In BC, the Ministry of Environment (MOE) Land Remediation Section regulates the identification and remediation of contaminated sites through the Environmental Management Act (EMA), Contaminated Sites Regulation (CSR), and Hazardous Waste Regulation (HWR). Generally speaking, environmental quality standards have been established for different site specific land uses (e.g. residential, commercial, industrial) by the BC MOE. A contaminated site is defined as an area of land in which the soil, soil vapour, groundwater or sediment contains a hazardous waste or substance in concentrations that exceed provincial environmental quality standards. A site is considered contaminated if it is unsuitable for a specific current or future land, water and sediment use.
A Brownfield site is defined as; a real property, where the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.
Credit: (US Environmental Protection Agency)
The definition indicates that a Brownfield site may have the “potential presence” of contamination, which can be perceived by stakeholders as a deterrent to redevelopment. Regardless of actual or potential presence of contamination, Brownfield sites can be complicated with issues involving regulatory challenges, legal liabilities and obligations, and remediation costs related to contamination.
The information presented is a high level synthesis of referenced MOE guidance, procedures and protocols that may apply to brownfield redevelopment sites. Here are step-by-step instructions to walk you through what to do with contaminated and suspect sites.
The Site Registry has a list of all known contaminated sites as well as those currently being investigated. If your property is already listed, it may require little, if any, cleanup, or have already been cleaned up to regulatory standards.
The best thing you can do before rolling up your sleeves is to get an experienced environmental site assessor onboard. A select list can be found in the BCEIA Member Directory.
The more you know, the better. Here are some background information tools to help you get started. They can assist you with:
If you are the owner of a brownfield site, you may still be required to send a Site Profile (environmental screening form). Check out this BC Ministry of Environment Fact Sheet for more information.
Liability in BC is based on the “polluter-pays principle” (i.e. those who cause contamination should be responsible for the cleanup). The BC Ministry of Environment Fact Sheet provides an overview of responsibilities and costs.
It also provides a list of who may be considered responsible for the cleanup.
Consult this process guide to find out the roles and responsibilities for each of the parties involved.
A “Responsible Person” under the Environmental Management Act includes the previous owner or operator of a property and producer or transporter of a substance that caused contamination.
Responsible Persons are:
Someone who “innocently acquired” a contaminated site may not be held responsible for the cleanup provided they can show that:
Remediation can be costly, but help is available. This roadmap document can guide you to legislation and funding programs.
Also, the Province’s Brownfield Renewal Strategy has released a document titled A Community Resource Guide for Brownfields Redevelopment: Project Funding.
The Brownfield Renewal Strategy’s own funding program can be accessed through its website.
Jamie Evans, Senior Manager Environmental Risk for RBC, prepared this backgrounder for the Canadian Brownfields Network (CBN) which discusses the typical process for financing contaminated sites. Jamie also provides a few tips and deal-breakers.
These case studies will illustrate how similar cases have been handled in the past.
Details about two former service stations are in this Provincial document: A Community Resource Guide For Brownfields Redevelopment: Case Studies.
A comprehensive summary report of a two-day conference about a pilot charette in Nanaimo is also available. The charette highlighted the importance of input, collaboration, and partnerships among stakeholders (local government, provincial government, community-based associations, and the petroleum, environmental consulting, and development industries).
Here is a list of many useful resources, such as templates, charts and documents, which will be useful for you when working on a brownfield project.