Inventory of federal contaminated sites

The Federal Contaminated Sites Inventory (FCSI) is a searchable online database providing Canadians with information on active, suspected and closed federal contaminated sites across the country.

About the inventory

What kind of information is available on the FCSI?

The FCSI contains information about each site, including the classification and the location of the site, the severity of contamination, the contaminated medium, the nature of the contaminant, and progress made to date in identifying and addressing contamination. The inventory is updated annually to reflect current conditions.

How many federal contaminated sites are there in Canada?

There are 23,078 federal sites listed in the FCSI maintained by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, including 5,337 active contaminated sites and 2,355 suspected sites. 15,386 are listed as closed because remediation is complete or because no action was necessary following assessment.

Why does the federal government have so many contaminated sites?

Federal contaminated sites are a legacy of past practices that have resulted in contamination. The Government of Canada continues the work initiated under FCSAP and remains committed to the proper management of contaminated sites for which it is responsible.

Does the Government of Canada take responsibility for all contaminated sites that have been abandoned by the original owner?

The Government of Canada is not legally liable for all contaminated sites that have been abandoned by the original owner. The "polluter pays" principle applies and therefore private companies or other owners are typically liable for the costs of cleaning up (or remediating) the land they contaminate.

The nature and extent of any liability is not always clear. Liability depends on many factors, including the location of the contaminated site and the role of the Government of Canada regarding the site. With regards to the location of the site, under the Constitution and other laws, provinces and territories have authority to make laws regarding property and commerce. As such, responsibility and legislative authority over contaminated sites is primarily the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories. With regards to the role or actions of the Government of Canada, there may be liability where it owns, leases or manages contaminated sites - in whole or in part. Similarly, provinces or territories may also be liable under the same circumstances. In some cases, liability may be shared between several parties.

In addition, there may be some cases where the Government of Canada concludes that it is appropriate in the circumstances to assume some responsibility for the contaminated site. For example, when private companies who caused the contamination have gone out of business or were unable to pay for dealing with these sites and where no governments are legally liable, one or more levels of government have assumed responsibility of these orphan sites. This has occurred in the North where mining companies have gone bankrupt and there is a need to remediate the contaminated site.

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