Brownfields Road Map (U.S. EPA, 2018)

Prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Office of Land and Emergency Management, The Brownfields Road Map 6th Edition breaks down Brownfields site investigation and cleanup into an easy to understand, step-by-step process that provides valuable and up-to-date information to a wide range of Brownfields stakeholders involved in or affected by the redevelopment of Brownfields sites. It introduces readers to a range of considerations and activities, and provides links to online technical resources and tools.

The first edition of the Road Map, published in 1997, provided a broad overview of the U.S. EPA Brownfields Program and an outline of the steps involved in the cleanup of a Brownfields site. Designed primarily for stakeholders who were unfamiliar with the elements of cleaning up a Brownfields site, the Road Map built awareness of the advantages offered by innovative technologies. As the EPA Brownfields Program
matured, the second (1999), third (2001), and fourth (2005) editions were published to update information and resources associated with the program, innovative technologies, and emerging best practices. The fifth edition, published in 2012, streamlined the publication to make it more accessible to users, providing additional resources covering new technology applications and methods.

This edition builds off the streamlined approach of the fifth edition, providing updated content and guidance on the Brownfields remediation process. New features include an updated list of “Spotlights,” highlighting and describing key issues. This edition provides updated information on Brownfields funding and best management practices (BMPs), with guidance on how to incorporate greener cleanups and new standards into the cleanup process.

This edition of the Road Map will help:

  • New and less experienced stakeholders. The Road Map will help these users learn about the technical aspects of Brownfields by introducing general concepts and methods for site investigation and cleanup.
  • Decision-makers who are familiar with the EPA Brownfields Program but are also interested in obtaining more detailed information. The Road Map provides these users with up-to-date information about the applicability of technologies and access to the latest resources that can assist them in making technology decisions. In addition, it highlights BMPs that have emerged in recent years.
  • Community members. The Road Map helps to encourage community members to participate in the decision making process by providing information about the general site cleanup process and tools and alternatives to site cleanup, as well as guidelines and mechanisms to promote community involvement.
  • Tribal leaders. The Road Map offers information on technical and financial assistance specific to tribes for implementing cleanup and restoration activities on tribal lands, as well as successful remediation examples highlighting the potential community restoration opportunities associated with Section 128(a) Response Program funding.
  • Stakeholders who hire or oversee site cleanup professionals. The Road Map includes information to help stakeholders coordinate with many different cleanup practitioners, such as environmental professionals, cleanup service providers, technology vendors or staff of analytical laboratories. The Road Map provides these stakeholders with a detailed understanding of each phase in a typical Brownfields site cleanup and presents information about the roles that environmental practitioners play in the process.
  • Regulators. The Road Map will increase the understanding by regulatory personnel of site characterization and cleanup technologies and approaches. The Road Map also serves as a resource that regulators can use to provide site owners, service providers and other stakeholders with useful information about the EPA Brownfields Program. The Road Map also provides links and pointers to additional information on specific technologies, approaches, and issues.
  • Other potential Brownfields stakeholders. The Road Map helps other stakeholders, such as financial institutions and insurance agencies, by providing information for their use in assessing and minimizing financial risks associated with Brownfields redevelopment.

The Road Map draws on the EPA’s experiences with Brownfields sites, as well as Superfund sites, corrective action sites under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and underground storage tank (UST) sites to provide technical information useful to Brownfield stakeholders. Specific conditions—such as the nature and extent of contamination, the proposed reuses of the property, the financial resources available, and the level of support from neighboring communities—vary from site to site. Readers of the Road Map are encouraged to explore opportunities to use the BMPs described in the following pages in accordance with applicable regulatory program requirements. The use of BMPs and site characterization and cleanup technologies may require site specific decisions to be made with input from state, tribal, and/or local regulators and other oversight bodies.

 

First ship launched of Trans Mountain spill response fleet

As reported by jwnenergy.com, the first of 43 new spill response vessels being built to support the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion was launched recently in Prince Rupert, B.C.

The 26-foot Sentinel 30 workboat and landing craft was built for Western Canada Marine Response Corp. (WCMRC).  WCMRC is the Transport Canada-certified marine spill response organization for Canada’s West Coast. Its mandate under the Canada Shipping Act is to be prepared to respond to marine oil spills along all 27,000 km of British Columbia’s coastline, and to mitigate the impact when a spill occurs. This includes the protection of wildlife, economic and environmental sensitivities, and the safety of both the responders and the public.

