Back to Main

Sections 10-12

On this page

10. Environmental Site Assessment

Various terminology is used across Canada to describe the investigation undertaken to assess site conditions and characterize and delineate Contamination (e.g.: Environmental Site Assessment, Phase II, Phase III, Screening Level Assessment, etc.). The term Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) will be used in this Guide. An ESA must characterize the site and Contamination sufficiently to support the proposed remedial activities, including but not limited to the RAP, RMP and Closure Report.

For direction on environmental site assessment, refer to the CCME Guidance Manual for Environmental Site Characterization in Support of Environmental and Human Health Risk Assessment. The appropriate level of ESA must be conducted prior to Remediation of a site with Contamination. The CER Environmental Analyst may request supporting documentation upon review of the Remediation event. Find Guidance on conducting a Phase II ESA in CSA Z769-00 Phase II Environmental Site Assessment.

Elements of an ESA typically include, but are not limited to:

  1. An intrusive site investigation resulting in site characterization.
  2. Delineation of the Contamination in soil and groundwater vertically and laterally.
  3. Calculations of volume of impacted soil and extent of impacted groundwater.
  4. Identification of Remediation Criteria and remedial options analysis.
  5. Comparison of the contaminant concentrations to a clearly justified set of Remediation Criteria applicable to that site.


If Contamination is cleaned up immediately upon detection and an ESA is not completed, companies must provide an appropriate level of site information in the Closure Report to justify the selected Remediation Criteria, and to demonstrate that the Remediation Criteria have been met. Companies must be able to provide justification acceptable to the CER, for the omission of an ESA.

Detailed results in the ESA are required to support the development of Site-Specific Remediation Objectives, up to and including a Risk Assessment and/or Risk Management (discussed in sections 12 and 11.6 respectively). The ESA must provide sufficient information to develop an appropriate RAP.

Back to Top

11. Remedial Action Plan

Someone using a marker to check-off blank circles.A Remedial Action Plan (RAP) is a document that describes in sufficient detail how Remediation of a site with Contamination will occur. The timeline of RAP submission to the CER should be provided in the annual updates. If the plan is to conduct remedial activities without a RAP submission, the rationale for not completing a RAP must also be provided in the annual updates. The rationale should be based upon the responses to questions in Appendix C. The CER will make the final decision as to whether a RAP is required based upon a combination of factors related to the complexity, and risk of the site, as described in the:

  • NOC
  • CCME site classification worksheets
  • Responses to questions in Appendix C

The CER Environmental Analyst will exercise professional judgement as to whether a RAP is required, on a case-by-case basis. We may require supplemental information from the company in order to make this determination.

Back to Top

11.1 RAP Requirements

If the CER Environmental Analyst agrees with the company’s rationale not to complete a RAP and instead submit a Closure Report following Remediation, the company assumes the risk (and associated costs) of the remedial actions, and selected Remediation Criteria not being accepted by the CER. In this situation, the company may be required to do additional Work or take different remedial actions or approach altogether. Companies are encouraged to contact the CER Environmental Analyst assigned to the REM event by sending an email to, using the “Company Note” functionality within OERS, or sending a direct email to the CER Environmental Analyst to discuss any questions around appropriate Remediation Criteria.

This Guide contains Appendix C Assessment Guide for RAP Requirement. This Appendix provides examples of the type of information that our Environmental Analyst will consider in determining whether a RAP is required, or whether it is appropriate to proceed directly to the Closure Report. Companies are encouraged to consult the CER Environmental Analyst to discuss the complexity and detail required in a RAP prior to its development.

Find the Assessment Guide for RAP Requirement in Appendix C.

Back to Top

11.2 RAP Contents

Every site with Contamination is unique. We require companies to submit information relevant to the nature, scale and complexity of Remediation at that specific site. The company will also be expected to demonstrate how it has and will continue to anticipate, prevent, manage and mitigate the hazards and potential hazards and the Risks associated with the site with Contamination.

The company should submit the completed Remediation Action Plan Worksheet to the CER with the RAP. If any of the RAP components are not included in the RAP, provide justification for the omission in the “Notes” section of the worksheet.

Find the worksheet for RAP Contents in Appendix F.

Back to Top

11.3 CER Acceptance Of The Remedial Action Plan (RAP)

After submitting the RAP to the CER, our Environmental Analyst assigned to the remediation event will review the document.

The RAP will be evaluated based upon the following criteria:

  • completeness
  • consistency with the CER’s knowledge of the site
  • conceptual site model understanding
  • adequate delineation conducted to fully identify and assess hazards or potential hazards
  • Receptors have been identified and the Risk to sensitive Receptors assessed
  • selection of Remediation Criteria
  • adequate supporting information for the proposed approach
  • remedial option selected is appropriate
  • follows industry best practices
  • concerns from other regulators and potentially affected persons are addressed

If the RAP is found to be acceptable, we will send an email notification through OERS that the RAP has been accepted. We may also issue an acceptance with minor amendments required. The acceptance indicates the company and the CER have established remediation expectations. Acceptance puts the site on course for anticipated closure once the Remediation program, closure reporting and our assessment are complete.

