Environmental Compliance Approvals (ECA) - FAQ

Environmental Compliance Approvals (ECA) - FAQ

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What is an Environmental Compliance Approval?

An Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) - formerly known as Certificate of Approval (C of A) - is authorization from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) formerly the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) for the regulated discharge of contaminants to the natural environment.  A business’s ECA outlines legally binding conditions of operation to ensure that the environment and community are protected from the adverse effects of any contaminants that are produced by the business’s operations.  Demonstration of compliance is facilitated through the use of government approved dispersion models and detailed reports.

Who Needs an ECA?

Section 9 of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) states that: “MECP approval is required before you operate, install, or modify equipment that discharges, or is likely to discharge, contaminants into the natural environment.  The EPA defines a contaminant as any solid, liquid, gas, odour, heat, sound, vibration, or radiation that may cause an adverse effect.”

What is the Environmental Activity & Sector Registry?

Some routine systems and processes operating within pre-set rules of operation may be registered with the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR), rather than applying for an ECA.  The online registry is currently available for the following: heating systems; standby power systems; automotive refinishing facilities; commercial printing facilities; non-hazardous waste transportation systems, small dust collection systems (in retail locations and schools), laboratory fume hoods (in schools), and indoor operation of arc welding equipment (for light maintenance only).  All eligible activities that do not have an existing ECA are required to be registered with the EASR.

If your facility includes operations that are not covered by the EASR, then you will need to apply for an ECA for those operations.

Are There Exemptions from the ECA and EASR Process?

Ontario Regulation 524/98 (Environmental Compliance Approvals – Exemptions from Section 9 of the Act) provides a list of equipment, activities, and processes that are exempt from Section 9 of the EPA and do not require “MECP approval.  Some examples include:

  • Construction equipment
  • Comfort heating if the total thermal input of all fuel burning equipment is less than 1.58 million kilojoules per hour
  • Small residential buildings
  • Agricultural operations
  • Food / restaurant exhausts

What is an Emission Summary and Dispersion Modelling Report?

An Emission Summary and Dispersion Modelling (ESDM) Report summarizes all air emissions emanating from the sources at a facility and assesses the offsite impacts against MECP standards and guidelines.  The typical or worst case impacts are determined/predicted using MECP approved calculation methods and/or computer programs.

What is an Acoustic Assessment Report?

An Acoustic Assessment Report evaluates the existing acoustic environment at the proposed site and uses predictive modelling to anticipate what the acoustic impact may be at nearest points of reception due to the noise sources at the facility.

Some facilities may initially be “screened” to determine if an acoustic assessment is required - this is dependent on the NAICS code assigned to a facility and the specific details associated with the facility (size, type of operations, location of nearest point of reception, etc.).

What are the Consequences of Operating Without an ECA?

If a company is found to be operating without an ECA, or if found to have new equipment or processes not included in their existing ECA, there are several courses of action that the Ministry can pursue.  In most cases, a violation notice or a formal Order may be issued to the company, requiring the company to prepare and submit an ECA application with all necessary reports to demonstrate compliance with all applicable regulations.  In some cases Control Orders and Stop Orders may be issued, which require the company to reduce or stop the emissions, which may include ceasing operations if necessary to stop the emissions.  If convicted of an offence under the EPA, the company can be fined and individuals can be fined or imprisoned.

It is Cambium’s experience that the Ministry’s preference is to work with companies to bring the company into compliance with the regulations, in some cases with an agreed upon plan and timeline to implement the necessary changes to achieve the required reductions in emissions, and that Orders to close a facility or operation are issued a last resort for companies unable or unwilling to implement the necessary changes.

How do I Apply for an ECA for my Facility or Operation?

Once Cambium’s staff and the client determine that an ECA is required, we generally follow the steps listed below:

1. Qualified Cambium staff will have an initial consultation with the client to set up a site visit to familiarize ourselves with processes and activities at the facility.  We typically request some preliminary information such as material safety data sheets, specifications of the equipment in use, operating hours, and quantities of product used.

2. Cambium Staff will conduct a site visit in order to accurately account for all the details that pertain to the facility’s emissions.  It may be necessary to collect noise measurements, acquire detailed dimensions of various components at the facility, and assess the overall production rates and site surroundings.  If the facility is not yet operating, then detailed site plans and equipment specifications would be required.

3. Emission rates are quantified using estimation calculation techniques or from direct measurements collected.

4. Modelling of the emissions is completed to determine the impact at nearby receptors defined as follows:

Point of Impingement (POI) for air: nearest offsite receptor (property line) or nearest air intake if there are onsite receptors (shared building with another tenant) Point of Reception (POR) for noise: any point on the premises of a person within 30m of a dwelling where sound or vibration originating from other than those premises is received Results of modelling are compared with accepted Ministry limits/guidelines - if the facility demonstrates compliance, then the final report will be prepared. If not, then it may be necessary to assess the facility using more accurate data (i.e., precise quantities used; stack testing and/or look into implementing emission control equipment).

5. Submit the application with all supporting documents to the Ministry to undergo a review. An ECA will be issued that identifies the owner of the facility, outlines the equipment details, describes the process, and specifies the terms and conditions the facility must meet/maintain (performance specifications, maintenance, stack sampling requirements, acoustic audit requirements, record keeping, complaint process, etc.).

Fact Sheet on Ontario Regulation 419/05

Ontario Regulation 419/05 came into effect in 2005 and is the main tool used by the MECP to protect local air quality by regulating emissions of specific contaminants. Included in the regulation is a phase-in of updated concentration limits and approved air dispersion models used to assess compliance. These updated standards are listed in Schedule 3 of the regulation.

An Emission Summary and Dispersion Modelling (ESDM) report is the primary tool used by the MECP to assess compliance of a facility. The report compiles all emissions from the facility and assesses their impact on the environment against MECP concentration limits using an air dispersion model or a combination of a dispersion model and air monitoring data. The executive summary of this report may be requested by the public. Updated concentration limits and a requirement to use advanced air dispersion models are being phased-in over time.

The first phase-in occurred on February 1, 2010, which applied to industries listed in Schedule 4 of the regulation (see Table 1 below). The second phase-in occurs on February 1, 2013 and applies to industries listed in Schedule 5 of the regulation (see Table 2 below). The final phase-in occurs on February 1, 2020 and applies to all other facilities. Affected facilities are required to perform MECP approved dispersion modelling with comparison against the updated Schedule 3 standards, if they have not done so previously.

For more information on how Cambium can help your facility obtain environmental compliance, please do not hesitate to contact us at (866) 217.7900.

Table 1 (419/05 Schedule 4)

12122Metal Ore Mining
2221112Fossil Fuel Electric Power Generation 1
3324110Petroleum Refineries
43251Basic Chemical Manufacturing
53252Resin, Synthetic Rubber, and Artificial and Synthetic Fibres and Filaments Manufacturing
63311Iron and Steel Mills and Ferro-Alloy Manufacturing
7331410Non-Ferrous Metal (except Aluminum) Smelting and Refining

Table 2 (419/05 Schedule 5)

13221Pulp, Paper and Paperboard Mills
2324190Other Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing
3325Chemical Manufacturing
4326150Urethane and Other Foam Product (except Polystyrene) Manufacturing
53279Other Non-Metallic Mineral Product Manufacturing
6331Primary Metal Manufacturing
7332810Coating, Engraving, Heat Treating and Allied Activities
8332999All Other Miscellaneous Fabricated Product Manufacturing
9336Transportation Equipment Manufacturing
105622Waste Treatment and Disposal 1