The Sentinel 30 Spill Response Vessel built by WCMRC

The spill response vessels are part of an investment of $150 million committed after Kinder Morgan made its final investment decision on the pipeline in June 2017, British Columbia’s largest-ever expansion of spill response personnel and equipment.

“Workboats are the backbone of a response. These support vessels deliver equipment and personnel to a response, tow boom as part of a sweep system, deploy skimmers and can assist with waste removal,” WCMRC said in a statement.

“To perform these tasks, the new Sentinel 30 is powered by twin 150 HP counter-rotating Yamaha outboards and can travel at up to 35 knots.”

The Sentinel 30 will undergo spill response trials in Prince Rupert and ultimately be transitioned to the new 24/7 response base in Saanich on Vancouver Island.

In total, WCMRC is building 40 new vessels as part of the Trans Mountain pipeline spill response fleet. Other new vessel builds underway at WCMRC shipyard include purpose-built skimming vesselsCoastal Response Vesselslanding craft and response barges.

The Trans Mountain spill response enhancements also include six new response bases and about 135 new personnel. These new resources will be located along shipping lanes in the Salish Sea, with about 70 of the new WCMRC employees and most new vessels located at bases on Vancouver Island, according to Kinder Morgan.  Following the enhancements, there will be over 80 vessels in the fleet.

All new personnel, facilities and equipment will be in place several months before the first oil tankers associated with the expansion begin calling at Burnaby’s Westridge Marine Terminal in Burrard Inlet, the company said when the enhancements were announced last June.

New Partnership for Oil Spill Response

Four Norwegian companies have formed a new partnership to provide an oil spill response service. Framo, Maritime Partner, Norbit Aptomar, and NorLense have established the OSRV Group which is claimed to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for oil spill response. The companies in this new group are all specialists in their particular fields and their Norwegian manufactured components have a dedicated function that is aimed at achieving the best result possible when an oil spill occurs. The products of this group also allows for conventional supply vessels to be converted to emergency oil-spill response support units as required.

OSVR Group offers a complete oil spill response solution

“Our aim is to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ where we pool our efforts and act as a total systems supplier of safe, highly functional, and well-tested technology. The emergency response equipment has undergone thorough testing and quality assurance, drawing on 40 years of oil spill response experience,” says Jørgen Brandt Theodorsen, Area Manager of Oil & Gas Pumping Systems at Framo. “The OSRV Group offers a package solution that covers everything the customer needs, from detection and containment to recovery of the spill and this is conducted with reliable equipment that can handle the challenges if an accident occurs.”

“The customer only has to deal with one of the partners to get access to a complete system that covers everything and is fully adapted in terms of functionality, volume and size,” said Roy Arne Nilsen of NorLense. Aptomar’s radar and infrared cameras can identify and produce an overview of the oil slick, whilst Maritime Partner’s high-speed vessels are designed for pulling equipment such as booms in place. These booms are supplied by NorLense, and then recovered oil is pumped onto a vessel with the Framo TransRec Oil Skimmer System.

“This is a turnkey solution where customers have access to emergency preparedness expertise without themselves having to acquire this. With our package solution, supply vessels can easily be upgraded and used as part of new emergency response tenders. It is quick and easy for ship-owners to convert existing vessels in order to offer new services to oil companies,” commented Lars Solberg of Norbit Aptomar.

A prompt response is important so the OSVR Group will ensure that an emergency oil-spill response system responding quickly.” said Peder Myklebust, of Maritime Partner.

 

Canadian DND searching possible contaminated sites for buried Agent Orange stocks

As reported by the CBC, the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) has identified up to six known contamination sites at a New Brunswick military base as it works to determine whether the cancer-causing defoliant Agent Orange was buried surreptitiously there decades ago.

Agent Orange is an herbicide and defoliant chemical. It is widely known for its use by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. It is a mixture of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. In addition to its damaging environmental effects, the chemical has caused major health problems for many individuals who were exposed.

Officials at the department’s Directorate of Contaminated Sites presented a map showing the various locations to a former military police officer and a retired civilian employee of Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, N.B. — both of whom say they witnessed chemical drums being buried on the base in separate incidents over 30 years ago.

