use of financial mechanisms to attract private investors, share the risk and offer a clear benefit for the rehabilitated land. If you would like to make some investments, with regards to personal investment then you may want to check out some mutual funds.

Several lessons emerge from these case studies described in the report in the context of financing the remediation of contaminated land, including the following:

  1. As with all financial arrangements, the risk appetite of different investors has to match the risk profile of
    the investment. It is difficult to crowd in private and institutional investors when projects remain below
    investment grade.
  2. Money follows a good deal. When legal, technological, revenue and other risks are understood and are
    transparent, feasible ways to reduce these uncertainties can be planned and financing strategies can be
    worked upon.
  3. When there is reasonable certainty that the value of the land will increase after remediation and will
    subsequently generate stable and predictable revenues, there is a strong case for blending public and
    private financing.
  4. When, on the other hand, projects have less attractive revenue potential, governments have to step in to
    finance the remediation, or at least a larger part of it.

About the IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is an independent think tank championing sustainable solutions to 21st–century problems. The mission of the IISD is to promote human development and environmental sustainability. IISD focuses on research, analysis, and knowledge products that support sound policy making.

Kitchener, Ontario’s Largest Brownfield Redevelopment

Kitchener, Ontario’s biggest abandoned industrial site is well on its way into being redeveloped into a 50,000-square-foot facility for a tool and die company and a 3,150-square-metre medical office building.

The 78-acres industrial site is located on the southeast corner of Bleams Road and Homer Watson Boulevard in Kitchener, approximately 100 km west of Toronto.  It was developed with a 1.2 million square foot manufacturing facility that was constructed in several phases beginning in 1967.  The facility had been used by Budd Canada to manufacture auto parts, ThyssenKrupp Budd Canada, and eventually by Kitchener Frame.  The land has sat idle since 2009.

2010 Photo of fhe former Kitchener Frame Building (Photo Credit: Philip Walker/Record staff

In 2010, a group of investors purchased the property with the vision of redeveloping it.  It has taken eight years for the redevelopment to reach its current state – a series of approvals from various levels of government and a plan to start construction in early 2019.

The site is still waiting approval of the Record of Site Condition (RSC) from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MOECP). It was filed in January of 2018.  An RSC is typically required by on Ontario Municipality if a property is being redevelopment for a more sensitive land use (i.e., from industrial to commercial or residential).  It is filed by an environmental consultant following the clean-up of a property.  It summarizes the environmental condition of a property based on the completion of environmental site assessments (i.e., Phase I & II ESAs).

Site Clean-up

Demolition work and subsequent site cleanup got underway in November 2011. The environmental remediation cost an estimated $8.5 million.

A soil remediation program was conducted at the property between April and June 2016 in an attempt to reduce the
concentrations of the contaminants of concern s in soil identified at the property. The remediation activity at the site included the excavation of approximately 9,360 cubic metres (5,200 tonnes) of contaminated soil for disposal at a licensed non-hazardous waste landfill.  No sediment or groundwater was remediated or removed for the purpose of remediation.

The clean-up of the site included the preparation of a Streamlined Tier 3 Risk Assessment Report.   A risk assessment provides an approach for developing property specific standards (PSS) under Ontario Regulation 153/04 (Records of Site Condition (RSC) – Part XV.1 of the Act), made under the Environmental Protection Act (the Regulation). A Tier 3 Risk Assessment goes beyond the generic approach of a Tier 2 risk assessment and involves a longer and more detailed review by the MOECP. According to the filed RSC, the MOECP has approved of the Streamlined Tier 3 Risk Assessment.

As reported in the Kitchener Post, a total of $7,787,000 in direct remediation costs are eligible to be reimbursed by the city and region under a joint tax increment grant application. The total estimated post redevelopment assessment value is estimated at more than $111 million.

Redevelopment

In an interview with the Daily Commercial News, Janinen Oosterveld, manager of site development and customer service in Kitchener-Waterloo’s planning division stated: “Approvals to finalize the subdivision of the lands into development parcels is currently underway.”

As of mid-October, the city had received site plan applications for two developments — a 50,000-square-foot facility for a tool and die company and a 3,150-square-metre medical office building.

Plans for the redevelopment envisage nine industrial parcels, totaling approximately 39 acres.

