The British Columbia provincial government ushered in a significant update to the Contaminated Sites Regulation (the “CSR”) on November 1, 2017. Historically, the government adopted a largely ad hoc approach to updating the CSR, which has, in some cases, resulted in outdated standards. In order to address this issue, the provincial government implemented an “Omnibus” update to the CSR ‑‑ known as the “Stage 10 (Omnibus) amendments to the CSR”. We outline below five key changes that the new standards brought:
- New Schedules/Standards for Soil, Water and Vapour
All of the existing soil, water and vapour standards were updated under the new CSR standards to reflect a contemporary scientific approach. From a practical perspective, the former eleven schedules were consolidated into four new schedules that are now organized by the environmental media (i.e. soil, water, vapour and sediment). The purpose of this change was to simplify the format and to allow subsequent amendments to be made more easily.
- Expanded Land Use Categories for Soil
The CSR update also introduced new exposure/land use scenarios for soil ‑‑ namely, high‑and low‑density residential land uses. “High density” residential land use encompasses multiple‑unit dwelling or institutional facilities with three or more storeys, whereas “low density” residential land use, by contrast, encompasses a single residence or a multi‑unit dwelling or institutional facility of less than 3 storeys.
- New Category of Vapour Standards for Parkades
The updated CSR standards have also incorporated a specific set of standards that apply to portions of a building that are being used as a “parkade” (at-grade or below-grade). Under the new regulations, a parkade will be defined as an “enclosed building, storey of a building or other construction used for the parking of multiple motor vehicles but does not include the parking of motor vehicles associated with a single‑family residence”. This means that under the updated regime, in a residential high-rise with an underground parkade, the new parkade standards will apply to the parkade area, while residential standards will apply to the remainder of the building.
- Fixed Cycle for Updates
Under the Omnibus update, the provincial government adopted a mandatory review of the environmental quality standards in the CSR on a fixed term cycle of every five (5) years. What this means is that the director now completes a review of the CSR standards every five years with recommendations provided to the Ministry on any changes to be made. The new fixed term cycle works towards ensuring a regime that is up to date with the relevant science, as well as creating more consistency and predictability for parties impacted by the CSR and the contaminated sites regime, more generally.
- Emerging Contaminants
Finally, the amendments included a number of new substances added as “Contaminants of Emerging Concern” to the water and soil standards schedule, though most of the new contaminants relate primarily to soils.
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