Let’s talk dirt: An introduction to O.Reg. 406/19

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Emma Kirwin is CEO and co-founder at DirtMarket.ca Photo: MEE Photography (Michelle Elliot)

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By Emma Kirwin

When it comes to Ontario Regulation 406/19 and soil disposal I oftentimes hear the claim, “Sending my excess soil to a landfill or dumping it in a field works fine for me!”
And to that I say: it actually isn’t working fine for you. Or for the environment. Or for your budget.

Sending soil to a landfill or to an unregulated field will soon not be an option for earthmovers. Once  O. Reg. 406/19 is in full force, these ‘go-to’ options simply aren’t going to fly.

O. Reg. 406/19 is going to restrict the amount of clean soil going into landfills and regulate excess soil movement and disposal like never before.

“Why?” you ask?

One of the many reasons why the provincial government is implementing O. Reg 406/19 is that we are running out of landfill space for excess soil. Every year there are 25 million metric tonnes of soil excavated in Ontario and there are only 122 million metric tonnes of remaining landfill space. There is not a lot of this precious real estate available for your excess soil anymore, hence it being restricted by O.Reg. 406/19.

And when we really think about it, clean soil has no business sitting in a landfill in the first place. O. Reg. 406/19 is pushing the construction industry to reuse clean soil, because why would you throw something away that belongs in the recycling?

I’ll be the first to admit it: reusing soil is a lot harder than recycling a plastic water bottle.

Under O. Reg 406/19, there are a variety of requirements that your team will have to meet in order to exercise beneficial soil reuse. These requirements include soil tracking, assessment of past uses, site analysis plan, and soil characterization reports. (Thank goodness for QPs). Although reusing soil requires extra work, it reduces the CO2 emissions spent on soil movement and disposal and promotes a circular economy.

On top of not being environmentally conscious, traditional excess soil disposal options aren’t great for the budget either. Although it may seem like it, O. Reg 406/19 is not all red tape and paperwork. It may actually save you money.

No landfill tipping fees and less of your budget going towards soil disposal. Better yet, finding a nearby site that can reuse your soil means fewer trucking costs. In fact, according to “Ontario is Wasting a Precious Resource”  by OSPE, GTSWCA, and RCCA reusing soil can reduce a project’s total costs by an average of 13%. That is a lot of dough.

This regulation was not purposely crafted to make your life harder (although your life will probably be a bit harder until we get familiarized with the new regs). O. Reg. 406/19 was created to reduce the amount of soil going into landfills, promote a circular economy, and further regulate excess soil management. It is the future of excess soil management and disposal.

The good news is that we earthmovers are all in the same boat as we move into this new, regulated territory.

Or should I say as we break new, regulated ground?

Emma Kirwin is CEO and co-founder at DirtMarket.ca

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