Tracking and Data Management for Excess Soil Under Ontario Regulation 406/19
November 19, 2020
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Under new legislation in the Canadian province of Ontario for managing Excess Soil, Ontario Regulation 406/19, the final step of the soil’s journey involves verifying that each load of soil went to the right place. This involves tracking each load from start to finish and managing the vast streams of data generated by this process.

Soil data management and soil tracking is likely to become a key differentiator between industry members who learn to handle their new responsibilities smoothly and in a timely manner versus those who lose control over projects’ timelines and costs.

Data management and tracking is also a key component of due diligence in minimizing the potential for future liability. These digital systems can help easily quantify how much soil is reused, how much went for temporary storage, how much went for treatment, and how much ended up in a landfill. This means that effective data management and tracking are good business practice even in cases where the full weight of O.Reg. 406/19 does not yet apply.

Here are four practical approaches that property-development or construction projects must make in a new O.Reg. 406/19 world -- and which also happen to be a good strategy for liability management for your company.

Digital data entry and processing

O.Reg. 406/19 sets out in detail the various types and amounts of data to be gathered for Excess Soil. This includes minimum environmental sampling requirements that are based on many factors, including the expected volume of soil to be excavated, past land uses and potential contaminants of concern.

This calls for the ability for staff to collect, record and manage data efficiently at the Project Area, and connect the data to the numerous samples collected. This also includes the meta-data around them: sample location, weather conditions, visual description of the soil, and other aspects.

Generally, it’s best to do this record-gathering electronically, using an electronic form that prompts the user through the process, so that all necessary data is gathered. The advantages of having a robust electronic data system include:

  • Being able to rest easy knowing that you’ve minimized that the potential for missing data, or needs to re-sample.
  • You will have an easier time getting acceptance for your Excess Soil – it’s widely expected to be a buyer’s market in that anyone with capacity to accept Excess Soil will be able to choose from many companies offering to meet that need. Having good electronic data will give you an edge in showing that your soil meets the specifications required by the Reuse Site.
  • You have better credibility with regulatory authorities if you can easily demonstrate an unbroken chain of data right from the time the project was in planning stages.

There are already several commercial programs on the market, and their number is expected to grow – as will the capabilities of those programs. Our experience to date has been that while the currently available programs can handle the physical data about the soil movements and track approvals between the Project Area and Reuse Site, they need improvement on how to digitally store the environmental or geotechnical data for subsequent analysis and reporting.

  • Action: Read the legislation and determine how your project will meet its data-collection requirements.
  • Benefit: Reduce data collection time, reduce errors due to transcription and data transfer, gain the ability to mine the data for actionable insights.
  • Checkpoint: What commercially-available data collection systems are there, that meet the requirements of O. Reg. 406/19? Do they allow you to gather soil characterization data such as contaminant concentrations or geotechnical properties?

Field-friendly, no-paper data collection

Going a step further, it’s important to use data-gathering technologies that work well in both the field and in the office. This means using field-rugged tablets and, we believe strongly, reducing and even eliminating your reliance on paper records. Paper records can get lost or damaged, and ultimately require transfer to electronic means which introduces potential for data-entry errors.

Perhaps most important, paper records and even image documents such as PDFs are opaque to data analysis. Data in image form cannot be analyzed to develop management information. Given the huge volume of data that could be generated, including multiple sample sites and multiple tests to be performed, electronic records are the way to go.

  • Action: Investigate field-ready data collection devices and check for compatibility.
  • Benefit: Less time needed for data entry and transcription, less opportunity for error, and data gathered is granular enough for analysis.
  • Checkpoint: Does your data collection system involve hard-to-access file forms such as PDFs? Is the hardware you’ve chosen reliable and rugged enough for field use? Does the structure of the interface support the user in gathering all the necessary field data?

Improve abilities to gather environmental data on soil

Previously, most pre-construction soil testing focused on two main factors. One was geotechnical – to determine the engineering competence of the soil, such as whether it would bear the load of a building, road or other structure, and its slope-stability characteristics. The other was hydrogeological, to understand how much dewatering would be needed during construction and before the soil could be transported.

Environmental sampling was limited and used the O.Reg. 153/04 standards for reference mostly for soil disposal. Now under O.Reg. 406/19, a third factor, the environmental quality of the soil, plays a much larger role – including whether the Excess Soil can be reused and accepted by the Reuse Site or sent for off-site disposal.

  • Action: Determine whether the data-collection system you plan to use will allow collection of environmental data – and include environmental-oriented sampling and data analysis in your work plans.
  • Benefit: You have the information you need for making decisions on how to comply with the regulations for characterizing the soil at the Project Area, and the requirements of the potential Reuse Site(s).
  • Checkpoint: Is environmental sampling part of your work plan, right from the start of your project? Does the data-gathering system you’re using allow for gathering of the environmental field data and analytical data as part of the process?

Tracking soil in space and time

The regulation requires a Project Area generator of Excess Soil to be able to track that soil from the time it leaves the site until it is accepted at the receiving Reuse Site. This could be another construction project, or a storage or treatment facility. The Qualified Person (QP) at the receiving site will expect that the soil in your truck’s hopper is what is described in the documentation, that it is fit for the purpose, and that the right documentation is available.

  • Action: Determine how your project will generate soil tickets for each load and transfer that data to the receiving Reuse Site.
  • Benefit: Higher likelihood that once a truckload of soil leaves your site, the truck will come back empty and not rejected.
  • Checkpoint: Have you arranged with the QP of the receiving Reuse Site that the data you’ll send about each load is in a form that they can use?

Having a fully digitized system will allow you to transfer full data on each truck load to the Reuse Site QP, so that when your truck shows up at their gates, they’ll be waved through rather than waved off.

In summary – Tracking Excess Soil is a requirement under O.Reg. 406/19 and soil data management will be necessary given the new regulatory sampling requirements. Even in cases where the regulation does not fully apply, it has its benefits as a key component of managing future liability and tracking costs. With detailed and accurate records readily available, your company is better protected if some of the soil found at a Reuse Site is found to be not in compliance. As well, the data you gather can be analyzed to form a rich source of management insights on this aspect of your company’s operations.


Denise Lacchin

Denise Lacchin Member Name

Senior Environmental Engineer


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INFOGRAPHIC:
GOT DIRT? Understanding Terminology in Ontario's Excess Soil Regulations
READ MORE

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:



JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Sign up to get content delivered directly to your inbox

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INFOGRAPHIC:
GOT DIRT? Understanding Terminology in Ontario's Excess Soil Regulations
READ MORE

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:


Denise Lacchin

Denise Lacchin Member Name

Senior Environmental Engineer



ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Denise Lacchin has over 28 years of experience providing brownfield redevelopment strategies and solutions in Ontario. She has successfully worked with clients assessing environmental impacts on numerous sites contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons, inorganics and metals, chlorinated solvents and low-level radioactive waste and developing strategies for remediation that complements their redevelopment objectives. Her experience as a Qualified Person (QPESA) in Ontario and as an Environmental Professional (EP) for Site Assessment and Reclamation, includes; developing soil management plans, implementing soil management best practices and tracking systems, and using risk-based approaches for large brownfield/infrastructure sites in accordance with Ontario Regulation 153/04 and now the new On-Site and Excess Soil Management Regulation 406/19.


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