U.S. EPA Evaluates Hurricane Harvey impact on U.S. Superfund Sites in Texas

In a September 8th update, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) stated that the two agencies continue to get updates about the status of specific Superfund sites from the parties responsible for ongoing cleanup of the sites.  The TCEQ has completed the assessment of all 17 state Superfund sites in the area affected by Hurricane Harvey.  The two agencies reported that there were no major issues noted.  The TCEQ will continue to monitor sites to ensure no further action is needed in regards to the storm.

The U.S. EPA completed site assessments at all 43 Superfund sites affected by the storm.  Of these sites, two (San Jacinto and U.S. Oil Recovery) require additional assessment efforts.  Assessments of these sites will take several more days to complete.

Harris County, Texas Superfund Sites Map

 

The San Jacinto Waste Pits site has a temporary armored cap designed to prevent migration of hazardous material.  The U.S. EPA remedial manager is onsite and overseeing the assessment.  Crews continue to survey portions of the cap that are submerged.  There are some areas where rock has been displaced and the liner is exposed.  The potential responsible party has mobilized heavy equipment and is placing rock on different places on the armored cap to repair the defensive surface. The liner is in place and functional so we don’t have any indication that the underlying waste materials have been exposed. If we find a breach in the exposed liner, we direct the responsible party to collect samples to determine if any materials have been released. Also, the EPA has dive teams to survey the cap underwater if needed.

Work to improve conditions after the storm has continued at the U.S. Oil Recovery site to address flood water from the storm.  Nine vacuum truckloads of approximately 45,000 gallons of storm water were removed and shipped offsite for disposal.  No sheen or odor was observed in the overflowing water, and an additional tank is being used to maintain freeboard to keep water on-site.  The U.S. EPA has directed potential responsible parties or has independently started collecting samples at the 43 Superfund sites to further confirm any impacts from the storm.  The total number of Superfund sites increased from 41 to 43 with the addition of Rapides Parish, Louisiana and Waller County, Texas as disaster declared areas.  Sampling efforts of all 43 sites is expected to be completed early next week with sample results will be available soon.

Victoria, B.C. faces Major Bill to Clean up Contaminated Park

As reported in Victoria News, Laurel Point Park is contaminated and the City of Victoria is looking at a potential $5-million bill to clean it up.

The City will spend up to $350,000 to confirm the degree of contamination and create a remediation plan.

The park, located along the David Foster Harbour Pathway next to property owned by Transport Canada, is contaminated with high levels of metal and petroleum hydrocarbons in the soil and groundwater, according to a staff report presented to council last week. Chemical discharges from nearby property likely contaminated the aquatic environment, water and the soil because of area’s industrial past, the report stated.

Laurel Point Park, Victoria, B.C.

For now, there is little risk to the public.  Counsellor Chris Coleman said the contamination is capped and secured, as long as it is left alone.

“If there was (a risk to the public), then we would close the park,” he said.

“It’s the sort of thing that we’ve seen in the past, when there was leeching from the Hartland Road landfill,” Coleman added. “It went into the groundwater … it then caused an algal bloom in the Butchart Gardens. That’s what you’re trying to control for here.”

The park, and the surrounding lands on the Laurel Point peninsula, were burial grounds for the Songhees people prior to 1885, after which it was used by various industrial facilities, including paint factories, machine shops, and for processing coal and oil.

Victoria council approved the next stage of SLR Consulting’s environmental investigation using money from the environmental remediation funds in city’s financial plan for 2017.

The next step in the process is a risk assessment, with an estimated cost of up to $150,000. It will take an additional $50,000 for the remediation plan, and up to $5 million to put the plan into action.

The surrounding land owned by Transport Canada will also have to be excavated and disposed off-site, according to preliminary reports.

New Method to Quickly and Cheaply Determine Metal Contamination at Sites

In a recent paper in the Journal of Environmental Pollution, researchers from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia describe a new accurate, rapid and inexpensive method for assessing metal-contaminated sites.  The paper describes the results of in-field trials of the new method and comparison of it to lab results.

The new method uses a combination of portable X-ray Fluorescence technology (pXRF) – a popular on-site contamination-measuring system – with conventional laboratory analysis to accurately measure the extent and distribution of metal contamination at a site.

