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Environmental Assessments

The purpose of a phase one ESA is to determine the likelihood that contaminants affecting the phase one property are present on, in or under the property.

 Focusing in on uses and activities on the property will provide insight into whether there is a potential for contaminants to be present, as well as providing information about the contaminants of potential concern that may be present as a result of those uses and activities.

While the focus of the investigation is on, in or under the phase one property itself, one of the first activities in conducting a phase one ESA is to determine the “phase one study area”.
This area, located outside of the phase one property, must also be considered because uses and activities in the phase one study area may have affected the phase one property.

      A Phase I ESA includes

  • Historical research
  • Regulatory request for information
  • Site investigation (visit/interviews)
  • Report preparation

Some examples of historical research :

- To obtain reasonably accessible records pertaining to the current use or uses and all past uses of the phase one property (including reference to the Catalogue of Canadian Fire Insurance Plans (1875-1975) to obtain the fire insurance plans for all parts of the phase one property. 

- To prepare an up-to-date chronological chain of title that shows the owners’ names and dates of ownership for the phase one property, based on a search of the title dating back to the first developed use of the phase one property. However, where: (a) other information from the records review satisfies the objectives of the records review; and, (b) a title search back to the date of the first developed use would not contribute to obtaining information about the environmental condition of the phase one property, the chain of title is not required to date back to the first developed use of the phase one property.

Examples of regulatory requests for information :

-  PCB information maintained by the Ministry. Current PCB site information will be available on the Ministry’s website in July, 2011. Historical PCB site information can be obtained from the Ministry’s District offices located across the province.

-  Various Ministry documents: certificates of approval, permits to take water, certificates of property use or similar instruments related to the environmental condition of the phase one property and any property on, under or adjacent to the phase one property.

Site investigation (visit/interviews)

-  The purpose of the interviews is to verify and supplement the information gathered in the records review. The interviews can also help to plan the site reconnaissance or to corroborate information obtained from the site reconnaissance.

- The phase one property, including the exterior and interior portions of buildings or structures on the property, in order to document any APECs and illustrate any relevant structures and areas of disturbed soils such as fill areas; and,
 The phase one study area, as practicable, in order to document any PCAs which may be contributing to, or causing an APEC, and illustrate any relevant structures and areas of disturbed soils such as fill areas.

The following is provided by The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Basics of Environmental Assessment

The following is for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) or any of its regulations. In the event of any inconsistency between this content and CEAA 2012 or its regulations, CEAA 2012 or its regulations, as the case may be, would prevail.

To learn about the purpose and steps of environmental assessments under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012), see the questions and answers below. For general information about CEAA 2012, see the "features" section on the home page.


Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012

Types of Environmental Assessment

Environmental Assessments Conducted by the Agency

Environmental Assessment by a Review Panel

Compliance and Enforcement

Regional Study

Questions & Answers


What is environmental assessment?

Environmental assessment is a process to predict environmental effects of proposed initiatives before they are carried out.

An environmental assessment:

  • identifies potential adverse environmental effects
  • proposes measures to mitigate adverse environmental effects
  • predicts whether there will be significant adverse environmental effects, after mitigation measures are implemented
  • includes a follow-up program to verify the accuracy of the environmental assessment and the effectiveness of the mitigation measures.

What is the purpose of an environmental assessment?

An environmental assessment is a planning and decision-making tool. The objectives of an environmental assessment are to:

  • minimize or avoid adverse environmental effects before they occur; and
  • incorporate environmental factors into decision making.

When should an environmental assessment be undertaken?

An environmental assessment should be conducted as early as possible in the planning stage of a designated project in order for the proponent to be able to reflect the analysis in the proposed plans, including incorporation of mitigation measures to address adverse environmental effects.

What are the benefits of environmental assessment?

By considering environmental effects and mitigation measures early in the project planning cycle, environmental assessment can support better decision making and result in many benefits, such as:

  • avoidance or minimization of adverse environmental effects
  • opportunities for public participation and Aboriginal consultation
  • increased protection of human health
  • reduced project costs and delays
  • reduced risks of environmental harm or disasters
  • increased government accountability and harmonization
  • lessened probability of transboundary environmental effects
  • informed decisions that contribute to responsible development of natural resources

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012

What is the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012?

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) and its regulations establish the legislative basis for the federal practice of environmental assessment in most regions of Canada.

The purpose of CEAA 2012 is to:

  • Protect components of the environment that are within federal legislative authority from significant adverse environmental effects caused by a designated project;
  • Ensure that designated projects are considered and carried out in a careful and precautionary manner in order to avoid significant adverse environmental effects when a federal authority is exercising a power or performing a duty or function required for the project to proceed;
  • Promote cooperation and coordination between federal and provincial governments;
  • Promote communication and cooperation with Aboriginal peoples;
  • Ensure that opportunities are provided for meaningful public participation;
  • Ensure that environmental assessments are completed in a timely manner;
  • Ensure that proposed projects on federal lands or that are outside Canada and carried out or financially supported by a federal authority, are considered in a careful and precautionary manner in order to avoid significant adverse environmental effects;
  • Encourage federal authorities to take actions in a manner that promotes sustainable development in order to achieve or maintain a healthy environment and a healthy economy; and
  • Encourage further studies of the cumulative effects of physical activities in a region and the consideration of the study results in environmental assessments.