Soils, Soils, Soils

Authors: Carol Mitchell and Jen Lambke

March 9, 2020


Excess soil is an increasingly hot topic right now. But what exactly is excess soil and why are we talking about it? In short, it’s the dirt that gets dug up during construction activities and moved offsite because it won’t be re-used during development. We’re talking about it now because a new Regulation (O. Reg. 406/19) has been issued by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) to address how excess soil is handled.

What’s the purpose of this new regulation?

The MECP estimates that 2.5 million truckloads of excess soil are moved around Ontario every year, and care must be taken when determining where it’s moving to.

The new Regulation is aimed at stopping illegal dumping activities and encouraging the re-use of soils on the original site, and/or moving it to a site nearby or as close as possible. The Regulation also aims at ensuring property owners with excess soil, are getting that soil tested for contamination and assessed to see if it can remain onsite.

Carol Mitchell, a Senior Environmental Engineer in MTE’s Kitchener office, has been closely monitoring the MECP’s deliberations over the past few years and has been helping our clients move and place soil diligently.

“If the soil cannot remain onsite, then it needs to be shipped to an appropriate re-use site and tracked to make sure it got there.”

The new law lays out the framework for proper management of excess soil. This should lead to a reduction in illegal dumping, a decrease in the amount of “healthy” soil that is going to landfill sites, and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transporting soils.

Aerial shot of construction site

When is this coming into effect?

Many aspects of the Regulation will be phased in over time. “In July 2020, some of the ‘re-use’ rules will come into effect”, stated Jen Lambke, a Project Manager at MTE. “The Regulation and rules identify what soil is exempt from the waste classification, spell out general soil management and storage requirements, and introduce new Excess Soil Standards as well as a Beneficial Reuse Assessment Tool (BRAT), which should help the soil reuse process.”

Dates to be aware of:
    • On January 1, 2022, rules around past use assessment, soil characterization and destination assessment reports, and on-line registration will come into effect.
    • A grandfathering clause is in the works for projects/contracts already underway before January 1, 2021 with completion before January 1, 2026.
    • On January 1, 2025 soils will no longer be allowed in regular landfill sites, with very few exceptions.

How can you prepare?

In many cases, this new law will require proper planning of soil management well ahead of the soil moving. The planning could include extensive soil testing, sometimes double or triple the amount of testing we are currently undertaking for our client’s due diligence purposes.

For example, we assisted a client in characterizing over 20,000 truckloads of soil that needed to be removed from the site during grading. The soil characterization involved excavating test pits and submitting over 100 soil samples for analysis. Although all the soil samples showed no detection of any potential contamination, under the new law, we would have had to analyze 224 samples to meet the minimum requirements for soil characterization. This level of characterization will take a lot more time and money to complete, in addition to tracking the trucks as they leave the site.

Our staff will be hosting clients in the near future to provide more detail and interpretation of the new Excess Soil Regulation. In the meantime, feel free to contact Carol or Jen at 519 743 6500.

For further details regarding the MECP regulations, visit 

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