“Metal-contaminated sites are often haphazard when it comes to the distribution of metal contaminants, making it problematic for investigators when they are limited by the costs associated with analyzing a large number of samples in the lab.  As such, investigators are expected to attempt to characterize contaminated sites with a limited number of laboratory measurements to save on costs,” said lead author Marek Rouillon.

“On the other hand, when investigators are free to take a large number of measurements to determine the contamination at a site, they gain a greater understanding of the extent and distribution of the contamination, therefore lowering the risk of site misclassification,” Rouillon added.

As a result, the researchers wanted to develop a way to measure more samples using a rapid on-site measurement method that produced results in an accurate and more cost effective manner than current techniques allowed.

“To achieve this, we decided to integrate the advantages of in-situ pXRF, an inexpensive measurement method that can be done on-site allowing investigators to collect real-time data, with the more thorough laboratory analysis technique of ICP–MS,” explained Rouillon.

The study, described in the Journal article, demonstrated that 20 second in-situ pXRF measurements can be corrected to align with a small subset of ICP–MS data, allowing for the accurate, rapid and inexpensive high resolution characterization of metal-contaminated sites.  The researchers found that sampling (not analysis) contributes the greatest uncertainty towards measurements, and should be estimated at each metal-contaminated site.

“Measuring contaminants in real-time using in-situ pXRF enables efficient, on-site decision making for further sampling, without the need to return to the site,” explained Professor Mark Taylor.  “This is an incredibly useful way to go about testing for metal contamination at a site.”

The researchers emphasize that the new method has several benefits including superior site characterization, greater soil-mapping resolution, reduced uncertainty around the site mean and reduced sampling uncertainty.

“Our in-situ pXRF/ICP–MS method not only generates superior site assessment information for more confident decision making, but is less expensive when compared to the current standard practice of merely sampling and off-site laboratory measurements,” concluded Professor Rouillon.

Forecast on Chemical Detection Equipment Market

Future Market Insights (FMI), is a market intelligence and consulting firm, recently issued a forecast report for the chemical detection equipment market.

In the view of FMI, a new era of chemical warfare and increased man-made threats is on the rise with the potential to cause harm.  The need for rapid identification of chemical or biological agents involved in any hazardous materials (Hazmat) is necessary to prevent incidents.

Chemical detection equipment are generally used to identify the presence and intensity of chemical agents in soil, air as well as water and to alert respective authorities and personnel to the existence of toxic or hazardous substances, so necessary action can be taken to prevent catastrophes, as it can be dangerous whether it is in a weaponized or non-weaponized form. Testing for the presence of these materials is necessary for production sites/industrial areas and exposed areas to prevent any incident.  Incidents from the past have resulted in the chemical industry to utilize reliable and high quality chemical equipment for monitoring of chemical plants and industries, hence increasing the demand for chemical detection equipment.

Rising threats from terrorist organizations have forced countries to use chemical detection equipment in all important sites, such as the airport, water distribution plant, nuclear power plant, tourist places and many other critical infrastructure facilities for the purpose of public safety. Chemical detection equipment is also used in facilities like nuclear power plant, chemical production facilities and various other industries to identify the presence and intensity of Radiation & chemical agents in soil, air as well as water.

Chemical Detection Equipment Market: Dynamics

Growth in the chemical detection equipment market is mainly due to an increase in terrorist threats, as well as increasing safety regulations.  The increase in production of hazardous materials for industrial applications has also increased the level of threat, due to accidents or misuse by terrorists.  Strict laws for buying and selling of hazardous chemicals and increased activities by law enforcements and safety and security administrations has led to growth of the chemical detection equipment market.  Awareness among people and stringent government regulations has created immense pressure on corporates to keep chemical detection equipment at their sites to ensure safety of the workforce.  As a result, usage of chemical detection equipment in many industries has consequently surged its demand globally.

On the other hand, the high price of this equipment and high operating cost (cost of the chemicals used in making detection equipment) are restraints to the growth of the global chemical detection equipment market.

Among the chemical detection equipment available in the market, equipment that is small, effective, simple and relatively cheap are in trend and hold the maximum market share.  Portable chemical detection equipment with infrared technology & Raman spectroscopy has already captured a major market share due to the above stated reasons.

