Adverse effect

Alberta’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) defines “adverse effect” as impairment of or damage to the environment, human health or safety or property

Affected third party

Alberta’s Contaminated Sites Policy Framework indicates that an affected third party could include owners, lessees, and tenants of a neighbouring parcel, roadway, easement, or utility corridor that is likely or actually contaminated by the migration of a substance. This could include municipalities and/or the provincial government.


According to amendments to the Municipal Government Act passed in 2016 a brownfield is a commercial or industrial property which is, or possibly is, contaminated; is vacant, derelict or under-utilized; and is suitable for development or redevelopment for the general benefit of the municipality.


Delineation is an essential part of Environment Site Assessments (See below). It refers to sampling and testing soil, sediment and groundwater in both the vertical and horizontal directions to gather information needed to support appropriate decisions about contaminant remediation and management on a particular site.


A director is a person designated under the EPEA by the Minister of Alberta Environment and Parks. Under Part 5, sections 111, Manner of Reporting and section 112, Duty to take Remedial Measures, the Director has a mandate to require additional information and make decisions when remediation or risk management is sufficient.

Environmental liability

The legal and financial responsibility to undertake remediation of contaminated property to Provincial Guidelines relevant to the zoning and usage requirements for the neighborhood.

Environmental site assessment (ESA)

See ‘Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment’ and ‘Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment’.

Environmental Site Assessment Repository (ESAR)         

The Environmental Site Assessment Repository is an online, searchable database where Alberta Environment and Parks Place makes information submitted to the department concerning assessed and remediated sites available to the public. The ESAR is located at

Exposure control

Exposure control involves preventing or controlling exposure to chemicals by use of administrative controls (e.g. caveats on title, land use restrictions) or engineered controls (e.g. physical or chemical barriers) to prevent exposure to contaminants as alternatives to complete remediation.

Financial liability

The responsibility to fund remediation and exposure control management costs during property reclamation.


An inspector is a person who is designated an inspector under the EPEA. With respect to Brownfields and Contaminated Sites, an inspector has the power to issue environmental protection orders, take emergency measures, issue remediation certificates, and provide direction on remediation of land and requirements for information submitted to the regulator. 

Legal (Civil) liability

The power of the law to compel a party to remediate property to specific standards and/or compensate injured parties for damages caused by contamination.

Person responsible 

In relation to contaminated sites EPEA defines person responsible as:

  • a person responsible for the substance that is in, on or under the contaminated site
  • any other person who the Director considers caused or contributed to the release of the substance into the environment
  • the owner of the contaminated site
  • any previous owner of the contaminated site who was the owner at any time when the substance was in, on or under the contaminated site
  • a successor, assignee, executor, administrator, receiver, receiver-manager or trustee of a person referred in the above bullets
  •  a person who acts as the principal or agent of a person referred to in any of subclauses (ii) to (v) See EPEA Part 5 Release of Substances for more details  107 (1)

It is notable that the Act specifically mentions that the definition person responsible does not include a municipality that has received a parcel of contaminated land through tax arrears or by dedication or gift of an environmental reserve, municipal reserve, school reserve, road, utility lot or right of way under Part 17 of the Municipal Government Act.

Phase I environmental site assessment (ESA)

A Phase I ESA is a non-intrusive site assessment that is designed to gather a sufficient amount of information to estimate the likelihood that contamination may be present and if a Phase II ESA is required.  A complete and adequate Phase I ESA will either:

  • conclude that there is no reasonable evidence for suspecting the disposal or release of a substance that may cause, is causing, or has caused adverse effect and that no further assessment is necessary, or
  • conclude that there is potential for a substance release, provide information that can direct a Phase II ESA or remediation activities at the site and, where applicable, provide specific explanations of data insufficiencies that prevent the conclusion that substances were not released on the site.

Phase II environmental site assessment (ESA)                          

A Phase II Environmental Site Assessment is generally an iterative approach that includes an initial intrusive screening level sampling to determine whether a substance release has occurred at a site to a more detailed sampling event for complete delineation of contaminated soil and groundwater in the areas of potential concern when a substance release is present. A properly constructed Phase II ESA will determine, through intrusive sampling, if there is contamination and what is the extent and approximate volume of contamination at a site of interest.  A complete and adequate Phase II ESA will be able to conclude that either:

  • there is no reasonable basis to suspect a substance release has occurred at the property that has caused, is causing, or
  • That a substance release has occurred at the site that has potential to cause adverse effect.

Regulatory liability

The requirement to hold property owners to environmental standards and regulations as set out by the Province of Alberta.


Alberta’s Remediation Certificate Regulation defines remediation as “reducing, removing or destroying substances in soil, water or groundwater through the application of physical, chemical or biological processes”. Completion is assessed against Alberta’s soil and groundwater remediation guidelines, which take into account site conditions and land use. When a substance is released or suspected, the responsible party is required to learn about the contamination (delineation), report it, create a remediation plan, remove or control the substance (e.g., remediation, risk management, exposure control) and report on the outcomes. Alberta’s Contaminated Sites Policy Framework lays this out in a diagram.

Remediation plan          

A plan for remediation to Tier I or Tier II standards. Once executed, sites with a remediation plan may be eligible for a Site-Based Remediation Certificate, which provides them with liability closure.

Remediation certificate

A property owner can apply for a Remediation Certificate where a substance was released into the environment and remediation has been carried out, cleaning up the spill to regulatory standards. Under the present regulation and application form, an owner is only eligible for a remediation certificate based on the area that is remediated.

The remediation certificate application and review process certifies that the spill is no longer a concern, for the type of land use within the remediated area. This voluntary program is viewed as an incentive to remediate because it provides assurance to the site owner that additional remediation would not be required if guidelines were amended or updated in the future. This is known as regulatory liability closure. 

Risk management plan

A plan that includes controlling the exposure of substances to protect the human health or the environment. 

Tier I    

Alberta Tier I Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guidelines are simple tabular values that incorporate conservative assumptions about soil and groundwater characteristics. Except in specific circumstances defined in the Alberta Tier I guidelines, contaminant concentrations below Alberta Tier I guidelines are considered not to have potential for adverse effect under Part 5 of the EPEA.

Tier II

Alberta Tier II Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guidelines apply the same protection objectives as Tier I but allow for modification of the Tier I guideline value based on site-specific conditions. Alberta Tier II allows for three options that are explained further in the Alberta Tier II guidelines:

  1. Modifying the Tier I guidelines based on exclusion of exposure pathways and receptors that may not be operable at the site.
  2. Adjusting the Tier I guidelines using site-specific values for certain parameters using the same models and approaches are used as for the development of the Tier I guidelines and a limited range of parameter adjustments detailed in the Alberta Tier II guidelines. 
  3. Site-specific risk assessment.