Engineers and Geoscientists BC

Site Characterization Guidelines Improve Dam Safety

Posted on September 1, 2016
Site Characterization Guidelines Improve Dam Safety
The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEGBC) has published professional practice guidelines for Site Characterization for Dam Foundations in BC. The new guidelines set out clear standards of practice for professionals working on site characterization for dams in British Columbia and define the roles and responsibilities of the Engineer of Record and Design Engineer.

As the regulatory body responsible for engineering and geoscience in BC, APEGBC and its members are committed to upholding and protecting the safety and interests of the public and environment. These guidelines will improve professional practice by BC’s engineers and geoscientists, and emphasize that site characterization is fundamental to the safe construction and ongoing safe operation of dams in the province.

The guidelines were developed in response to a recommendation made in the Independent Expert Engineering Panel report, which was issued following the breach of the Mt. Polley tailings pond on August 4, 2014.

“APEGBC is committed to maintaining the highest level of public safety through the continued improvement of professional practice standards. These guidelines play a significant role in this mission, and are just one way APEGBC is working to reduce the possibility of similar incidents happening again,” said Ann English, P.Eng., CEO & Registrar, APEGBC.

The guidelines apply to all dams in British Columbia, and to site characterization for dam foundations during the various phases of development, from concept through to design, construction, design updates, and closure. The document also provides further clarity to the responsibilities of professionals carrying out dam site characterization work.

"It is important for the public to know that the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC is authorized by legislation to oversee standards of conduct for engineers and geoscientists in BC, just as the BC College of Physicians oversees the conduct of doctors,” said Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett. “The improvements made by APEGBC to guidance for site characterization for tailings storage facilities at mine sites is a critical piece in the Province's overall response to the findings of the Independent Panel of Experts following the Mt Polley disaster."

Many BC professional engineers and geoscientists were involved in developing the guidelines, contributing expertise from other industries and organizations, including the Canadian Dam Association and the Mining Association of BC.

“The Site Characterization Assessments for Dam Foundations Committee and review task force worked diligently with representation from water dam and tailings dam owners, regulators, First Nations, consultants and industry organizations to develop a guideline which will contribute to improved dam safety in BC," said Harvey McLeod, P.Eng./P.Geo., Chair of the Site Characterization Assessments for Dam Foundations Committee.

APEGBC produces guidelines and education resources to help engineers and geoscientists practice to high professional and ethical standards, including the practice guidelines for Legislated Dam Safety Reviews in BC, which were created in 2013 and updated in 2014.

The practice guidelines for Site Characterization for Dam Foundations in BC are available on APEGBC’s website:

Founded in 1920, APEGBC is the regulatory and licensing body for the professions of engineering and geoscience and is charged with protecting the public interest. With over 33,000 members, APEGBC is one of the largest professional associations in BC and maintains high academic, experience and professional practice standards.


Melinda Lau
Acting Director, Communications & Stakeholder Engagement
Office: 604.412.4866
[email protected]