Environmental approvals

Environmental Approvals

One of the most common and simple questions we get as environmental consultants and Site Remediation contractors is, “ how long will it take to get environmental approvals ”. The common response is, “you got to be kidding me”. But take heart, I was recently informed that compared to other provinces (not to be mentioned) Quebec is relatively fast and practical….depending a bit on the individual you might be dealing with.

For a Phase I study, which is the beginning of many projects, the limiting factor as to when you will get your fully complete study1 is more often than not the City or municipality (municipalities tending to be faster than the cities). The law for the Access to Information (Art. 46) allocates 20 working days for the City to deliver information upon reception of a formal request, but in some cases, if you do not follow-up, you will never get your files. A phase II, is generally more rapid depending on the scope of work, but even drilling or testing off-site can go relatively quickly depending on the availability of equipment (backhoe, drill-rig, etc). The lab usually takes 5 days, but for a premium you can get results faster. But no approvals are generally required by the Ministry of the Environment if you are dealing with an expert accredited with the Ministry of the Environnement.

Where it gets more complicated, even if all the horses are lined up and ready to run, is when it comes to decontamination. The MDDELCC2 has 75 working days to get back to you once you have submitted your remediation plan, but the clock stops if there are questions. The clock starts again once the questions have been answered, but this is a service directive, not a law. Should your file be unclear, you will get questions, possibly requests for additional information (including possible field work and more assessment) and thus … delays. Should your answers be unclear, you will get questions and delays, and if you do not answer the questions or continue to be unclear, your file may be closed and you will have to start again.

If you move toward a risk assessment, which is a great approach for site contaminated with metals and PAHs3, but not acceptable (for the time being) for hydrocarbon impacts, The Ministry of the Environnement is involved, but so too is the Groupe Techniques d’Évaluation (GTE). This group determines the true risk associated with a project and they are not driven by the service directive of 75 working days. If the file is complicated or poorly prepared, you can expect a proportional delay. The MDDELCC being involved, still has an administrative responsibility to deliver the approval, however, they have no control over the GTE and it is a bit of a mystery as to when you might get a favourable response. A year is not unusual and in some cases much longer, and a regular follow-up is essential. Lastly the risk assessment study (the technical part done by an expert) will require 6 to 8 weeks to prepare and must be submitted with the request for approval.

The bottom line is make sure you cross your T’s and dot you i’s when preparing your file. If what you might be told seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

1  A full phase I will include responses from all of the pertinent regulatory agencies including the city or municipalities

2  MDDELCC (Ministry of Durable Development, Environnement, and Climate Change)

PAH (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon)

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