Management of Contaminated Soils in Quebec: An Overview of MELCCFP Regulations 

Preserving the environment is a major concern in today’s society. In Quebec, the management of contaminated soils is a crucial issue for public health and the preservation of our ecosystem. In the face of this challenge, the ministère de l’Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs (MELCCFP) plays a vital role by developing and implementing strict regulations to ensure responsible management of contaminated soils. In this article, we will explore the MELCCFP regulations and their implications for the management of contaminated soils in the province. 

Definition of Contaminated Soils 

Before delving into the regulations, it is essential to understand what constitutes contaminated soil. According to the MELCCFP, contaminated soil is soil whose quality is altered by the presence of hazardous or potentially hazardous substances, exceeding the thresholds established by regulations. These substances can originate from industrial, agricultural, commercial, or even residential activities. 

MELCCFP Regulations on Contaminated Soils 

The MELCCFP has established a series of regulations to oversee the management of contaminated soils in Quebec. Among the key pieces of legislation, there are the Environment Quality Act (EQA) and the Land Protection and Rehabilitation Regulation (LPRR). These regulatory texts define the responsibilities of the parties involved in the management of contaminated soils and establish decontamination standards to be adhered to. 

Assessment of Contaminated Soils 

When contamination is suspected or confirmed on a site, an environmental assessment must be conducted in accordance with the standards set by the MELCCFP. This assessment determines the degree of soil contamination and identifies the substances present. This information is crucial for developing a management plan tailored to the specific situation of the site. 

Obligations of Landowners and Developers 

Landowners of contaminated sites, as well as real estate developers, are required to comply with the current regulations. They have an obligation to report any cases of contaminated soil to the MELCCFP and implement the necessary measures to address the situation. These actions may include soil decontamination, implementation of containment or monitoring measures, or site rehabilitation. 

Stakeholders Involved in the Management of Contaminated Soils 

The management of contaminated soils is a shared responsibility among the MELCCFP, landowners, developers, environmental consultants, municipalities, and all other stakeholders. Close collaboration among these various actors is essential to ensure effective and coordinated management of contaminated sites. 

Benefits of Responsible Management of Contaminated Soils 

Responsible management of contaminated soils offers numerous advantages. Firstly, it contributes to preserving public health by limiting exposure to toxic substances. Secondly, it helps protect the environment by preventing the spread of contaminants in soils, groundwater, and waterways. 

“Adequate management of contaminated soils promotes the rehabilitation of degraded lands, thus providing new opportunities for sustainable urban development for all stakeholders.”

– Martin Dostie, B.Sc., M.Env., EESA, Senior Director – Environment

Soil Traceability 

Soil traceability is a system designed to track the movement of soils from one site to another. This is an important and mandatory approach as of January 1, 2023, to prevent land contamination by potentially hazardous substances and to avoid the spread of pollutants in the environment. The soil traceability regulations established by the MELCCFP ensure that excavated, transported, and reused soils are managed responsibly. 

The MELCCFP’s soil traceability regulations have several essential objectives: 

– Preserve soil quality: By tracing soil movements, potential contamination can be quickly detected, and corrective measures can be taken to prevent it from spreading to other areas. 

– Protect human health and the environment: The regulations aim to reduce risks to public health and the ecosystem by preventing the dispersion of contaminants in soil and groundwater. 

– Encourage responsible soil reuse: Traceability facilitates soil reuse for construction projects, but in a responsible manner, while avoiding sensitive areas. 

– Ensure business compliance: The soil traceability regulations require companies handling contaminated soils to adhere to established standards, thus avoiding non-compliant and illegal practices. 

The soil traceability process is well-defined by the MELCCFP. When an entrepreneur or a company needs to move soils from one site to another, they must follow certain steps: 

– Initial inventory: Before starting soil movements, a detailed inventory of soil quality is conducted. This helps understand the initial state of the site and determine if contaminants are present. 

– Prior authorization: Companies must obtain prior authorization from the MELCCFP for the transport of contaminated soils. This step ensures that companies comply with current environmental standards. 

– Soil traceability: A rigorous tracking system is implemented for each soil movement. Precise documents must be completed, detailing the origin of the soil, its quality, the quantity transported, and its final destination. 

– Proper disposal: Contaminated soils must be disposed of in facilities authorized by the MELCCFP, ensuring responsible waste management. 

The MELCCFP’s soil traceability regulations play a crucial role in protecting our environment and health. By carefully monitoring soil movements, contamination and the spread of pollutants in our ecosystem can be avoided. Thanks to these regulations, Quebec can move towards a more sustainable future and preserve the quality of its soils for future generations. 

Comprehensive Support from Nvira for the Management of Contaminated Soils 

Nvira provides environmental monitoring throughout the excavation and off-site disposal works of soils with concentrations higher than the generic criterion “A” from the Guide.

The monitoring includes the presence of an Nvira environmental technician on-site for the entire duration of excavation and disposal of contaminated soils, the preparation of transport manifests for the disposal of contaminated soils in both paper and electronic versions via the Traces Québec application, and the production of a report documenting the work.

The Regulation concerning the traceability of excavated contaminated soils (RCTSCE) applies to certain construction sites. This regulation requires the mandatory use of the government traceability system, Traces Québec, for the movement of contaminated soils excavated in Quebec. It is also important to note that soils with concentrations in the “A-B” range of the Guide criteria are also subject to the RCTSCE. 

Before commencing the construction site, the project is created in Traces Québec by the contractor. Information on the generator site, receiving site, client, carriers, and soils to be disposed of is recorded in the Traces Québec project. Each soil transport is accompanied by a paper manifest and an electronic Traces Québec tracking slip, from the original site to the receiving site. At the end of the work, an authorized person from Nvira (an attestor) provides a certificate to ensure that all excavated soils have been tracked. The traceability system then generates a traceability report, which can be used by the owner of the contaminated soils. 

Our experts are present throughout the process to assist our clients in managing contaminated soils, in compliance with the various regulations in force.