August 30, 2021

Important new rules for contaminated sites

Amendments to BC’s Environmental Management Act (EMA) and Contaminated Sites Regulation (CSR) came into force earlier this year and include new requirements for owners and operators of property used for industrial and commercial purposes.

The rules include changes to the process for identifying contaminated sites in BC.

Owners and operators of property used for commercial or industrial use detailed in Schedule 2 (revised) of the Regulation now have additional reporting requirements under the EMA.

Site disclosure statement

Owners or operators of industrial and commercial properties that are or may potentially be contaminated must complete a Site Disclosure Statement (SDS) (replaces the previous Site Profile), if they’re:

  • seeking subdivision, rezoning or building permit approvals;
  • decommissioning a site or ceasing operations; or
  • seeking creditor protection or filing for bankruptcy protection.

See section 40 Site Disclosure Statements of the EMA.

Mandatory site investigation

Unless a director specifies otherwise, they may order an owner or operator of a site, at the owner's or operator's own expense, to undertake a preliminary site investigation by a qualified environmental consultant.

Where contamination is found, the owner or operator will be required to:


Vendors of property used for industrial and commercial purposes that are or may potentially be contaminated must submit a SDS to prospective purchasers and to the Ministry.  

For more detailed information and explanations, see B. Hypothetical transaction scenarios from Gowling WLG.


Property owners or operators of land located in municipalities that previously opted out of the site profile process must now participate in the site disclosure process.



  • $75,000 per day for contravening EMA provisions; and
  • $40,000 per day for contravening CCSR provisions.

Exemptions from a site disclosure statement and investigation include:

land used for oil and gas activities;

property owners and operators seeking permits for demolition, installing or replacing underground utilities, paving and landscaping, installing fencing or signage; and

property owners or operators seeking rezoning without change to the activity undertaken or subdivision to bring about a minor boundary adjustment of lot consolidation.

The Local Government Act and the Vancouver Charter have been updated to incorporate EMA and CSR amendments.

Read the amendments:

What happens if a property owner or operator finds contaminated soil?

The province is overhauling regulations on ‎soil relocation to:

improve the complex and lengthy process of disposing of contaminated soil;

limit the amount of soil that ends up in landfills; and

limit the amount of soil that ends up on farmland and other non-approved sites.

Currently the moving of contaminated soil requires Ministry approval.  Proposed changes will affect property owners, developers, remediators and others.

‎The BC Government has made amendments through Bill 3 Environmental Management Amendment Act which governs soil relocation.

Changes include: ‎

  1. Contaminated soil relocation agreements will be replaced with tools specifically tailored to differing contamination levels.
  2. There will be a new framework for a soil analysis and the notification ‎process for contaminated soil from sites where a specified industrial or commercial activity has taken ‎place. ‎

Additional amendments to the Contaminated ‎Sites Regulation (“CSR”) and Waste Discharge Regulation slated for approval are detailed in this Intentions Paper, released January 14, 2021, which include details on added enforcement tools for those not following the rules and new requirements for sites receiving high volumes of soil.

Read more.

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