Phase I ESA Certification Course – May 2017

The Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada Inc. are hosting a series of training session on how to conduct Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESA’s) in the Spring of 2017.

The 3-day training course is delivered in a workshop atmosphere, providing attendees with the training required to conduct Phase One Environmental Site Assessments in Canada.  The course is suitable for both experienced practitioners and those wishing to enter the field.  The Course is based on CSA-Z768 guidelines.  The Ontario course include the requirements under Ontario’s Brownfield Regulations (O.Reg.153/511).  The Alberta Course is expanded to include western Canada provincial guidelines.  The Nova Scotia course expanded to include guidelines for all Maritime provinces.

For information on the dates and locations for the courses, registration fees, and other details, download the AESAC brochure.

 

Webinar: Zero Valent Iron (ZVI) Applications for Clean-up

This introductory presentation will review the fundamentals of Zero Valent Iron (ZVI) types available in the market and the applications they would be used. Both field strategies and engineering approaches from many case studies will be discussed.

Applications Review:

  • Permeable reactive barriers (PRBs) (e.g. Funnel and Gate)
  • Direct Push Injection of micron scale particles into groundwater zone
  • Trenching and aggregate scale particles PRB design
  • Deep Soil Mixing
  • Hydraulic fracturing

Zero Valent Iron (ZVI):

ZVI is a proven remediation technology since 1970’s and applicable in soil piles and in-situ applications for groundwater treatment by injection or permeable reactive barriers. ZVI has been an economical solution compared to other available products on its own and is a commonly added material to many proprietary blends of products available globally in the remediation products market.

Presented by Lowell Kessel, President of CERES Corporation

Date: Thursday, April 20, 2017

Time: Noon, Eastern Time (US and Canada)

For more information and to register click here.

Webinar on Laser-Induced Fluorescence for Contaminated Sites

Chlorinated solvents, petroleum, creosote, and coal tars are common contaminants at thousands of sites all over the world.  These “source term” light non-aqueous phase liquid (LNAPL) and dense non-aqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) contaminants are potent sources of dissolved phase contamination, making proper characterization of their subsurface architecture a keystone of long term remediation success.  Unfortunately, these NAPL bodies typically distribute themselves in a highly heterogeneous fashion, leaving investigators with little alternative to gathering large data sets to understand their architecture, making traditional sampling and analysis costs prohibitively high.

Laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) is a cost-effective alternative to traditional sampling because it logs the NAPL continuously in the subsurface in real time.  Production rates of 250 to 450 feet/day are typical, making characterization of NAPL bodies possible in just a few days’ to a weeks’ time.  While LIF offers numerous benefits, it’s important that investigators understand LIF technology, what the LIF technology can and can’t tell them about their site, and how to avoid applying LIF to sites and conditions that can’t benefit from LIF.

The presenter, who is the lead developer of all LIF systems currently commercially available, will provide a brief summary of how LIF works, which LIF system to apply to which contaminant, what information LIF is capable of providing, along with its limitations.

Presented by Randy St. Germain, Dakota Technologies

Date: Thursday, May 4, 2017

Time: 9:00 AM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

More information about the webinar can be found at the here.

Corporation Ordered to pay $1 million by Ontario Court for historic spill

The Ontario Superior Court recently ruled that the corporation responsible for the release of dry cleaning solvents from 1960 through to 1974 is li able for clean-up.  In Huang v Fraser Hillary’s Limited, 2017 ONSC 1500 (CanLII), the Court ruled that Faser Hillary’s Limited liable for the release of the dry cleaning solvents that contaminated the neighbouring property.  The Court awarded $1,632,500 for remediation costs and $201,700 for expert costs.

The Release of Dry Cleaning Chemicals

Mr. Hung brought the legal action against Fraser Hillary’s Limited (“FHL” ) for remedial and related expert expenses for the tetrachloroethylene (“PCE” or “PERC”) and trichloroethylene (“TCE”) contamination of soils and groundwater at 1255 and 1263 Bank Street.  The two properties owned my Mr. Hung were contaminated by the FHL, the owner of a dry cleaning business located at 1235 Bank Street since 1960.  The dry cleaning facility was adjacent to Mr.Hung’s properties.

