As of September 16, 2015, the City of Vancouver ("City") has amended its Remediation on City Streets Policy ("Policy") to bring it in line with the requirements of the BC Contaminated Sites Regulation ("CSR") and other municipalities. The changes make remediation requirements for contaminated soil less stringent and give the City greater discretion to accept "risk assessment" of contamination in place of physical remediation in some circumstances.
Since 2001, the City has required that contaminated soil on City streets be remediated to the Residential Land Use standard under the CSR for the top 3 metres, and to the Commercial Land Use standard below 3 metres, although the City could require the Residential Land Use standard throughout. The City could also accept cash payment to offset future transportation and disposal costs of soil in City streets and could accept contamination left in place if it was supported by a risk assessment plan approved by the Ministry of Environment and an Off-Site Soils Agreement registered on title.
With this recent amendment, the City's Policy is now aligned with CSR requirements for "streets" and with equivalent policies in other municipalities. The City's amended Policy states:
- in roadways and laneways, contaminated soil must be remediated to Industrial Land Use standards as described in the CSR;
- in boulevards and street medians, where urban gardens may be located, contaminated soil must be remediated to the Residential Land Use standard for the top metre, and to the Industrial Land Use standards below the first metre ("City standards");
- groundwater must be remediated in accordance with the CSR standards;
- soil vapour must be remediated to Industrial Land Use standards; and
- the City Manager or delegate may approve a "risk assessment" approach to remediation if the Ministry of Environment issues a Certificate of Compliance, a Remediation Agreement is in place, and the City determines it has adequate financial security for future contamination management and remediation costs.
The City requires a separate Certificate of Compliance for any remediation carried out on City lands, whether the remediation is carried out to numeric standards or to "risk-based" standards.
The amended Policy is intended to reduce the volume of contaminated soil sent to landfills and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with soil transportation; reduce disruptions, road closures, and risks to City infrastructure by reducing excavation; and reduce uncertainty and costs for owners of contaminated sites.
Although the amended Policy imposes less stringent remediation standards, the City reports that the Ministry of Environment, Vancouver Coastal Health, and the Vancouver Food Policy Council have reviewed the Policy for risks to human health and urban food production and support the amendments.
A party who wishes to apply to the City for approval of a "risk assessment" approach to remediation must make a formal application. A "risk assessment" approach is commonly accepted as a scientific and best practice approach to remediation of environmental contamination. It involves the calculation of levels of risk to human, ecological, and environmental health if a contaminant remains in place. A "risk assessment" approach in place of physical remediation may be approved on a case-by-case basis for individual sites.
An applicant for approval of a "risk assessment" approach must obtain a separate Certificate of Compliance from the Ministry of Environment that confirms that either:
- the soil within the top 1 metre of boulevards and/or street medians meets Residential Land Use standards and Industrial Land Use standards below 1 metre; or
- the soil has been remediated to Industrial Land Use standards, with an accompanying letter report signed by a Contaminated Sites Approved Professional that confirms that boulevards and/or street medians have been remediated in accordance with City standards.
Parties with Remediation Agreements in place before September 16, 2015 have the option of completing remediation under their existing agreements or following the City's amended Policy.
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