2021-02-18

The Quebec government has been working for nearly 50 years to protect soil and groundwater and rehabilitate sites contaminated from human activity in order to make them safe and reusable.

Thanks to measures that have been gradually adopted and implemented, the government has progressively developed tools that now enable it to ensure the sustainability of many ecosystems and better management of soil contaminated by various commercial and industrial activities.

In this article, learn about the laws and regulations that promote the protection and rehabilitation of land in Quebec.

Division IV of Chapter IV of Title 1 of the Environment Quality Act (EQA)

The Environmental Quality Act was passed in 1972 and has been amended many times over the years. Title 1, Chapter IV, Division IV, Sections 31.42 to 31.69 of the EQA prescribes specific rules for the protection of land and its rehabilitation in the event of soil contamination. 

Several regulations for the protection and remediation of contaminated land

In particular, these rules allow the Ministry of Environment and Fight Against Climate Change to order the characterization of contaminated land and its rehabilitation. These regulations recognize the maintenance of soil contaminants as a possible method of remediation, provided that certain mitigation measures to protect the environment and land users are taken. They also require measures to be taken to inform third parties of restrictions applicable to the future use of contaminated land. A public information session is also required in these circumstances.

In addition, so that any potential contamination of the land on which they are established can be identified and corrected, Chapter IV, Division IV of Title 1 of the EQA imposes certain obligations on designated companies in the industrial and commercial sectors when they permanently cease their activities.

This regulation also requires municipalities to create a comprehensive list of lands within their territory that have contaminated soil. Accordingly, no subdivision or building permit may be granted for a lot on this list unless it is covered by a certificate establishing compatibility with its new use.

This part of the EQA also provides the Ministry of Environment and Fight Against Climate Change with new regulatory powers to control and monitor, treat, recover, reclaim and dispose of contaminated soil.

Moreover, certain provisions of Section IV allow the Minister to ensure the quality of the characterization and remediation work carried out on contaminated land. The EQA requires compliance with the characterization guide developed by the

Ministry. It also requires that an attestation produced by an expert recognized by the Ministry be submitted with the studies and work reports. Furthermore, the appointed expert must also provide the documents required for the issuance of subdivision and construction permits.

Adoption of the EQMLA and its impacts

More recently, on March 23, 2017 to be precise, the Act to amend the Environment Quality Act in order to modernize the environmental authorization regime and to amend other legislative provisions, in particular to reform the governance of the Green Fund (LMLQE), made certain amendments to Division IV of the Environment Quality Act:

  • Henceforth, if the Ministry has reason to believe that contaminants are present on land on which an activity requiring a certificate of authorization under section 22 of the EQA will be carried out, it may require that the land be characterized
  • New provisions apply to certain changes in land use
  • The government may now prescribe regulatory measures for the remediation of contaminated lands that, subject to the conditions, restrictions and prohibitions set out in the regulations, are eligible for a declaration of compliance

The Land Protection and Rehabilitation Regulation

The Land Protection and Rehabilitation Regulation (LPRR) came into force on March 27, 2003. It strengthens the protection of land and its rehabilitation in the event of contamination. 

A regulation that makes applicable several provisions of Division IV of Chapter IV of the EQA

The LPRR sets the limit values for various contaminants that may be present in the soil, determines the categories of economic activities covered by the regulations, and establishes the cases, conditions and timeframes under which groundwater quality control downstream of the land must be carried out.

It facilitates the application of the Ministry's order-making power, which may require the characterization of lands and their rehabilitation. It also makes it possible to identify any contamination resulting from industrial or commercial activities when businesses in a given sector cease their activities. 

LPRR updates

Since January 12, 2012, the LPRR provides increased protection for the rights of future purchasers and users of land located in mixed-use zones where several uses are authorized. These amendments to the regulations facilitate the rehabilitation of contaminated land located in mixed zones that have already supported an activity designated by regulation and that ceased before March 2003.