Future redevelopment of the former industrial property on Homer Watson Boulevard, Kitchener, Ontario (Photo Credit: Bill Jackson/Metroland)

 

Business Opportunities for Environmental Research and Development

The United States Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) is seeking environmental research and development proposals for funding beginning in FY 2020. Projects will be selected through a competitive process. The Core Solicitation provides funding opportunities for basic and applied research and advanced technology development. Core projects vary in cost and duration consistent with the scope of the work proposed.

The Statements of Need (SON) referenced by this solicitation request proposals related to the SERDP program areas of Environmental Restoration (ER), Munitions Response (MR), Resource Conservation and Resiliency (RC), and Weapons Systems and Platforms (WP).

The SERDP Exploratory Development (SEED) Solicitation provides funding opportunities for work that will investigate innovative environmental approaches that entail high technical risk or require supporting data to provide proof of concept.

Funding is limited to not more than $200,000 and projects are approximately one year in duration. This year, SERDP is requesting SEED proposals for the Munitions Response and Weapons Systems and Platforms program areas. All Core pre-proposals are due January 8, 2019. SEED proposals are due March 5, 2019. For more information and application instructions, see https://www.serdp-estcp.org/Funding-Opportunities/SERDP-Solicitations.

Did the City of Hamilton overpay for a Brownfield Site

As reported by the CBC, the City of Hamilton recently paid $1.75 million for a brownfield site that once sold for $2.  The property, located at 350 Wenworth Street North, sold for $2 a decade ago and then for $266,000 two years ago.

In the property was purchased in 2013 for $266,000, hundreds of barrels of toxic waste were discovered behind a fake wall.  The barrels contained coal tar byproducts and industrial solvents, and roof tar.  The new owner arranged for the proper disposal of the barrels.  The Ontario Environment Ministry confirmed  in  an e-mail to CBC that the waste had been from the building and it was decontaminated by the fall of 2017.  It also confirmed that the clean-up included the removal of approximately 200,000 litres of liquid waste.

The cleanup of the toxic property has been going on intermittently since 2010 (Photo Credit: Hamilton Spectator) photo

It is not known how much the clean-up of the 800 barrels of toxic waste cost, but the Hamilton Spectator quoted the owner  in 2017 that the clean-up would cost $650,000.

Property records for the building stretch all the way back to 1988, when Currie Products Limited spent a million dollars for 350 Wentworth. Currie ran a tar facility that went out of business there in the late 1990s, and was considered by many to be the company that originally polluted the site. Owner John Currie died in 2013.

Through the years, the building has changed hands multiple times for a wide swath of prices, ranging from that original million dollars, to $610,000 in 2007, to $2 in 2008, to the tax sale in 2016 and now, for $1.75 million. Over that time, building owners fought with each other and the province over who was actually responsible for cleaning up the site, in some cases heading to court in search of a resolution. For each sale, the price of the property reflected what buyers knew about the site at the time.

The city’s purchase of the property is all part of a reshuffling of buildings in the area to create a transit hub for the lower city like the Mountain Transit Centre at 2200 Upper James.

While it appears the city could have saved money by taking over the property when it was up for tax sale, that’s not really the case, officials say. The city does sometimes take carriage of properties after a failed tax sale, but woudn’t do so on a property like this one with environmental issues, Hamilton City Councillor Matthew Green told the CBC.  He added, “The city won’t take on the liability by policy.  The liability is way too big, because you don’t know what you’re buying … you have no idea what could be found or buried.”

The city bought 350 Wentworth St. N., which has required much cleanup over the years. Most recently, 200,000 litres of liquid waste was removed from the site in 2017 (Credit: The Hamilton Spectator)

 

 

 

Brantford Showcases its Brownfield Projects

Known as the Telephone City, Brantford may also become famous as one of the first municipalities in Canada to proudly showcase its brownfield projects.

Instead of hiding from its industrial past, the city is showcasing several brownfield projects and is encouraging residents and visitors to take the self-guided tour.  Eight projects in various stages of remediation or redevelopment are highlighted in the  tour.

Highlights of the the tour are the Greenwich Mohawk Site, Sydenham-Pear Site and Edward Gould Park.  The Greenwich Mohawk Site alone is over 50 acres and was remediated over the course of two years, starting in 2014.

