Government of Nova Scotia Government of Nova Scotia Nova Scotia, Canada


Contaminated Sites


Summary Presentation

The following link will connect you to a summary presentation of the contaminated sites regulations and protocols: Summary Presentation of the Contaminated Sites Regulations and Ministerial Protocols

Document: Environmental Quality Standards for Contaminated Sites - Rationale and Guidance Document (PDF: 1.1mb)

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a question link to view the response. Additional guidance will be provided as it is developed.

  1. What is a contaminated site? view answer
  2. A contaminated site refers to land that may be contaminated by the result of long-term industrial use – gasoline stations, dry cleaners, storage facilities, etc. – or result from unplanned activity such as a leaking home heating oil tank. In most cases, contaminated sites can be reused once they are cleaned up.

  3. What should I do if I think my property is contaminated? view answer
  4. If you have reason to believe your property is contaminated, you should contact an environmental consulting company and ask to speak with an environmental site professional. This person will help you determine if the Nova Scotia Department of Environment needs to be notified of the contamination and what needs to be done next.

  5. How does notification work? view answer
  6. The Notification of Contamination protocol applies to all sites. For some contaminants, the site owner must immediately notify the department. For others, the site owner has 90 days to notify the department of any contamination in the soil, sediment, groundwater or surface water. This allows site owners the time to properly test and confirm suspected contamination.

    There are times when a site owner does not need to notify the department. These are explained in the Notification of Contamination protocol.

  7. Why are contaminated sites a concern? view answer
  8. Contaminated land is of concern if it presents a threat to the environment, or if it poses risks to the land users. Such land is seen to have potential environmental drawbacks, which are also of concern to land owners because of their financial and legal implications. Financial concerns may include reduced land values or the requirement for property owners to pay remediation costs.

  9. Why remediate contaminated land? Isn’t it safer to keep families and businesses out of land that could make people sick and hurt the environment? view answer
  10. Contaminated land is typically remediated to address environmental risks; risks to users of the sites, as well as financial and legal liabilities. In addition, with more and more pressure being put on available land for the development of new industries, businesses and also housing, there is an increasing tendency to build on existing sites so as to preserve greenfield sites for future generations.

  11. Who is responsible for remediation? view answer
  12. Cleanup is the responsibility of the person or organization who owns the site on which the contamination is found, or who is responsible for causing the contamination.

    The actual cleanup must be done by a qualified site professional (engineer or geoscientist).

  13. Why did you introduce these new regulations? view answer
  14. The new regulations will bring clarity to, and streamline the process of remediating contaminated sites. The regulations will offer land owners greater certainty over future liability once the property has been cleaned up and will encourage the remediation and redevelopment of contaminated sites. This will help create jobs and grow our economy.

  15. When do the new regulations become effective? view answer
  16. The new regulations are effective July 6, 2013.

  17. What are the key differences between the old regulations and the new ones? view answer
  18. This is the first time the province has had contaminated sites regulations. Prior to this, direction for cleanup of contaminated sites was given through policy and guidelines.

    The new regulations provide a clear, efficient and timely process to identify, manage and clean up contaminated sites, keeping people and the environment safe in the process. Those responsible for cleaning up contaminated sites will now be held accountable to a consistent standard of remediation.

  19. How do these new rules affect the average homeowner? view answer
  20. The new regulations provide greater clarity to homeowners around how contaminated sites are managed, and who is responsible for cleaning them up.

  21. Who is allowed to manage the cleanup of contaminated sites? view answer
  22. Only site professionals who are registered and licensed with either the Association of Professional Geologists of Nova Scotia (APGNS) or the Association of Professional Engineers of Nova Scotia (APENS), and who have experience in contaminated site investigation, management and remediation are qualified to manage the cleanup of contaminated sites.

  23. What’s the reason behind the majority of contaminated sites? Is there one major underlying cause? view answer
  24. Contaminated sites are as varied as the industries and businesses in Nova Scotia. Contamination can occur from spills, accidents or industrial uses. There is no one major cause of contaminated sites in Nova Scotia.

  25. How long does it take to remediate a site? view answer
  26. Remediation time frames vary depending on the condition of the site as well as the method chosen to clean it up. The regulations provide options that didn’t previously exist which, in some cases, are expected to reduce remediation timelines. The regulations also prescribe a maximum time of two years to complete the remediation. However, time extensions can be provided under certain circumstances. These include an assessment of human health and environmental risks.

  27. What is the process for remediation? Is it the same for all contaminated sites? view answer
  28. There are two remediation pathways under the new program: The Limited Remediation pathway is the most flexible. It allows property owners to clean up their sites by removing all contamination, or by leaving acceptable levels of contamination on the site under very controlled conditions to ensure human health and environmental protection.

    The Full Property Remediation pathway does not have the same flexibility as the Limited Remediation pathway. All contamination must be cleaned up under this option.

  29. What is a Ministerial Protocol? view answer
  30. As it relates to the contaminated sites regulations, a ministerial protocol refers to an applicable standard adopted or established by the Minister under Section 90 of the Environment Act. There are seven ministerial protocols identified in the regulations.

  31. Under the protocol, what triggers the need for remediation? view answer
  32. The Notification of Contamination processes describe how a person responsible for a contaminated site must notify Nova Scotia Environment, as required under the new regulations.

