What is a Record of Site Condition (RSC)?
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MECP) defines a Record of Site Condition (RSC) as a summary of the environmental condition of a property, based on the completion of environmental site assessments (ESAs) that are conducted by a Qualified Person. The RSC may also include the completion of a Risk Assessment and the development of property specific standards (PSS). An RSC is filed to the public Environmental Site Registry once regulatory requirements are met. The registry facilitates public access to the information contained within the RSCs that have been filed.
A key part of the RSC is that a Qualified Person must make the certification that the property meets the applicable site condition standard or a standard specified in a risk assessment for the intended use.
Why do I need an RSC?
The most common reason for obtaining an RSC, is for property owners who are looking to change the use of a property to a more sensitive use. An example of this could include someone looking to take an old industrial building and convert it into residential apartments. This type of change is prohibited under Section 168.3.1 of the Environmental Protection Act. The Building Code also prohibits the construction of a building to be used in connection with a change to a more sensitive use, unless an RSC has been filed.
Note that a change of use refers to an actual change of use and not a change in the zoning of a property. For vacant properties the current property use is considered to be the most recent use (e.g. an abandoned property last used for an industrial use would still be considered an industrial property) regardless of what zoning applies.
Other common reasons for obtaining a RSC might include:
- As a condition of a property transaction;
- To increase the marketability of a property;
- To obtain limited protection from regulatory orders that may be associated with potential changes in regulations and standards;
- To comply with a provincial order; and,
- As a requirement of a financial institution, other lender, or a municipality under certain circumstances.
What is a Qualified Person?
For the purpose of conducting or supervising a Phase One or Two Environmental Site Assessment to be used in support of an RSC, a person must either:
- Hold a license, limited license, or temporary license under the Professional Engineers Act; or,
- Hold a certificate of registration under the Professional Geoscientists Act, 2000 and be a practicing member, temporary member or limited member of the Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario.
There are additional requirements for qualified persons that are involved in the preparation or supervision of a Risk Assessment which are defined in Ontario Regulation 153/04.
JFM Environmental Limited has Qualified Persons in house who can assist with filing an RSC based on Phase One and Two Environmental Site Assessments and works with a network of other consultants who can provide assistance if a Risk Assessment is required.
What is the process in obtaining a RSC?
Obtaining a Record of Site Condition is a prescriptive process that needs to start with an up to date Phase One Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) compliant to Ontario Regulation 153/04. A Phase One ESA differs from a Phase I ESA completed to CSA Standard Z768-01 (R2016) in the level of investigation and documentation that is required. CSA Phase I ESAs are generally suitable for due diligence in most property transactions and for financing purposes, and more information on this type of Phase I can be found here.
A Phase One ESA compliant O.Reg. 153/04 requires approximately 1 month to complete depending on the complexity of the site. It is defined as “an assessment of a property conducted in accordance with the regulations by or under the supervision of a qualified person to determine the likelihood that one or more contaminants have affected any land or water on, in or under the property”.
The key components of the Phase One ESA include:
- Records review;
- Site reconnaissance;
- Evaluation of information collected; and
- Preparation and delivery of a Phase One ESA Report.
The Phase One ESA will ultimately conclude as to whether a Phase Two ESA will be required before an RSC can be submitted on the property. A Phase Two ESA would generally be required before an RSC can be filed under the following circumstances:
- A Potentially Contaminating Activity (PCA) is identified on, in or under the property; or,
- The property is used, or has ever been used, in whole or in part, for any of the following:
- An industrial use.
- As a garage;
- As a bulk liquid dispensing facility (e.g. a gasoline service station);
- For the operation of dry cleaning equipment.
A Phase Two ESA is defined as “an assessment of property conducted in accordance with the regulations by or under the supervision of a qualified person to determine the location and concentration of one or more contaminants in the land or water on, in or under the property”. If there are significant concerns identified in the Phase One ESA the cost of the Phase Two ESA can increase considerably depending on the number of areas to be investigated. A common timeline for the completion of a Phase Two ESA is between 1-2 months depending on the complexity of the site.
If a Phase Two ESA is required, it must address all significant environmental significant issues identified in item “a” and must also follow the protocol set out in the Regulation for it to be used for filing the RSC. Results of the Phase Two ESA (soil, sediment, and groundwater analyses) will be compared to the provincial standards set out in the Regulation. If one or more of the chemical compounds investigated exceeds the criteria set out in the Regulation, the Site will be ineligible for the RSC until it is remediated and / or a Risk Assessment is completed. It is not uncommon to have multiple iterations of the Phase Two ESA fieldwork and follow up remediation to address Site conditions if contamination is identified.
An RSC can be obtained for the Site once it has been determined that there is no evidence of contaminants at the property that could interfere with the future use of the property or that contaminants at the property do not exceed the applicable standards for the proposed use of the Site.