The 2016 report on the Crown Contaminated Sites Program, released today, details work government has done over the past two years to investigate and clean-up contaminated sites resulting from historical industrial activities where responsibility has defaulted to the Province.
To date the Province has recognized $508 million in liabilities related to contaminated sites being managed by the Crown Contaminated Sites Program. The program has investigated a total of 84 sites, which includes 18 sites where remediation is complete and 16 sites where investigation and remediation is ongoing. Most of the sites – including mine sites – reviewed by this program were active before modern environmental standards were in place.
The report highlights the progress of clean-up of three mine sites that operated prior to 1969 when mine site reclamation legislation came into force – the Howard Mine and Tailings site in the West Kootenays, as well as the ongoing clean-up of priority sites, Bralorne-Takla Mine in northern B.C., Britannia Mine near Squamish and Pacific Place in Vancouver.
The program, established in 2003, manages contaminated sites located on Crown land which present risks to human health and the environment and where a responsible party no longer exists. The contamination generally dates back to earlier in the previous century, when impacts of industrial development were not well managed and before current environmental standards, and regulations were in place. In 1969, reclamation legislation for mines operating in British Columbia came into effect, making mine operators responsible for all mine site clean-up costs. Remediation work carried out by the Crown is prioritized by identifying the highest risk sites and assigning management actions for clean-up.
The Province now has environmental standards in place to ensure protection of human health and the environment from contamination. The Environmental Management Act ensures that those that pollute are held responsible under a polluter pay principle so the taxpayer does not have to assume these clean-up costs.
Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations –
“As the report demonstrates, we are committed to clean-up of these historic sites, ensuring environmental sustainability, and the health and safety of British Columbians is maintained.”
- A site is contaminated if the soil, groundwater or sediment contains waste or a substance in an amount or concentration that exceeds environmental quality standards.
- The most common contaminants found at the program sites include heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium and zinc.
To download a copy of the 2016 Crown Contaminated Sites Biennial Report, visit: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/air-land-water/site-remediation/docs/reports-and-presentations/biennial_report.pdf