Ontario’s Excess Soil Management Policy
by John Nicholson hazmatmag
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) has finalized the Excess Soil Management Policy Framework (the “Framework”). The goal of the Framework is to protect human health and the environment from inappropriate relocation of excess soil. The other goal of the Framework is to enhance opportunities for the beneficial reuse of excess soil and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the movement of excess soil.
The Framework provides principles to guide policy and program development; has a description of existing policy and current roles and responsibilities; and details policy needs, actions and priorities.
The Framework recognizes excess soil as a resource and promotes a system which strives for environmental protection, local beneficial reuse, consistency, fairness, enforceability, and flexibility. Management of excess soil is a growing concern in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and rural municipalities surrounding the GTA. The issue has received media attention with a focus on illegal dumping of soil, site alteration by-laws, commercial fill operations, tracking excess soil, concern over the quality of excess soil, and protection of the environment, water, and agriculture.
Of interest to municipalities is a by-law language tool that can be used in the development and updating clean fill and site alteration by-laws. As part of the initiative, the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MMA) has introduced legislative amendments to the Municipal Act which includes a proposed change to allow site alteration by-laws to apply in conservation authority regulated areas.
Since the draft framework was posted for input, significant progress has been made on several of the proposed actions. For example, a by-law language tool has been prepared by the Canadian Urban Institute, with support from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MMA) as a resource for municipalities in developing or updating fill and site alteration by-laws.
Of interest to quarry owners and operators is the fact that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) has introduced proposed legislative amendments to the Aggregate Resources Act, which include increased authority to make future regulations about record keeping on aggregate operations e.g., fill records.
To support integration and implementation, work is underway to examine market-based tools and programs to encourage reuse, and several MOECC-organized working groups have been established to support framework finalization and delivery, including the Excess Soil Engagement Group.
Managing excess soil in a responsible way is integral to building sustainable communities. Improper management can result in impacts to ground or surface water quality and/or quantity, natural areas and agricultural lands, and cause several local issues including concerns regarding noise, dust, truck traffic, road damage, erosion, drainage and other social, health and environmental concerns. Proper management of excess soil can result in benefits to the environment and economy.