The Environmental Management Act (EMA) and Contaminated Sites Regulation lay out the ‘polluter-pays’ principles for remediation liability. Individuals who are in some way responsible for causing contamination are 'responsible persons' – they must cover the costs of any site remediation required.
If a responsible person cannot be found or is unable to pay, the ministry may determine if a contaminated site is an orphan site. The minister then determines which orphan sites will be remediated by the government to protect human health and the environment.
Under EMA, a person may be exempted from responsibility for the remediation of a site that became contaminated by:
- an act of God or war
- a third party unconnected with the owner
- migration of a substance from another owner’s site
- natural occurrences not assisted by human activity
- an owner, if the owner “innocently acquired” the site