The Court found that between the 1960s and 1970s, dry cleaning solvents used by FHL at 1235 Bank were allowed to enter the ground via dry cleaning filters and products stored at the dry cleaner and, as well, through the building’s sump in the basement.  The Court also found that FHL, since knowing about the migration of contaminant to the adjacent properties owned by Mr. Hung, took no meaningful steps to address it.

The Court found that from 1960 to 1974, the use of PCE/TCE at the dry cleaners owned and operated by FHL resulted in spills of these chemicals onto the ground.  Used PCE would be stored by FHL in cardboard boxes in the parking lot at the rear of its property and left there until the weekly garbage collection.  In addition to the storage practices in the rear laneway, there were also spills of PCE within the dry cleaners and that PCE contamination likely made its way into the sump.

FHL’s handling practices of PCE/TCE changed in 1974 when FHL purchased new dry cleaning machines.  The new machines and resulting new practices significantly reduced the amount of PCE/TCE used at 1235 Bank, and virtually eliminated the potential for spills.

Contamination Found

Mr. Hung discovered that his property was contaminated in 2002 when he retained an environmental consulting firm to conduct Phase I and II environmental site assessments (“ESAs”) of one of FHL’s properties he was considering buying.  The Phase I ESA found moderate to high likelihood of contaminants on the FHL’s properties due to the drycleaner directly to the northwest.  The Phase II ESA concluded that soil and groundwater had concentrations of TCE that exceed Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (“MOECC” or “MOE”) clean-up criteria.  The Phase II ESA recommended that the soil be excavated and disposed of off-site, with remediation to be done with the FHL site or else that a barrier system be installed along the common property boundary. He recommended as well remediation of the groundwater.

Mr. Huang testified that, as a result of the contamination, his bank would not advance any funds and would not renew his existing mortgage.  He also testified that he is not able to develop his properties in their present condition and that, once environmental issues are addressed, he intends to proceed with his development plans.

PCE Explained

Experts called to testify in the court case explained that PCE is a chemical solvent used as a degreaser and predominantly used in the dry cleaning industry.  TCE is another chemical compound that can exist independent of PCE or as a breakdown product of PCE.  Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (“DNAPL” -pronounced “dean apple”) is the purest form of PCE.  It is denser than water.  When PCE impacts the ground, it does not migrate straight down.  It chooses the path of least resistance and can spread out over a large area as it breaks down and falls apart during its descent through the ground.  As a result, the final resting place of DNAPL may not be where it originally impacted the ground.  Since it can spread out and migrate below the ground – both horizontally and vertically, there can be a large surface area that can have traces of DNAPL.  This possible area of DNAPL is known as a “Source Zone”, which, again, is not necessarily where the actual PCE first impacted the ground.  When clean groundwater passes through DNAPL it becomes contaminated and continues its migration.

The experts agreed that the contaminants found in the groundwater and soils of the plaintiff’s lands are from the dry-cleaning solvents used by the dry-cleaning facility operated by FHL.

Clean-up Alternatives and Decision

On its decision to award costs, the Court heard eight different remedial scenarios from Mr. Hung’s experts.  The costs associated with each of these scenarios varied considerably and some of these scenarios assumed conflicting hypotheses.  For example, some scenarios proposed the clean-up of the source zone on all the contaminated properties, including, in addition to those of the Mr. Hung, FHL, and some unidentified non-parties (part of some of the residential properties to the east of the Mr. Hung).  Some build a barrier to isolate the source zone and then treat the Mr. Hung’s properties through various methods including bioremediation.  Other scenarios assume the excavation of all of the Mr. Hung’s properties, as contemplated by their development and cost for the incremental costs resulting from the contamination.  To make it even more challenging, some assume that the applicable remedial standard is the residential and coarse soils standard for full depth, while other scenarios assume that the standard is the commercial and medium and fine textured soils for a stratified site condition.

