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Following a year of consultation with various stakeholders, the BC Ministry of Environment (“MOE”) has released a series of omnibus documents (the “Stage 10 Amendments”) regarding proposed updates to the BC Contaminated Sites Regulation (“CSR”).
The Stage 10 Amendments are intended to modernize and update the BC contaminated sites regime.
1. Regular Review and Updates
Many of the CSR standards have not been updated since implementation. MOE has taken an ad hoc approach to updates. Updates, to a large extent, have focussed on adding new media (such as vapour) and new categories and standards in response to emerging issues. The recommendation from the Stage 10 Amendments is that the environmental quality standards of the CSR be reviewed and updated on a fixed 5 year cycle. This will ensure high standards are maintained while providing certainty for industry regarding when standards may change.
2. Expanded Land Use Categories
The existing CSR matrix soil standards are based on five specified land uses being: Agricultural, Urban Park, Residential, Commercial and Industrial. With the Stage 10 Amendments, the MOE proposes to distinguish between Low Density Residential and High Density Residential land use and to introduce the new land uses categories of Parkade, Wildlands (Natural) and Wildlands (Reverted).
Low and High Density Residential Land Use
Residential land use is currently any use of land for the primary purpose of a residence by persons with no distinction drawn between high density and low density land use.
The Stage 10 Amendments propose that the category be split into High Density and Low Density Residential use. The final definitions of High Density and Low Density Residential use have not yet been released, but in concept, low density will capture housing where individuals are likely to have access to outdoor ground space, such as single family homes or townhouses, and high density will capture high rise buildings.
Less conservative standards are proposed for High Density Residential use, in recognition that such developments generally do not offer outdoor ground space for gardening, play areas, etc.
Land use is currently determined by the use at the ground surface of the land, so a parkade located below ground under a building is assessed at the same standard as the land use allocated to that building. The Stage 10 Amendments introduce new vapour standards for parkades. The new standard recognizes that individuals generally have less exposure to the air in parkades than, for example, an associated residential or office tower and will set vapour standards specific to parkades, regardless of the particular site’s primary ground-level land use
Currently, the CSR generally uses Urban Park standards as surrogates for wildlands. The Stage 10 Amendments develop soil standards for a new Wildlands land use, which is then further divided into 2 tiers, named “Natural” wildlands (unmanaged wildlands which are, and have always been, ecologically pristine) and “Reverted” wildlands (lands that are or have been used for industrial or commercial purposes but have reverted to an unmanaged state).
The Wildlands (Reverted) standard is intended to be less stringent, equivalent to soil standards for Agricultural, Parkland and Low Density Residential uses.
3. Emerging Contaminants
The Stage 10 Amendments include a number of proposed technical amendments that are beyond the scope of this summary, but it should be noted that a number of emerging “substances of concern”, such as EE2 (an estrogen found in oral contraceptives) and PFOS (a component of fire-fighting foams) will be added as prescribed substances under the CSR.
Implementation and Transition
MOE staff are currently in the process of drafting and updating documents for approval by government, and as yet, there is no fixed date for completion of that process.
If the Stage 10 Amendments are approved and adopted by the government, the currently proposed implementation date is one year after that approval, with applications processed after that date being dealt under the new regime, regardless of when the application was received. MOE’s recommendation is that applicants for Certificates of Compliance monitor the progress of the Stage 10 Amendments, and submit applications to be considered under the current regime well in advance of the implementation date.