When it comes to environmental emergencies, no single organization can do it all. Effective emergency response requires teamwork among governments, industry, communities and local organizations. These partnerships are best formed during non-emergency periods.

When an emergency happens, one organization takes charge as the lead response agency. This decision is based on the type of emergency and its location. The lead agency might be a federal or provincial department or agency, a response organization or an industry responsible for the emergency.

Federally, Environment Canada is responsible for providing scientific and technical advice to support lead agencies during emergency events on a 24/7 on-call basis. The Environmental Emergencies Program’s duties can involve pollution incidents that impact federally managed resources such as fish and wildlife under the Fisheries Act and the Migratory Birds Convention Act, as well as hazardous substances regulated by the Environmental Emergencies Regulations.

 When the need arises to access a wide variety of expertise and resources, a Regional Environmental Emergencies Team (REET) can be activated to provide a more coordinated response to the pollution incident. The REET is made up of federal, provincial and municipal government agencies responsible for environmental protection, as well as experts from industry and non-government associations. During major environmental emergencies, REET members provide advice through an integrated mechanism that addresses environmental protection priorities, environmental damage assessment, clean-up measures and waste disposal. Environment Canada can contribute to or lead a REET when asked by the lead agency.

Scientific and Technical Advice and Support

Environment Canada's Emergency officers have HAZMAT (Hazardous Materials) expertise, backed by scientific support, which enables response in the event of spills involving hazardous materials. The role of the environmental emergency response team is to provide advice and support on:

  • hazardous material properties, behaviour, fate and environmental effects;
  • spill-behaviour and spill-movement modeling using the latest-generation models and techniques;
  • training in personnel protection at pollution emergencies;
  • advice and direct support on state-of-the-art, on-site monitoring of human and environmental hazard levels at pollution emergencies;
  • sample collection at spill sites;
  • the contract administration of airborne services for the remote sensing of spills; and
  • the evaluation of spill countermeasures, particularly those relating to containment and recovery, treatment and disposal techniques.
  • priority assessment for shoreline protection and cleanup using its Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique (SCAT).