What Quebec legislation says about soil contamination?

The Quality Act of the Quebec Environment was initially adopted in 1972. There are several articles that address the issue of contaminated land, including items 31.42 31.69. We extracted a selection of key items below.

This law is based on the general principle stated in Article 19.1:

Article 19.1. Everyone has the right to the quality of the environment, its protection and preservation of living species that live there, to the extent provided by this Act, regulations, orders, approvals and authorizations issued under one or other of the articles of this law and, in terms of odors resulting from agricultural activities, to the extent provided by standards originating from the exercise of powers under subsection 4 of the second paragraph of Article 113 of the planning and development Act (chapter A-19.1).

Article 31.43 begins the section on soil contamination with a powerful statement that gives the minister the power to act to protect the life, health, safety and welfare of human beings and the environment, there where there are dangerous levels of soil pollution.

31.43. When establishing their presence in land of contaminants in a concentration exceeding the limit values set by regulations made under section 31.69 or who, not being covered by that regulation, are likely to affect the life, health, safety, welfare or comfort of human beings, other living species or the environment in general, or to property, the Minister may order any person or municipality

– Even before the entry into force of this section, issued, deposited, released or discharged in whole or part, contaminants, or allowed the emission, deposit, issuance or rejection;

– After the entry into force of this section, has or has had custody of the land as owner, lessee or in any capacity whatsoever,

to submit for approval within the time specified a rehabilitation plan setting out the measures to be implemented to protect human beings, other living species and the environment in general and property, accompanied by an implementation schedule.

An order may be made against a person or municipality referred to in the second indent of the first paragraph, in the following cases:

1. the person or municipality establishes that it did not know and was not able to know, in the circumstances, practices and duty of care, the presence of contaminants in the land;

2. knowing the presence of contaminants in the land, it is established that, in the custody of the land in accordance with the law, including respect for the duty of care and diligence;

3 establishes that the presence of contaminants in the land results from migration from outside the court and whose origin is attributable to a third.

Article 31.53 states that any person who wishes to use his land to a use and which were once dedicated to certain types of industrial or commercial purposes, must perform a characterization study or an environmental assessment.

Article 31.53. Anyone who plans to change the use of land which has exercised a trade or business belonging to a category designated by government regulation is required, prior to making a characterization study unless s it already has such a study and a certificate of an expert referred to in section 31.65 establishing that this study meets the requirements of the guide developed by the Minister under section 31.66 and its contents are always topical.

Unless these documents have been transmitted to them, must be communicated to the Minister and the owner of the land characterization study, once completed, as well as, where applicable, the certificate mentioned above.

Constitute a change of use of land for the purposes of this article does exercise there a different activity from that which was previously carried on, be it a new trade or business belonging to one category designated by government regulation or any other activity, including industrial, commercial, institutional, agricultural or residential.

Article 31.58 tells us what to do if the land is contaminated (this part of Quebec law requires to produce the reports that were used to build this Website).

 Article 31.58. Where a characterization study conducted pursuant to this Act reveals the presence in land of contaminants in a concentration exceeding the regulatory limit values, the person or municipality has commissioned the study must, as soon as it is informed , require the registration of a notice of contamination on the land register.

The notice of contamination must contain, in addition to the designation of the land, the following information:

1. the name and address of the applicant for registration of the notice and the owner of the land;

2. the designation of the municipality where the land is located and the use authorized by the zoning regulations;

3. A summary of the characterization study, certified by an expert referred to in section 31.65, stating among others the nature of the contaminants present in the land.

Article 31.59 says that “decontamination notice” will be issued once the land has been decontaminated and a subsequent study proves that the earth is not polluted.

Article 31.59. The registration in the land register of a notice of decontamination may be required by any person or municipality referred to in section 31.58, or by the owner of the land concerned when this land was the subject of decontamination work and that a characterization study subsequently showed no contaminants or contaminants whose concentration does not exceed the prescribed limits.

The provisions of the second and third paragraphs of section 31.58 of the decontamination notice, with the necessary adaptations. This review also mentioned, if any, restrictions on the use of land listed in the land register and become obsolete due to decontamination.

Article 31.62 gives the government the right to take the lead if the owners do not submit their notice of contamination, fail to file a rehabilitation plan or provide additional information. Article 31.65 states that the government should make a list of experts authorized to make environmental impact studies. The government must also produce a guide for such studies (Article 31.66).

Article 31.69 (1) authorizes the government to prescribe the contaminant concentration limits, and to vary these “acceptable limits” according to land use (eg, limits will be more stringent for accommodation for one industrial use) :

Article 31.69. The Government may, by regulation:

1 set for the contaminants it determines, the concentration limits beyond which these contaminants when present in land, may give rise to the application of characterization measurements, rehabilitation or advertising provided for in this section. These limits may vary, in particular, the use of land;