Past Use of Agent Orange at CFB Gagetown

Agent Orange had been used on the base in the past.  In 2010, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, the Canadian Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture) at the time, announced that the Government of Canada was extending the one-time, tax-free ex gratia payment of $20,000 related to the testing of unregistered U.S. military herbicides, including Agent Orange, at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Gagetown in 1966 and 1967.

For three days in June 1966 and four days in June 1967, Agent Orange, Agent Purple and other unregistered herbicides were tested at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Gagetown in cooperation with the U.S. military to evaluate their effectiveness. These are the only known instances that these military test chemicals were used at CFB Gagetown. Agent Orange, Agent Purple and other unregistered herbicides are not used at the base today. The base uses only federally regulated herbicides for brush control during its annual vegetation management program.

Claims 

The claims by retired sergeant Al White and Robert Wilcox, who worked at the training base in the 1970s and 1980s, were first reported by CBC News last month.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan promised an investigation and officials are now trying to cross-reference the eyewitness accounts with existing records. The maps are meant to jog the memories of the two men, and to find out whether their claims involve existing dumps or unreported ones.

A massive asbestos dump

The list of contaminated sites is extraordinary. It shows, among other things, more than 3,900 barrels of asbestos waste buried in the same area as the suspected chemical dump.

Officials have offered to escort White onto the base so he can point out the area where he believes Agent Orange was buried. They and White have yet to agree on a date for the visit.

“Pointing on a map isn’t going to work … obviously it has to be a face-to-face opportunity,” White said in an interview.

A spokesman for the defence department confirmed an invitation had been extended but downplayed the significance, saying officials were “simply conducting discussions … in order to gain further insight into their claims.”

The visit would be closed to the media, said department spokesman Dan Lebouthillier in an email.

White said none of the locations pointed out thus far by defence officials match his recollection of the location.

“I say that with clarity,” he said.

The burial, he claimed, involved over 40 barrels stacked on a flatbed truck. It took place early in the morning in the late spring of 1985 and happened in what he described as a disturbing, clandestine manner that has troubled him ever since.

Map showing the Use of Herbicides at CFB Gagetown from 1952 to Present Day

White said he didn’t believe it was his place to come forward until he lost three friends — all former Gagetown soldiers — to cancer.

Wayne Dwernychuk, an expert who spent over 15 years studying Agent Orange contamination and its effects on combatants during the war in Vietnam, said it’s good the federal government is trying to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Once White points out the area, he said, ground scanning technology can quickly and accurately assess what might be underground.

“They should initiate some sort of ground penetrating radar,” he said. “If something turns up, I believe they should follow through with some deep core sampling to determine the extent of the contamination.”

One of the sites listed by National Defence was a chemical dump that has since been excavated — something Wilcox, the second witness, claims to have seen.

Another location is where the military claims to have disposed of rinsed, empty chemical drums.

The main refuse site — known as the Shirley Road dump — “may also [have] accepted drums,” according to a department statement. There was a separate place for dumping ash from burning coal.

During the investigation 14 years ago into the spraying of Agent Orange at the base in the 1960s, officials looked at a fifth location near a tank firing range, but claimed nothing was buried at that spot.

The sixth possible location involves the dumping of asbestos. Federal environment officials have acknowledged in the past that the fire-resistant insulation, ripped out of 15 nearby federal buildings in 1980s, was present at the base, but have never acknowledged the enormous quantity of it.

The waste asbestos was all wrapped and stuffed into metal barrels.

Five years ago, the federal government’s annual report on contaminated sites pointed to the same locations on the base and said assessment on further remediation was under consideration.

The risks of remediation

The same report noted the unique challenges such a clean-up would involve.

“The waste materials might contain ordnance, presenting an unacceptable safety risk to a remediation team,” said the 2013 review.

The report said tests of the wetland adjacent to the contaminated sites did not show chemical concentrations that would be of concern.

Lebouthillier said the locations are “capped” — meaning there’s a barrier between contaminated and uncontaminated soil — managed and monitored “according to federal environmental regulations and guidelines.”

