The Site Remediation Process

Here's an overview of the site remediation process: 

Determine if the Site is Contaminated

Site screening and investigation are steps that will help determine if a site is contaminated and, if it is, what action needs to be taken in order to clean it up.

Types of Remediation

Contaminated sites must be remediated properly – sites can either be independently remediated with the help of an Approved Professional or they can be remediated by following the process outlined by the provincial government. Knowing which option is best depends on the level of involvement or expertise required from the government and environmental consultants, as well as the legal instruments required.

Independent remediation: With care from environmentally-responsible site owners, independent site cleanups are practical and sensible – about half of the sites being cleaned up in B.C. are handled this way. Following regulations and notifying the provincial government (i.e., the Ministry of Environment) at the start and completion of remediation is all that’s usually required for low risk sites. Assistance from capable environmental consultants ensures the process is routine and the right remediation methods are used.

Government-directed remediation: When specific legal documentation and government involvement is required, one of the following options can be used for site remediation:

  • Applications for government services for low to moderate risk sites (e.g., applications for a Certificate of Compliance) are submitted by an Approved Professional
  • In a few cases, the government obtains review reports from external qualified consultants
  • High risk sites and sites require the provincial government to conduct a review directly. About 1 in 20 sites is classified high risk.

Initiating the Remediation Process

There are several options for initiating remediation. A person may request an Approval in Principle of a remediation plan or a Voluntary Remediation Agreement to obtain approval of the conditions required to address contamination.

When a person does not voluntarily remediate a site, the government may issue a remediation order. This could occur if contamination is severe or the person responsible will not carry out remediation requirements. At high risk orphan sites or other sites where environmental or human health is seriously threatened, the Minister may order remediation. The legislation also provides for access to funds for orphan site cleanup.

After Cleanup is Finished

When remediation is finished a final check is done to ensure the site complies with environmental standards required for the specific use of the site as set out in the Contaminated Sites Regulation. That means post-cleanup activities vary for different sites:

  • Numerical remediation standards are used – Post-cleanup sampling and analyses are obtained to ensure that contaminants have been removed and that the residual soil, water and sediment meet the applicable standards.
  • Risk-based standards are used – Post-cleanup inspections and regular environmental monitoring are typically required to check that exposure to substances remaining in place satisfies the applicable remediation standards.
  • To learn more, refer to Fact Sheet 13: Environmental Quality Standards (PDF)