Guelph’s contaminated sites and financial liability

Guelph, like all cities with a similar industrial history, has properties that are contaminated with substances in the soil or groundwater that exceed environmental quality standards.

Most of these City-owned sites are historical dumps or brownfields. Although the contamination at each site is different, it’s closely monitored to ensure it doesn’t pose health risks and managed according to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s requirements.


Contaminated sites are a financial liability because the degree and type of contamination can limit a site’s future use and financial value.

The work needed to clean up or remediate a site that’s contaminated is also costly.

The City’s updating its financial practices to account for and annually report on the long-term costs to clean up these sites. It estimates it will cost $30 million dollars to maintain, mitigate or remediate these sites. Read more in a 2015 staff report to the Audit Committee.

As future remediation work is planned, it will be put forward in the City`s budget for Council approval. If approved, it will impact Guelph’s tax rate.

Site management

Contaminated sites are usually managed by:

  • conducting investigations and collecting data to assess the level of risk on human health and the environment
  • remediating or cleaning it up to standards set by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
  • a combination of risk assessment and remediation

Identifying and assessing each of the City’s contaminated sites and estimating the type and cost of cleanup activities needed is an important part of what the City is doing to develop a long-term plan for managing its environmental liabilities.


Policy for the Implementation of PS 3260 – Liability for Contaminated Sites