 

 

 

The City is investing $5,000 per year to promote the tour and hopes to attract interested individuals, school groups, and others.  The tour itself provides participants with access to historical photos, newspaper articles and other project details through the tour website.

Users can access the Brownfields Discovery Tour online at Brantford.ca/BrownfieldsTour where they can follow along digitally or print a hard copy of the tour.

“The City of Brantford has become widely recognized as a leader for remediation, redevelopment and public education of brownfields,” said Amy Meloch, chair of the brownfields community advisory committee in an interview with the Brantford Expositor. “The tour is an exciting continuation of the work of the committee to raise awareness to both residents and visitors of the extensive work already accomplished in the city.”

The sites on the tour include those that are municipally and privately owned.  They are:

  • 186 Pearl St. – a 0.38-hectare site located in a residential area, this site was home to Brantford Emery Wheel Co. (1910-1920) and the Brantford Grinding Wheel Co. (1920-1939). Bay State Abrasives was involved in similar manufacturing operations there. The city removed an underground storage tank, removed the existing structures, cleaned the contaminated soil and planted sod at a cost of about $175,000. The property has been converted into a park.
  • 347 Greenwich St. and 22 and 66 Mohawk St. – Referred to collectively as the Greenwich Mohawk Brownfield Site, the companies and industry formerly housed on these properties are a significant part of the city’s history. The 27.9-acre 347 Greenwich property is the former site of Massey-Harris Co., established in 1891. It employed thousands of Brantford employees over the years. A 2005 fire destroyed most of the buildings and the city acquired the property in 2007.
  • 22 Mohawk St. – This 7.25-acre property has been home to Adam’s Wagon Co. and Brantford Coach and Body, later Canada Coach and Body, where military vehicles were manufactured during the Second World War. Later, Sternson Group was there.
  • 66 Mohawk St – The Brantford Plow Works, later Cockshutt Plow Co., was established here in 1877, making high-quality farm implements. The farm division was sold to White Farm Equipment in 1962. That company went bankrupt in 1985. The city acquired all three properties by 2007 and a two-year remediation started in 2014 at a cost of $40.5 million.
  • Sydenham Pearl site – Consists of two properties: 17 Sydenham St., the former Crown Electric, and 22 Sydenham, the former Domtar (Northern Globe) site. The sites served as the main locations for mass industry for almost a century. The city took over the properties 2004 and 2006. Remediation was done in 2015 and 2016 and a soil cap was installed. The site will be green space until next steps are explored by the city.
  • 85 Morrell St. – The city sold the property, once occupied by Harding Carpets Limited, to King and Benton Development Corporation, which cleaned and renovated the 10-acre property to include warehouses and offices for industrial use.
  • 168 Colborne St. West – This 11.5-acre property was the site of the former Stelco Fastners manufacturing plant. In 1999, it was purchased by King and Benton. Work is underway to redevelop the site for mixed uses, including multi-storey residential buildings.
  • 111 Sherwood St. – Home to Brantford Cordage Co. during the early 1900s. At its peak, the twine producer employed 700. It has remained active with a variety of commercial and industrial uses, including a brewery and fitness studio.
  • 232-254 Grand River Ave. – In 1891, this 4.87-acre site was developed as a cotton mill by Craven Cotton Mills Co. It then became Dominion Textiles Co. and then Penman’s Manufacturing Co. Textile manufacturing continued on the site for almost 100 years until it was sold to a land developer in 1984. It is now being remediated for a mix of affordable housing and market-rate townhouses.
  • 180 Dalhousie St. – The 0.52-acre site is a consolidation of four properties, which, over the years, housed various residential and commercial operations, including Castelli Bakery, which closed in 2011. Today, a four-storey student apartment building is there.

Greenwich-Mohawk Brownfield Site circa 2013

Ontario construction groups launch video series on excess soil management

In southern Ontario, the management and use of excess soil is a growing issue.  There has long been concerns of unscrupulous players wrongly classifying contaminated soil as excess soil and managing it incorrectly.  Likewise, there has been long-standing concerns expressed by those wanting to do the right thing of ambiguous and uncertain rules with respect to determining what is excess soil and how to manage it.  As a result, honest industry participants end up hauling excess soil to landfill that could have otherwise been utilized for useful purposes.

