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Soil pollution


What regime governs liability for soil pollution (including the allocation, transfer and limitation of liability)?

Soil pollution is regulated at the provincial level in Canada. Each provincial regulatory regime includes provisions dealing with the remediation of contaminated property. Provincial regulatory regimes other than Saskatchewan do not deal specifically with the transfer of environmental liabilities, although each regulator has authority to issue administrative orders to require remediation of soil pollution. The allocation, transfer and limitation of liability for soil pollution is largely dealt with as a matter of contract in Canada.

Due diligence

What environmental due diligence measures are recommended before concluding land transactions?

Most purchase agreements require the full disclosure of environmental studies and reports. It is common to recommend phase one and two environmental site assessments if the perceived environmental risks justify the expenditure. Specific government inquiries may also be recommended.


What remediation and clean-up measures are typically applied and how can remediation costs be recovered?

Remediation measures for soil pollution typically include:

  • excavation and removal;
  • excavation and on-site treatment; and
  • in-situ remediation using microbial agents or oxidants.

Cost factors typically favour excavation and removal. Remediation costs may be recovered only through civil actions against those responsible.

Air pollution


How are air emissions regulated? What air quality standards and emission limits apply?

Air emissions are regulated by provincial environmental regulators – typically through a combination of statutory prohibitions against the discharge to air of anything that may cause an adverse effect – and permits. Air quality standards and associated emission limits vary from province to province, although there is a high level of interprovincial cooperation and collaboration in the standards-setting process.


What are the consequences of non-compliance with air emissions regulations?

Consequences range from prosecution to administrative compliance orders.

Water pollution


What rules govern the discharge of wastewater and the protection of water resources?

The federal government regulates the protection of international waters and fisheries. The federal Fisheries Act contains a general prohibition against the deposit of harmful substances into water frequented by fish, which has wide application across Canada.

At the provincial level, most environmental protection statutes prohibit the discharge of anything that may impair water quality. Provincial environmental regulators also typically issue wastewater discharge permits that contain discharge standards. Municipal governments also typically regulate the quality and quantity of wastewater discharged to sewers.


What are the consequences of non-compliance with water pollution regulations?

Consequences range from prosecution to the issue of administrative compliance orders.

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