Part 2: Pollution

Question 13: What, under the law, is considered to be pollution?


The primary law governing pollution in Nova Scotia is the Environment Act. Although the Environment Act does not use the word ‘pollution’ it does prohibit the release of any substance into the environment if it will cause an ‘adverse effect.’ The term ‘substance’ is defined very broadly, and includes any matter that can be dispersed in the environment, including sound, vibration, heat, radiation or another form of energy. The term ‘adverse effect’ is also defined broadly and includes harm to the environment or human health or an interference with a person’s ability to enjoy their life or property.

Virtually any substance used on a farm, including manure, fertilizer, pesticides, compost, petroleum products, etc., has the potential to cause an adverse effect. The NSE inspector must be satisfied that an adverse effect has or may occur before any action will be taken under the Environment Act. A charge under the Act will only be laid if the inspector has a reasonable belief that there is or could be an adverse effect. To make this determination the NSE inspector may consider some of the following:

• What is the nature of the substance that has been released?
• What is magnitude of the effect (how severe is it)?
• Are the effects local only or do they cover a wide geographic area?
• How frequent are the effects and how long do they last?
• Can the effects be reversed if practices are modified?
• Is an ecologically sensitive area being affected?

In order to control the substances that are released into the environment, Nova Scotia Environment (NSE) requires many activities to be approved. A list of the activities that must be approved can be found in the Activities Designation Regulations. For example, an approval is required to:

• apply a pesticide to a surface watercourse;
• operate a composting facility which processes more than 60 m3 of solid wastes per year;
• operate a petroleum storage tank system consisting of one or more petroleum tanks and associated piping;
• apply non-livestock generated wastes to land, i.e. biosolids (see Question 17);
• construct and operate a vegetable processing plant;
• construct and operate a fruit processing plant.

The Environment Act regulates many other potentially polluting activities such as the open burning of certain materials including tires, used oil and materials containing rubber or plastic. The Act regulates the handling and use of dangerous goods, including pesticides to ensure that practices do not result in unnecessary pollution of the environment.

There are federal laws that also seek to prevent pollution. The Canadian Environmental Protection Actregulates the use of substances that the federal government identifies as “toxic”. The Fisheries Actregulates the release of substances that are considered to be “deleterious” to fish and fish habitat (for more information on the Fisheries Act see Questions 3 & 9). The Pest Control Products Act, prohibits the handling, storage, use and disposal of pesticides in any way that may endanger human health or safety or the environment.

In all cases, the government (federal and provincial) is attempting to control the amount of pollution by regulating substances that are or may be released into the environment. To that end, it is important to be careful in the use of any substance that may cause pollution to the environment. Some of these substances are specifically restricted (i.e. pesticides) while others (i.e. manure) are generally not regulated but may result in a violation of the law if their application or release cause an adverse effect to the environment.

For more information:

Reference Section:
Environment Act, section 3(c) and 3(au) page 8
Environment Act, section, 67 page 8
Activities Designation Regulations page 13
Fisheries Act page 4

Question 14: What should I do if there is a spill of manure, fuel, pesticide or commercial fertilizer on my farm?


To report a spill call: 1 800 565 1633

The two key requirements that must be met following a spill are (1) reporting and (2) clean up. In Nova Scotia these requirements are set out in the Environment Act and the Emergency Spill Regulations. If the spill reaches water frequented by fish, the federal Fisheries Act will also apply.

The unintentional release of manure, fuel or pesticide could result in an adverse effect to the environment, particularly if the release seeps into a surface watercourse or ground water. TheEnvironment Act requires any release that may cause an adverse effect to the environment be reported to the following:

• Department of Environment,
• the owner of the substance (if known),
• the person having care, management and control of the substance (if known), and
• any other person who may be directly affected by the release.

The Fisheries Act requires that the release of any deleterious substance (i.e. a substance that may be harmful or damaging to fish or fish habitat) into water frequented by fish be reported to a fisheries inspector or officer. All of the substances described below, manure, petroleum products (including used oil), pesticides and commercial fertilizers, would have the potential to cause harm or damage to fish and fish habitat.


Manure is not specifically regulated by the Environment Act. An unintentional release of manure, such as a breach of a manure storage facility, becomes a concern if the amount and location of the spill are such that surface water or ground water could be adversely affected. A spill that flows into a stream, creek, wetland or other body of water may cause an adverse effect to the environment and lead to a charge under the Environment Act and the Fisheries Act. As well, a spill that has the potential to leach into groundwater and contaminate well water is a serious concern. Spills of this nature should be reported to the persons described above.

