Claim: To avoid political scrutiny, Christy Clark and her government quietly snuck in changes to how soil contamination is regulated, say B.C. New Democrats.
“It’s shameful that Christy Clark and her government went behind closed doors to make major changes to how contaminated sites and hazardous substances are regulated,” said George Heyman, New Democrat environment spokesperson. “With her government’s failures like pollution at the Hullcar Aquifer and the Mount Polley tailings dam spill, it’s no wonder she snuck in this regulation change quietly to avoid the controversy and pushback that she would hear.”
There was no consultation, no public comment or review, no legislature to question these changes, not even a press release highlighting the changes. Instead, the government offered a webinar – after the fact – outlining the changes that the B.C. Liberals had already made.
- Over the past two years there has extensive and ongoing consultation with industry, local government, First Nations, environmental consultants/Contaminated Sites Approved Professionals and other government on the full suite of amendments proposed.
- In general, the amendments are both supported and understood as scientifically necessary by stakeholders.
- Consultation includes:
- Face to face meetings with a wide range of stakeholders including: other provincial ministries (Ministry of Health), crown corporations, other governments (federal, local and First Nations), various industry sectors (CAPP, Canadian Fuels Association, Teck Resources) the contaminated site consulting community (Science Advisory Board for Contaminated Sites in British Columbia, Contaminated Sites Approved Professionals, various environmental consulting firms) and BC Law Associations (e.g. The Pacific Business and Law Institute)
- Publication and posting to the Land Remediation Site website of 13 individual Proposal Papers, in June 2015, to update the protocol used to derive the omnibus standards. This included a 60-day consultation period.
- Subsequent publication and posting of the ministry’s response to over 300 written comments submitted by various stakeholders and the public at large related to the 13 proposal papers.
- Publication and posting of six final protocol papers which provide the final updates and modifications to the CSR derivation protocols.
- Provision of a final facilitated information session for stakeholders on the finalized CSR derivation protocols.
- Face-to-face meetings were held with the following:
- BC Business Council
- BC Env Lab Technical Advisory Committee
- BC Hydro
- BC Ministry of Health
- Canadian Fuels Association
- Central Okanagan RD
- City of Surrey
- City of Vancouver
- Council of Forest Industries
- Contaminated Sites Approved Professionals
- of Fisheries and Oceans
- Environment Canada
- First Nations Health Authority
- Heath Canada
- Maa-Nulth Nation
- Metro Vancouver
- Natural Resource Sector Board ministries
- Oil and Gas Commission
- Pulp and Paper Environmental Forum
- Science Advisoy Board for Contaminated Sites
- Transport Canada
- Teck Resources
- Toquaht First Nation
- 16 BC and Alberta Environmental Consulting firms
- Urban Development Institute
- Pacific Business and Law Institute
Claim: “What’s even more alarming than the secrecy behind this is that the new regulations are so bad that children in high density city areas won’t be allowed to access certain parks due to being at risk of the higher level of contamination,” said Heyman. “This kind of pollution is not taking a step forward for our environment and the future of our province, it’s taking a step backwards and can only get worse.
- The Contaminated Sites Regulation provides separate standards for parks. These standards cover a broad spectrum of parks and outdoor recreation areas (e.g. municipal parks, fairgrounds, sports fields, captive wildlife parks, biking and hiking areas, community beaches and picnic areas).
- The CSR standards are used to a) determine when a site is contaminated and b) when a site has been satisfactorily remediated. It would be disingenuous to suggest that a contaminated park should not be remediated to a level protective of children.
Claim: Where dumping was previously regulated and soil remediation by industry was required, industry will now be relieved of these requirements and will save millions of dollars.”
- Dumping of contaminated soil is illegal under the Environmental Management Act.
- The relocation of contaminated soil requires a Contaminated Soil Relocation Agreement (CSRA) under the CSR. These provisions have not been changed by the omnibus.
- In fact, the omnibus has strengthened the requirements to obtain a CSRA to relocate contaminated soil.
- As a result of updating the CSR standards to reflect current best science, some of the new standards will justifiably become less stringent. However, other standards will also become more stringent.
- Depending on the contaminating substances present at a site, these changes in standards may or may not decrease the extent of remediation required, which in turn may or may not result in lower remedial costs.
Claim: Experts say that the new regulation changes allow contamination to exceed 100-1,000 times higher than previous standards.
- Compared to the existing CSR standards; for some substances, the new standards represent an increase in concentration (i.e. become less stringent). For other substances, the new standards represent a decrease in concentration (i.e. become more stringent). For many substances the new omnibus standards remain the same as the existing CSR standards.
- This reflects changes in science (i.e. the toxicology) for the substance. For some substances, today’s toxicology indicates the substance is less toxic than previously thought, while for other substances, current toxicology indicates that the substance is more toxic than previously believed. The toxicology of contaminants is subject to continued review and revision as the science continues to evolve. This was the primary reason for the omnibus update which updates the CSR standards on the basis of 20 years of new science.
- As part of these updates we are committing to looking at the standards every five years and adjusting if necessary based on best and newest science available
- The toxicological equations and exposure assumptions in the BC protocol reflect commonly used equations and exposure assumptions of other regulatory agencies (including CCME, Health Canada, US EPA and WHO).
Claim: “Christy Clark and her government will sacrifice our environment and pollute our soils to make their friends happy, and that just isn’t right,” said Heyman. “By doing this, she is risking our environment, our water quality and the health and safety of British Columbians. “New Democrats are demanding answers from Christy Clark, because British Columbians deserve better.”
- Our government’s first priority is to ensure the continued, proper protection of human health and the environment. That’s why the ministry is updating the contaminated sites regulation, based on best practices and the best available science.