New Brunswick faces backlog of 1,046 contaminated sites: auditor general

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick faces backlog of 1,046 contaminated sites: auditor general'
New Brunswick faces backlog of 1,046 contaminated sites: auditor general
WATCH: The New Brunswick government is failing to enforce and document timelines for the remediation of contaminated sites around the province, according to auditor general Paul Martin. That has led to a backlog of more than 1000 sites -- dating back over 30 years. Silas Brown has more – Nov 29, 2022

A lack of oversight, documentation and timelines has caused New Brunswick’s backlog of contaminated sites to reach over 1,000, according to a new report from the province’s auditor general.

Paul Martin says the province is failing to implement timelines and follow proper procedure, leading to sites not being remediated in a timely manner. New Brunswick is the only province in Atlantic Canada that doesn’t have its contaminated sites remediation program outlined in legislation or regulation.

“Our remediation process lacks teeth currently. The act needs to be updated. There’s a lack of references to our remediation processes for contaminated sites,” he told reporters.

“We need to give it the teeth it deserves and make sure there’s no question of it needing to be done and clean up those sites when they occur.”

Read more: 5 New Brunswick lakes have high levels of DDT despite ban on pesticide 46 years ago

Read next: West Edmonton Mall closes Mindbender indoor roller-coaster

Story continues below advertisement

The 1,046 open contaminated site files stretch back 35 years, with three-quarters being over 10 years old. The province doesn’t implement remediation timelines and consistently fails to follow its own processes outlined in the remediation program.

According to the report, the engineer assigned to a contaminated site did not file a compliance letter within 15 days in 86 per cent of open files and 39 per cent received no compliance letter at all.

The department began looking to take steps to clear the backlog in 2020, but that plan has had limited success, Martin says. In responding to the auditor general’s office, the Department of Environment said it doesn’t have enough staff to make it through the backlog while still keeping up with its other regular duties like processing permits and inspecting facilities.

Read more: Auditor general says NB Liquor lacks transparency in its business decisions

Read next: Marilyn Manson accused of raping underage girl in new lawsuit

“It doesn’t change the fact that contaminated sites need to be addressed,” Martin said when asked about the lack of staff identified by the department.

“It would then be up to the department to bring their administrative concerns forward to the government and does the government wish to make it a priority to address those contaminated sites.”

Bathurst West-Beresford MLA Rene Legacy said it’s clear that the government needs to institute a well-resourced strategic plan to get on top of the issue.

Story continues below advertisement

“We all know that when you don’t manage something, or don’t measure it or don’t follow it, it doesn’t get dealt with,” he said.

“And that’s the concerning part, there’s an acknowledgement that it’s in existence but there’s no active management.”

While asking questions during Martin’s appearance before the public accounts committee, Green Leader David Coon raised concerns over an old gas station in Fredericton that has not been remediated. He says the station is near the city’s water aquifers and has yet to be dealt with, posing a danger to Fredericton’s water supply.

The station is what is known as an orphan site, where the owner either cannot be located or can’t pay for remediation. The province cancelled its orphan site program in 2009 and stopped tracking them, meaning it’s now impossible to know how many there are in the province.

“The government is not taking responsibilities for these orphaned sites,” Coon said.

“We have all these orphaned sites, they’ve not getting remediated, they can pose a risk to public health and the environment.”

Martin called on the government to reintroduce the orphan site program.

The other chapter of Martin’s report focused on the province’s Environmental Trust Fund, which is intended to go towards projects to benefit the environment in some way. The audit found that there was a lack of oversight and clear criteria for what projects were given funding. The department also failed to track the performance of projects to determine their success or failure and determine if they were contributing to the mandate of the fund.


Sponsored content