Petroleum Products

Petroleum products including gas, diesel oil, kerosene, naphtha, aviation fuel, lubricating oil, fuel oil, engine oil and hydraulic fluid are flammable liquids and considered dangerous goods under theEnvironment Act. The Dangerous Goods Management Regulations state that a petroleum product that has a flashpoint of greater than 61° C and is liquid at ambient conditions or during handling is a designated dangerous good (Schedule B). It is an offence under the Dangerous Goods Management Regulations to dump, discharge, etc, any dangerous good in a manner that may cause an adverse effect unless you have prior written approval from the Minister.

The Petroleum Management Regulations require all underground tanks and aboveground tanks (=>4000 L) to be installed by a certified installer. Tank installation must comply with the Nova Scotia Construction, Installation and Operation Standards for Petroleum Storage Tank Systems.
All underground storage tanks and aboveground storage tanks in a storage tank system that have a combined nominal capacity of 2000 L or greater, in the case of underground storage tanks; or 4000 L or greater, in the case of aboveground storage tanks must be registered with NSE. Each registered tank will receive a tank registration number from the NSE.

The Emergency Spill Regulations require that a spill of 100 L or more of any flammable liquid must be immediately reported to the Canadian Coast Guard Regional Operations Center Environmental Emergency Number at 1-800-565-1633.

The Domestic Fuel Oil Spill Policy lays out the roles and responsibilities of the property owner, cleanup contractor and site professional in a domestic fuel oil spill. A “domestic fuel oil spill” is defined as the release of fuel oil on a residential land use property with three or less units, from a petroleum storage tank with a capacity of less than or equal to 500 imperial gallons (2270 liters). The Policy includes soil and water remediation criteria for domestic sites.

Used Oil

There are four types of used oil: lubrication oils, hydraulic fluids, metal working fluids and insulating fluids. To become used oil, the oil product must no longer be suitable for its original purpose.

Schedule A of the Emergency Spill Regulations require a spill of 100 L or more of used oil to be immediately reported to the Canadian Coast Guard Regional Operations Center Environmental Emergency Number at 1-800-565-1633. If the used oil is contaminated, any spill of 5 L or more must be immediately reported.

Used oil is considered to be contaminated used oil if it has a flash point of 38°C or contains any of the following:

• greater than 5 mg per kg of PCBs;
• greater than 1000 mg per kg of chlorine;
• greater than 2 mg per kg of cadmium;
• greater than 10 mg per kg of chromium; or
• greater than 100 mg per kg of lead.


Pesticides are regulated by the Pesticide Regulation. However, Schedule A of the Emergency Spill Regulations requires a spill of 5L/5Kg of pesticide in a concentrated form must be immediately reported to the Canadian Coast Guard Regional Operations Center Environmental Emergency Number at 1-800-565-1633. A spill of 70 L or more of a pesticide in a diluted form must be immediately reported.

Commercial Fertilizers

The Emergency Spills Regulations do not specifically address commercial fertilizers. The Regulations do include a “catch-all” category for miscellaneous substances that could cause an adverse environmental effect. A spill of 50 L or 50 kg of a miscellaneous product should be reported to NSE.

Clean up

Under the Environment Act any time a substance is released into the environment that may cause an adverse effect, the person responsible for the release must take all reasonable measures to prevent, reduce and remedy the adverse effect. These steps must be taken as soon as the person becomes aware of the release.

For more information:

On-line Resources:

Domestic Fuel Oil Spill Policy…

Reference Section:
Environment Act, sections 69 and 71 page 8
Emergency Spill Regulations, sections 6, 7 and Schedule A page 15
Dangerous Goods Management Regulations, section 12 page 15
Petroleum Management Regulations, sections 10 and 11 page 16
Used Oil Regulations, section 2 page 17
Pesticide Regulation, section 14 page 16
Fisheries Act page 4

Question 15: What is the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act and how does it affect farmers?


The Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act (EGSPA) became law in 2007. The purpose of the Act is to set specific goals to make Nova Scotia one of the cleanest and most sustainable environments in the world by the year 2020. The Act contains 23 goals and requires the government to report on progress meeting those goals annually. The EGSPA will be reviewed, including an opportunity for public comment, in 2012.

On August 25, 2009 the government provided a second progress report on achievements under EGSPA. The following information is taken from that report and focuses on the goals that are most closely related to agricultural activities.