Agent Orange used during the Vietnam war has left that country’s the soil contaminated and compromised.  Many Vietnamese have life-long health problems as a result to exposure to Agent Orange.  The United States has provided almost $42 million since 2007 toward the effort to clean up the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Past Investigations in Canada

In 2006, Golder Associates Ltd. (Golder) was retained by Public Works and Government Services Canada on a series of contracts on behalf of the Department of National Defence (DND) to research, organise and analyse all available information concerning the herbicides used at each Canadian Forces (CF) site across Canada. An objective of this undertaking was to confirm whether tactical herbicides such as Agent Orange and Agent Purple tested in 1966 and 1967 at CFB Gagetown were ever tested at other current and former CF Bases, Stations or Wings.

Golder’s review of the information has found no evidence of spray applications of the tactical herbicides Agent Orange or Agent Purple at any Bases, Stations or Wings aside from CFB Gagetown. Records do indicate that the non-tactical and commercially available herbicides 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D were potentially concurrently used, stored or disposed at each of Carp (Ontario), CFB Chatham and CFB Gagetown (New Brunswick), CFB Borden (Ontario) and another unidentified site.

As such, evidence to-date is to the effect that Agent Orange and Agent Purple were only applied at CFB Gagetown.

Soldiers detect Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and defoliant Agent Orange in Vietnam’s central Da Nang City.

Couple admits illegally storing 4,500 tons of hazardous waste in warehouse

As reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a husband and wife recently plead guilty to a U.S. federal charge and admitted improperly transporting 4,500 tons of hazardous waste and storing it in a warehouse near St. Louis, Missouri.

The couple, both in their 60’s, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in St. Louis to a misdemeanor charge of placing someone in danger of death or serious bodily injury from a hazardous waste.

Green Materials LLC facility in Missouri (Photo Credit: Robert Patrick, Post Dispatch)

Their company, Missouri Green Materials LLC, Missouri Green Materials LLC stored a large quantity of spent sandblasting materials inside a warehouse located in the town of Berger, approximately 70 miles west of St. Louis.  They couple admitted that they arranged for the transport and storage of the hazardous waste from Mississippi, and failed to tell both the trucking companies that hauled the waste and the personnel that unloaded it of the danger.  Their storage facility was not properly permitted was not registered as a permitted hazardous waste storage or recycling facility.

The sandblasting waste materials are considered to be hazardous because they contain amounts of certain metals, including cadmium, that exceed regulatory limits established by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA).

The materials were stored in a warehouse in a flood plain for more than four years.  There are no indications of any release of the materials from the warehouse.

The couple have agreed to pay $1.5 million to the U.S. EPA for the costs of dealing with the waste. They could face probation or a sentence of six months behind bars for the crime under federal sentencing guidelines.

The source of the sandblasting waste was for a site in Mississippi.  An Ohio company, U.S. Technology Corp had been buried the waste.  The company was repeatedly ordered by regulators to remove it.

In 2016, the U.S. EPA and U.S. Technology signed a consent agreement whereby the company agreed to remove the waste from Green Material’s facility in Missouri and test the site for soil contamination.  According to prosecutors, this work was never performed.

U.S. Technology and president Raymond Williams, 71, both pleaded not guilty in the case. A hearing has been scheduled to change both pleas later in June.

Some sandblasting waste is classified as hazardous

Hazmat University launches Hazardous Material Online Training

The U.S. Department of Transportation requires anyone whose job involves the performance of any task regulated by the U.S. Hazardous Materials Regulations to undergo hazardous materials shipping training. Likewise, all employers must provide their employees with relevant training applicable to their job function. Hazmat University offers online training programs that can be completed on your desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone 24/7.

“When transporting hazardous materials/dangerous goods in commerce, compliance is a primary concern. Compliance is achieved through well maintained training programs by the hazmat employer. Training is an essential component of any shipping operation to achieve safety in the transport of hazardous materials,” said Sonia Irusta, Vice President of Bureau of Dangerous Goods, LTD.

Hazmat University recognizes the need for anyone entrusted with the handling of dangerous goods to be trained on the dangerous goods regulations and to be able to perform their job functions when handling dangerous goods.

Hazmat University makes certain their training programs are exemplary and features are excellent and easy to access. Listed below are the four reasons Hazmat University is your one-stop-shop for hazardous material shipping training.

A Variety of Training Options

  • A wide range of classes that suit a variety of needs such as different modes of transportation including ground, air and sea.
  • Classes cover a wide range of regulations including: 49 CFR Hazardous Materials Regulations, the International Air Transport Association Dangerous Goods Regulations, and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code.