After having assessed the evidence and the various scenarios, the Court eliminated the scenarios requiring the remediation of the entire source zone with no barrier to isolate the source zone.

The Court decided on awarding costs to Mr. Hung at a budget of $1.2 million for a remediation that involved isolating the source zone of contamination with a permeable reactive barrier (“PRB”) and treating Mr. Hung’s properties with injections of zero-valent iron (ZVI) over a period of 8 to 10 years.  It was the view of the Court that the options was, by far, the most carefully thought out, as well as the most technologically advanced and most efficacious, alternative.  The court adjusted the cost upwards to $1.6 million to allow for the replacement of the PRB.

Saskatchewan Government to improve Pipeline Regulations

As reported in Canadian Underwriter, the Government of Saskatchewan recently announced steps to improve pipeline regulations after the completion of its investigation into last July’s Husky Energy pipeline oil spill.  Husky Energy was responsible for an oil spill of 250,000 litres into North Saskatchewan River.  Crews discovered the oil leak from a pipeline on July 20th after pressure anomalies were remoted measured in the pipeline.  A crew investigated the pressure anomalies and discovered the leak.  The spill caused communities downstream, including Battleford and Prince Albert to declare states emergency, and stop taking their drinking water from the river.

A Saskatchewan government investigation into the incident recently released its findings.  The government report concluded that the cause of the spill was mechanical cracking in a buckle in the pipeline.  The mechanical cracking was the result of many years of ground movement on the slope that the buckle rested.

One step the Saskatchewan government is taking to prevent future oil pipeline incidents is the introduction of a Bill (Pipelines Amendment Act) aimed at enhancing regulatory oversight of pipelines in the Province.  If passed, the Bill will address the current gaps in the provinces existing legal framework and provide the foundation for strengthening regulatory requirements for pipelines.

The province has also initiated compliance audits on the integrity management programs of companies that operate pipelines across major water crossings.  This work will build off the inspections conducted last year, but will include a review of corporate oversight of these programs;

The provincial government is reviewing the legacy designs of oil pipeline crossings over water to determine whether additional measures are needed to manage geotechnical risks.  One of the findings from the review of the Husky Energy incident was that the pipeline was built in 1997 based on the engineering standards of the time.

Trump’s Enviro Law Impact May Not Be What Many Anticipate

Many posit a material decline in environmental enforcement and a retrenchment or reversal of environmental regulatory initiatives in the new Trump administration. Certainly, one would be prudent to consider that scenario and its implications, given the repeatedly expressed intentions to do just that, by both the president and his team before and after his inauguration.

We believe there are three concrete areas where activism and activity will be on the rise during the Trump administration, targeting a variety of environmental, public health and liability issues of considerable potential consequences to the regulated community, environmental practitioners and the public at large.

Specifically, we postulate that the next four years will see a significant increase in (1) litigation by environmental groups, (2) regulatory enforcement and other actions by multiple states, and (3) efforts by the plaintiffs bar to capitalize on what may be perceived broadly as a withdrawal of the federal government from engagement on matters of environmental protection and public health. Each of these forms of prospective activism is addressed below.

LITIGATION BY ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS

Environmental nongovernmental organizations (ENGOs) have long established themselves as key players in matters of environmental public policy, regulation and enforcement. The successes of their efforts are far too numerous to count and too diverse to categorize summarily. At all levels of government, ENGOs have prevailed in litigation that has forced agencies to regulate, overturned permitting decisions, and enforced compliance against those in violation of environmental laws and regulations.

During the Trump administration, we would expect the ENGOs to focus their considerable fire power — with renewed vigor enhanced by growing memberships and contributions — in three discrete areas.

First, there is the well-traveled path of using the courts to obtain review and rejection of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations deemed nonconforming with statutory mandates. Specifically, any number of the environmental “rollback” initiatives discussed publicly to date by those associated with the new administration or their allies in Congress will require the U.S. EPA to go through rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act.