Goal: A comprehensive water resources management strategy will be developed by the year 2010

A discussion paper on water resources management was written to inform the broad public and consultations took place between January and June 2008. Government is now reviewing its own programs and policies. A second public consultation was anticipated in late 2009; however as of January 2010 no such consultation has taken place. For more information see

The government has also made coastal management a priority. The state of Nova Scotia’s Coast Report was released in 2008 and a Coastal Strategy is expected in 2010. For more information see

Goal: A policy of preventing net loss of wetlands will be established by the year 2009

The EGSPA defines “net loss of wetlands” to mean net loss of wetland area and function, including habitat. The Nova Scotia Environment Act requires an approval for any alteration of a wetland (see question 8). It is anticipated that the implementation of the Policy will tighten the restrictions for wetland alteration. The Nova Scotia Wetlands Conservation Policy – Draft for Consultation was released in the Fall of 2009. A committee of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture met with a government representative during the consultation period and the NSFA has submitted comments on the draft Policy. For more information see

Goal: The solid-waste disposal rate will be no greater than three hundred kilograms per person per year by the year 2015 through measures that include the development of new programs and product stewardship regulations

This target was originally set in amendments to the Environment Act in 2006. A disposal rate of 300 kilograms per person per year represents an approximate 30 per cent decrease from our current rate. The government held produced a consultation paper entitled Thinking Outside the Landfill and held consultations in 2009. A summary report of the consultations was released in late 2009. A renewed Solid Waste Resource Management Strategy is expected in the Spring of 2010. For more information see

Goal: Greenhouse gas emissions will be at least ten per cent below the levels that were emitted in the year 1990 by the year 2020, as outlined in the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers Climate Change Action Plan of 2001

In January 2009, the government released the Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP), which focuses on reducing greenhouse gases from all sources; and the 2009 Energy Strategy. The CCAP gives guidance to industries, businesses, government and individuals about what they must do to meet the 2020 target. On August 14, 2009 the government passed the Greenhouse Gas Emission and Air Pollutant Regulations. The Regulations set specific caps on greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector over a multi-year period between 2010 and 2020. For more information see

Goal: The Province will adopt emissions standards for greenhouse gases and air pollutants from new motor vehicles, such as the standards adopted by the State of California by the year 2010

The greenhouse gas component of the California vehicle emission standards took effect in that state in 2009 and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 23 per cent in 2012 and 30 per cent in 2016. It has been estimated that a similar standard in Nova Scotia would save drivers between $3,500 and $5,000 in fuel costs over the lifetime of a vehicle. In addition to increasing greenhouse gases, vehicles also emit air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, which are harmful to human and environmental health. Like the California standards, the Nova Scotia government is committing to adopting vehicle standards that limit both greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions. The provinces and federal government must agree on one national standard in order for manufacturers to make the changes. The federal government announced in April 2009 that it will use the federal Canadian Environmental Protection Act to regulate light duty vehicle emissions beginning with 2011 models.

Goal: Eighteen and one-half per cent of the total electricity needs of the Province will be obtained from renewable energy sources by the year 2013

Prior to 2001, approximately 8.5 per cent of Nova Scotia’s electricity was generated from a renewable supply. The Renewable Energy Standard Regulations require, by 2013, an additional 10 per cent of the electricity supply to come from renewable generation facilities built in Nova Scotia after 2001 (5 per cent more by 2010, another 5 per cent by 2013). This includes hydro, wind, solar, tidal, and biomass sources. For more information see

Goal: All new residential dwelling units constructed in the Province will be required to achieve an EnerGuide rating of 80, or meet energy conservation measures adopted in the Nova Scotia Building Code Regulations made under the Building Code Act after January 1, 2011

In 2011 all new construction will meet either EnerGuide 80 or comparable prescriptive requirements. Labour and Workforce Development and Conserve Nova Scotia are currently working with the Nova Scotia Building Advisory Council to develop energy efficiency requirements for insertion in the Building Code Act for new single-family, multi-unit residential and all commercial buildings. This will be a significant advance over the goal established in the Act, which applies only to residential units. Work on the Building Code changes is on schedule for implementation on January 1, 2011, as required by the Act.

For more information:

On-line Resources:

Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Progress Report 2009

Reference Section:
EGSPA page 18

Question 16: Am I required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on my farm?


To date, there are no federal or provincial regulations in place that specifically require farmers to reduce GHG emissions that result from agricultural activities.

Studies indicate that farming contributes approximately 10 percent of Canada’s total GHG emissions; however 50% of nitrous oxide emissions and 30 % of methane emissions result from agricultural activities.