Regular Updates

  • Hazmat University updates based on “The Hazardous Materials Regulations” multiple times each year which keeps lesson plans and materials for online content up-to-date.
  • Anyone handling hazardous materials is required stay on top of any amendments and regulatory changes made.

Everything is Online

  • All courses are offered online to relieve the stresses of travel, parking and changing schedules.
  • Lessons can be accessed from anywhere at any time whether at home or in the office.

Start Immediately

  • Begin your training from the moment that you finish placing your order.
  • Your enrollment codes come with your order confirmation, so there is no delay in getting started.
  • Certificates are issued instantly upon completion.

Hazmat University provides specialized courses in the transportation of dangerous goods by air, ground, or vessel, and training for specialized needs, such as lithium batteries, general awareness, segregation, and others.

Better Response to Dangerous Goods Incidents Demanded by Community

As reported in the Terrace Standard, leaders in the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako in the interior of British Columbia have called for Canada’s railway operators to improve their response to incidents involving dangerous goods being carried by rail cars.

The Directors of Regional District of Bulkley Nechako are considering a resolution that calls for the provincial government to take the lead in talks with CN Rail to beef up response capabilities.

Canada’s Transportation Minister, Marc Garneau, has told his department to investigate railway incidents in Canada.  As reported in the Globe and Mail, derailments, collisions and other railway incidents soared in the first four months of 2018.

“The volunteer fire departments in the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako do not have the equipment, manpower, or expertise to respond to a notable dangerous goods event in a populated area,” notes background material prepared by regional district staffers for the directors.

“Increased training along will not increase local response capability to any notable degree. Also, many populated areas … are not serviced by a fire department.”

The background material adds that the regional district “and member municipalities are expected to response to a dangerous good incident, with CN Rail being prepared to respond to a dangerous goods event within 12 to 24 hours of being notified. Most of their response resources are located in Alberta.”

The resolution proposal builds on an earlier one which called for fire chiefs and local officials to have full information on the nature of dangerous goods being transported their their areas of jurisdiction.

But regional district staffers then noted that many areas of the province have a limited capacity to deal with a dangerous goods emergency.

“In staff’s opinion, CN Rail needs to play a lead role in developing rail emergency response strategy that is appropriate for northern British Columbia and other areas of the province where local response capacit, and CN Rail response capacity, is not adequate,” indicates the background material.

The new proposed resolution comes at a time of increased rail traffic on the part of CN Rail as the shipment of goods and material to and from port facilities at Prince Rupert increases.

Regional district directors June 7 approved of the new resolution during a committee of the whole session last week and it will be presented during the regional district’s regular meeting tomorrow.

Resolutions forwarded to Union of B.C. Municipalities conventions, if adopted, are then used as topics of discussion with senior governments.

Train Derailment (Photo Credit: (Transportation Safety Board)

 

Canada makes a significant coastal restoration fund investment

The Government of Canada recently announced funding for projects under its Ocean Protection Plan.  The financial contribution by the government is $7 million over 5 years for projects to help restore coastal habitats in Nova Scotia and the Arctic.

Four organizations will receive together over $7 million over 5 years for projects to help restore coastal habitats in Nova Scotia and in the Arctic.

The Clean Foundation is receiving $2,408,947 in project funding towards restoring tidal wetlands in the Northumberland Strait area of Nova Scotia and building community capacity to identify, protect, and rehabilitate this habitat. To do this, the Clean Foundation will: 1) identify, restore and monitor tidal wetland sites in the various areas of the Northumberland Strait, and; 2) work wit

Bay of Fundy

h multi-sectoral partners, including Indigenous organizations and communities to engage, educate and build capacity to protect and restore this important habitat.

Saint Mary’s University, Department of Geography & Environmental Studies is receiving $1,830,594 in project funding towards restoring tidal wetland habitat through the realignment of dyke infrastructure at several sites bordering the Bay of Fundy. It will include building regional capacity for effective scientific, technical and procedural components of managed realignment and marshland restoration projects that can be applied to future sites throughout Atlantic region.

The Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council is receiving $1,259,304 in project funding towards identifying areas for rehabilitation and developing a restoration plan focused on addressing habitat restoration and impediments to fish passage, such as improving the efficiency of tidal-gate or aboiteaux structures. Four of the five watersheds within the project scope are identified as critical habitat for the endangered inner Bay of Fundy (IBoF) Atlantic Salmon.

Dalhousie University will receive $1,985,500 to determine coastal restoration priorities across Nunavut, and restore three priority sites, including a low flow barrier to fish passage located on the Nilaqtarvik River near the community of Clyde River. The study will address data deficiencies in coastal habitat health, habitat fragmentation, fish health, traditional knowledge and science through community consultation and feasibility studies. Researchers will also work in partnership with the Government of Nunavut, hamlets and Hunter and Trapper organizations in all 25 Nunavut communities to develop coastal restoration plans on a case-by-case basis.

Community of Clyde River, Nunavut

The Coast Restoration Fund, started in 2017, is a $75 commitment by the Canadian to help rehabilitate vulnerable coastlines and protect marine life and ecosystems. The Coastal Restoration Fund, under the responsibility of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, supports projects that contribute to coastal restoration on all of Canada’s coasts, with preference given to projects that are multiyear and involve a broad number of partners, including Indigenous groups.  The Coast Restoration Fund is part of a larger  Oceans Protection Plan.  Under the Oceans Protection Plan, the Canadian Government has committed $1.5 billion to coastal restoration.

 

Are you ready for Ontario’s Excess Soil Management Regulation Changes?

by David Ngugan, Staff Writer

A breakfast and seminar session organized by ECOH Management Inc. was held on June 20th in Mississauga, Ontario.  The seminar included a presentation by Vice President Jeff Muir titled “Digging Deep – Are you ready for Ontario’s Excess Soil Management Regulation Changes?” about the upcoming changes to the Excess Soil Management Regulations. He spoke about the implications of the new regulations, including cost, the depletion of sites with capacity to accept waste soils, illegal dumping and lack of tracking, and inconsistent oversight and criteria for the management of excess soils.

Jeff Muir, VP Environmental, EHOS

Jeff spoke about the current 2014 guidelines – “Management of Excess Soil – A Guide for Best Management Practices” that gives options for the management of excess soils both onsite and offsite,  as well as best management practices for project leaders. These include having an excess soil management plan to indicate where the soil will go and a sampling and analysis plan, including soil characterization and characterization of the receiving site.

He also pointed out some issues with the guidelines, particularly in the lack of clarity regarding who is responsible for the excess soil, as the term “project leader” is loosely defined. In addition, the requirements for proper characterization of soils are not clearly defined, such as a minimum number of samples required for a specific volume of soil. Jeff added that currently, many receiving sites are usually managed by municipalities that issue permits for the receiving of excess soil, and this presents opportunities for inconsistencies between various sites.

The proposed regulations enhance the responsibility and accountability of the generators of excess soil, as well as requiring an Excess Soil Management Plan (ESMP) for high risk or high volumes of soil. Under the proposed regulations, a ESMP should consist of a description of the project area and description and ownership, the names of qualified persons and contractors, excess soil sampling plan and characterizations, a list of receiving sites, a soil tracking system, and a record of the cumulative amount of soil moved.  The new regulations will also establish a registry where ESMPs will be submitted.

Jeff concluded his presentation by stressing the importance of preplanning – have all the costs, receiving sites, and estimated volumes of soil prepared ahead of time, as well as to focus on working with ESMPs well ahead of the promulgation of the regulations.  It is anticipated that the regulations will be promulgated this calendar year.

The Commodification of Phase I ESA’s and the Need for Innovation

Introduction

Individuals who read environmental site assessments (“ESAs”) in the early 1990’s as part of their job will likely remember the unevenness of recommendations and conclusions and the wide range in the quality of reporting.  During that time, as an in-house environmental engineer at a major law firm, I likely read more ESA reports from more environmental consulting firms than I care to remember.  To this day I still read my fair share of ESA reports from various consultants as part of my job.

Standardization

In the 1990’s there was a growing demand from users of ESA reports for some form of standardization.  Back then, and to this day, a potential buyer of a property and the associated lender used an ESA report to aide in determining the monetary risk associated with any environmental liabilities linked to a property.  The wide variety of styles, coverage, disclaimers, recommendations, and conclusions in ESA reports back in the early 1990’s made that task very hard.

