Auditor general finds province does not ensure timely remediation of contaminated sites, increasing risk to the public and the environment29 November 2022
FREDERICTON (GNB) – In his latest report tabled today at the legislative assembly, auditor general Paul Martin highlighted issues in the provincial government’s contaminated sites management process relating to its legislative authority, execution, performance monitoring and reporting.
The audit found that the Department of Environment and Local Government does not effectively administer the contaminated sites management process, even though contaminated sites can present a significant risk to human health and the environment.
“The department has a backlog of over 1,000 contaminated site files spanning 35 years, and 75 per cent of open files have remained so for 10 years or longer,” said Martin.
Martin said a significant finding in the report is that the remediation program is not referenced in legislation or regulation.
“This has contributed to the department’s inability to ensure timely remediation of contaminated sites,” said Martin. “This risks leaving New Brunswickers susceptible to adverse impacts.”
The audit also found that the department is not proactive when dealing with external parties and that the current process does not require a specific timeline for remediation or proactive followup.
“With no established timelines or followup, it is not possible for the department to hold stakeholders accountable for timely site remediation,” said Martin.
The report also stated that the province has no program to address orphan sites, and that the government has not designated a single entity to co-ordinate remediation of government-owned contaminated sites.
“Both of these issues have potential negative impacts on future liability and cost to remediate,” said Martin.
As of March 31, 2022, a liability for contaminated sites of $50.8 million was recorded in the province’s public accounts.
The auditor general makes 17 recommendations: two to the Executive Council Office and the remainder to the Department of the Environment and Local Government.
Full details are available online.