The primary sources of GHG emissions from agricultural activities are as follows:

• Methane gas (CH4) emissions from farm animals, the anaerobic decomposition of manure and from soils.
• Nitrous Oxide (N2O) emissions from agricultural field production (i.e. the application of mineral and manure fertilizers, production of crop residues and the cultivation of organic soils), the collection and storage of manure and the direct deposit of manure on pasture by grazing animals.
• Carbon dioxide (CO2) emission from soils and during fossil fuel combustion by farm machinery.

Federal Canadian Environmental Protection Act

The federal government has committed to reducing Canada’s total emissions of greenhouse gases, relative to 2006 levels, by 20% by 2020 and by 60% to 70% by 2050. On April 26, 2007, the Government of Canada released Turning the Corner: An Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollution. The Action Plan included a Regulatory Framework for Industrial Greenhouse Gas Emissions, which set reductions in emission intensity from 2006 levels that will come into force in 2010. Agriculture is not included in the sectors directly affected by the Regulatory Framework.

Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have all been added to the List of Toxic Substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). This means that the federal government can require companies to submit information on these gases and can put regulations in place to control emissions. In February 2008 the federal government issued a notice requiring any company that releases 100 000 tonnes of “carbon dioxide equivalent” or more of GHGs in the 2008 calendar year to report the releases to the government. A “carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq.)” is a unit of measure used to allow the addition of or the comparison between gases that have different global warming potentials. For example, methane has 12x the global warming potential than carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide has 120x the global warming potential.

The federal reporting requirements set out in CEPA do not currently impact agriculture directly.

Provincial Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act

Nova Scotia’s Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act states that greenhouse gas emissions will be at least ten per cent below the levels that were emitted in the year 1990 by the year 2020. To meet this goal the government has produced a Renewed Energy Strategy and Climate Change Action Plan. The Background paper supporting the Climate Change Action Plan recognized that agriculture can play a significant role in capturing and managing GHG emissions. The Climate Change Action Plan commits to the creation of a Chair in Farm Energy Conservation at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College.

On August 14, 2009 the government passed the Greenhouse Gas Emission and Air Pollutant Regulations. The Regulations set specific caps on greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector over a multi-year period between 2010 and 2020. The Regulations do not have a direct impact on agriculture.

Agricultural Initiatives

Famers all over Canada are engaged in projects to help reduce and capture greenhouse gases. Examples include: better practices in the application of nitrogen fertilizers to reduce nitrous oxide emissions; low-till and no-till farming techniques to minimize soil disturbance and reduce the release of emissions from the soil; and tree-growing projects on marginal land to sequester carbon. The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture currently has a pilot project underway that will identify case study farms that will be audited for GHG emissions and carbon offset creation potential.

For more information:

On-line Resources:

Turning the Corner: Regulatory Framework for Industrial Greenhouse Gas Emissions 

Climate Change Action Plan Background Paper…

Climate Change Action Plan

Reference Section:
EGSPA page 18

Question 17: What are biosolids, and can I use them on my land?


What is a biosolid?

The provincial Department of Environment (NSE) has three documents that address the application of ‘biosolids’ to land. The documents are:

  • Guidelines for Land Application and Storage of Municipal Biosolids in Nova Scotia (Revised), July 2009;
  • Codes of Practice for the Application of Non-agricultural Organic Wastes (NAOW) on Agricultural Land, 2005; and
  • The Guidelines For Land Application and Storage of Biosolids in Nova Scotia, 2004.

Each of these documents defines biosolid in a slightly different way,  the most current definition taken from the March 2010 Guidelines.

[block_indent]“Municipal Biosolids” refers to an organic, stabilized material produced during the treatment of domestic sewage and septage sludge which have undergone secondary treatment to reduce pathogen content.[/block_indent]

Biosolids exist as a result of improved waste management practices. Areas that do not have wastewater treatment facilities generally flush untreated (raw) sewage into a freshwater or marine environment. As communities in Nova Scotia treat their wastewater the sewage sludge that remains after the treatment must be addressed. To dispose of this sludge the community must send it to a landfill, incinerate it or stabilize it to create municipal biosolids.

Biosolids have been used in land application for agriculture, land reclamation, topsoil manufacture and landfill cover. The use of biosolids for these purposes, and particularly for land application in agriculture, is controversial in Nova Scotia.

Those who support the land application of biosolids argue that it is the most efficient and environmentally benign means of disposing of sewage sludge. It provides a safe and effective low-cost fertilizer for farmers and turns waste into a useful product.

Those who oppose the land application of biosolids argue that the product contains contaminants that could prove harmful to human health and the environment. There is no comprehensive, independent, third party testing of the biosolids to ensure safety and efficacy.

