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New excess soil rules take a big step forward in Ontario

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 5/3/2019 1:07:00 PM

Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has released a plan to make it less costly for builders to reuse excess soil, more costly for builders and haulers who break soil management rules, and easier for developers to redevelop some brownfield sites.

The building industry has lobbied hard for new rules for excess soil. As things currently stand, builders of major projects often find it cheaper to truck excess soil to landfill rather than characterize it as suitable for reuse. Estimates of excess soil management costs can run as high as 20% of total project costs.

The former Ontario government released a plan in April 2018 that was cut short by the provincial election, but not before earning praise from the industry.

The new plan replicates many of its elements and ditches some of the paperwork that wasn’t as well received. It calls for new soil characterization tables that will be more forgiving, and new rules that will make it easier for soil to be shipped from a source to an appropriate receiving site.

Perhaps most significantly, the new plan calls for a ban on the landfilling of clean excess soil by January 1, 2023, with only a few exceptions. This will mean lost revenue for landfill owners. Developers may also find it a difficult pill to swallow, suggests Grant Walsom, Partner at XCG Consulting Limited.

“There are a lot of people who rely on that liability closure,” Walsom told EcoLog News just hours before the Ontario government released its plan. Landfilling relieves them of liability, he explains. “They like the finality of it.”

Administrative penalties for non-compliance are also slated to rise. In a separate posting, the Ontario government revealed plans to extend administrative penalties to excess soil management, raise the maximum to $200,000, and make it easier to pull offending haulers off the road.

In an effort to promote brownfield redevelopment, Ontario is proposing amendments to the Records of Site Condition Regulation — Part XV.1 of the Act (O. Reg. 153/04). The proposed amendments would eliminate the requirement for a Record of Site Condition for specific redevelopments, such as converting low-rise commercial buildings to mixed-use residential with commercial on main floor.

More significantly, the proposed amendments would relax requirements for additional sampling for properties going through the risk assessment process when contamination is already well understood. The Qualified Person (typically a P.Eng.) will also be given greater latitude to 

exercise his or her professional judgement when standards are exceeded. This would include allowing the use of excess soil on a property where the contamination in the excess soil does not exceed the background contamination of the site.

To kick-start redevelopment, the proposed amendments to O. Reg. 153/04 are intended to come into force once they are approved. The other proposed amendments will be phased in.

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