Chemical Detection Equipment Market: Regional Outlook

North America is a major market for chemical detection equipment as continuous research and development is required in this field and the United States is a leader in the R&D of chemical detection technology.  The increase in terrorist threats and incidents related to chemicals in recent years has garnered much attention from people and governments all over the world.  The countries affected by terrorism are major markets for chemical detection equipment, such as India, the United Kingdom, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.

Tribunal gives Ontario Environment Ministry Broad Preventative Powers over Migrating Contamination

by Stanley D. Berger

On September 1, 2017, the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal in the matter of Hamilton Beach Brands Canada Inc. et al. v. the Director, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change made a preliminary ruling that the Director had jurisdiction to make an order under s.18 of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) requiring a person who owns or owned, or has or had management or control of a contaminated undertaking or property to delineate contamination that had already migrated to off-site properties. The property in question, formerly a small-appliance manufacturing business, was contaminated and the various contaminants were of concern to the Ministry, having migrated to other Picton residential, commercial and institutional properties where they might be entering nearby buildings by vapour intrusion. Section 18 of the EPA provides that the Director may make orders preventing, decreasing or eliminating an adverse effect that may result from the discharge of a contaminant from the undertaking or the presence or discharge of a contaminant in, on or under the property. The Director’s Order was challenged on three grounds:

  1. The adverse effect the Director could address was limited to a future event or circumstance (given that s.18 is prospective and preventative);
  2. The adverse effect had to relate to the potential off-site migration of a contaminant that was on an orderee’s property at the time the order was made;
  3. The order could require work only on site but not off-site, to address the risk of an adverse effect.

The Tribunal rejected all three arguments, reasoning that adverse effects resulting from contamination were frequently ongoing rather than static, with no clear line between existing and future effects. The Tribunal looked to the purpose of the EPA which was to protect and conserve the natural environment and found the orderees’ arguments were inconsistent with this purpose. Contamination and adverse effects were not constrained by property boundaries and therefore it was immaterial whether the contaminant was on the orderee’s property at the time the order was made. Finally, the list of requirements that could be ordered under s.18(1) EPA included off-site work. _________________

About the Author

Mr. Berger has practiced regulatory law for 36 years. He is a partner at Fogler Rubinoff LLP. He is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as a specialist in Environmental Law. He represents nuclear operators and suppliers in regulatory and environmental matters and in the negotiation of risk clauses in supply contracts and government indemnity agreements.He has prosecuted and defended environmental , occupational health and safety and criminal charges . He represents clients on access to information appeals before Ontario’s Freedom of Information Commission. He has also represented First Nations seeking equity partnerships in renewable energy projects. He started as an Assistant Crown Attorney in Toronto (1981), became the Deputy Director for Legal Services /Prosecutions at the Ministry of the Environment (1991) and Assistant General Counsel at Ontario Power Generation Inc.(1998-2012) During his 14 years at OPG, Mr. Berger won the President’s Award for his legal contribution to the Joint Review Panel environmental assessment and licensing hearing into the Nuclear New Build Project for Clarington . He won a Power Within Award for his legal support of the Hosting Agreement with local municipalities for the project to create a long term deep geologic repository for low and intermediate nuclear waste in Tiverton, Ontario.

 

U.S. PHMSA Provides funding for Hazardous Materials Instructor Training

The United States Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) recently announced it was providing more than $4 million (U.S.) in grants to Hazardous Materials Instructor Training (HMIT) and Supplemental Public Sector Training (SPST).

The HMIT grants fund the training of instructors who then train private-sector hazardous materials employees.  The SPST grant funds national non-profit fire service organizations to train instructors to conduct hazardous materials response training programs for local responders.

“Enhancing the safe transport of hazardous materials by highway, rail, water, and air is one of the Department’s top priorities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao. “These grants are force multipliers in helping communities get more local first responders and employees prepared for transportation incidents involving hazardous materials.”

The following HMIT grants were awarded for 2017:

  • The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Corporation for Re-Employment and Safety Training ($729,197)
  • The International Chemical Workers Union Council ($399,608)
  • Sustainable Workplace Alliance ($817,950)
  • Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service ($708,239)
  • Short Line Safety Institute ($500,000)

For 2017, one national non-profit fire service organization, the International Association of Fire Fighters was awarded a grant of $931,000.

“Well-trained first responders play a critical role in any hazardous materials incident, and this grant funding supports their efforts to protect their communities,” said PHMSA Acting Administrator Drue Pearce. “These grants are part of our comprehensive approach to improving the safe transportation of hazardous material across the country.”