More specifically, to rescind or amend many existing regulations, including those promulgated in the waning days of the Obama administration, rulemaking will be necessary. Those rules will, in turn, be subject to judicial review.

Many, though not all, U.S. EPA regulations or rulemakings are subject to judicial review before the D.C. Circuit. Its present political composition is seven active judges appointed by Democratic presidents and four active judges appointed by Republican presidents. Litigious ENGOs can thus anticipate a reasonable possibility of drawing a receptive three-judge panel when seeking to overturn Trump administration regulations that appear to the ENGOs to relax current standards, withdraw recent initiatives or otherwise make life easier for the regulated community at the expense of the environment, unless the administration can demonstrate, on the record, that its new policies are not arbitrary or capricious.

Making that demonstration, however, will take time (i.e., to amass a supportive administrative record), which may be contrary to the president’s style and methods to date, in which the deliberative process is eschewed in favor of speed. (For example, the president’s controversial ban on immigration from several predominately Muslim countries has been criticized not just on substantive/policy/legal grounds, but for the administration’s failure to (1) consult with key congressional leaders of its own party; (2) provide advance notice to its own top intelligence, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials; and (3) take due care to draft an executive order with sufficient care, clarity and details). We predict that judicial review of EPA rulemakings will be a fertile area of environmental practice if that decision-making model persists.

Second, ENGOs can be expected to use litigation to force agencies to take regulatory action based on statutory requirements or past policy statements. A perfect example has been referred to as the “Numeric Nutrient Wars.” In 2008, five ENGOs sued the EPA to establish numeric nutrient criteria for the state of Florida, asserting that the EPA had a nondiscretionary obligation to establish such criteria under the Clean Water Act. The U.S. EPA, after initially opposing the ENGO suit, settled the litigation by agreeing to develop and propose the criteria. The U.S. EPA criteria were instantly challenged by the state of Florida, local governments and industry groups as arbitrary and capricious (and by the ENGOs as being insufficiently protective). A federal district court in Florida struck a portion of the rules, ordering the EPA to re-propose elements of the nutrient criteria.

Third, of course, are the opportunities provided by statute for citizen enforcement of compliance with environmental permits and regulations. Many federal statutes provide for such enforcement; and ENGOs have a long and often successful history of bringing these sometimes ready-made cases. For example, the Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants into the nation’s waters, unless authorized and subject to a discharge permit that sets appropriate discharge limitations. The Clean Water Act imposes the responsibility of monitoring and reporting permit noncompliance upon the permit holders, requiring them to submit discharge monitoring reports (DMRs). Self-reported non-compliances in DMRs have served as the basis for numerous lawsuits by ENGOs over the years.

STATE ACTIVISM

It is widely anticipated that the state of California will take positions and actions in significant contrast to the loosening of environmental controls promised by the Trump administration. Leading officials in California have proudly laid claim to that role and course of action. For example, “Gov. Jerry Brown unleashed a full-scale attack on President Donald Trump, declaring California won’t give up a string of policies ranging from climate change curbs to immigrant-friendly laws.”

In some instances, actions by California to impose new or stricter requirements on the regulated community have had repercussions beyond the state’s boundaries. For example, the “check engine light” symbol in a vehicle is part of the on-board diagnostic (OBD) system, which, among other things, monitors a vehicle’s emissions control system to ensure it is working properly. Certifications of OBD systems now go through the California Air Resources Board instead of the U.S. EPA, mainly because CARB’s certification requirements are more stringent than those of the EPA. Certainly, it is reasonable to assume, given the politics now at play and the public statements of officials at the state and federal levels, that some in California will seek specifically to take legislative, regulatory enforcement, and other actions that will have transboundary consequences.

