The BC Ministry of Environment is seeking input on two aspects
of the contaminated sites regime, both involving local governments.
In particular, the Ministry is reviewing the legislative scheme
governing identification of contaminated sites and governing
relocation of contaminated soil.
The details of any future legislative changes are sparse at this
time. However, in discussion papers recently published on its
website, the Ministry raises (among other things) questions about
the ability of local governments to opt out of the contaminated
sites regime, the authority to "freeze" development of
contaminated sites, and the involvement of local governments in
regulating the disposal of contaminated soil.
Comments to the discussion papers are due December 10, 2014.
As mentioned above, the Ministry is reviewing certain aspects of
the regulatory regime governing identification of potentially
contaminated sites, and the disposal of contaminated soil. The
following aspects of the review would be of particular interest to
(a) Development "freeze"
Under the current legislative scheme, local governments form
part of the mechanism whereby the Province identifies contaminated
In a nut-shell, a development applicant submits a site profile
to a local government (this requirement may be triggered by zoning,
demolition, development permit, soil removal or subdivision). The
local government assesses the site profile and, in some instances,
submits the site profile to the Province. If the site is
contaminated, the development cannot proceed until the Province has
issued a "release" (for example, an approval in principle
or a certificate of compliance) in respect of the site. Local
governments have the ability to opt out of this system, which some
local governments have done.
In the discussion paper entitled "Identification of
Potentially Contaminated Sites", the Ministry calls the
current site profile process "confusing and inefficient, with
significant administrative burden for all involved". It
specifically criticizes the inconsistencies in the process
resulting from local governments opting out of the system.
The Ministry suggests the following options for amending the
local government process for site profiles:
remove all or some triggers of local
government involvement (zoning, soil removal, demolition,
development permit and subdivision); or
keep all the triggers as they are,
but narrow instances in which these triggers will apply – for
instance, only in case of redevelopment to a new use.
It is likely that the Province will also consider repealing (or
narrowing) the ability of local governments to opt out of the site
(b) Soil relocation
The Environmental Management Act establishes a mechanism whereby
the Province can track and regulate the deposit of soil from
contaminated sites. In this regard, a soil relocation agreement
between an owner of a source site, an owner of a receiving site and
the Province is sometimes required.
In the discussion paper entitled "Prevention of Site
Contamination from Soil Relocation", the Ministry observes
that while there has been an increase in site remediation since the
1990s, there has been a decrease in the number of soil relocation
agreements, possibly due to the "ignorance of the law or
avoidance of regulatory obligations."
As part of the current review process, the Province is
considering when a responsible party should give notice of
contaminated soil relocation. One of the options is for the
responsible party to notify a local government, rather than the
Province, possibly as part of the local government's regulation
of soil removal and deposit. No further details are available at
We will be monitoring this development closely.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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