According to data compiled by the the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO), Ontario’s  construction market generates almost 26 million cubic metres of excess construction soil every year.  About $2 billion is spent annually to manage excess soil – which comes from civil infrastructure projects such as transit, roads, bridges, sewers, watermains and other utilities.  Even though most municipal roadways contain only minor amounts of salt from winter road treatment, large quantities of soil are often hauled up to 100 kilometres away to designated dump sites, rather than being reused on site or at other nearby construction sites.

“Clean excess soil can be more responsibly managed through better upfront planning,” says Andy Manahan, executive director of the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO). “That’s why we co-produced a three-part video series to increase awareness that there are alternatives to the ‘dig, haul long distances and dump’ approach.”

RCCAO teamed up with the Greater Toronto Sewer and Watermain Contractors Association (GTSWCA) to produce this video series to inform the public, government and industry on the benefits of using best management practices. It’s called “The Real Dirt on Dirt: Solutions for Construction Soil Management.”

There are a lot of trucks on the road travelling 60 to 100 kilometres to dump excess soil as a waste material – and that is completely wrong, says Giovanni Cautillo, executive director of GTSWCA.

“It’s not a waste – it’s a reusable resource,” Cautillo says. “When municipalities provide guidance to contractors about where soil from local infrastructure projects can be reused, the costs of handling and disposing of soil can be dramatically reduced. Wherever possible, soil should be reused onsite, but if this is not possible, having an approved reuse site within a close distance saves taxpayers money.”

When best management practices are used, there are fewer trucks travelling long distances, causing less wear and tear to the roads – and less traffic congestion. Fewer trucks on the road reduces greenhouse gas emissions, creating a cleaner, healthier environment.

The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) is currently reviewing draft regulations to help improve ways to manage soil on building and infrastructure projects across the province. Manahan says that “a multi-ministry approach – environment, municipal affairs, transportation, infrastructure and others – will also help to achieve a more coordinated effort.”

Contaminated Site Clean-up Opportunities in China

As reported by the South China Morning Post, China’s government recently approved a new plan to tackle growing pollution threats in its countryside, and will strive to clean up contaminated rural land and drinking water and improve waste management.

The new plan, approved “in principle” by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment is the summer also mandates cuts in fertilizer and pesticide use and improved recycling rates throughout the countryside.

Industrial pollution of land in China. The authorities have been reluctant to divulge details of the localised scale of the problem (Image by JungleNews)

China is in the fifth year of a “war on pollution” designed to reverse the damage done by decades of tremendous economic growth, but it has so far focused primarily on air quality along the industrialized eastern coast, especially around the capital Beijing.

China’s countryside has struggled to cope with land and water pollution caused not only by unsustainable farming practices, but also by poorly regulated, privately-owned mines and manufacturing plants, as well as rising volumes of plastic waste.

Rehabilitating contaminated land has become a matter of urgency for the Chinese government, which is under pressure to maximize food production while at the same time it is setting aside one-quarter of the country’s land as off-limits to development by 2020.

Total arable land declined for a fourth consecutive year in 2017 as a result of new construction and tougher environmental requirements, the government said in May.

The State Council published a plan in February to deal with growing volumes of untreated rubbish dumped in the countryside, promising to mobilise public and private funds to make “noticeable improvements” to the living environment of rural regions by 2020.

It vowed to restore wetlands, plant trees and eliminate “disorderly” rural construction to improve the appearance of China’s villages, and would also focus on improving garbage and sewage treatment.

In August, the Chinese government enacted the Soil Pollution Prevention and Control Law.  This is the first time China has enacted a law targeting soil pollution.  For existing soil pollution, the law holds polluters and users (as it is rare in China for individuals to own land) accountable for a series of risk management and remediation obligations, with the polluters being primarily responsible.

According to an article by IISD, the estimated cost for remediation efforts between 2016 and 2020 at $1.3 trillion (USD). The government itself estimates it might be able to cover only a small fraction of the overall cost.  During China’s the 12th Five-year Plan (2011–2015), only $4.5 billion) was allocated to soil remediation, mainly for urban areas.

Combine polluter payments with government support and a prohibitive capital gap still exists in China’s efforts to restore land and protect public health. This gap will have to be filled by private sources.