Why we measure this
Environmentally impacted sites are areas of land or water that contain a substance that may cause, or is causing, an adverse effect. Adverse effect means impairment of – or damage to – the environment, or harm to human health. An impacted site is usually a piece of land or a body of water that has been disturbed or affected by a chemical or substance as a result of human activities that have changed it in a way that may harm or alter the environment.
In Saskatchewan, environmentally impacted sites are typically associated with transportation, manufacturing, industrial, commercial or mining activities.
The Ministry of Environment's role is to manage the health of Saskatchewan's environment in a responsible manner that supports sustainable growth through objective, transparent and informed decision-making and stewardship. Managing impacted sites allows the ministry to identify areas in the province that are a potential risk to the health and safety of the public and to the environment. Failure to identify impacted sites in the province may increase the risks of an adverse effect to the environment.
What is happening
In accordance with Section 9 of The Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2010 (EMPA, 2010), there is a duty to report to the ministry any discoveries of a substance that may cause, or is causing, an adverse effect.
The ministry maintains a registry of all reported impacted sites in the province. The registry includes information on contaminants, location of the site, involved parties and the environmental status of the site. The registry helps the ministry keep track of and monitor impacted sites and regulate parties responsible for remediation of the site. By maintaining a registry, the ministry can prioritize and focus on sites that present an immediate threat to human health and the environment.
The progression of an environmentally impacted site through the impacted sites process remains voluntary, and is overseen by the ministry. The responsible party is given the opportunity to identify, assess, manage and remediate impacts on a site to meet legislative requirements and to ensure protection of human health within a reasonable amount of time. The Minister of Environment may direct the responsible party to take action in situations where the Minister believes adverse effects pose a significant risk to human health or the environment and where the responsible party is not addressing impacts adequately. Such direction would impose strict timelines to which the responsible party must comply.
As of December 31, 2020, 59 historical discoveries were entered into the ministry's registry for the 2020-21 fiscal year. As these sites are reported, responsible parties and the ministry assess the degree of impacts, and the sites are entered into the ministry's registry as impacted sites. Every time a discovery is reported, the ministry obtains valuable information and acquires a better understanding of what the impacts are in the province.
As of December 31, 2020, the ministry manages 2,712 impacted sites through its registry. This registry is based on information submitted by responsible parties or involved parties. It is not an exhaustive list of all impacted sites in the province and may not include impacted sites that have not yet been discovered or reported to the ministry. It also may not include activities that are authorized under the authority of EMPA, 2010 or other activities approved under different legislation.
In accordance with Section 18 of EMPA 2010, a person responsible for an environmentally impacted site may apply to the Minister to file a notice of site condition in the registry if the environmentally impacted site has been reclaimed and met the requirements of EMPA 2010 and the Saskatchewan Environmental Code.
As of December 31, 2020, a total of 27 notices of site conditions were filed in the registry. The registration of a notice of site condition for a site is an acknowledgment by the Ministry of Environment that an acceptable level of risk remains at the subject site and results in a limited release of liability of the responsible party. The issuance of a notice of site condition enters the site into the registry, and the information in the registry is accessible through the Freedom of Information process. Where any subsequent information disproves or contradicts the information used to register the notice of site condition, the Minister is authorized to revoke the notice of site condition for the site. However, if the documentation used to register a notice of site condition for a site is incomplete or contains false or misleading information, the Minister may require further assessment and/or revoke the notice of site condition for that site.
By maintaining a registry, the ministry can prioritize sites based on risk and focus on sites that present an immediate threat to human health and the environment.
What we are doing
On June 1, 2015, The Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2002 was repealed and replaced with The Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2010 and included the implementation of the Saskatchewan Environmental Code. The code provides results-based objectives, specifications, procedures, criteria and methods to manage impacted sites to limit the risk of adverse effects to the environment and human health. The enactment of the new legislation included the ministry's move towards results-based regulation, which fosters flexibility and innovation by encouraging responsible parties to determine their own course of action while allowing the ministry to use its resources to focus on high-risk sites that pose a threat to the public and the environment.
The ministry continues to work with parties involved with impacted sites to ensure realization and appropriate application of EMPA 2010 and the code by continued stakeholder consultation. The ministry attended several meetings and conferences in 2020, including with the Canadian Fuels Association (CFA) and a presentation at the Saskatchewan Environmental Industry and Managers Association (SEIMA) semiannual meetings to discuss EMPA 2010 and the code.
In addition to stakeholder consultation, the ministry continues to publish communications to assist parties in understanding the requirements of current environmental legislation. In January of 2020, the ministry published Managing Impacted Sites in Saskatchewan to provide further education and information on the impacted sites process.
In 2020, the ministry manually completed its review of 8,600 paper files for historical sites to identify impacted sites. Each site was assessed for potential impacts based on the available information. As new information becomes available regarding an impacted site, the ministry reviews all information to ensure compliance with environmental legislation and deals appropriately with any risk to the public and to the environment. The ministry strives to obtain accurate information for impacted sites and to lower the risk of adverse effects to ensure a better quality of life for the people of Saskatchewan and a healthy, resilient environment for our province.