Notwithstanding some Californian’s boast to represent the front line in opposition to relaxation of environmental enforcement or regulation, the state is by no means the only jurisdiction to have a record of stricter regulation or to manifest the intention to so behave in the coming years. Twenty-one states have a Democratic attorney general. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of New York, for example, has been outspoken about his intention to take on the new administration on environmental issues; he also issued a press release warning that he “stands ready to use the full power of his office to compel enforcement of our nation’s environmental laws.”

THE PLAINTIFFS BAR

It is neither a secret nor a reason for embarrassment that the plaintiffs bar will direct itself toward those litigations in which fees are readily recoverable, particularly where they may materially or vastly exceed litigation costs and investment. So, given past history and anticipated developments at the federal regulatory and enforcement level, where do we expect the plaintiffs bar to go? Again, we anticipate three principal avenues of intensified activity. First, plaintiffs’ lawyers can recover fees in many federal citizen suit enforcement actions to secure compliance with existing laws, regulations and permits. At the local and regional level, many organizations or plaintiffs’ firms with whom they collaborate may view this to be “low-hanging fruit,” in an era of lax enforcement despite self-reporting of noncompliance (e.g., publicly available DMRs).

Second, recent years have shown the plaintiffs bar to be creative in fashioning causes of action, damages theories and prayers for injunctive relief that coincidentally garner attorneys’ fees in attractive amounts in a wide variety of environmental protection and public health situation cases. These cases include anything from toxic mold, to fracking, to allegedly harmful chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Third and finally, the true “home run” swing for the plaintiffs bar resides in the field of toxic tort, where they have enjoyed both considerable successes and notable failures. The plaintiffs bar is not monolithic; plaintiffs lawyers pursue and accept representations for diverse reasons. For those for whom earning a fee is one source of motivation, there can be no disputing that a larger fee is more attractive than a smaller fee. Hence, the cases that yield the largest damages verdicts against which a contingency fee would be assessed are the most attractive, especially to the big players.

The prospect of diminished enforcement and regulatory retreat under the Trump administration would seemingly yield several attractive toxic tort opportunities for the plaintiffs bar. First, litigation against manufacturers or users of so-called “chemicals at risk” — i.e., those chemicals that have been tentatively, provisionally or newly identified as toxic or harmful to human health (by the EPA or other bodies), but exposure to which is continuing in certain circumstances at levels that are arguably harmful. The contention would be that lethargy or turnabouts by the U.S. EPA, in the face of past scientific findings or thesis, has allowed harmful exposure to injure populations of varied sizes, all of whom are entitled to damages. We do not credit the thesis nor address its merits as to any of a long list of chemicals that may become ripe for such litigation; we merely foresee that consequence to the U.S. EPA retreating from existing standards or pending initiatives in any number of its regulatory programs.

Second, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and other laws, federal and state regulators and enforcement personnel have the authority to take sweeping and often unilateral action to abate “imminent and substantial endangerments” or serious hazards to human health and the environment. Query whether a cessation or reduction in the initiation of such enforcement at the federal level — either in fact or as a matter of perception — will widen the door to private litigation, sanctioned by federal statutes or arising under state law (common or statutory), to address identifiable hazards to local communities.

One disincentive in instituting such actions, at least for some plaintiffs lawyers, would be the inability to translate injunctive relief into compensable money damages for which attorneys’ fees would be derivative and lucrative. Consequently, one might theorize that the plaintiffs bar will seek to marry injunctive actions to abate imminent substantial endangerments with tort claims giving rise to potentially significant damages. For example, a citizen suit under RCRA is injunctive in nature, and courts have repeatedly rejected attempts to recover money damages. Some courts, however, have exercised supplemental jurisdiction over damages claims brought under state law that accompany the RCRA claim.

Finally, should the perception continue to grow that federal authorities are or will be too lenient in permitting decisions — e.g., allowing increased air emissions from permitted facilities, would that provide another opening to the plaintiffs bar? Challenges to permits and citizen enforcement, we predict, will undoubtedly test this thesis.

