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Hazardous materials

Regulation highlights

The purpose of this publication is to provide information on the Hazardous Materials Regulation. The information contained in this brochure does not replace the legal texts. Copies of the Hazardous Materials Regulation may be purchased from Les Publications du Québec.


Definition of a hazardous material

Paragraph 21 of section 1 of the Environment Quality Act defines a hazardous material as follows:

"... a material which, by reason of its properties, is a hazard to health or to the environment and which, within the meaning of a regulation under this Act, is explosive, gaseous, flammable, poisonous, radioactive, corrosive, oxidizing or leachable or is designated as a hazardous material, and any object classed by regulation as a hazardous material."

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1. Properties which Characterize a Hazardous Material

The properties which characterize a hazardous material are defined in section 3 of the Regulation. Although certain definitions are different, they are compatible with those established by the classification set out in the Transportation of Hazardous Substances Regulations and the Controlled Products Regulations in particular. Thus, the signaletic card and coding used by the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, which appear, for example, on containers of hazardous material, constitute a source of information which facilitates classification while decreasing possible recourse to chemical analysis.

2. Materials Classed as Hazardous Materials

The Hazardous Materials Regulation sets out a list of materials or objects which, whatever their properties, are classed as hazardous materials. These are:

  • oil;
  • grease;
  • a contaminated empty container;
  • a gas cylinder or aerosol container containing a hazardous material;
  • a material or object containing three per cent or more of oil or grease by weight;
  • a material or object containing more than 1,500 mg/kilogram of total organic halogens;
  • a material containing polychloride biphenyls (PCBs) or contaminated by PCBs;
  • a material or object contaminated on its surface by hazardous material.

3. Materials Not Defined as Hazardous Materials

Certain hazardous materials were already subject to regulation, policies or directives before the adoption of the Hazardous Materials Regulation. Thus, in cases where the existing framework has proven adequate, these materials have been excluded from the concept of hazardous material. These are:

  • contaminated soil (however, soil having more than 50 mg of PCBs per kilogram of soil may not be placed in final deposit);
  • demolition materials (except for materials classified as hazardous);
  • scrap metal (except for materials classified as hazardous);
  • fabrics, except absorbent fabrics used during hazardous material recovery operations;
  • biomedical waste;
  • waste from pulp and paper mills;
  • pesticides governed by the Pesticides Act;
  • spray formulations and rinsings (pesticides);
  • wastewater (except wastewater from pipeless rinsing baths used for surface treatment operations);
  • mine tailings;
  • materials from dredging operations;
  • collected snow;
  • certain radioactive materials; bituminous concrete, asphalt shingles, plastic, rubber and asbestos;
  • sludge from a septic tank or from a municipal water treatment plant;
  • residue from an underground access manhole, from a street catch basin or from a car-wash sump;
  • manure and liquid manure;
  • treated wood;
  • material from the shredding of automobile hulks (fluff);
  • smoke detectors;
  • ash from an incineration facility governed by the Regulation respecting the landfilling and incineration of residual materials.

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Regulatory Requirements

1. The Main Regulatory Provisions Applicable to All Hazardous Materials

  • Prohibition on the release of a hazardous material into the environment (sect. 8);
  • Measures to be taken in case of accidental spills (sect. 9);
  • Measures to be taken in case of cessation of activities or dismantling of buildings (sect. 13);
  • Prohibition on the use of oil to settle dust (sect. 14).

When hazardous material is accidentally spilled (see section 9), the person in charge must at a minimum, recover the spillage and remove all contaminated material not cleaned up or processed on-site from the affected area. Note that the limit values shown in Schedules I and II of the Land Protection and Rehabilitation Regulation do not apply to removal and cleanup operations of this type, whose goal is to return the affected area to its initial state, i.e. prior to the spill.

All other provisions set out in the Regulation apply only to residual hazardous materials, those discarded, used, spent, outdated, or that appear on the list set out in section 6.

