Funding of federal contaminated sites

Federal contaminated sites can impact human health and/or the environment, but not all sites have the same type or severity of impact.

The Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan (FCSAP) aims to address the federal contaminated sites that pose the highest risks to human health and the environment, through remediation and risk management.

What has the Government of Canada done to take action on federal contaminated sites?

The Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan (FCSAP) was established in 2005 as a 15-year program with funding of $4.54 billion from the Government of Canada. The program was renewed for another 15 years (2020 to 2034) with $1.16 billion announced in Budget 2019 for the first five years (Phase IV, 2020 to 2024). The program helps federal departments, agencies, and consolidated Crown corporations (also referred to as custodians) that are responsible for federal contaminated sites to undertake site assessment and remediation activities, which reduces risks to the environment and to human health. The cost of managing the sites is shared between FCSAP and the custodians.

Since the program was established, remediation activities have been conducted at 2,200 sites and assessment activities have been conducted at 10,960 sites across Canada (as of July 2019). Care and maintenance activities were performed at a few complex sites to prevent potentially catastrophic failures of containment structures.

This program also supports other government priorities including skills development, training and employment of Canadians, including in Indigenous communities and in northern and rural areas.

It is estimated that 20,700 jobs (person-years of employment) were created or maintained in the waste management and remediation industry between as a result of FCSAP since its start.

How much is being spent on remediation?

Since 2005, FCSAP expenditures have totaled $3.90 billion, including $3.34 billion in remediation activities. Custodians have also spent $387.8 million of their own funding as part of the FCSAP cost sharing requirement. 

Project expenditures include site assessments, remediation activities, and care and maintenance work to prevent catastrophic failures on higher-risk sites while developing remediation plans.

In FCSAP Phase IV (2020 to 2024), the Government of Canada is investing $1.16 billion, including $1.05 billion for remediation activities on the highest priority federal contaminated sites and $107.7 million for assessment and program management activities.  

In FCSAP Phase IV:

  • 73% of projects have planned costs under $250,000
  • 16% of projects have planned costs between $250,000 and $1 million
  • 11% of projects cost more than $1 million

There are 19 sites with project costs greater than $10 million. These sites are located in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and the three territories.

Which federal contaminated sites are eligible for FCSAP funding?

Phase III (2016 to 2019)

Federal contaminated sites that are eligible for remediation funding in FCSAP Phase III have met the following criteria:

  • meet the Treasury Board definition of a contaminated site
  • contaminated through activities that occurred prior to April 1, 1998
  • located on lands owned or leased by the federal government, or on non-federal lands where the federal government has accepted full responsibility for the contamination
  • classified as Class 1 (high priority) or as a Class 2 (medium priority) where remediation began in Phase I (prior to 2011). Class 3 (low priority) sites are not eligible for funding
  • have a financial liability reported in the Public Accounts of Canada and in the Treasury Board Secretariat’s (TBS) FCSI

Phase IV (2020 to 2024)

In Phase IV (beginning April 2020), the site eligibility criteria have been expanded to increase efficiency and flexibility. Other Class 2 and 3 sites are now eligible for funding if:

  • they can be ‘bundled’ with a class 1 or ongoing class 2 site. For example, a federal custodian may now remediate a group of class 1, 2 and 3 sites that are located in close proximity. This would mean that a group of sites in a remote area of Canada can be remediated at a lower cost then if the sites were addressed individually over a longer period of time
  • they are located on First Nations reserves or impacting Indigenous communities in the north, under the custody of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

In addition, under the following circumstances, sites that have been contaminated after 1998 are now eligible for FCSAP remediation funding if:

  • they are located on First Nations reserves, or impacting Indigenous communities in the north, under the custody of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada
  • they are being transferred by federal custodians to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada for addition to First Nations reserves
  • they have been, or will be inherited by the government as the “custodian of last resort”

Federal contaminated sites are classified and prioritized based on the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) National Classification System for Contaminated Sites (NCSCS) and the Aquatic Site Classification System (ASCS) developed by FCSAP. The NCSCS and the ASCS provides scientific and technical assistance that allows custodians to prioritize their contaminated sites as high (with a score of 70 to 100), medium (with a score of 50 to 69.9), or low risk (with a score of 37 to 49.9), according to their current or potential adverse impacts to human health and/or the environment.


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