A company must always take appropriate action to protect the environment including human health, and safety, commensurate with the hazard posed. If the RAP is found to be unacceptable, we will send an email notification through OERS that it has been rejected. The rejection email via OERS will outline the next steps, and that a new RAP may be required.

As the period between acceptance and the submission of the Closure Report may be long, on the scale of years, it is possible that hazards or nearby Receptors change, or new information is identified following submission of the RAP. At any time prior to, during, or following the RAP acceptance, we may request further details on remedial activities or site conditions to assist in determining whether the approach remains protective of the environment, including human health and safety.

We recommend that companies obtain the CER’s acceptance of a RAP prior to initiating the remedial Work described therein. If a company starts remedial Work before getting a RAP approved, the company assumes the cost and risk that remedial Work and/or the selected Remediation Criteria may not be sufficiently protective of the environment, including human health and safety, as deemed by the CER. In this situation, the company may be required to conduct further remedial Work or provide additional justification. In addition, a re-evaluation of the selected Remediation Criteria may be required before we issue a site closure.

We encourage continual improvement practices within companies’ environmental management programs and activities. The company must notify us of any amendments to the RAP that are made following acceptance via an email to

These amendments include, but are not limited to:

  1. A change in the scope of the RAP.
  2. A change in timelines for Remediation.
  3. The addition of a Risk Assessment or Risk Management component.


The intent of a RAP amendment is to encourage engagement and transparency between the company and the CER. An amendment should be submitted as soon as possible. Prior to submitting a RAP amendment, all potentially affected persons and communities must be engaged on the proposed changes.

Amendments to the RAP are subject to new review and acceptance or rejection by our Environmental Analyst.

Back to Top

11.4 CER Acceptance Of The Remedial Action Plan (RAP)

For the equivalent land use, the company is required to follow the most stringent applicable generic Remediation Criteria between a. and b. below:

  1. Generic Remediation Criteria established by the province or territory where the site of Contamination is located.
  2. Generic Remediation Criteria established by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) standards and guidelines.


Provincial or territorial, and CCME sets of criteria, are typically established for various types of land use based on generic assumptions with respect to site characteristics, potential Receptors and applicable exposure pathways. The primary objective is that human and ecological Receptor exposures are maintained at, or below, levels where Adverse Effects are not expected to occur. Typical land use categories are industrial, commercial, residential, parkland, and agricultural. These categories and other factors vary across the provinces and territories; thus, criteria selection and Remediation Work must be adapted to each jurisdiction’s definitions and approach.

We expect Remediation Criteria to be applied based on the actual operational land use. In scenarios where jurisdictional authority defines zoning bylaws that do not correspond directly with the actual land use, industrial criteria may be acceptable if an acceptable justification is provided. The justification must include consideration of the Risk to Receptors of the more sensitive land use in the context of the conditions specific to the site. For example, an industrial operating Facility with a contaminated site that is located on land zoned for commercial as well as industrial businesses may apply industrial criteria if the site assessment of Risk to the more sensitive Receptors of commercial land use (e.g., customers) conducted by a qualified professional concludes the risk to be low. The low risk level assignment must be agreed upon by the CER Environmental Analyst. If Company Off-Site Contamination is present outside of the Company Owned or Leased Lands, the Remediation Criteria of the more sensitive land use must be applied.

A marsh with trees standing in the background.

If there is Contamination identified on the RoW, the most stringent applicable Remediation Criteria based on the current land use crossed by and adjacent to the RoW must be followed both on and off the RoW. Remediation Criteria current at the time of remedial activity must be applied. If Remediation Criteria are updated between the times the RAP is accepted and the Remediation begins, the RAP must be updated to reflect the most current Remediation Criteria.

For each contaminant of concern, the applicable provincial or CCME generic Remediation Criteria should be identified, and the more stringent of the two selected as the Remediation criterion (unless an exception to the application of generic Remediation Criteria exists as described in section 11.5).

Back to Top

11.5 Limited Exception to Application of Generic Remediation Criteria

The generic Remediation Criteria referenced in section 11.4 may not apply in situations where the company can justify and demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • national, provincial or territorial Remediation Criteria for a contaminant do not exist
  • remediation to generic Remediation Criteria is not feasible for the targeted land use
  • generic Remediation Criteria are not appropriate given the site conditions (e.g., local or regional conditions or the contaminant situation are significantly different from what was considered in the development of generic Remediation Criteria, or exposure pathways are not present, such that the generic Remediation Criteria are not applicable, under conservative or over conservative)
  • sensitive receptors that require special consideration have been identified

If generic Remediation Criteria are demonstrated to not apply at a site, as agreed upon by the CER Environmental Analyst, the following may be permitted: Site-Specific Remediation Objective development; Risk Assessment; and/or Risk Management.

