Recent Changes to BC’s Site Identification System

01. June 2023 0

Back in 2021, we posted about the significant changes to BC’s site profile system that came into effect that year. At the time, the “old” site profile system was replaced with the new site disclosure system. You can check out that blog post here.

On March 1, 2023, new amendments to the Contaminated Sites Regulation (CSR) were introduced. Most of these amendments addressed changes to the soil relocation regime, but there were a few important tweaks to the CSR dealing with site identification. This blog post will explain these changes and their potential significance.

New and Improved Site Disclosure Statement

The site disclosure statement form, which was first introduced in 2021, was updated to become more user friendly. In addition, a field was added that allows an owner/operator of a site to provide more detailed information to establish an exemption that they may be claiming. This is important because the onus is on the owner/operators to apply for and establish an exemption.

Overall, the new form is an improvement and allows owners/operators more flexibility to provide information to establish a potential exemption to avoid triggering the site identification process.

Schedule 2 Uses Narrowed

Schedule 2 of the CSR outlines various activities that constitute Specified Industrial or Commercial Uses. A Site Disclosure Statement (SDS) is required where a site has a Schedule 2 use and the reporting of a Schedule 2 use results in an automatic “freeze” on the site such that local governments are unable to approve permits until a form of “release” (such as a determination the site is not contaminated, a certificate of compliance, or a release notice).

Previously, a Schedule 2 use included lands impacted (or likely impacted) by contaminant migration. This was significant because it captured innocent victims of migration, such as where a notice of likely offsite migration had been issued for a property. However, that activity has now been removed from Schedule 2, which means that innocent victims of migration are arguably not required to submit a SDS for their site and can avoid the resulting “freeze” on local government approvals which would otherwise be triggered if a SDS needed to be submitted (and no exemption applied). This is a small but significant change that owners and environmental consultants should be aware of.

Exemptions Expanded

The recent amendments to the CSR also added to the list of exemptions from the SDS requirements. This is likely a result of the Ministry of Environment observing how the new system has played out over the past two years and refining the exemptions to ensure only the intended sites are captured by the site identification process.

The following are now exempt from the requirement to submit an SDS:

  • sites that are waste management facilities operating under a permit or operational certificate, or a facility actively accepting/processing waste; and
  • a person who only seeks a development or building permit for installing or replacing posts for decks and installing footings, pads or other concrete structures at or near the surface of the ground.

Looking Forward

We expect to see more amendments to the site identification system over the next few years as more sites go through the process and the Ministry gains a better understanding of the intended (and unintended) effects. What is clear, however, is that the new site identification system is here to stay.

If you have any questions or comments about how to navigate these site identification system, please contact Adam Way at [email protected] or Nicola Virk at [email protected]. To stay current with new case law and emerging issues, consider subscribing to our Environmental Law Update and we’ll send helpful information straight to your inbox. Subscribe here.