The Canadian government may have low-balled its cost estimate for cleaning up the country’s backlog of contaminated sites by $2 billion, a new report warns.
The Parliamentary Budget Office’s (PBO’s) 41-page Federal Contaminated Sites Cost report released April 10, 2014, reminds that in 2013 the feds set aside nearly $4.9 billion for national remediation work. The PBO report, however, suggests that the feds didn’t consider the full scope of the massive undertaking, nor the discovery of additional contaminants at some of the more than 10,000 contaminated sites still in Canada’s online inventory.
The true cost of the national clean up — or liability — may be closer to $7 billion, the PBO report states.
According to the report, “[…] the likely financial costs associated with contaminated sites are significant and are not reflected in the figures reported to Parliament in the public accounts. Both the general inventory sites and the Big Five [the largest sites] will likely see cost increases over and above those currently reported.”
The PBO’s mandate is to provide “independent analysis to the Senate and House of Commons on the nation’s finances, the economy, the estimates, and the cost of programs, legislation and policies.”
The PBO report also warns that a new contaminant, perfluorooctane sulfonate, has recently been discovered at a number of Canadian sites, potentially driving the clean-up cost even higher.
The PBO report comes two years after the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development attempted to warn the feds that they were underestimating the costs of cleaning up Canada’s contaminated sites. Former commissioner Scott Vaughan had suggested that at least an additional $500 million would be needed for the nationwide remediation.
Canada’s contaminated sites are identified, assessed and classified before added to the site inventory.
More than 12,000 contaminated sites in Canada have already been remediated under the federal program.