CONCLUSION

The Trump administration will no doubt seek many changes in law and policy vis-à-vis the environment. Advocates of many of these changes proclaim them to be aimed at reducing what they would characterize as over-regulation or overly zealous government enforcement. History (and science) have shown, however, that with every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Litigation by environmental groups, regulatory enforcement and other actions by the states, and private litigation by the plaintiffs bar will likely increase correspondingly, ushering in a new phase in the long saga of environmental protection, regulation and the importance of environmental law.

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This article was first published in Law360, a LexisNexis Company. It can also be found at website of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP.

About the Authors

Lester Sotsky headed the Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP firm’s environmental practice from 2006 to 2015. He is a broadly experienced environmental litigator, handling multiple toxic tort, hazardous waste enforcement, Clean Water Act, appellate, and white collar matters. Mr. Sotsky has represented major corporations in virtually every major manufacturing and mining industry, as well as Native American Tribes and other stakeholders.

 

 

Andy Wang’s practice focuses on civil litigation on a wide array of national security, white-collar, and environmental matters. Mr. Wang received his Juris Doctorate, cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where he was President of the Harvard National Security and Law Association, Senior Articles Editor for the Harvard National Security Journal, and an oralist for an Ames Moot Court Semifinalist team. He graduated from Rice University, magna cum laude, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History.

In situ Remediation Revitalizes Hazardous Waste Sites in North Carolina

Hazardous waste sites are not exactly an endangered species: In Buncombe County, North Carolina alone, there are about 30 of them, relics of former manufacturing operations or other businesses that left behind toxic residues. Some of those companies were established before the 1970s, when pioneering environmental laws began regulating industrial pollution.  Others simply ignored the laws governing disposal of dangerous chemicals.  Either way, these contaminants are hard to get rid of.  Expensive cleanup efforts can drag on for decades with no sure resolution.

The Chemtronics site in Swannanoa, North Carolina for example, has been on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priorities List since 1982, yet there’s still no end in sight to the cleanup (see “Chemtronics: From Chemical Weapons to Conservation Easement,” March 24, 2016, Mountain Xpress).

anwhile, over at the CTS site on Mills Gap Road in South Asheville, North Carolina concerns about the pace and effectiveness of cleanup efforts have mobilized community activists (see “Toxic Legacy: CTS Site Breeds Heartache for Residents,” June 1, 2016, Mountain Xpress).

But a group of innovative strategies collectively known as “in situ remediation could dramatically improve the prospects for restoring these and other high-profile Superfund sites more quickly and at lower cost.

Instead of trying to mechanically remove contaminants from a property, in situ remediation harnesses the ability of certain chemicals or bacteria to tackle them where they are and turn them into harmless substances.  Later this year, environmental contractors will implement such strategies at both those sites, under the auspices of U.S. EPA Region 4 officials.  And meanwhile, another local North Carolina project that’s already underway — RiverLink’s phytoremediation effort at the former Edaco junkyard on Amboy Road — gives some hints of these approaches’ potential to reclaim festering hazardous waste sites.

A growing science

In situ remediation utilizes emerging technologies to insert various natural or mechanical elements into groundwater or contaminated soil. The specific strategy employed depends on both the particular pollutants involved and the physical characteristics of the site.

At Chemtronics, plans call for bioremediation: using bacteria that actually consume harmful contaminants.  Nutrients and oxygen will also be injected to help the bacteria do their job.  At the CTS site, meanwhile, a concoction of chemical oxidizers, which attack and break down the contaminants’ molecular structure, will be injected into the ground.  And at RiverLink’s Karen Cragnolin Park, native grasses infused with bacteria that “eat” the pollutants were planted at 26 places on the property in 2013.

Two key factors have helped such strategies gain traction: the emergence of newer technologies over the last two decades, and increased understanding of the limits of traditional cleanup methods.

“The National Research Council estimated that more than 126,000 sites have residual contamination preventing them from reaching closure,” notes a 2016 report by Cascade Environmental, a consulting firm based in Washington state.  “Of those, 12,000 sites have residual contamination that will require 50 to 100 years to achieve restoration.  Many complex sites are characterized by persistent chlorinated solvent impacts that, for various reasons, have not responded to traditional or simplistic technologies.”

