Many Lower Mainland developers and construction companies are unaware that the British Columbia Ministry of Environment is bringing in changes to its Contaminated Sites Regulation in late 2017, says a Burnaby environmental consultant.
"They're coming into effect in November 2017," says Raminder Grewal, president of Keystone Environmental Ltd. "The ministry will be looking at new numerical standards to measure site contamination. Based on new toxicological information, some of the standards will become more relaxed and some more stringent."
To help B.C. companies prepare for these changes, Grewal and Kevin Wong, who is head of Keystone's Contaminated Sites department, will be presenting Developing a Contaminated Site – What You Need to Know at Buildex Vancouver 2017.
The presentation takes place today (Feb. 15).
"The presentation is aimed at developers of contaminated sites in British Columbia," says Grewal. "It will help them understand the costs and benefits of developing a contaminated site."
Environmental standards in B.C. have become more stringent at the same time as development opportunities have also tightened up, he says.
"The sites that are easy to develop are becoming fewer in number and developers are having to develop an increasing number of sites that are contaminated," Grewal says.
The amendments to the B.C. Contaminated Sites Regulation in question were approved by the Ministry of Environment at the end of 2016. Following a 12-month transition period, the changes will come into effect on Nov. 1, 2017. The amendments include:
updating all existing soil, water and vapour standards to reflect contemporary science;
adding new toxicology-based soil/water standards for some new contaminants;
providing differing soil standards for high-density and low-density residential land uses because each one of them presents different likelihoods of exposure to contaminants in the soil; and
setting two tiers of soil standards for natural wildlands and reverted wildlands (land previously used for industrial sites).
Grewal says developers who are planning a development on a contaminated site should start preparing now for these regulatory changes.
"They should do a cost-benefit analysis and decide whether to perform site remediation either before or after Nov. 1," he says.
In addition to covering the upcoming regulatory changes, Grewal and Wong's presentation will include a how-to on developing contaminated sites, a discussion of common contaminants and an explanation of how to determine environmental liability.
Grewal says contaminated sites are common wherever there was industrial activity of some kind in the past.
"In B.C., there are an estimated tens of thousands of such sites on the Ministry of Environment site registry," he says. "In Vancouver, for example, they are widespread on the shores of False Creek."
There are many varied examples of contaminated sites that developers need to be aware of.
"Some contaminated sites are former gas stations, where gasoline has leached into the ground and groundwater," says Grewal.
Others are the former sites of drycleaners, which use a chemical solvent called Perc (perchloroethylene) to clean clothes.
"Perc can be persistent in the sub-surface and can cause cancer," Grewal says.
Car repair shops put their waste oil into environmental storage tanks after it's been removed from a car.
"But sometimes the waste oil can leach out into the ground and the groundwater," he says.
There are several ways to treat contaminated soil.
"You can truck it away to a landfill that takes contaminated soil, but that's expensive and not every landfill takes it," Grewal says.
And there's in-situ remediation, where special chemicals are injected into the affected soil and react with the contaminants in it.
Soil vapour extraction treats contaminated soil by pumping out and treating any toxic liquids present in it.
"The method a developer decides to use should be the one that is the most cost-effective for it," Grewal says.