Soil management is getting a regulatory overhaul in Ontario, and with Phase Two regulations in effect from January 1st 2023, there remains a big question mark over how companies and regional government will meet the legislation’s data and reporting demands.
To take a step back, Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks rolled out the first phase of the Ontario Regulation 406/19 for Excess Soil and Soil Rules in 2021. The bulk of these changes relate to the proper reuse, processing, and disposal of excess soil of the estimated 25 million cubic metres of excess soil generated in Ontario every year.
At the time of its release, the Ministry indicated that new soil regulations would be introduced in three phases over five years and called for businesses to be “proactive and prepare for future changes”. So extensive were the changes that the Ministry delayed Phase Two regulations by one year to give impacted industries more time to prepare.
Now that the grace period is over, what’s coming is a set of new regulations that rest on quality excess soil assessment, sampling, storage, hauling, reporting and data management.
“Despite the 12-month reprieve and last-minute changes to the risk profile of qualifying soil, the new soil regulations present a major challenge for construction companies, municipal operations and other industry players,” says INX Head of North America, Steve Jones. “It’s a massive shake-up and requires companies to fundamentally reassess how they handle soil management.”
RELATED: What get measured gets managed when it comes to environmental performance
What are the new data and reporting requirements?
For projects requiring soil excavation and removal, companies are required to carry out a series of assessments and reports. The first involves providing an overview of all past soil uses on-site to identify any history of potential contamination.
Because there’s a high-risk of contaminant exposure in urban and industrial areas, legislators want to be sure any disturbed soil which requires repurposing does not pose significant risk to human health or the environment.
Causes of contamination range from industrial dumping to winter salt use on roadways. These activities can lead to harmful substances making their way into the soil, including pesticides, lead, creosote, copper arsenate and many others.
To leave no room for doubt, any excess soil identified as potentially harmful must undergo sampling and laboratory testing to provide a complete breakdown of its properties.
Based on the laboratory testing results, and the historical use, soil characterization and destination assessment reports, decisions are made on the applicable reuse, remediation or disposal of the excess soil in question.
Soil management needs environmental software
Project owners are required to employ or engage a Qualified Person (QP), either an engineer or geoscientist, to develop a comprehensive soil management plan that meets the new requirements. This is no small undertaking and could prove to be a recordkeeping nightmare for companies who now need to schedule and control monitoring programs, sampling runs and laboratory chain of custody documents.
What’s clear is that sprawling email chains and spreadsheets are not up to the task.
The key challenge is having the tools in place to collect all relevant data points from established monitoring programs, which can then in turn be benchmarked against the soil standards. Project owners will also need to keep auditable records for at least a two-year period and they’re liable for any mishandling of information.
Speaking on the Canadian regulations, Steve Jones discusses a pressing need facing Ontario companies. “The market is in desperate need of a game changing environmental data monitoring solution that enables businesses to address the comprehensive soil testing and reporting requirements now required to extract, move and relocate soil in Ontario.”
Discussions with clients and industry experts who are faced with heightened ESG expectations have greatly informed our new environmental monitoring product, INX Preserve. Our Research and Product teams have identified key pain points for those wanting to tackle their data management and reporting.
Set with predefined parameters and units of measure out of the box, our software empowers users to set-up monitoring programs, to collect data from sampling runs, laboratory reports and ad-hoc field entries. That way specialists know exactly what’s in the soil and can precisely determine the best course for reuse or disposal.
Crucially, it also contains Canadian environmental standards for both water and soil. This gives professionals specific and accurate oversight when it comes to the soil properties and contaminants.
This data collection capability also means businesses have peace of mind when it comes to chain of custody and accounting for the proper handling of data and information.
When required to give account of their soil management plan, they’ll have data-based assessments and reports at hand.
Find out more about INX Preserve and request a demo here.