Q & A
You can start off by researching background information to give you a solid understanding on the history of your site, or work with an experienced environmental site assessor, who will consider all the available information in assessing a site for you. Some of the background information tools you can view on your own consist of:
- EcoLog ERIS Database Search
- Air/Aerial Photographs
- Fire Insurance Maps
- Historical Topographic Maps
- Land Titles
- City Directories
- Municipal Websites and Archives
- Site Registry
The Site Registry is not just a registry of contaminated sites; some sites in the registry are contaminated, but many are simply being investigated and may require little, if any, cleanup, or have already been cleaned up to government standards.
The BC Ministry of Environment regulates the screening, investigation, notification, and remediation of contaminated sites. As part of the decommissioning process for a former service station, a site owner must submit a Site Profile (environmental screening form) to the BC Ministry of Environment. The Environmental Management Act and the Contaminated Sites Regulation provide the details on the expectations that the Ministry has for a site owner/operator to determine the full extent of contamination and prepare and implement a remediation plan Check out this BC Ministry of Environment Fact Sheet for more information.
You can obtain information by contacting the appropriate Oil and Gas Company, Provincial Brownfield representatives or members of the BC Environmental Industry Association Brownfield Committee. Additional information may be obtained from companies working in the environmental field. A select list can be found in the BCEIA Member Directory.
The following process guide is a step-by-step outline of the roles and responsibilities of each of the parties involved in a site decommissioning and redevelopment.
Remediation liability in BC is based on the “polluter-pays principle” (i.e. those who cause contamination should be responsible for the cleanup). The BC Ministry of Environment Fact Sheet on remediation liability provides an overview of principles of liability, or responsibility, for the cost of cleaning up contaminated sites in BC. It also provides a list of who may be considered responsible for cleaning up contaminated sites.
A “Responsible Person” under the Environmental Management Act includes the previous owner or operator of a service station property and producer or transporter of a substance that caused contamination. Responsible Persons are:
- Absolutely liable (can’t use due diligence as a defence);
- Retroactively liable (responsible for contamination that has occurred in the past from the operations of the responsible person); and
- Joint and several liable (will be required to pay for the entire remediation if other parties involved can’t or won’t).
Someone who “innocently acquired” a contaminated site may not be held responsible for the cleanup provided they can show that:
- the site was already contaminated;
- he or she had no way of knowing or suspecting that the site was contaminated; and
- he or she made all appropriate inquiries of previous ownership and uses of the site
Take a look at this roadmap document. It shows you the legislation and funding programs related to BC Brownfields.
The Province’s Brownfield Renewal Strategy has also released a document titled A Community Resource Guide for Brownfields Redevelopment: Project Funding which general source and guide for information on brownfield funding, renewal and redevelopment approaches.
The Brownfield Renewal Strategy’s own funding program can be accessed through its website.
Jamie Evans, Senior Manager Environmental Risk for RBC, prepared this backgrounder for the Canadian Brownfields Network which discusses the typical process for financing contaminated sites. Jamie also provides a few tips and deal-breakers.
These case studies share the redevelopment process from vacant former service stations to useable community assets.
The Province’s Brownfield Renewal Strategy has also released a document titled A Community Resource Guide For Brownfields Redevelopment: Case Studies which provides general source and guide for information on brownfield funding, renewal and redevelopment approaches. The document highlights two former service stations.
The Harbour City of Nanaimo hosted two days of collaborative discussion as part of a pilot brownfield planning charette on former service stations. The pilot charette brought together municipal, community association, land development, petroleum and government agency participants for a collaborative visioning, problem solving and planning exercise. Options available for vacant service station sites within the City of Nanaimo were discussed. The charette highlighted the importance of input, collaboration, and partnerships among stakeholders (local government, provincial government, community-based associations, and the petroleum, environmental consulting, and development industries). See summary report for more information.