Contamination Management Tools and Regulations


Contamination Management Tools and Regulations

The following Alberta Environment and Parks’ documents, available on the AEP website, describe the requirements for identifying and addressing releases, assessing contamination, managing the risk of contamination, and remediating spills. 

Contaminated Sites Policy Framework

This framework provides the foundation for the development of provincial guidelines for remediation and contaminated site management and sets out the following principles of contaminant management: controlling the source of the contamination, conducting an environmental site assessment, assessing risk, managing contamination, and considering other factors in addition to risk.

Alberta Environmental Site Assessment Standard

The standard contains requirements for planning, implementing, and reporting a Phase 1 or 2 environmental site assessment (ESA) to determine whether a site is contaminated. An ESA involves testing soil and possibly groundwater.

Record of Site Condition

This form is used for release reporting and is a summary document to track major environmental characteristics for an assessed site. The RSC form and its declaration are required for all Phase 2 ESAs and remediation and risk management projects submitted to the AER.

  • Record of Site Condition User Guide
  • Record of Site Condition Form
  • Record of Site Condition Frequently Asked Questions

Conceptual Site Model Builder Tool

A conceptual site model illustrates a site, how and where a spill or release occurred, and the current location of the contamination and where it is migrating to, including what and who is or will be affected. Health Canada has developed a Conceptual Site Model Builder Tool that AER licensees can use to build a model. The tool can be requested by emailing Health Canada at

Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment Checklist

The Phase 2 ESA Checklist is designed to ensure that a site is thoroughly assessed, the substances are accurately delineated, and site assessment reports contain the appropriate information to ensure that a site is properly remediated or the risk of contamination is being managed.

Alberta Exposure Control Guide

Exposure control is a part of contamination management and involves removing or mitigating an exposure pathway to a receptor. The guide sets out the exposure control policy and outlines risk management requirements. The guide can be used when developing and assessing options for managing contaminated land in Alberta through administrative or institutional controls (e.g., restricting groundwater use, restricting site access) and physical barriers (covering contaminated soil).

Alberta Tier 1 and Tier 2 Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guidelines

The Alberta Tier 1 Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guidelines contains generic guidelines for remediating contamination on cultivated, residential, commercial, and industrial land.

The Alberta Tier 2 Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guidelines describes how to modify the Tier 1 guidelines using site-specific information.

The AEP released revised soil and groundwater remediation guidelines in February 2016.

The 2016 editions of the Alberta Tier 1 and Tier 2 Guidelines came into effect on May 1, 2016. The AER continues to accept applications for reclamation certificates and remediation certificates that follow the 2014 edition of the Alberta Tier 1 and Tier 2 Guidelines provided that the lab reports for any Phase 2 ESA were prepared or sampling occurred before May 1, 2016.

For further information on the Tier 1 and 2 guidelines, see the following documents on the AEP website:

  • Tier 1 and 2 Guidelines Factsheet
  • Tier 1 and 2 Frequently Asked Questions
  • Barite Guidelines Factsheet

Subsoil Petroleum Hydrocarbon Guidelines for Remote Forested Sites in the Green Area

The Subsoil Petroleum Hydrocarbon Guidelines for Remote Forested Sites in the Green Area can be used only at sites within the Green Area that will not be affected by human disturbance and are being reclaimed to forested land use. These guidelines, published by AEP, specify when the ecological direct contact pathway for petroleum hydrocarbons fractions 1 to 4 may be eliminated (1.5 m for fine-grained soil; 3.0 m for coarse-grained soil).

Tier 2 Guidelines for Salinity: The Subsoil Salinity Tool

AEP’s Subsoil Salinity Tool (SST) is a software program for developing Alberta Tier 2 soil remediation guidelines for chloride-based salt contamination below the root zone based on information provided by the user, including site location and soil and groundwater information. Soil within the root zone must be remediated to meet salinity guidelines in the Alberta Tier 1 Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guidelines.

All users of the SST wishing to develop Tier 2 guidelines for reclamation or remediation certification must successfully complete a three-day training course, including a comprehensive four-hour exam with an 80 per cent pass mark. For further information, see the Subsoil Salinity Guidelines Fact Sheet and the AER Subsoil Salinity Tool Assessment Checklist.

Drilling Waste Disposal

AER Directive 050: Drilling Waste Management sets out the requirements for treating and disposing of drilling waste generated in Alberta. Drilling waste can include the mud and cuttings generated while drilling a well (including oil sands exploration wells) or directional drilling for pipeline construction.

For further information on disposing of drilling waste, see the following documents on the AEP website:

  • Assessing Drilling Waste Disposal Areas: Compliance Options for Reclamation Certification
  • Assessing Drilling Waste Disposal Areas – Calculation Tables
  • Assessing Drilling Waste Disposal Areas – Checklist

Oilfield Waste

To remediate a spill, a licensee may have to excavate contaminated soil and pump groundwater. Contaminated material that is removed from the site is considered oilfield waste and must be managed accordingly.

AER requirements for managing and storing oilfield waste are found in

Integrated Compliance Assurance Framework

Licensees who do not comply with AER contamination assessment, risk management, and remediation requirements are subject to enforcement. The AER’s Integrated Compliance Assurance Framework outlines the AER’s approach to ensuring that Alberta’s energy industry follows the rules. Education, prevention, and enforcement are the main pillars of assuring compliance.