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


Contaminated Sites

General Guidance

Frequently Asked Questions

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  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 did the new regulations become effective? view answer
  16. The new regulations became effective July 6, 2013.

  17. What are the key differences between the old rules 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. 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 a 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. Will the department actively seek out contaminated sites? view answer
  34. 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).

  35. What happened to the existing policies and procedures, are they still applicable? view answer
  36. The following policies and procedures are no longer be applicable after July 6, 2013:

    • 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.

  37. 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
  38. 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.

  39. What is the status of Domestic Fuel Oil Spill Registry Program for Site Professionals and Certified Cleanup Contractors? view answer
  40. 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.

  41. Where should notifications and submissions be sent? view answer
  42. Notifications and submissions should be sent to regional offices.

  43. What are the administrative fees associated with the new regulations? view answer
  44. The administrative fee structure is currently under review. There are no administrative fees at this time.