Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks announced that it is proposing amendments to Ontario Regulation 406/19 (the excess soil regulation) and the Rules for Soil Management and Excess Soil Quality Standards to encourage greater reuse of low-risk excess soils as part of a circular economy and to prevent usable soil from being disposed of in landfill.

The ministry is considering potential amendments to the Excess Soil Regulation and the Rules for Soil Management and Excess Soil Quality Standards (Soil Rules) document to ensure the regulation can be more easily implemented and clearly understood. The proposed amendments also aim to reduce requirements on lower risk activities to achieve greater reuse of readily usable excess soils as part of a circular economy.

In 2019, we made a new Excess Soil Regulation (Ontario Regulation 406/19: On-Site and Excess Soil Management, under the Environmental Protection Act), supported by a Soil Rules document and risk-based soil reuse standards, to provide clear rules supporting the reuse of excess soil and to help stop illegal dumping of excess soil. The Excess Soil Regulation is now largely in effect.

Environment Journal first learned of these amendments at our Excess Soils Symposium on September 21st, when David Piccini, then Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, announced the imminent amendments to Ontario’s excess soils regulation.

Proposed amendments

In response to specific concerns related to the implementation of the regulation, the need for clarification of certain regulatory requirements and the need to further remove barriers to reuse of low-risk soils, we are proposing amendments that include the following:

  • remove requirements for waste Environmental Compliance Approvals (ECAs) for third-party storage and processing of readily usable low-risk dry soils and small liquid soil sites (class 1 sites), and enhance usability of project leader owned storage sites (class 2 sites)
  • increase opportunities for reuse of salt-impacted soil in low-risk circumstances
  • exempt specified small projects from physical or electronic hauling records, and add clarifications related to required information and responsibility for confirming information in hauling records
  • exempt landscaping projects at low-risk portions of enhanced investigation project areas from reuse planning requirements
  • clarify the responsibility of the qualified person when substances such as polymers are used for dewatering or solidification of liquid soil
  • enable storage of sediment and soil near waterbodies for projects excavating in or adjacent to that waterbody
  • additional clarifications and corrections to assist with better understanding of requirements.
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Please refer to the attached document under “Supporting Materials” for a more complete and detailed description of the proposed amendments.

These amendments are proposed to come into effect on January 1, 2024. The need for transition provisions may be considered, including in respect of provisions that may require updates to the Excess Soils Registry.

We may also consider other administrative / consequential amendments or non-substantial clarifications (e.g., grammatical corrections).

We will continue to work collaboratively with stakeholders, and Indigenous communities and organizations to ensure the regulation continues to be implemented effectively.

Regulatory impact statement

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.

Proposed amendments for exemptions from a waste ECA, hauling record, and excess soil reuse planning requirements, would save cost and time, particularly for smaller operations such as landscaping.

Amendments for increased ability to manage soil at interim sites and enhancing flexibility for the reuse of salt-impacted soil would also result in cost savings, as well as environmental and social benefits from greater local reuse without needing to haul soil to further locations for storage or reuse (less truck traffic and fewer greenhouse gas emissions).

Other amendments provide clarifications of existing requirements to either increase flexibility or enable better understanding for the regulated community.

This proposal would not have a significant environmental impact as important rules regarding the management of excess soil remain in place or are clarified. For example, exemptions from waste ECAs are accompanied by regulatory rules to ensure there is no adverse effect to human health or the environment. Reuse options for salt-impacted soil retain setback distances to limit potential impacts to ground and surface water, and remain protective of more sensitive use sites, such as agricultural areas used for growing crops or pasture.

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Consultation is open until December 1, 2023 before coming into force on January 1, 2024.

For further information, click here.

Featured image credit: Getty Images

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