Groundwater and Surface Water Protection

The Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA) sets out mandatory standards and technical requirements to protect groundwater and surface water. These include a 100 metre setback for manure storage facilities from water wells and springs, and a 30 metre setback from a common body of water. Depending on the type of soil and depth to an aquifer, specific construction standards and liners are required to prevent leakage into groundwater. 

Manure spreading setbacks from common bodies of water, run-on and run-off controls, and a requirement to obtain NRCB permission before applying manure to frozen or snow covered land are all intended to prevent manure contaminated run-off from affecting surface water.  

The NRCB also conducts environmental risk screenings for all applications. The screenings identify any risks to groundwater or surface water that could be caused by a proposed or existing manure storage facility. NRCB inspectors also conduct environmental risk screenings to help respond to complaints, or for other enforcement action, when required. 

When on site for an inspection, NRCB inspectors complete an inspection report form that also documents any surface water issues. The inspector follows up with the operator to correct any issues that are identified.

If a risk is identified, the operator is required to address the risk to the satisfaction of the NRCB, this may include groundwater monitoring. If the CFO was already required to monitor groundwater, the monitoring requirements may be amended. 

If monitoring confirms that contamination is occurring, the NRCB uses enforcement action to address the risk.

The operator may be required to take immediate steps to stop and prevent further contamination. The operator may also be required to install run-on or run-off controls, to install or increase monitoring, to construct a new manure storage facility, or other responses as determined necessary by the inspector. 

The NRCB uses a compliance and enforcement ladder. The operator’s voluntary compliance is the first step in the enforcement ladder, and is achieved in the majority of cases. If necessary, enforcement can escalate to written compliance directives, enforcement orders, and in the rare case, prosecution. Emergency orders are issued if there is an immediate and serious risk to the environment. 

Enforcement orders, emergency orders, and compliance directives for unauthorized construction are all posted on the NRCB website until they are complied with.