Ontario seeks comment on removing barriers to reuse for low-risk soils

soil sampling stock image
The ministry’s environmental registry posting is also looking to clarify some requirements around soil sampling and analysis. Photo Credit: Mariana, stock.adobe.com

*The following regulatory news article is intended to be an overview of the report, legislation or proposal, and not a replacement for the actual guidance from the government. For the comprehensive data and all relevant information, please visit the linked source material within the article.


The Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks is proposing a series of amendments to clarify certain regulatory requirements for its Excess Soil Regulation, and potentially remove some of the barriers to reuse for low-risk soils.

The proposed amendments to O. Reg. 406/19, Onsite and Excess Soil Management under the Environmental Protection Act, have been posted on the provincial environmental registry for public comment until Dec. 1.

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“The proposed amendments would not provide additional compliance costs to developers, municipalities, infrastructure companies or others, as they would reduce burden or provide flexibility in relation to requirements that are already in the Excess Soil Regulation,” the ministry states in its regulatory impact statement.

A primary purpose for the amendments is to streamline the planning requirements process for the reuse of low-risk soils, saving time and money, particularly for smaller operations.

The ministry is recommending to exempt certain operations at some Class 1 facilities focused on excess soil management from requiring an environmental compliance approval, or ECA, for waste. This includes topsoil and landscaping reuse depots, aggregate reuse depots, and small liquid soil depots. Instead, each of these facilities would need to register on the Excess Soil Registry managed by the Resource Productivity & Recovery Authority before starting and when closing operations.

The proposal also looks to amend the rules enabling the use of salt-impacted soil. While salt-impacted soils can currently be used at industrial and commercial sites where non-potable excess soil quality standards can be applied, the proposal looks to add use for community, institutional, parkland or residential opportunities.

These new sites would require an expert-certified site plan to “identify areas and depths at which salt-impacted soil can be used without affecting existing or future anticipated vegetation, and the acceptable concentration of the salt-related contaminants in these areas.”

The added properties would require the reuse site owner to consent in writing to the receipt of salt-impacted soils. Additionally, the proposed new sites would still be required to be set back 100 metres from a surface water body or existing or planned potable wells, or properties expected to use groundwater wells.

Another proposed amendment to the current Excess Soil Regulation is to increase the amount of soil that Class 2 sites are allowed to handle. The ministry is proposing to allow up to 25,000 m3 of excess soil at a Class 2 site at one time, up from the current amount of 10,000 m3.

The ministry’s environmental registry posting is also looking to clarify some requirements around sampling and analysis:

  • For salt-impacted soil, provincial officials note that there does not need to be testing for all required minimum parameters if the only reason an area of potential environmental concern is identified is due to salt application;
  • The province wants to clarify for Record of Site Condition sites that Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessments prepared are “a type of past report” that can be used for the purposes of meeting the sampling and analysis requirements for excess soil;
  • The province wants to clarify that the minimum number of samples required for stormwater management ponds when excavating and segregating based on zones can be distributed equally across the zones, based on expert judgment, and are not intended to be applied per zone;
  • And lastly, the ministry notes that sampling requirements associated with tunnelling projects may be achieved through in-situ or stockpiling sampling, or a hybrid approach based on expert judgment, and sampling may be undertaken at a Class 2 site or local waste transfer facility, to help address practical/logistical challenges with deep in-situ sampling. 

The new amendments also aim to provide greater flexibility for storage of soil adjacent to waterbodies. The latest proposal suggests allowing soil storage within 30 metres of a water body for projects excavating in or near that area to enable practical soil management, “while taking steps to prevent impacts on the water body.”

The proposal adds an exemption under Schedule 2 of the Regulation for landscape projects excavating soil at a low-risk part of an Enhanced Investigation Project Area. Up to 100 m3 of soil could be excavated in low-risk areas of industrial properties provided it can be reasonably assumed that the soil has not been contaminated.

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