This article was originally published in Environment Journal.
For decades, many involved in land development and construction struggled with how to interpret Ontario’s regulation of excavated soil. Stakeholders had many common questions. When is excavated soil considered “waste”, as defined in Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act? What if excavated soil contains contaminants? What if excavated soil is destined for re-use, such as for backfilling or grading? What if excavated soil is treated?
Without clear answers, unwanted impacted excavated soil was generally either disposed of lawfully at Ontario’s limited-capacity landfills or unlawfully through unauthorized dumping on private or public property. Without clear authority to regulate “waste”, municipalities were caught in jurisdictional limbo and forced to rely on site alteration by-laws to attempt to prohibit and enforce unauthorized and illegal dumping.
After much anticipation, Ontario has created a legal regime to answer the questions raised above and provide certainty for the construction and waste management industries, consultants, contractors, municipalities, land owners, and developers alike. The first phase of Ontario’s excess soil laws is in legal force and effect with further phasing in to follow.