Adjustments to the EQA in March 2017 also resulted in changes to the LPRR. The LPRR now sets out the conditions and deadline for filing the notice of cessation of activity that must be sent to the Ministry of Environment and Fight against Climate Change when an activity covered by Schedule III of the LPRR is definitively ceased. 

As of March 2017, the conditions, restrictions and prohibitions that must be met in order for a contaminated site to be remediated under a Declaration of Compliance are also specified in the LPRR. In this latter case, remediation may be carried out without the filing and approval of a remediation plan.

Finally, the regulation amending the LPRR, which came into force in August 2019, now provides better supervision of projects for the reclamation of low-contamination soils.

Regulation respecting contaminated soil storage and contaminated soil transfer stations

The Regulation respecting contaminated soil storage and contaminated soil transfer stations (RSCTSC) was adopted in 2007 to control pollution associated with the management of excavated contaminated soil. It is therefore aimed primarily at companies that offer contaminated soil remediation services.

A regulation that sets out best practices for the management of contaminated soils

The RSCTSC imposes certain obligations on those responsible for the excavation of contaminated soil and sets out the conditions for the operation of a transfer center and the temporary storage of contaminated soil deposited elsewhere than on the land from which it originated.

This regulation also contributes to the remediation and safe reuse of contaminated soils stored in a transfer center by requiring their redirection to a treatment site where they will be decontaminated. 

The RSCTSC also requires that soil stored in temporary storage sites be recovered.

Companies subject to the Regulation respecting contaminated soil storage and contaminated soil transfer stations

Various companies must comply with the requirements of the RSCTSC:

  • Companies that operate a transfer center or a contaminated soil storage site
  • Companies that want to establish or modify a transfer center or a contaminated soil storage site
  • Companies that need to "get rid" of contaminated soil
  • Companies that specialize in the excavation of contaminated land

 

The regulation amending the RSCTSC

Amendments to the CSTCR came into effect on August 8, 2019. The purpose of these amendments is to facilitate and regulate the reclamation of low-level contaminated soils, and to provide the Ministry with new tools to ensure stricter control of regulatory requirements with respect to the management of contaminated soils and the remediation of contaminated sites.

Regulation respecting the burial of contaminated soils

The Regulation respecting the burial of contaminated soils was passed and brought into force on July 11, 2001. It governs the development, operation, closure and post-closure monitoring of contaminated soil landfill sites. It also prohibits the burial without prior treatment of excavated soil that is heavily contaminated.

Benefits of the Regulation respecting the burial of contaminated soils

In addition to helping reduce the importation and burial of heavily contaminated soil, the adoption of this regulation has spurred the research, development and use of innovative soil decontamination technologies in Quebec.

EBI Enviro Urgence uses best practices in contaminated soil management

In summary, these laws and regulations aimed at ensuring the protection and rehabilitation of land have enabled the Quebec government to achieve various objectives over the past 50 years:

  • Make an inventory of sites contaminated by hazardous commercial and/or industrial activities and accidental spills
  • Put in place a legislative and regulatory framework to protect the integrity of soil and groundwater from hazardous activities and to sustainably rehabilitate sites that have been contaminated by these activities
  • Better control the transportation and burial of excavated contaminated soils
  • Rehabilitate contaminated sites under the responsibility of the Crown
  • Make private landowners and municipalities accountable and support their land remediation efforts
  • Support the development of green technologies and leading-edge expertise in this field in Quebec
  • Provide the public with quick and easy access to government-held information on contaminated sites

 

Other initiatives such as Traces Québec have also contributed to the achievement of these objectives.

At EBI Enviro Urgence, we also contribute to the effort of protecting the soil and water quality by strictly following the laws and regulations presented in this article. As a leading provider of environmental services, we make it our duty to act as a leader and ensure the compliance of our work. 

Please contact us if you have any questions regarding our services.