Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM Code) in BC; A Quick Guide to the Code of Practice

Jun 8, 2020

On February 28, 2019 the Code of Practice for Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM Code), under the BC Environmental Management Act, came into effect. This new regulation applies to all agriculture operations in British Columbia, including small hobby farms and large commercial farms. It introduces several regulations relating to:

  1. Emissions,
  2. Setbacks,
  3. High-risk areas,
  4. Collection, storage and use requirements,
  5. Agricultural composting,
  6. Wood residue,
  7. Nutrient application and management,
  8. Livestock and poultry requirements,
  9. Slaughter, mortalities, and processing waste

The purpose of the AEM Code is to prevent discharges into watercourses or groundwater, prevent contaminated water, solids, or air contaminants from crossing property boundaries, and provide minimum setbacks from drinking water sources, watercourses and property boundaries. The Code also prevents over-application of agronomic nitrogen and provides additional regulations for high-risk areas and high-risk conditions. Setback requirements for material storage, livestock rearing, nutrient application, composting, and disposal are implemented to protect drinking water sources, watercourses and property boundaries from impacts related to agricultural operations.

High-risk areas include high rainfall areas, areas near vulnerable aquifers, and phosphorus-affected areas. High-risk conditions include storm events, flooding, and strong winds. A map highlighting high-risk areas provided by the Province of BC can be found here.

aem code Source: https://governmentofbc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=b2eb013a0666473dabeacf89f81f0e89 

The AEM Code has a specific section that applies to agricultural operations that collects, stores, and treats contaminated runoff, leachate, or wastewater. Agricultural operations that uses an existing treatment system, must notify the director before February 28, 2021. Any new treatment systems will require notification to the director 60 days before modifying or installing the new treatment system.

In addition to the AEM Code, municipalities may have by-laws that agricultural operations must adhere to as well. Keystone Environmental have provided technical and permitting assistance to agricultural operations, such as mushroom farms, essential oil farms, green houses, blueberry farms, etc. To better understand how the AEM Code applies to your agricultural operation, contact our office.

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