New Guide Details Best HazMat Shipping Practices

Graphic Products, Inc. recently made available a new guide, Best Practice Guide to Shipping Hazardous Materials that helps convey the basics of hazardous material regulation.  From dry cleaners to heavy manufacturers, businesses that create waste must report loads they ship. It requires careful work to keep shipments safe and to protect the neighborhoods and environments these hazardous wastes pass through.

In the guide, Graphic Products, Inc.:

  • Give context for the rules — where they came from, and who they apply to;
  • Describe the labels and placards required for marking shipments;
  • Covers other markings like shipping names and identification numbers; and
  • Explain shipping papers and recordkeeping requirements.

Readers of the Guide will see what each classification means, and how marking and documentation requirements interact.  Readers will also understand the overlaps between the the U.S. Department of Transportation rules and other chemical labeling systems, like GHS and HazCom 2012.  This guide will help you comply with the law, and make your shipments safer.

Validation of handheld X-Ray Fluorescence for In-Situ Measurement of Mercury in Soils

Researchers recently reported the results of an evaluation of a handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) device as a field screening tool for soil mercury as part of on-going remedial investigations along the South River in Waynesboro, Virginia.  As reported by the research team, the method achieved a detection limit of 7.4 mg/kg Hg with a 60-s analysis time, which improves upon earlier attempts and is sufficient for detecting mercury at generic risk assessment soil screening levels (23 mg/kg Hg).  The study also demonstrated levels of accuracy and precision for the method that rivaled traditional laboratory methods.  In a split-sample comparison with laboratory Method 7471A, field XRF results agreed with an R2 of 0.93 and a median coefficient of variation of 15%.  Precision estimates from duplicate and triplicate samples were not statistically different between the two methods and were constrained by sample heterogeneity rather than by method capabilities.

The study demonstrated that handheld XRF can be successfully used at contaminated sites to achieve high quality Hg results that are accurate, precise, and at a level of sensitivity commensurate with generic risk assessment screening levels.

Schematic of an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) device

WSP expands water and environmental expertise in U.S.

WSP Global Inc. (Montreal, Quebec) recently acquired Leggette, Brashears and Graham Inc. (LBG, Shelton, Conn.), a 150-employee groundwater and environmental engineering services firm.  Founded in 1944, LBG has 17 offices and expertise in hydrogeology, groundwater and surface water modeling, dewatering and depressurization, environmental investigation and remediation.  

It is reputed to be the first consulting firm in the United States to specialize in groundwater geology.  The acquisition aligns with WSP’s 2015-2018 Strategic Plan and will bolster WSP’s Water and Environment practice by increasing its groundwater geology capabilities, strengthening its environmental services expertise, and expanding its national footprint.  WSP acquired Schlumberger Water Services in 2016.  Following the LBG acquisition, WSP’s water and environment business line in the United States comprises more than 600 employees in 40 locations across the country.

 

Arcadis achieves U.S. Department of Defense Accreditation

Arcadis, a design and consultancy firm for natural and built assets, recently announced that it achieved U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) accreditation for its Advanced Geophysical Classification (AGC) quality and technical platforms, enabling Arcadis to identify, test and remove explosive hazards at defense sites and avoid costly excavation of non-explosive debris.

Arcadis was accredited by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) to perform AGC under the DoD AGC Program to perform complex subsurface munitions identification work.  Accreditation is based on the internationally recognized ISO/IEC 17025 standard and is achieved through a multi-step process including the review, assessment and on-site audit of the Arcadis Quality Management System and demonstration of ability to classify subsurface metallic objects as munitions at a DoD test site.

AGC is an innovative approach to munitions response remediation activities because it classifies subsurface objects as unexploded ordnance potentially containing explosive hazards or non-hazardous materials that can be left in the ground.  Using AGC significantly reduces the number of subsurface objects requiring intrusive investigation and reduces remediation completion costs. The DoD anticipates AGC will significantly reduce their environmental liability by millions of dollars and will accelerate the cleanup of defense sites.

AGC has been successfully used at sites across the U.S. for the DoD Environmental Securities Technology Certification Program, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Navy, including a contract with the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center Huntsville to locate and safely remove World War II-era military ordnance from residential and recreational areas at Fort Pierce, Florida.

Aracadis Advanced Geophysical Classification Equipment