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, our emergency environmental response experts explain land protection and rehabilitation regulation 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.

The Ministry's powers concerning rehabilitation

These rules allow the Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques to order the characterization of contaminated land and its rehabilitation. The 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.

This part of the EQA also gives the Ministry of Environment and Fight against Climate Change new regulatory powers with regard to the management, monitoring, treatment, recovery, reclamation and disposal of contaminated soils.
In addition, certain provisions of Division IV enable the Ministry to control the quality of characterization and remediation work carried out on contaminated land. To this end, the EQA requires compliance with the guides drawn up by the Ministry. It also requires that a certificate, issued by an expert recognized by the Ministry, accompany all studies and reports. The expert must also provide the documents required to issue subdivision and construction permits.

Obligations of companies

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.

Obligations of municipalities

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.

Adoption of the EQMLA and its impacts

The Act to amend the EQA (LMLQE), approved on March 23, 2018, introduced amendments to Division IV. These amendments include new provisions for land characterization in cases of suspected contamination and for certain changes in land use. In addition, the government can now prescribe rehabilitation measures for contaminated land that is 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 by hazardous waste.

Application of the LPRR

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 imposes obligations on those responsible for the excavation of contaminated soil, and lays down conditions for operating a transfer center or temporarily storing contaminated soil.

Best practices for the management of contaminated soils

This regulation 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. It also requires the reclamation of temporarily stored soil. 

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 soil

The regulation amending the RSCTSC 

Amendments to the RSCTSC came into effect in 2019 to facilitate and regulate the reclamation of low-level contaminated soils, and to provide the Ministry with new tools to better control regulatory obligations related to soil management and contaminated land remediation.

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.

Landfill criteria and procedures

The burial of contaminated soils is subject to strict regulations, to enforce environmental standards. Only soils contaminated by specific categories of substances, such as heavy metals and certain chemical compounds, are eligible for landfill.

The level of contamination must be below a defined threshold, and pre-treatment may be required to reduce the concentration of contaminants prior to burial.

Management and monitoring of landfill sites

Effective management of contaminated landfill sites is made possible through regular inspections, strict safety measures, and controlling runoff water to prevent contamination.

Groundwater, air and soil quality monitoring systems must be put in place to detect any migration of contaminants. Regular reporting is required to ensure compliance and maintain public confidence, with rapid response to incidents to minimize environmental impact.

Sourcing and management processes

Managing contaminated soil includes evaluating and selecting an appropriate landfill site, obtaining the necessary environmental authorizations, and holding public consultations to ensure transparency.

Contaminated soils must be excavated, transported and potentially treated prior to being buried, with each step subject to rigorous documentation for traceability.

After burial, ongoing monitoring and regulatory reporting are required to ensure environmental compliance and safety.

Measures to protect the environment

Environmental protection measures for contaminated soil management include the use of containment barriers and drainage systems to prevent pollution, regular monitoring of groundwater, air and soil quality, and soil sorting and pre-treatment.

Environmentally-friendly technologies are used to treat and reclaim treated soils. Finally, involved parties commit to transparency, so that the public can stay informed about landfill practices and environmental measures.


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.

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

At Enviro Urgence, we contribute to the effort of protecting 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.