Municipalities and approving officers

The Environmental Management Act (EMA) and Contaminated Sites Regulation (CSR) assign the following administrative duties to municipalities and approving officers in relation to site disclosure statements. A municipality or approving officer must complete their assessment, forwarding and notification duties within 15 days of receiving a site disclosure statement.

 

Assessing site disclosure statements

There are two steps to assessing a site disclosure statement.

  1. Determine if the site disclosure statement is legally required
    • If there are no specified Schedule 2 uses noted in Section III of the site disclosure statement, or an exemption listed in CSR section 4 applies (see Section V of the form), the form is not legally required and is not submitted to the registrar. It may be returned to the applicant or retained by the municipality or approving officer for their records. No further action is required
    • As described by Section 3.5 of the CSR a municipality or approving officer can request a person applying for or otherwise seeking approval of a matter referred to in Section 40 (1) of the Act to provide the information required by a site disclosure statement even though the person is not required under EMA to provide a site disclosure statement.
  2. If the site disclosure statement is legally required, determine if it is satisfactorily completed
    • The current version of the site disclosure statement must be used and completed legibly
      Site disclosure statement (PDF, 143 KB)
    • Ensure all sections of the form are complete and the form is signed. Instructions and expectations for an applicant completing a site disclosure statement are provided on the site identification webpage. 

The owner or operator who signed the site disclosure statement is responsible for the accuracy of the responses on the form. The municipality or approving officer has no duty to conduct a search of its own records for the purposes of assessing a site disclosure statement, although they may wish to do so.

Approving authority contact info

The municipality or approving officer must complete this section of the site disclosure statement before submitting it to the registrar. The reason(s) for submission must also be checked.

Incomplete site disclosure statements submitted to the registrar will be returned to the municipality or approving officer for follow up.

Managing disagreements

Although there is no duty for a municipality or approving officer to conduct a search of its records, there may be situations where the municipality or approving officer disagrees with the information provided on a site disclosure statement because it is inconsistent with the knowledge or information possessed by the municipality or approving officer.

In these instances, the ministry expects the municipality or approving officer to work with the applicant to resolve the dispute.  If a resolution cannot be achieved independently, please contact the ministry at siteID@gov.bc.ca for further advice.

A site disclosure statement is only forwarded to the registrar if:

  • there is at least one Schedule 2 use list in Section III
  • the site disclosure statement is assessed as satisfactorily complete
  • no exemptions apply to the application

Forward the site disclosure statement to the registrar at siteID@gov.bc.ca.

Notify the applicant if the site disclosure statement is either incomplete or has been forwarded to the registrar. For incomplete submissions, if the site disclosure statement is resubmitted, the processing time of 15 days is reset to day one. 

 

How to apply an exemption

Exemptions from the requirement to submit a site disclosure statement are provided in Section 4 of the CSR. They are applied after a triggering action occurs at a site with a history of specified Schedule 2 uses. The use of an exemption is not approved by the ministry; it is up to the applicant to demonstrate to the municipality or approving officer that an exemption applies.

Municipalities and approving officers should review the exemption against the specifics of the application to determine if it is applicable. Additional information can be requested from the applicant, if needed.

Exemptions under CSR 4 (1)

To determine if an applicant has an exemption from submitting a site disclosure statement where the site is subject to a Certificate of Compliance (CoC) or an Approval in Principle (AiP), the municipality or approving officer should confirm:

  1. The CoC or AiP has not been rescinded. Send an enquiry to siteID@gov.bc.ca
  2. The CoC or AiP is relevant to any existing or proposed use based on the details of an application
  3. The applicant has made reasonable inquiries and has no reason to believe any further contamination occurred at the site after the AiP or CoC was issued

The applicant must also provide a copy of the CoC or AiP to the municipality or approving officer.

When a site disclosure statement is required to be forwarded to the registrar, the municipality or approving officer must not approve any applications until one of the circumstances described in the following municipal statutes is met: Islands Trust Act (Section 34.1), Land Title Act (Section 85.1), Local Government Act (Section 557) and the Vancouver Charter (Section 571B).

Restrictions on application approvals can be lifted when an applicant submits to the applicable authority a copy of a certification document such as a determination that the site is not contaminated, an Approval in Principle of a remediation plan, or a Certificate of Compliance; or obtains a release notice from the ministry.

To determine if a certification document is valid and subsisting for the purposes of removing the restrictions on application approvals, a municipality or approving officer should confirm:

  1. The document has not been rescinded by sending an enquiry to siteID@gov.bc.ca
  2. The document is relevant to any existing or proposed use based on the details of an application. Where the application proposes multiple land uses, contact the ministry at siteID@gov.bc.ca for further advice
  3. The applicant has made reasonable inquiries and has no reason to believe any further contamination occurred at the site after the document was issued

 

Process overview

Click the image below to expand. 

Site ID flowchart

 

 

 

 

 

 

Immunity

Section 61 of EMA provides broad immunity for municipalities and their corporations when they administer site disclosure statements or other functions delegated to them under the legislation – even against negligence.  It does not protect against willful misconduct.

Municipalities cannot be held liable for any costs arising from their reliance on a Determination, Approval in Principle or Certificate of Compliance issued by a director.  If the document is valid for the proposed land use at a site, the municipality may approve any outstanding applications.

Municipalities as property owners

Like any landowner, a municipality could be held liable for remediation of a contaminated site that they own or previously owned. However, the Act recognizes that there are some circumstances where a municipality should not be held liable for site remediation:

  • sites they acquired involuntarily – for example, through a property tax default
  • contaminated easements, highways or rights-of-way for underground utilities, unless they caused the contamination
  • if contamination was caused by tenants or lessees that the municipal site owner had no knowledge of
  • if they unknowingly purchased a contaminated site after making appropriate inquiries prior to the acquisition, and they did not contribute to the contamination

Visit the Remediation liability page for more information.

The information on this webpage does not replace the legislative requirements in the Environmental Management Act or its regulations. It does not list all provisions for contaminated site services. If there are differences between this information and the Act, Regulation, or Protocols, the Act, Regulation and Protocols apply.