When energy companies use or produce substances at a site or facility, there’s always a chance those substances will spill or leak. This could be due to a current loss of containment or historic practices. That’s a problem, especially if those substances end up in soil, surface water, or groundwater.
If a release occurs, companies must manage and clean up any contamination – in a process known as remediation – as soon as possible. Timely remedial measures reduce the likelihood that contaminants will migrate to other areas over time, preventing increases in risk and liability.
What We Expect
Simply stated, we expect companies to fix the situation. Companies are responsible for managing and cleaning up any contamination from their licensed activities or from approved facilities. They must also ensure that the public and the environment are protected.
Spills or releases that meet certain criteria must be reported to us immediately. Read our Release Reporting Requirements brochure for more information.
To adequately manage contamination, a company must do the following:
- contain and control the source of contamination as soon as possible.
- Carry out an environmental site assessment to determine the width and depth of the release.
- Manage the contamination to prevent people or the environment from being adversely affected or further adversely affected.
- If needed, clean up (remediate) the contamination.
- As remedial measures are undertaken, industry must communicate new information about the impact of a released substance to a person or land to affected persons and the AER.
Information is provided in Manual 021: Contamination Management.
We will work with the company to ensure that the contamination is appropriately assessed and managed and that environmental impacts are limited. We will also take enforcement action if a company fails to take remedial measures or the environment or the public’s safety is at risk.
Remediation Techniques and Tools
The way a company manages contamination and remediates an area will depend on the situation. Contaminated soil and groundwater can be remediated in the ground (in situ) or removed and treated (ex situ).
In situ remediation techniques involve managing or treating the contaminated material in place. These techniques reduce the amount of soil sent to landfills. Contaminated material treated in situ is not considered oilfield waste.
Ex situ remediation techniques involve excavating or removing the material for treatment or disposal. Contaminated material that is treated or disposed of ex situ is considered oilfield waste. It must be disposed according to our waste-management directives, such as Directive 058: Oilfield Waste Management Requirements for the Upstream Petroleum Industry.
See our Contamination Management Tools and Resources page for remediation guides, forms, and other information.
Companies have the option of applying for a remediation certificate after cleaning up contamination on their sites. Although the certificate is voluntary, it provides assurance to site owners, managers, and stakeholders that the company has met our expectations in full.
Further information on remediation certificates can be found on the Contamination Closure Applications page.
When an energy project is no longer needed for production, the infrastructure must be properly suspended and abandoned, and the land appropriately decontaminated and reclaimed. Under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, companies must return the land to the state it was in before development (or similarly), including what it looked like and how it was used. Once a site is reclaimed, a company can apply for a reclamation certificate so that it can formally close the project.
- Fact sheet: Closure – Abandonment, Reclamation, and Remediation
- Fact sheet: Reclamation and Remediation
- Resource story: When Everyone Wins
For questions about remediation, please contact our Customer Contact Centre.