What is “Contaminated Soil”?

Contaminated soil is soil that contains any number of different substances including petroleum hydrocarbons, PCBs, metals and oils* that would not be present naturally and most often, are present as a result of past usage.

Past usage can include industrial, commercial, institutional and even residential in some cases. Typically, these properties are now abandoned or under utilized and, in higher density urban areas such as the GTA, they’re often referred to as brownfields.

What Is the Issue with Contaminated Fill?

In high-density areas such as the GTA, there are no new open spaces left. As a result, brownfields are being redeveloped at an accelerating rate. The Ministry of Environment  (MOE) regulates aspects of brownfield redevelopment and requires developers to “clean up” contaminated sites to a minimum standard before building anything new on the site. Unfortunately, the most preferred option for “clean up” is usually to dispose of the contaminated soil “off site”.

Mistakes Are Too Costly

While regulations stipulate that contaminated soil be taken to a land fill site designated to accept it and only “clean fill” be taken to outlying communities for disposal, it would be naïve and foolhardy to assume this happens without fail. Time and time again, “clean” fill is often found to contain contamination at a later date. And taxpayers are usually left to foot the bill for cleaning up the mess.

*Click here for a list of potential contaminants in this official document: (.pdf/100Kb)

In our case, “off site” is the Town of Erin and Wellington County.

Developers must not be allowed to dump their potentially contaminated fill in our communities
as the solution to their problem!
And our municipal officials must not allow it to happen!

“A lot of the clean infill [development] sites in the GTA are gone,”said Gordon Onley, an engineering consultant with Fisher Environmental. “What’s left are the dirty sites.”

As another veteran developer observed,

“None of the soil I know about in the city is benign. It’s all got history.”
- from an article published in the Globe and Mail on Sunday, February 19, 2012.