Things to consider: The practice of purchasing soil for beneficial reuse at a site is considered to be a commercial fill operation in the MOECC document Management of Excess Soil – A Guide for Best Management Practices (BMP) and some municipal by-laws (see MOECC BMP below).
The MOECC document Management of Excess Soil – A Guide for Best Management Practices (BMP) provides the following guidance: “There are several management options for soil excavated during construction that should be evaluated on a site by site basis. In all cases, the excavated soil or excess should be appropriate for its intended reuse. Some examples include: […] reusing excess soil at a commercial site where soil is purchased to be reused at the site for a beneficial purpose, often referred to as a commercial fill site.” 1

Commercial fill operations can be a source of revenue for the municipality and can be properly managed if effective safeguards are created, as discussed in Options to Allow sections below. Some municipalities have encountered issues with regulating the volume and quality of fill being imported to a commercial fill site. Although outright prohibition of commercial fill operations is not recommended as a best practice, it can be a last resort option as discussed in the Options to Prohibit section.

Options to Allow
Commercial fill sites can provide an opportunity for beneficial reuse of soil and can contribute to the municipal tax base. To help mitigate the impact of these operations on the community, in addition to standard permitting requirements, many by-laws also include the requirements to manage: Examples of how these potential implications of commercial fill sites can be addressed through municipal by-laws are provided below.

While the institution of a complaint mechanism is considered a good practice for large operations, complaint mechanisms were not found to be covered in many of the municipal By-Laws reviewed. One example by-law lists a requirement in its Site Alteration and Fill Management template:

“For site alterations that could impact the public and adjacent landowners provide: […]
  • Complaint response and resolution protocol2


Things to consider: Some municipalities define commercial fill operations as those involving remuneration or compensation; whereas others also include volume thresholds. When volume thresholds are used, most municipalities reviewed use 10,000 cubic metres as the qualifying limit. Municipalities may also consider that financial compensation may not be the only commercial benefit gained; for example, fill operations may decrease developer storage costs and therefore improve real estate value. The following example covers both the compensation and volume definitions:

“‘commercial fill operation’ means a large site alteration which meets one or more of the following criteria:
  1. the placing or dumping of fill is for commercial benefit or gain, whether for the owner or occupier of the land or for a third party, including the placing or dumping of fill involving remuneration paid, or any other form of consideration provided, to the owner or occupier of the land or a third party, whether or not the remuneration or consideration is the sole reason for the placing or dumping of the fill;
  2. the placing or dumping of fill is for a commercial purpose;
  3. greater than ten thousand (10,000) cubic metres of fill is being placed or dumped within a twelve (12) month period;
  4. the fill is obtained from more than one source site and there is no Fill Management Plan in effect;
  5. the fill is generated as a function of a waste soil treatment and/or remediation facility, whether or not such facility is operated under an Environmental Compliance Approval issued by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.”3

Determining a volume to be “large scale” is at the discretion of the municipality and so specific volumes are removed from by-law examples herein forward.

See the Definitions Page for additional terms relevant to any site alteration or fill by-law.


Things to Consider:
Options to Prohibit

Rather than prescribe specific requirements for commercial fill operations, some jurisdictions have restricted commercial fill operations or large scale site alterations completely. Prohibitions on the establishment of a commercial fill operation may be considered if there is potential for adverse effects and/or if the excess soil is determined to be waste (see Definitions). Example language for complete prohibition is below:

“Notwithstanding anything else contained in this By-law except for Section 3.1, no person shall operate a commercial fill operation within the Township.”4


Things to consider:
Options to Allow

As indicated above, commercial fill operations provide an opportunity for beneficial reuse of soil when their implications on the community are managed. Permitting requirements for commercial fill operations are typically similar or the same as those specified in the by-laws for large fill sites. Applicants are usually required to address the impact of the operation on the environment, the community, ground and surface water, agricultural resources, the quantity and quality of fill being imported, and any other matters deemed appropriate by the municipality.

Traffic and Transportation
Large scale commercial fill operations are generally required to provide a Traffic and Transportation Plan, which includes provisions for noise and dust control and haul routes (see Traffic and Transportation).

Truck traffic is just one example of the permit requirements for a commercial fill site, but its effective management can significantly reduce the impact of a fill operation on the community and so is discussed in more detail here.

Some municipalities reserve the right to request the specification of haul routes as part of the permit application, either at the discretion of the municipality or based on the amount of fill to be transported. For example:

“An Owner who wishes to import or remove more than [large scale volume] of fill in any given year, or alter the grade of land shall submit an application in the form prescribed by the Director that:
    (a) Identifies proposed haul route(s) with a map and clearly specifies type of temporary signage, sign posts, and locations along roadway identifying the haul route to the satisfaction of the Township; […]
    (h) Provides documentation of notification of the project to all adjacent property owners and those along the haul routes which identifies:
    1. the proposed hauling schedule to include duration, days of the week and hours of proposed fill operation,
    2. haul routes and commercial fill entrance location using a map,
    3. type and location of temporary signage to identify haul routes and truck turning areas,
    4. measures to be employed to prevent tracking mud and other debris onto the roadway,
    5. measures to be employed to ensure minimal disruption of normal traffic due to the fill operation,
    6. quality of tested fill to be hauled to site in relation to Ministry of Environment standards and additional measures for sampling fill being hauled to site including frequency and method of testing,
    7. Operator’s business and legal name, contact information, and includes the name and contact information of the person who will be on-site for the full duration of the fill operation, charged with the responsibility to ensure continuation of the above measures.”5

Public Consultation
Some municipalities may also require a public meeting as a requirement of a commercial fill operation (see Consultation and Engagement).


Things to consider:
Cost Recovery

Municipalities may also include specific provisions to recover the additional costs required to hire technical expertise to assess permit applications for commercial fill operations. For example:

“7.1 Where more than [large scale volume] of material is proposed to be placed or dumped in either a Commercial Fill Operation or Site Alteration Project, the Owner or Operator will provide a full application under Section 4.2 and enter into an agreement with the Town … and the Owner and Operator shall agree to the following conditions, including but not limited to: […]
    (g) acknowledge that the Town may engage legal, engineering, hydrology, environmental and landscape consultants to evaluate studies and or agreements in which case the costs incurred will be charged back to the applicant plus a 15% administrative charge;6

Municipalities can explore the opportunities of economic benefits and special fines to offset the costs of accommodating and regulating a commercial fill operation in their jurisdiction (see Fees, Cost Recovery, and Financial Assurance).