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Ontario addresses the dirty business of excess soil

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 4/20/2018 2:18:00 PM

Ontario has released a regulatory proposal intended to make it easier for the construction industry to manage excess soil.

In the February 19, 2016 issue, EcoLog News reported on a draft policy framework on excess soil. The regulatory proposal released April 16, 2018 is built on the foundation of that policy framework, one that gives a project leader more latitude in the management of excess soil.

The problem in Ontario has been that there is no clear guidance on how best to manage soil that cannot be reused at its excavation site. In the absence of clear guidance and in an effort to shield themselves from any liability, project leaders have turned to contaminated soil tables to characterize excess soil, and those tables are unforgiving. Ontario trucks a great deal of perfectly reusable soil to distant landfills because contaminated soil guidelines indicate that some level of rehabilitation is required. The result? Unnecessary expenses to builders and higher transportation emissions.

Under the proposed system, excess soil could be reused at another site if it meets quality standards set in a new document called Rules for On-Site and Excess Soil Management. There are other conditions as well, such as reuse within a year of being placed on the site, and that the reuse be beneficial to the site.

Reuse would also be permitted at a site governed by a site-specific instrument (e.g., an Environmental Compliance Approval), provided the soil met the conditions in the instrument.

The Rules for On-Site and Excess Soil Management won’t be carved in stone. Reuse sites will have the option of developing alternative standards using a spreadsheet known as the Beneficial Reuse Assessment Tool, which is designed to encourage beneficial reuse while protecting human health and the environment. Site specific standards developed using other risk assessment methods may also be recognized.

Excess soil that does not meet the conditions for reuse would be designated as waste and would bear additional regulatory burdens. An Environmental Compliance Approval may be required. Haulers would be subject to certain rules but would not be required to obtain a waste Environmental Compliance Approval.

Most projects generating 2,000 m3 or more of excess soil would be required to prepare an Excess Soil Management Plan, and that will also impose a new regulatory burden on project leaders. Soil will have to be characterized to determine the concentrations of contaminants. Project leaders will have to identify suitable receiving sites, develop a tracking system, track soil movement and load the information onto a public registry. A qualified person must be responsible for preparing the plan or supervising its preparation.

Comments on the Excess Soil Management Regulatory Proposal will be accepted until June 15, 2018.

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