Back to Top

11.6 Site-specific Remediation Objectives and Risk Assessment

If the company clearly justifies why the site conditions permit or require Site-Specific Remediation Objectives during Remediation, the RAP may instead accommodate Site-Specific Remediation Objectives rather than generic Remediation Criteria. Site-Specific Remediation Objectives may be developed by any of the following:

  • adjusting generic Remediation Criteria with site-specific information
  • exclusion of exposure pathways that are not present
  • completion of a Risk Assessment, as may be required

In addition, it may be possible to develop criteria for contaminants without Remediation Criteria or where exposure scenarios at a site are not protected by generic Remediation Criteria.

A qualified professional must provide justification for the use of Site-Specific Remediation Objectives and additional site data to support the application of Site-Specific Remediation Objectives. The justification will be assessed by the CER Environmental Analyst at their discretion. Site-Specific Remediation Objectives that are less conservative than generic Remediation Criteria may be acceptable only where sufficient data is provided to demonstrate that environmental and human health protection goals will be met without ongoing management or restriction of site use.

The CCME and Health Canada approach to Risk Assessment is recommended; however, provincial approaches may be acceptable. The CCME approach to ecological risk assessment can be found in the document entitled Ecological Risk Assessment Guidance Document. Health Canada provides guidance for human health risk assessment in Federal Contaminated Site Risk Assessment in Canada: Part I through Part VII. For the CCME approach to site characterization, refer to the document entitled CCME Guidance Manual for Environmental Site Characterization in Support of Environmental and Human Health Risk Assessment.

Appendix D provides a brief summary of the information that should be included in an ecological and human health Risk Assessment. To verify your approach, we strongly recommend consulting with the assigned CER Environmental Analyst prior to commencing Work or submitting the RAP. To contact the assigned CER Environmental Analyst, send an email to with the REM event number in the email subject line.

Find the worksheet for Risk Assessment in Appendix D. Risk Management is discussed in section 12.

Back to Top

12. Risk Management

A Risk Management approach may be acceptable for sites where complete removal of Contamination to mitigate Risk is unachievable. Risk Management for the Remediation process involves the selection and implementation of a multi-faceted approach, often consisting of partial Remediation. It also includes a Risk Control strategy for the residual Contamination that remains at the site. Risk Management may be acceptable in the situation where Contamination is inaccessible, for example due to the presence of operating energy infrastructure. In such circumstances, free product and targeted source zone pockets of contaminated groundwater and/or soil may be removed, while risks associated with remaining Contamination would be managed pending removal or abandonment of the infrastructure. A Risk Management approach may also be acceptable in situations where the site with Contamination is well characterized, and controlling the risk of exposure is a more environmentally sustainable option compared to complete removal of contaminants. Risk Management may be required to prevent unacceptable risks during Remediation.

The decision to select a particular Risk-based strategy must be informed by environmental site assessments and Risk Assessment principles, as well as by input from potentially affected persons.

Examples of Risk Management strategies that we may accept include actions that reduce the probability, intensity, frequency or duration of exposure to Contamination through soil, water or air/vapour pathways. Requirements of Risk Management include periodic evaluation of the proposed strategy’s effectiveness. It also requires ongoing evaluation of any changes in site conditions, and current policies and guidance pertaining to Risk Assessment and Risk Management. We expect that Risk Assessment and Risk Management approaches for a site would be re-evaluated and potentially amended if further site information or changes in policy or guidance indicate the conclusions reached may change. Companies must use monitoring to maintain continued awareness and confirmation of the extent of Contamination (vertically and horizontally) and migration throughout the Risk Management process. This may require long term monitoring. Requirements for monitoring will vary on a site by site basis. We will likely not accept Risk Management strategies involving controls such as zoning designations, land use restrictions, or bylaws. These strategies involve measures that are outside CER jurisdiction.

Image 1: A photo of snow-covered evergreens in the mist., Image 2: A fall scene showing a cabin and trees perched at the edge of a waterbody., Image 3: An image of an antler in the foreground with mountains in the background.

Back to Top

12.1 Risk Management Plan (RMP) Contents

If the results of the ESA indicate that Risk Management is the best approach for a particular site, the company should engage the CER Environmental Analyst at the earliest possible stage. We strongly recommend that consultation with our Environmental Analyst regarding the intent to develop a RMP should take place before the plan is submitted. This will ensure the company is aware of the CER’s expectations and requirements, and ultimately whether we will approve a RMP.