Table 17.1 Supporters v. Detractors

In favour of land application of biosolids. Against land application of biosolids.
Testing is comprehensive and includes all contaminants of concern. Testing includes only a small percentage of contaminants.  Many contaminants that could be harmful to the environment or human health are not tested.
Testing is undertaken in accordance with a strict protocol set out by the provincial government. Testing is not conducted by a neutral third party; it is undertaken by individuals who are employed by the company producing the product.
Testing parameters and allowable limits are set using a rigorous scientific approach. There is scientific uncertainty around the future impacts of allowing certain contaminants to be spread on agricultural land.

How are biosolids regulated?


The Nova Scotia Environment Act and Regulations require that the application to land of non-livestock generated wastes, wastewater and wastewater sludges only take place with an approval from NSE.

The 2009 Guidelines for Land Application and Storage of Municipal Biosolids in Nova Scotia create two classes of municipal biosolids, Class A and Class B. The biosolids are classified based on the pathogen and metal content, the wastewater characteristics and the type of treatment they receive.

NSE has indicated that municipal biosolids that meet the Class A criteria in the 2009 Guideline do not require an Environment Act approval for land application as long as the facility (i.e. wastewater treatment plant) producing the Class A municipal biosolids holds an approval from NSE.

Municipal biosolids that meet the Class B criteria do require an approval for land application and must follow the 2009 Guidelines.

All biosolids, regardless of classification can only be applied to agricultural land when done so in accordance with the Codes of Practice for the Application of Non-agricultural Organic Wastes (NAOW) on Agricultural Land, 2005.


The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulates fertilizers and soil supplements through theFertilizers Act and the Fertilizer Regulations. Products sold or imported into Canada must be registered and comply with federal labeling and safety standards.

The term biosolid is not defined in the Fertilizers Act however the Act does refer to ‘processed sewage’. Processed sewage includes products made from sewage, freed from grit and coarse solids, that are dried, ground and screened. These products are exempt from registration under the Act but must comply with other requirements in the Act and Regulations.

Section 11 of the Act prohibits any fertilizer or supplement from containing any substance in quantities likely to be generally detrimental or seriously injurious to vegetation (except weeds), domestic animals, public health or the environment when used according to directions. The CFIA undertake routine market place monitoring on a regional basis to ensure that regulated products are in compliance.

Can I apply biosolids to my land as fertilizer?

According to the 2009 Guidelines for Land Application and Storage of Municipal Biosolids in Nova Scotia, Class A municipal biosolids from an approved facility can be land applied. Farmers who wish to use Class A municipal biosolids are not required to apply for an approval or engage in monitoring or reporting of the product use.

Farmers who wish to use Class B municipal biosolids must first obtain an approval from NSE and must follow the 2009 Guidelines. The Guidelines include soil and siting requirements, signage requirements, monitoring, reporting and recordkeeping.

Governments, universities and private companies continue to research and test biosolids to determine the long-term safety as an agricultural soil amendment. Public perception of the application of biosolids on agricultural land continues to be in a state of flux. As mentioned above, there are opposing views on the safe and acceptable uses for biosolids.

Some of the uncertainties expressed by members of the public include:

• Lack of clarification on what is a biosolid (sludge, treated, non-treated, composted, etc)
• Lack of clarification on what a biosolid may or may not contain i.e.

  1. human waste only
  2. industrial waste
  3. medical waste
  4. motor oil
  5. chemicals

• Lack of agreement on appropriate sampling and testing requirements.
• Scientific uncertainty regarding acceptable levels of contaminants in agricultural soil.
• Conflicting expert opinions reflected in the media.
• Differing opinions on the characterization of biosolids as waste or beneficial product.

The Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture (NSFA) has expressed the following policy objective around the land application of biosolids:

[block_indent]The Federation recognizes that the use of non-livestock generated waste, for example, wood ash, bio-solids and sludge on agricultural land can create public perceptions that may not be conducive to the industry’s focus on food safety; therefore the Federation does not encourage the use of non livestock generated waste as a soil amendment on agricultural land until there are recommendations based on sound science and food safety protocols (NSFA Policy Initiatives 2010).[/block_indent]

For more information:

On-line Resources:

• Guidelines For Land Application and Storage of Biosolids in Nova Scotia, NSE, 2004
• Codes of Practice for the Application of Non-agricultural Organic Wastes (NAOW) on Agricultural Land, 2005
• Guidelines for Land Application and Storage of Municipal Biosolids in Nova Scotia (revised), 2009
NSFA Policy Initiatives 2010

Reference Section:
Environment Act, section 50(2) page
Activities Designation Regulations, section 23 page