One form of contaminated sites are orphan oil and gas wells, which are no longer in use and need to be cleaned up. (File photo)

One form of contaminated sites are orphan oil and gas wells, which are no longer in use and need to be cleaned up. (File photo)

B.C. recorded $505-million liability for cleanup of contaminated sites

Contaminated sites include anything from abandoned industrial sites to pulp mills or maintenance yards

By Carl Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer

British Columbia recorded a liability of over half a billion dollars for the estimated cost of cleaning up contaminated sites in the province, including orphan oil and gas wells.

The $505-million liability for fiscal year 2020 was revealed in the province’s summary financial statements. It was highlighted by B.C. auditor general Michael Pickup in his March 2 report on financial audit work.

Contaminated sites, anything from abandoned industrial sites to pulp mills or maintenance yards, are where the concentration of toxic chemicals or other material in the soil or water go beyond allowable levels. They can be dangerous for human health and environmentally damaging.

One form of contaminated sites are orphan oil and gas wells, which are no longer in use and need to be cleaned up, but have no owners to pick up the tab since they have gone bankrupt or have disappeared. The issue has become a major problem in Western Canada, with billions of dollars in liabilities.

B.C.’s financial statements show that most of its estimated $505-million liability is connected to mine sites, Pickup’s report pointed out. Mine sites account for $315 million worth, or 62 per cent, followed by transportation infrastructure at $38 million, or eight per cent.

The BC Oil and Gas Commission, which manages the province’s Orphan Site Reclamation Fund, has reported an $81-million estimate for orphan site liability in its own financial statements, the auditor general noted — although it also said it could go as high as $116 million.

“It is important to realize that this figure is an estimate. While it is based on standard estimation processes and the best information available at the time, there is uncertainty in the figure because each site is unique, and both environmental standards and remediation costs may change in the future,” reads Pickup’s report.

The federal government has handed the province $120 million to clean up inactive oil and gas wells, part of a $1.7-billion promise to help western provinces clean up thousands of wells that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made in April 2020.

Meanwhile, B.C. opened a new round of applications last month for a $100-million fund for dormant oil and gas wells. The province has over 8,500 dormant wells, according to The Canadian Press. B.C. has also committed $15 million for 770 orphan wells.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Quesnel RCMP Detachment is one of seven northern police buildings which can now connect directly to Prince George for daily bail hearings. (Observer File Photo)
Bail hearings going virtual in B.C.’s north

A court pilot project will see virtual courtroom cameras set up in seven RCMP detatchments

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

The Dease Lake Airport is receiving $11-million in upgrades funded by the province, Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and mining companies. (British Columbia Aviation Council)
Major upgrades coming to Dease Lake Airport

Airport to receive $11-million from the province, regional district and mining companies

Dianna Plouffe, right, with Mayor Gladys Atrill in front of Town Hall following the announcement she will be the new CAO> (Facebook photo)
Director of corporate services named Smithers CAO

Dianna Plouffe replaces Alan Harris who is retiring at the end of April

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Most Read