Do I Need to Test Soils Before Relocating off of My Property?

We get this question quite often.  Why is soil testing needed on some Sites and it doesn’t on other Sites?  Here is a summary as to why this has become a much more rigorous process recently.

The main driving force behind most of this is the recent approval (but not yet implementation) of the Stage 14 amendments to the Contaminated Sites Regulation (CSR) which will change how the soil relocation process will work in BC.  The proposed changes have 3 overarching goals:

  1. Establish a robust and transparent notification system to track soil movement through the province
  2. Streamline the process by focusing on soil that exceeds a prescribed volume and originates from Sites where specified industrial or commercial activities have occurred
  3. Prevent contamination of soil and groundwater resources by adding requirements for Sites receiving high volumes of soil over a lifetime.

The 3rd point is highlighted as most pits are realizing they have to get there ducks in a row when it comes to this stuff.  They are becoming highly regulated now as there are concerns at the Ministry that soil from source sites has not been consistently sampled/analyzed, which may lead to receiving sites accepting contaminated soils.

Based on the coming regulation change, our sense is that most fill sites are now requiring that all received soil be tested according to ministry guidance to ensure they are not inadvertently accepting soil that exceeds the receiving site standards.  This seems to be the case as most pits are now requesting analytical data, rather than simple soil declarations.

Technically speaking, as the CSR is currently written, you don’t need to test soils from a residential property unless:

  • you are moving fill of unknown source and/or quality
  • you have a reason to suspect the native soil is contaminated (i.e. mixed with building debris, spilled fluids, near ocean, etc.).

That said, receiving facilities reserve the right to mandate any sampling requirements as part of their individual acceptance standards.  Keep in mind that background concentrations and soil quality can change from Site to Site, so what is considered “clean” on one Site may not be “clean” on another Site.  So without analytical data it can get pretty murky as to what is acceptable at the facility or not without actual sampling data.

Additionally, most public and/or large institutions are mandating the sampling of all soils leaving Site as a means to limit potential liabilities associated with unintentionally moving contaminated soils to a Site that is not set up to accept.

In short, the Ministry has concerns that soil from source properties is not being consistently sampled/analyzed which is leading to receiving sites inadvertently accepting contaminated soil.   As such, the Ministry is increasing the regulatory requirement on large receiving sites, who are then shifting the responsibility onto source property owners.  The waivers/disclaimers previously used by pits are decreasing and it is now up to property owners to demonstrate soils are clean before transporting to the receiving Site.     

Please contact WES if you have any questions or would like to discuss further.

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