Every site with Contamination is unique. We require companies to submit information that is relevant to the nature, scale and complexity of Risk Management at that specific site. The detail and formality of the RMP should be consistent with the site complexity and circumstances.

The company will also be expected to demonstrate how it has, and will continue to, anticipate, prevent, manage, and mitigate hazards and potential hazards, and Risks associated with the site with Contamination.

Submit the completed Risk Management Plan (RMP) Worksheet to the CER with the RMP. If any of the RMP components are not included in the RMP, companies must provide justification for the omission in the ‘Notes’ section of the Worksheet.

Following the review of the RMP, the CER Environmental Analyst may determine that specific conditions will be associated with acceptance of the RMP.

Find the Risk Management Plan (RMP) Worksheet in Appendix G.

Back to Top

12.2 CER Acceptance of the RMP

After companies submit a RMP to the CER, the Environmental Analyst who is assigned to the remediation event will conduct a review of the document. If the RMP is accepted, we will send an email notification through OERS that the RMP has been accepted. When the CER Environmental Analyst accepts the RMP documents, the company and the CER have established Risk Management expectations.

Acceptance of the RMP, at our discretion, relies on the following two principles supported by ongoing environmental monitoring, that both:

  1. The site model and nature of the impacts on the site do not change from the parameters initially described on the date the RMP was accepted.
  2. Risks to Receptors are deemed to be acceptably low over the time period between the present and the future date when the remaining Contamination is removed, or contaminant levels naturally attenuate to the point that Remediation Criteria are met.


Site closure will not be granted for sites which are undergoing Risk Management. Companies must implement a Risk Management strategy to manage residual Contamination. They must continue to provide annual updates on Risk managed sites, potentially with a greater level of detail than standard annual updates for sites with Contamination undergoing remedial activities.

Companies must always take appropriate action to protect the environment, including human health and safety, commensurate with the hazard posed. If the CER does not accept the RMP, we will send an email notification through OERS that the RMP has been rejected. The rejection email via OERS will outline the next steps. A new RMP may be required.

Back to Top

12.3 Contamination Identified on Company Owned or Leased Lands

Where Contamination is identified within a Facility on Company Owned or Leased Land, the Contamination must be reported as detailed in section 6.1.

The CER expects accessible contamination to be remediated while recognizing that it may not be feasible to fully remediate all contamination during operations, particularly contamination that is in close physical proximity to operating Facility infrastructure. The company may manage Contamination without an immediate requirement to submit a RAP or RMP if all of the conditions below are met:

  1. Contamination is confined to a Facility on company-owned or leased land that has an implemented groundwater and surface water monitoring program.
  2. No free product is detected in the groundwater monitoring wells
  3. Contamination does not pose an adverse effect or potential adverse effect to the environment including human health or worker safety.


The groundwater and surface water monitoring program must include both of the following:

  1. Routine monitoring and sampling, and an annual review and interpretation of the resulting data to assess any changes in conditions.
  2. A process for identifying and implementing any recommended changes to the program (in response to changing contaminant concentrations, environmental conditions or Receptors, Remediation Criteria, operating parameters, etc.).


The groundwater monitoring network must be designed to proactively measure contaminant movement from the site (e.g., groundwater wells screened in relevant depth intervals downgradient from the source of Contamination). The company must continue to meet any regulatory requirements with respect to the Contamination, including measures to anticipate, prevent, manage and mitigate conditions that could adversely affect the environment per section 48 of the Onshore Pipeline Regulations (OPR), or section 14 of the Processing Plant Regulations (PPR). We may request a review and evaluation of the groundwater and surface water monitoring program at any point in time during the site or Facility’s lifecycle. This is to ensure the groundwater monitoring program is meeting its required end result.

Company actions on Company Owned or Leased Lands may include remediation of select areas of Contamination to manage liabilities while addressing Contamination that becomes accessible as Facility infrastructure is removed, or replaced, and implementing controls to prevent spreading or migration of Contamination. Prior to abandonment of he Facility, the company must remediate all Contamination in compliance with abandonment order conditions.

Contamination that is confined to Company Owned or Leased Lands at a Facility will need to be further characterized through completion and submission of the CCME National Classification System for Contaminated Sites: Site Classification Worksheets.

Companies must provide an annual update as described in section 13 of this Guide. If free product is identified in groundwater wells or soil, or there is an indication that Contamination may be migrating off Company Owned or Leased Lands, companies must notify us as soon as possible along with a contingency plan with proposed mitigation actions.

Email the notification to and it will be reviewed by the assigned Environmental Analyst.

Find the scenarios for Contamination on Company-Owned or Leased Lands in Appendix E. (See Table 18.6.)

Back to Top
Date modified: