Things to consider: Soil characterization through soil sampling is done initially evaluate conditions of both the excess soil from the source site and the soil at the receiving site, and is further conducted during fill operations to monitor soil quality throughout the project and ensure standards are being maintained.

According to the MOECC document Management of Excess Soil – A Guide for Best Management Practices (BMP), soil characterization should consider:
  • Site-specific conditions (including site history);
  • Intended and/or anticipated future land use (of receiving site); and
  • Physical characteristic of excess soil (including soil type and geotechnical suitability).1
A specific soil sampling schedule or procedure is not outlined in the MOECC BMP. The MOECC BMP recommends this be determined by an expert on a site by site basis: “Professional expertise and judgment will be necessary to inform the assessment and the extent of testing to be undertaken including a reasonable identification of potential contaminants based reviewing the history and conditions of the sites.”2

The MOECC BMP recommends standardized testing and laboratories to be used.
“It is recommended that soil analyses be undertaken by a laboratory with an internationally recognized accreditation body [e.g. Standards Council of Canada (SCC) or Canadian Association for Laboratory Accreditation (CALA)] and in accordance with the International Standard ISO/IEC 17025 – General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories. It is recommended that analytical procedures should be conducted as outlined in section 47 of Ontario Regulation 153/04 and in the Protocol for Analytical Methods Used in the Assessment of Properties under Part XV.1 of the Environmental Protection Act, July 1, 2011.”3

The MOECC is in the process of developing guidance for excess soil sampling and analysis. Below, however, examples are provided based on what is currently found in by-laws.


Things to consider:
Qualified Person

A best practice outlined by the MOECC is to require a qualified person who has professional experience to recommend soil management procedures based on results of appropriate analysis and characterization of soil.4

The MOECC BMP defines a qualified person based on section 5 and section 6 of Ontario Regulation 153/04, as is written in the by-law example below. "Qualified person" is defined specifically for the purposes of submitting a record of site condition for filing. Municipalities may want to consider the need for qualified persons to be assisted by other specialists, such as agrologists, archaeologists and arborists.

The MOECC is currently developing new regulation for the management and placement of excess soil, which may include an updated definition for “qualified person” that builds upon the definition below(see MOECC BMP below).
From the MOECC BMP: “Those who manage excess soil are encouraged to retain the services of a Qualified Person (QP) within the meaning of section 5 of Ontario Regulation 153/04. QPs are professional geoscientists and professional engineers. A QP who is retained should be someone who can exercise professional judgment based on his or her experience in order to advise on appropriate reuse options for the excavated soil or excess soil, and make these decisions based on appropriate analysis and characterization of the soil. The QP should use a risk-based approach and take into consideration the effects of loading associated with the concentrations of individual contaminants in soil and the impacts on the pre-existing, ambient conditions at the site. This will likely require a QP who is qualified to prepare or supervise a risk assessment, as set out section 6 of Ontario Regulation 153/04. Depending upon the intended beneficial reuse of the excess soil, the QP may need to consult with others to make decisions on the appropriateness of the excess soil for reuse, such as an agrologist if soil is to be used for an agricultural purpose.”7

“‘Qualified Person’ means a licensed professional as stated in the EPA Section 168.1 and further described at length in Part II of O. Reg. 153/04”5

See the Definitions Page for additional definitions relevant to any site alteration or fll by-law


Things to consider: Prohibitions specific to soil sampling can be included to ensure soil quality meets the municipality’s expectations (i.e., the number of samples collected and analysed are a representative number to demonstrate that the applicable site condition standards have been met), as is done below:

“Environmental soil testing reports shall be provided, to the satisfaction of the Director, for all site alterations, unless stated otherwise in writing by the Director. Soil tests shall indicate whether the soil complies with the applicable standards in the Soil, Ground Water and Sediment Standards.”8


Things to consider: As outlined by the MOECC BMP, municipalities should require a qualified person to characterize the current conditions of receiving sites to determine the appropriateness of excess soil placement. The example below requires permit applicants to provide:

“an assessment by a qualified person to establish the current site condition of the soil, groundwater, and stormwater to ensure the site is appropriate for the proposed site alteration;”9

A municipality can also require the site owner/operator to inform stakeholders of the soil sampling results:

“Provides documentation of notification of the project to all adjacent property owners and those along the haul routes which identifies:
    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,”10

