Redeveloping Brownfield Sites in Ontario

Posted by on Nov 2, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

Which will work better for your new commercial development?  A Brownfield or a Greenfield?  A site with an “environmental history” obviously presents some complications, but if the location is right and the price is appealing, then the Brownfield Site may hold greater value.

The old school of thought that suggested you dismiss out of hand, old industrial sites and focus only on Greenfields, may mean you are missing out on the ideal location.

Thanks to the Record of Site Condition O. Regulation 153/04 passed on October 1, 2004, property developers in Ontario have more choices.  This regulation has been amended over the years, with the most recent being about one year ago: Ontario 407/19.

A Record of Site Condition is an important tool for those looking to redevelop urban areas in Ontario (Photo by Sean Benesh on Unsplash).

What is a “Record of Site Condition” (RSC), and what can you expect if you choose to redevelop a Brownfield Site for your new facility?  I sat down with Christopher Paré, P. Geo, recently to gain some practical insights.

What is a Brownfield, and what is a Record of Site Condition?

A Brownfield property is a vacant or underutilized place where past industrial or commercial activities may have resulted in contamination at the Site.  In short, an RSC is the filing of the results of an environmental investigation of a contaminated site with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MECP).

When is an RSC Used?

The RSC is used when a property, such as an older industrial site, is repurposed for a more-sensitive use, such as a commercial or residential development.

For example, let’s say you want to develop an old industrial property that, perhaps, was a foundry in the 1950s and 1960s.  You want to use the site for retail and residential housing.  Under this scenario, you will need to conduct several tasks as you work toward gathering the information needed for an RSC submittal.  These tasks will include an RSC-compliant Phase One Site Assessment and Phase Two Site Assessment.  If the data show that the soil and/or groundwater on the property is “contaminated,” that is, do not meet the applicable standards for your proposed use, you can choose to go down the RSC path.  At this point, it becomes a business decision of whether to continue or stop.  Moving forward at this point will involve remediation and/or risk assessment, and ultimately, there will be data and information that can be used for the RSC submittal.

In most cases, municipalities will request an RSC prior to granting a demolition permit or building permit.

Is Remediation Always Part of an RSC?

There are many factors that will determine if remediation will be necessary.  The Phase One and Phase Two are your starting point.  If the soil and groundwater data demonstrate that you meet your generic standards, there is no need for remedial actions.  At this point, you are ready to move forward with an RSC submittal.

If you do not meet generic standards, the site assessment work will outline the types of contaminants, the location of the contaminants, the lateral and vertical extent of the contaminants, etc.  Once you know this, you will know how extensive the remediation may be and how much the estimated remedial costs are in order to redevelop the property for its intended land reuse.

The use of a risk assessment is another option that may eliminate or significantly reduce the remedial actions.

Do I hire a consultant to conduct an RSC?

 Yes.  Environmental consultants with associates that hold one of two qualifications can conduct the ESAs and work toward submittal of an RSC: Professional Engineer (P. Eng.) or Professional Geoscientist (P. Geo).  It is important to have a consultant with experience in ESAs; specifically, experience in RSC submittals.

How long does the process take before you can complete an RSC submittal?

Each RSC is different depending upon site conditions. The site assessment work is one aspect.  A Phase One is typically 3-4 weeks, and an initial Phase Two (depending on a number of factors) could be 4-6 weeks. If contamination is identified on the property, additional Phase Two investigations will be needed in order to complete the horizontal and vertical delineation of contaminants.  The time to get to the point at which the RSC submittal is forwarded to the MECP can take months, and if there is remediation of soil and groundwater, it can take years.

Is there anything else we should know about the RSC?

This is a brief non-technical review of the Record of Site Condition Process.  It can be complex, but depending on your needs for your new development, it may be well worth the time and expense.  You can learn more here:  Brownfield Redevelopment and Submitting a Record of Site Condition.

If you are considering a Brownfield in Ontario and would like to discuss the RSC process, you can contact Christopher Pare’, P. Geo at 519-948-7300, Ext. 114.

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