The Federal Contaminated Sites Inventory includes information on all known federal contaminated sites under the custodianship of departments, agencies and consolidated Crown corporations as well as those that are being or have been investigated to determine whether they have contamination arising from past use that could pose a risk to human health or the environment. The inventory also includes non-federal contaminated sites for which the Government of Canada has accepted some or all financial responsibility. It does not include sites where contamination has been caused by, and which are under the control of, enterprise Crown corporations, private individuals, firms or other levels of government.
To date, departments, agencies and consolidated Crown corporations have identified and classified over 22,000 contaminated or suspected contaminated sites in urban, rural and remote areas across Canada, using the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan (FCSAP) Classification System, an enhanced version of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment National Classification System (NCS).
The FCSI displays a standard set of basic and annually-updated information for federal contaminated sites. Each site record includes information such as the location of the site, the severity of contamination, the contaminated medium, the nature of the contaminant, progress made to date in identifying and addressing contamination, and how much liquid and solid-based media have been treated. Search results can be displayed as a table or a map.
The FCSI offers a variety of search criteria, such as site name, province or territory, Census Metropolitan Area, Federal Electoral District, contaminants, FCSAP ranking and site management plans.
According to the definition adopted by the government of Canada, a contaminated site is "one at which substances occur at concentrations (1) above background (normally occurring) levels and pose or are likely to pose an immediate or long term hazard to human health or the environment, or (2) exceeding levels specified in policies and regulations."
In other words, the main qualification for including a site in the inventory is that there is a concentration of a substance in the soil or ground water (usually a petroleum product or a metal) that is higher than expected for that region of Canada. There must also be some evidence that this concentration poses a risk to human health or the environment.
This risk is determined in a step-by-step process, beginning with a rough estimate of the contamination based on guidelines agreed to by federal, provincial and territorial environment ministers, all of whom are members of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). The final stage in the procedure process is an Environmental Site Assessment that uses such tools as field sampling and laboratory analysis to determine the type and level of contamination present.