In the past, notes hydrologist Frank Anastasi, “If you found something in the soil or the groundwater, you had to dig it up or suck it up and get it out of there.  Now, we wised up and found out you can’t always just do that, especially with groundwater.”

In addition, he continues, older strategies such as pump-and-treat do little to address contamination in the surrounding soils and bedrock structures. “Think about drinking a soda at McDonald’s,” says Anastasi, a consultant to the POWER Community Advisory Group for the CTS site. “You suck the soda out through a straw and you think you’ve got it all; but if you let the ice melt a little bit, you suck some more out and you still taste some Coke.”

Cheaper, more effective

Hydrologist Frank Anastasi, who has served as a consultant for community members at the CTS of Asheville site, likens older pump-and-treat systems used to address groundwater contaminants to an empty soda cup one gets at McDonald’s.  “You suck the soda out through a straw and you think you’ve got it all,” he notes, “but if you let the ice melt a little bit, you suck some more out and you still taste some Coke.”

The long-running cleanup efforts at Chemtronics seem to bear out that assessment.  A series of samples and tests conducted by Altamont Environmental over a three-year period found that the pump-and-treat system that’s been in operation since the early 1990s has been only 23 percent effective in removing contamination, according to U.S. EPA site supervisor Jon Bornholm.

He’s overseen cleanup efforts at the site since the late 1980s, and he says the upkeep required to keep the pump systems functioning has been a constant nuisance.  “They were having a big issue with iron buildup, as well as bacteria buildup, in extraction wells,” Bornholm explains.  “Plus, you have the expense of electricity for running the extraction wells, as well as the treatment systems, and also the cost of discharging treated groundwater to the sewer system and maintaining that discharge line.  With in situ, we eliminate those costs.”

After several years of on-site pilot studies at Chemtronics, officials settled on in situ bioremediation as the most promising alternative strategy.  Altamont, says Bornholm, “was able to show that it was removing at least 51 percent” of the contaminants.

The Asheville-based consulting firm is currently designing a matrix of injection wells across the property near known contaminated groundwater “plumes.”  After that, contractors will inject a lactate solution (to give the bugs something to eat immediately), followed by emulsified vegetable oil (a long-term food source) and, to add more bacteria to the mix, “a bioaugmentation solution called KD-1.”

“It’s all about contact,” notes Bornholm. “We want to make sure the bacteria get in contact with the contamination.”

To read the remainder of this article, visit the Mountain Xpress website.

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About the Author

Max Hunt grew up in South (New) Jersey and graduated from Warren Wilson College in 2011.  He currently resides in West Asheville and enjoys discussing the secrets of the world with his cat. Follow him on twitter @J_MaxHunt

Funding Available for Clean Technology Demonstrations in Ontario

BLOOM (a private, not-for-profit federally incorporated company based in Ontario) recently issued a call for proposals to support the completion of clean technology demonstration projects in Ontario.

A major objective of this program is to demonstrate the commercial application of cleantech and low carbon solutions that have a high potential to achieve major GHG reductions.

As a requirement, proposals will be submitted by 2 co-applicants: a cleantech solution provider and a customer ‘host’ that is representative of a broader sector. Projects can also include other strategic partners to support the demonstration.

BLOOM will be providing grant funding on a 50:50 cost-share basis, up to $150,000 per project.

The 50% share from the co-applicants and other project partners can be a combination of cash and in-kind.

Proposals will be evaluated by an independent Review Committee in conjunction with BLOOM.Proposals are due on March 24, 2017. Successful proponents will be notified by April 15, 2017.  For additional information, click here.