Large Scale Operations
Because large scale excess soil operations often present higher risks of degradation to the receiving site, some by-laws outline soil management requirements specific to these situations that are more detailed and rigorous than requirements for small or medium sized operations that often include instruction for soil testing and having a qualified person to conduct the site assessment. The example below sets out the following requirements for operations where the volume of soil is greater than 5000 m3 or where the proposed elevation is greater than 0.5 m above or below the existing grade:

“5.01.01 retain a Qualified Person to prepare a Work Plan that includes the recommendations of the Ministry of the Environment in the document titled “Management of Excess Soil – A Guide for Best Management Practices”. Such Work Plan shall be to the satisfaction of the Director and shall include, but is not limited to including the following:
    i. Soil Management Plan;
    iv. Environmental soil testing program for the excess soil,
    v. Require the testing of the permeability of any fill to be used as part of a site alteration, to ensure the permeability of the imported fill is equal to or greater than that of the existing underlying native soil on which the fill is to be placed.

For large scale operations as in the example below (where soil volume greater than 1000 m3 or where proposed elevation is greater than 1 m above or below the existing grade), a specific soil sampling protocol is outlined. This protocol follows that set out in Ontario Regulation 153/04, Schedule E, subsection 34(2). 11 As part of a site alteration agreement, the owner is:

“…to require the qualified person to report in writing on a regular basis that the placing and dumping of fill is in accordance with clause 2l) and that the report be signed by the qualified person and completed in accordance with the MOECC (BMP); Source site fill is to be sampled and tested as follows: 1 sample for every 160 cubic metres of fill to be imported for the first 5000 cubic metres of fill from a source site, then 1 sample & test for every 300 cubic metres for volumes thereafter from the same source site. Receiving site: One audit sample to be sent to an accredited laboratory per day with results automatically and simultaneously copied to the Town from the lab.”12

Municipalities may also want to include the Ontario Regulation 153/04 minimum stockpile sampling frequencies set out in Table 2 of Schedule E.13


Things to consider: Most by-laws do not include specific soil sampling or testing protocols but often include instructions for these to be determined by the approved qualified person. Some by-laws, like the example below, directly reference the MOECC BMP for detailed testing guidelines. This approach can promote consistency between municipalities and does not require the municipality to develop its own procedures.

“environmental soil testing of fill, as determined by a Qualified Person, is undertaken prior to its placement upon, or removal from the site, according to the “Management of Excess Soil – A Guide for Best Management Practices”; the testing referred to in 6.01.10 shall be performed by a certified environmental laboratory. The owner/applicant will be responsible for all costs associated with the testing.”14


Things to consider: Municipalities may have large scale operations follow specific soil quality requirements under a permit agreement (see Large Scale Site Alteration Agreements). The example language below contains such requirements. For soil quality, testing and reporting, this specifies:

“7.01 Where a large site alteration is proposed the owner shall provide a complete application and, if the large site alteration is authorized by Council, enter into an agreement with the Corporation which shall be registered on title to the land on which the work is to be performed. Such agreement shall include conditions that require the owner to undertake the following requirements, or to reimburse the Corporation for undertaking such requirements at the discretion of the Corporation:
    a) retain a qualified person to ensure that the site alteration is proceeding in accordance with reasonable engineering and environmental practices such as the standards for fill contained in this By-law, the plans submitted for the permit; and the conditions imposed pursuant to Section 4.07 of this By-law;
    c) require the qualified person to report in writing on a regular basis or as determined by the Director that the site alteration is in accordance with Subsection 7.01 (a) of this By-law;
    e) not contaminate the natural environment and abide by all applicable environmental laws and regulations;
    g) undertake soil samples and well monitoring, the frequency of which shall be determined by the Director, at the applicant's expense;”15


Things to consider: This section is an opportunity to include clauses that enable the municipality to monitor, regulate and enforce their soil quality and testing standards. It is beneficial for municipalities to retain independent inspectors and/or qualified persons to verify reports submitted by the owner. Implementing a clause similar to that below, allows municipal officials to enter and test a site at their discretion.

“Inspectors may, at any reasonable time enter and inspect any land, including soil testing and the taking of samples, to determine whether the provisions of this By-law, or a condition of a permit issued under this By-law have been complied with. This power of entry does not allow the Inspector to enter any building.”16


“The administration and enforcement of this By-law shall be performed by the Director and/or any professional or qualified person to conduct quality assurance testing and/or review as deemed necessary for a specific application.”17


Things to consider: Municipalities can require fees to recover costs of hiring their own qualified persons and peer reviewing soil characterizations provided by the site owner/operator.

See the Fees, Cost Recovery and Financial Assurance page for more information.