Spills prevention and response

Water Services program areas include supply, protection, conservation and wastewater

What is a spill?

A spill is a release of pollutants:

  • into the natural environment

  • into the storm or sanitary sewers

  • from a structure, vehicle or other container

  • that is abnormal in quality or quantity

Examples of pollutants include:

  • Oil, gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene and all light and heavy petroleum oils

  • Chemicals, acids, bases, solvents or pesticides

  • Liquid industrial waste, hazardous waste, sewage, food waste or manure

  • Chlorinated water

Illustration of oil drums with one tipped over spilling oil

Reporting a spill

Report all spills immediately to the:


  • Name of company or individual responsible
  • Location of the spill
  • Your name and phone number
  • Time of the spill
  • Type and quantity of material discharged and any associated hazards
  • Status, including corrective actions being taken to control the spill

Responding to a spill

In addition to notifying the Region of Waterloo and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change's Spills Action Centre, the spiller must:

  • Ensure public safety
  • Mitigate the impact of the spill
  • Stop, contain and cleanup the spill
  • Dispose of the spilled material appropriately
  • Restore the site, if necessary
  • Cooperate with affected parties and enforcement groups
  • Provide the necessary information to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and the Region of Waterloo  
  • Investigate and implement a corrective/preventative action plan

Preventing a spill

  1. Develop a Risk Management Plan
  2. Review chemicals to eliminate and/or substitute where possible
  3. Train employees on proper handling, storage of chemicals and spills response
  4. Review your Risk Management Plan annually and revise accordingly to meet regulatory requirements, operating practices and outcomes from spill occurrences and spills training

Preparing for a spill

  • Develop your Spills Response Plan. Consider the types, amounts and containment methods for each chemical your organization handles and stores, actions to take for each type and size of spill, and safety measures.  You may choose to consult with an organization that specializes in spills response plans and training.

  • Complete an annual review of your Spills Response Plan. Review your written Spills Response Plan at least once a year. Consider current regulatory requirements, operating practices and outcomes from past spills and spills training. Document the completion of each review in your Spills Response Plan.

  • Train staff to prepare for a spill. Staff training ensures if a spill occurs staff can react in a safe and timely manner. It is important staff receive training on your spills response plan annually. New staff to complete training upon hire.

Resources (coming soon)

  • Spills Response reminder - display near chemicals in a visible location in the event of a spill
  • Risk Management Plan work sheet - includes best management practices to follow for handling and storing chemicals
  • Spills Response Plan guidelines - provides resources and sample record keeping forms to develop your Spills Response Plan