 

Study determines why uranium persists in groundwater at remediated Mining Sites

A recent study led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory helps describe how the contaminant cycles through the environment at former uranium mining sites and why it can be difficult to remove.  Contrary to assumptions that have been used for modeling uranium behavior, researchers found the contaminant binds to organic matter in sediments.  The findings provide more accurate information for monitoring and remediation at the sites.  The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In 2014, researchers at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) began collaborating with the U.S. DOE Office of Legacy Management, which handles contaminated sites associated with the legacy of DOE’s nuclear energy and weapons production activities.  Through projects associated with the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act, the U.S. DOE remediated 22 sites in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico where uranium had been extracted and processed during the 1940s to 1970s.

Uranium was removed from the sites as part of the cleanup process, and the former mines and waste piles were capped more than two decades ago.  Remaining uranium deep in the subsurface under the capped waste piles was expected to leave these sites due to natural groundwater flow.  However, uranium has persisted at elevated levels in nearby groundwater much longer than predicted by scientific modeling.

In an earlier study, the SLAC team discovered that uranium accumulates in the low-oxygen sediments near one of the waste sites in the upper Colorado River basin.  These deposits contain high levels of organic matter — such as plant debris and bacterial communities.

During this latest study, the researchers found the dominant form of uranium in the sediments, known as tetravalent uranium, binds to organic matter and clays in the sediments.  This makes it more likely to persist at the sites.  The result conflicted with current models used to predict movement and longevity of uranium in sediments, which assumed that it formed an insoluble mineral called uraninite.

Different chemical forms of the element vary widely in how mobile they are – how readily they move around – in water, says Sharon Bone, lead author on the paper and a postdoctoral researcher at SSRL, a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

Since the uranium is bound to organic matter in sediments, it is immobile under certain conditions. Tetravalent uranium may become mobile when the water table drops and oxygen from the air enters spaces in the sediment that were formerly filled with water, particularly if the uranium is bound to organic matter in sediments rather than being stored in insoluble minerals.

“Either you want the uranium to be soluble and completely flushed out by the groundwater, or you just want the uranium to remain in the sediments and stay out of the groundwater,” Bone says.  “But under fluctuating seasonal conditions, neither happens completely.”

This cycling in the aquifer may result in the persistent plumes of uranium contamination found in groundwater, something that wasn’t captured by earlier modeling efforts.

“For the most part, uranium contamination has only been looked at in very simple model systems in laboratories,” Bone says.  “One big advancement is that we are now looking at uranium in its native environmental form in sediments.  These dynamics are complicated, and this research will allow us to make field-relevant modeling predictions.”

Online teaching tool for oil spill response

The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), in conjunction with the Defenders of Wildlife organization recently produced an online teaching tool for oil spill response in the Bering Strait.  The Bering Strait Response Teaching Tool (BSRTT) is now available online and will be allows the public to share information with various organizations and agencies about threats to arctic marine life, such as oil spills.

Allison Dunbar, a junior studying environmental engineering and biology at UAA, is project lead for the online teaching tool. She’s been working part time on the layers of the website for the last year in order to make the tool accessible to everyone, including those who live in the Bering Strait region.

“The local people will know the tides and the currents and will best be able to inform that response, and that is our ultimate goal,” Dunbar said.  “By utilizing and working with the local experts, impacts to marine mammals and to the communities will be less, and for us, (that’s) a common sense thing, but we want it to be written into the protocol for response agencies.”

The BSRTT was created to streamline the oil spill response process and cut response time.  Through the teaching tool and with the participation of the community, spill responders can draw upon persons in the public with knowledge of local currents and other factors that may impact spill movement and influence spill response.

Defenders of Wildlife is in charge of implementing the online teaching tool into local communities, which will involve her visiting and training residents throughout the region.  Part of the training will include discussions on spill response and spill response preparedness. 

The educational tool helps inform its users about response plans to oil spills and other potentially harmful situations that occur in the Bering Strait.  It is also a tool by which information is shared.  Through the training tool, the community gains a better understanding of the complexity of a spill response.

Anyone who uses the BSRTT website can share their knowledge with the Coast Guard or other organizations that also use the tool.  Community trainings on spill response and the teaching tool in the Bering Strait region are expected to begin this month.