2. Use of Residual Hazardous Materials for Energy Generation Purposes

The use of residual hazardous materials for energy generation purposes is subject, for anyone who takes possession for this purpose, to obtaining a permit under section 70.9 of the Environment Quality Act. As well, if these residual hazardous materials are toxic within the meaning of the Hazardous Materials Regulation, any installation or operation of equipment aimed at using them for energy generation purposes shall first be submitted to environmental assessment procedures.

A business which plans to use for energy generation purposes the residual hazardous material which it has produced in the course of its activities shall obtain an authorization certificate in accordance with section 22 of the Environment Quality Act.

  • Residual Hazardous Materials Other than Used Oils

Residual hazardous materials other than used oils may be used for energy generation purposes only in an industrial establishment and only if the hazardous materials meet certain standards set out in Schedule 5 of the Regulation. A test program is then required to assess each plan to use residual hazardous materials for energy generation purposes and determine appropriate operating conditions.

Under the Hazardous Materials Regulation use of used oils for energy generation purposes is permitted provided the combustion equipment has a capacity of at least three megawatts and the oils comply with the standards set out in Schedule 6. However, industrial establishments and greenhouses already authorized to use used oils for energy generation purposes before the Regulation comes into effect, and whose combustion equipment has a capacity of less than three megawatts, may continue to do so on condition that it is the same equipment and the oils comply with the standards of Schedule 6.

As well, to take into account the situation of the isolated communities and businesses often not served by a used oil collection service, the reuse of used oils for energy purposes in combustion equipment whose power is less than three megawatts is allowed in a territory not linked by public road to the general highway network of Québec. The standards of Schedule 6 of the Regulation shall be complied with in such case.

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3. Storage of Residual Hazardous Materials

The storage standards are divided into three main sections:

  • general provisions;
  • provisions relating to certain storage methods;
  • provisions relating to the protection of a storage site.

All these standards target both the producers of residual hazardous materials and holders of permits engaged in an activity mentioned in section 70.9 of the Environment Quality Act. It should be recalled that in virtue of section 70.8 of the Act, on-site storage of residual hazardous materials by the producer of the material may not exceed a period of 12 months unless an extension of the storage period has been authorized by the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change.

Finally, a certain flexibility has been provided for in order to encourage recycling or reuse of residual hazardous materials.

These standards relate to the characteristics of containers, their compatibility with the hazardous materials stored, labelling, requirements relating to buildings, equipment, shelters and storage areas. They are applicable when the quantity stored exceeds 100 kilograms.

These are provisions applicable to the storage of residual hazardous materials in a container, reservoir or cargo tank as well as those applicable to heap storage.

These standards apply when the quantity stored exceeds 1,000 kilograms.

  • Provisions Relating to the Protection of a Storage Site

The protection standards for storage sites include certain general protection standards applicable to both the producer and the permit holder when the quantity of stored material exceeds 1,000 kilograms. Exemptions are however provided for certain types of institutions such as teaching establishments and laboratories. (section 81).

The provisions relating to protection of storage sites also include more specific standards for intrusion detection systems, fire detection systems and automatic fire extinction systems. The applicable provisions vary according to the categories and the quantities of the hazardous materials stored (sect. 84 to 92).

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4. Final Disposal of Residual Hazardous Materials

The Hazardous Materials Regulation specifies the standards relating to the management of final disposal sites for residual hazardous materials as well as rules applicable at the time such a site is closed and after the closing. The operator is moreover obliged to produce a closing statement attesting compliance of the site with environmental standards.

5. The Register and Annual Management Report

A register shall be kept by anyone who has in his possession:

  • more than 100 kilograms of hazardous materials or objects containing PCBs or contaminated by PCBs;
  • liquids or solids containing PCBs which total more than one kilogram of PCBs.

As well, those working in the industrial sector and certain public services specified in Schedule 3 of the Regulation shall keep a register when the various categories of residual hazardous materials produced or used over the quarter, exceeding 100 kilograms (including PCBs), total more than 1,000 kilograms.

