Managing Excess Soil from Infrastructure Projects Under O. Reg. 406/19
September 14, 2020

Ontario Regulation 406/19 and the accompanying Soil Rules outline the planning, characterization, and documentation requirements for managing excess soil, and include some elements specific to infrastructure projects. The regulation defines “infrastructure” generally as: public highways, transit lines and railways; gas and oil pipelines; sewage, water and stormwater systems; electricity transmission and distribution; telecommunication lines and facilities; associated bridges, interchanges, stations and structures; and the rights of way associated with this infrastructure.

Understand the Environment of Your Project

Many infrastructure projects present unique planning and execution challenges. The Project Area for a linear infrastructure project may pass by and through a variety of land uses as diverse as residential neighbourhoods or commercial/industrial subdivisions and the quality of the soil along that route may vary significantly.

  • Action step: For an infrastructure project, the Qualified Person (QP) may conduct an Assessment of Past Uses (APU) which will review records including city directories, historical aerial photographs, fire insurance plans and regulatory databases.
  • Benefit: A comprehensive review, as soon as possible in the planning process, will help reduce the potential for surprises later during construction.
  • Checkpoint: Have potential beneficial Reuse Sites been identified? The characteristics of the Reuse Site(s) will help determine what quality standards will apply to the infrastructure project.

Gain Further Insights Through Soil Sampling

A well-executed soil Sampling and Analysis Plan (SAP) will characterize the environmental and geotechnical characteristics of the Excess Soil, to identify beneficial reuses. For many municipal infrastructure projects, pre-construction site investigation must be done within a road allowance and work around vehicular traffic and buried utilities. Extensive in-situ characterization, prior to construction, may not be practical. Many infrastructure Project Areas do not have room to stockpile soil for on-site ex-situ testing, or reuse at the project site. Additional sampling and analysis off-site at a temporary storage facility (e.g., “Class 2” storage facility) can provide alternatives.

  • Action step: Consider characterizing soil quality with a staged approach, incorporating both in-situ sampling (pre-construction) and ex-situ sampling (during and post-construction).
  • Benefit: An initial in-situ sampling program concurrent with geotechnical investigation activities can proactively identify potential problem areas and help the Project Leader identify potential Reuse Sites much earlier in the process. Ex-situ sampling can address any data gaps with respect to soil quality.
  • Checkpoint: Were any impacts to soil quality identified during sampling that were not previously anticipated? If so, the QP should review the historical information and consider modifications to the sampling plan.

Communicate the Results of Sampling and Testing

One of the requirements of O.Reg 406/19 is for a Soil Characterization Report (SCR) that provides a comprehensive and detailed characterization of the soils that have been assessed. These findings are expected to be presented by the QP in a narrative format, supported by data tables, site plans and laboratory certificates of analysis.

  • Action step: Consider what additional information may be required to support beneficial reuse of the soil, such as any geotechnical considerations (e.g., reuse as fill on a future infrastructure project).
  • Benefit: Recognizing, in advance, that suitable Reuse Site(s) will likely have considerations other than just the environmental quality of the soil will help prevent delays in gaining their acceptance of the material.
  • Checkpoint: Does the quality of the Excess Soil meet the specific criteria for each of the proposed Reuse Site(s) and/or disposal site(s)? Were any impacted soils identified that could be segregated and managed separately?

Excess Soil Destination Assessment Report

It is important to have a good understanding of the characteristics of the Reuse Site(s) and how the soil will be used, as this informs which Excess Soil Quality Standards are applicable. This report will also provide relevant information for storage sites (if any) that will be used to temporarily store the excess soil from the infrastructure project (e.g., Class 2 site), treat or bank the soil (e.g., Class 1 site), or dispose of the un-reusable soil.

  • Action step: Identify potential Reuse Sites, temporary storage sites and/or disposal sites early in the planning process. Consider that the soil could potentially be beneficially reused as fill material at the Project Leader’s next infrastructure project.
  • Benefit: Demonstrating your understanding of what the technical requirements are for each potential Reuse Site will identify potential “data gaps” early on.
  • Checkpoint: Has any information changed (e.g., soil quality or quantity) since the Reuse Site(s) agreed to take the excess material?

Avoid Potential Problems with a Robust Tracking System

O.Reg. 406/19 requires that a tracking system be implemented to assure that each load of excess soil reaches its pre-approved destination. To comply with O.Reg. 406/19, it must be robust enough to readily provide information regarding the origin of each load of soil and its destination.

  • Action step: Start developing a tracking system early in the process suitable for the volume of soil involved.
  • Benefit: Fewer challenges from regulators, fewer project delays and associated costs, and satisfied recipients of your Excess Soil.
  • Checkpoint: Is the tracking system suitable for the complexity of your Project? Do staff or contractors need training?

Infrastructure projects involve unique considerations when it comes to Excess Soil, but good understanding of how O.Reg. 406/19 impacts this process, can help implement these projects smoothly.

Carl Schroeder Member Name

Senior Environmental Engineer


Sign up to get content delivered directly to your inbox


GOT DIRT? Understanding Terminology in Ontario's Excess Soil Regulations


Carl Schroeder (M.A.Sc., P.Eng.) is a professional engineer in Ontario with over twenty (20) years of experience as an environmental consultant with Golder. Carl is a Qualified Person under Ontario Regulation 153/04 and has assisted numerous clients with Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) and site remediation for general due diligence and in support of Record of Site Conditions in this role. As a generalist environmental engineer, over the course of his career Carl has undertaken or managed hundreds of environmental projects for large and small clients, including the provision of strategic, regulatory and practical advice to clients on managing their environmental risk relating to property transactions, management of excess soil material, demolition, decommissioning and infrastructure (culvert) management.