    There are multiple triggers that would require someone to report a contaminated site to the department. Sometimes contamination is seen during a spill or emergency situation, whereas at other times it is detected by testing soil or water samples.

  33. What happens in a case where a notification of contamination is made prior to July 6th but the file remains open after July 6? view answer
  34. The department is allowing a grace period for transition of sites that were notified to the Nova Scotia Department of Environment before July 6, 2013. The old system of guidance documents and policies may still be used to remediate such sites. However, it is also an option to switch to the new regulations. Those using the “new” system must formally notify the department under the notification protocol.

    If you choose to remain under the old system, the department will require all work and files to be submitted for completion by December 31, 2013, for closure.

    Site professionals registered under the Domestic Fuel Oil Spill Policy but not recognized under the new regulations may remain under the old policy until December 31, 2013 to close their current files.

  35. Can you request a time extension for the assessment or remediation? view answer
  36. Yes. Separate requests are required for each affected property. The process and request forms can be found online and must be signed by the site professional working on the property, as well as the property owner.

  37. Will the department actively seek out contaminated sites? view answer
  38. Compliance inspectors will continue to respond to complaints on a case-by-case basis. Some complaints may warrant a site visit and, depending on the findings, this may result in the department directing the site owner to test the site for contamination (also known as a site assessment).

  39. What happens to the existing policies and procedures, are they still applicable? view answer
  40. The following policies and procedures will no longer be applicable after July 6, 2013,and will be removed from our website:

    • Guidelines for the Management of Contaminated Sites in NS
    • Domestic Fuel Oil Spill Policy
    • Interim Procedures for the Management of Contaminated Site Files, including forms and checklists
    • Contaminated Sites - Person Responsible (Municipality Exemption)

    All other policies and procedures related to contaminated sites will remain in effect.

  41. Are there any supporting documents that will help site professionals and the general public understand the new protocols for remediation under the new regulations? view answer
  42. Guidance documents related to the new regulations are under development and will be posted online when they are completed. These guidance documents will be “living documents” and will be updated as new questions arise. The Nova Scotia Department of Environment welcomes feedback in making the guidance documents useful for both site professionals and the general public.

  43. What is the status of Domestic Fuel Oil Spill Registry Program for Site Professionals and Certified Cleanup Contractors? view answer
  44. Effective July 6, 2013, the Domestic Fuel Oil Spill Policy was replaced by the Contaminated Sites Regulations. As a result, the Domestic Fuel Oil Spill Registry Program for Site Professionals and Certified Cleanup Contractors is no longer valid and registration under this program is no longer recognized. Please note that site professionals registered under the Domestic Fuel Oil Spill Policy, but not recognized under the new Contaminated Sites Regulations, may remain as Site Professionals under the old policy until December 31, 2013, to provide time close their current files.

  45. Will those currently identified as registered site professionals lose their designation when the regulations come in to effect? view answer
  46. The regulations specify who can carry out work as a site professional in Nova Scotia. Site professionals must be a registered engineer or geoscientist with a minimum level of experience. Section 5 of the new regulations identifies the full details for qualification as a site professional.

    The new regulations do not prevent others from working in this field, but certain sections of the regulations require work be conducted by, or under the supervision of a site professional.

  47. When will the protocols be available for review? view answer
  48. The contaminated sites’ regulations, protocols, forms and checklists will be posted on the department’s website on July 5, 2013. Guidance documents will be posted when they are complete.

  49. Do the contaminated sites regulations affect sites with existing operating approvals or for persons who have been issued Ministerial Orders? view answer
  50. Existing operating approvals or Ministerial Orders issued by Nova Scotia Environment may contain terms and conditions that relate to reporting, assessment and/or remediation of contamination as a condition of their approval, or Ministerial Order. In such cases, the approval holder or person issued the Ministerial Order shall continue to follow the terms and conditions of their approval unless amended by the Minister. An approval holder or person issued a Ministerial Order may also apply to the Minister for such an amendment if desired. Where an approval does not contain terms and conditions related to reporting, assessment and/or remediation of contamination, the contaminated sites regulations would apply.

  51. Where should notifications and submissions be sent? view answer
  52. The Notification of Contamination form will be available on the Nova Scotia Department of Environment website. Notifications and submissions should be sent to regional offices.

  53. Who should we contact after July 6? view answer
  54. If you have a contaminated site to report, contact a Nova Scotia Environment Compliance regional office. If you have any questions about the new regulations, protocols, etc., please contact the department’s Sustainability and Innovation Division.

  55. What are the administrative fees associated with the new regulations? view answer
  56. The administrative fee structure is currently under review and will be revised to reflect the new regulations. Until that is complete, there are no administrative fees. We anticipate the new fee structure will be in place in early fall.

  57. How much does it cost to remediate a site? view answer
  58. The costs to remediate a site vary. They can be as expensive as the Sydney tar ponds site, which cost around $400 M, to as low as a few hundred dollars for a small roadside spill. The new regulations are meant to bring clarity and consistency to cleaning up contaminated sites, which will speed up the process and help lower costs for property owners.

    Also, the regulations now provide cleanup options that were not available previously. These options could provide potential cost savings to the property owner.

  59. Once the new fee structure is in place, will that affect projects already underway? view answer
  60. This has not yet been determined.