This obligation to keep a register does not apply to hazardous materials that are reused into an industrial process located on the production site within 120 days following their production. This exemption also applies to contaminated empty containers, gas cylinders, aerosol containers, materials containing 3% or more of oil or grease, and surface contaminated materials or objects that are reused or recycled within 12 months.

The required information shall be entered in the register ten days after the end of each quarter at the latest. The register shall be kept at the site of production or use for no less than two years from the end of each quarter.

The Hazardous Materials Regulation specifies that an annual management report shall be produced only for residual hazardous materials for which a register was kept for at least one quarter. However, not all those who have prepared a register have to produce an annual management report. The Regulation specifies that the annual management report shall be prepared by:

  • the person who has in his possession materials or objects containing PCBs or contaminated by PCBs;
  • the person who carries on an activity in a sector mentioned in Schedule 8 for each category of residual hazardous materials whose quantity exceeds 1,000 kg or in respect of each category of residual hazardous materials where the quantity of the categories entered in the register exceeds 5,000 kilograms.

The information required in the annual management report is more detailed than that required for the register. However, the obligation to keep an annual management report applies to a more restricted number of businesses, i.e. the most important.

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6. Extension of Storage Period

Section 70.8 of the Environment Quality Act sets at 12 months the maximum storage period for a residual hazardous material for which a register must be kept (sect. 70.6) unless the person storing it has obtained authorization for extension of the storage period from the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change.

The application for extension of the storage period shall be accompanied by a management plan for the hazardous material involved and information including the grounds for the application, the storage extension period applied for, the physicochemical characterization of the residual hazardous material in question, and a description of the research projects carried out or envisaged. A characterization of the soil and underground waters situated on the periphery of the storage site shall also be prepared to permit an informed decision.

7. Activities Requiring the Obtaining of a Permit (Section 70.9 of the Environment Quality Act)

A permit must be held by every person who:

  • operates a site for the elimination of hazardous materials for his own purposes or for another person, or offers a hazardous materials elimination service;
  • operates for commercial purposes a treatment process for residual hazardous materials;
  • stores any residual hazardous materials after having taken possession thereof for that purpose;
  • uses for energy generation purposes any residual hazardous materials after having taken possession thereof for that purpose;
  • transports residual hazardous materials to a disposal site.

Except for certain uses of used oil for energy generation purposes, permit holders shall deposit a guarantee and hold a public liability insurance policy for an amount varying according to the scope of the project. In addition, fees are set out for issuing, renewing or amending a permit.

Permits issued shall be valid for a maximum period of five years, and inalienable without written authorization from the minister.

However, the obligation to hold a permit does not apply to the following activities:

  • the operation of a treatment process for commercial purposes for the recycling or reuse of contaminated empty containers, gas cylinders or aerosol containers or any contaminated material or object;
  • the operation of a simple treatment process (crushing, sifting or sorting) under certain conditions;
  • the storage of residual hazardous materials generally for home use in quantities less than 40,000 kilograms.
  • The Register and Annual Report by the Permit Holder

The permit holder shall also keep a register of residual hazardous materials consigned to him or which he has received, produced or used in his activity. Moreover, he shall submit an annual report to the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change on the hazardous materials entered in the register. We should point out that there are two types of registers and annual reports for permit holders depending on whether the facilities are stationary or mobile.

As well, we should point out that a more concise annual report is required for the transport of hazardous materials to a disposal site.

  • Register

The information shall be entered into the register no later than the tenth day following the end of each quarter.

The register shall be kept at the site of the activity or, in the case of mobile facilities, at the head office of the permit holder for at least two years. This document may be demanded during an inspection.

  • Annual Report

The Annual Report for the previous calendar year shall be submitted to the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change no later than April 1.

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8. Transport of Hazardous Materials

The Hazardous Materials Regulation makes it obligatory to obtain a permit to transport residual hazardous materials to a disposal site. The carrier shall hold liability insurance of at least one million dollars covering all commercial vehicles and deposit a guarantee of 100,000 dollars to obtain a permit for the transport of hazardous materials destined for disposal.

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