More than one consultant in the 1990’s would try to absolve themselves of liability by merely stating the findings of the investigation and avoiding any recommendation or conclusions.  Others would include disclaimers that would essentially hold them blameless for all errors and or omissions.

The first standardized ESA reports that came across my desk conformed with the United States ASTM E1527 standard published in 1993.  The first Canadian ESA standard (Z768) was issued in 1994 by the Standard Council of Canada.

In Canada, the latest version of the CSA Z768 standard is what is used as starting point for conducting Phase I ESA’s.  A vast majority of ESA reports that I read begin quoting the CSA standard but with the added qualifying statement that the report is in “substantial conformance” with the standard.

Commodity

Currently, many of the major lenders in Canada have lists of approved consultants for ESA’s.  Any borrower can choose freely from the list and arrange for an ESA on a property.  Other organizations have similar lists.

The CSA Z768 standard combined with the lists of qualified consultants typically supplied by lending institutions has created, in my opinion, a commodification of Phase I ESA’s.  An unsophisticated and occasional user of environmental services would most likely choose a consultant to conduct a Phase I ESA based on price.

Sophisticated buyers of environmental services have their own favourite consultants.  To earn the trust of a regular user of ESA services, a consultant needs to be able provide a clear explanation of environmental liabilities and a strong justification for the need further investigation (i.e., Phase II ESA).  The exemplary consultant has the ability to uncover the less than obvious environmental liabilities.  All trusted consultants provide timely report in a cost-effective manner.

The advantage of the sophisticated buyers of ESA services is the experience gained from reading reports from dozens of different firms and knowledge of the revelations and oversights of each.  Even amongst sophisticated buyers, there is a level of commodification that exists as they would likely have anywhere from 4 to 5 firms (any maybe more) that they trust to do good work.

Differentiation

When being sold environmental services from consultants, I typically ask a consultant what differentiates them from their competitors with respect tot the conduct of a Phase I ESA.  In essence, I want them to articulate to me how their ESA work is superior to the competition.  The typical list of replies can be found in the table below.  Based on the majority of responses I receive, it is my conclusion that the consultants themselves are unknowingly conceding that they are selling a commodity service.  The differentiators they describe can apply to almost any firm that provides the service.

Table 1: Common Reasons Cited by Environmental Consultants for Choosing Them

“Cost effective”

“better”
“Fast turn-around time” “more effective”
“Use only experienced assessors” “more thorough”
“Experienced reviewers and supervising Staff”

“quality controls”

Innovation

So how can a consulting firm give clients what they want – more certainty on risk associated with a property – and differentiate the ESA service they provide?

I have found one consultant that I now work with has risen above the commodity Phase I ESA.  This consulting firm, through innovation, has gone beyond the bare minimum of a Phase I ESA that would conform to the CSA Standard and utilized technology to enhance the Phase I ESA.

A standard Phase I ESA requires only observation as part of the site visit portion of the ESA.  The use of intrusive testing is saved for a Phase II.  However, with the utilization of field instrumentation that is non-intrusive, an enhanced Phase I can provide much more information that a standard Phase I ESA.

The environmental consulting firm, Altech Consulting Group, uses magnetic surveys as a standard part of the its Phase I ESAs.  A magnetometer measures the magnetic potential underground through non-obtrusive means.  It can identify the presence of underground steel tanks or drums, and other ferrous buried objects (i.e. pipes).

Enhanced Phase I ESA – Seeing underground with the magnetic survey

By including a magnetic survey as a standard part of a Phase I ESA, Altech has more information from which to base its conclusions and recommendations.  It can utilize the information found from the magnetic survey along with historical data and interviews with persons knowledgeable of the property to have a stronger argument for the need for a Phase II ESA or not.

Chad Stewart, the head of the environmental investigation group at Altech stated “one of the biggest sources of environmental liability at the majority of sites is leaks from underground storage tanks or pipelines.  By including a magnetic survey as part of our Phase I ESA, we are in a much better position to state if further intrusive investigation is required.  Our approach saves the client time and money.”

As I said earlier, I have seen my share of ESA reports from numerous consultants.  Their a some that are very quick to recommend a Phase II ESA based on the limited information that only hints that a UST may have been present.  A vast majority of the subsequent Phase II findings reveal that there is no contamination.

Any means of bringing non-intrusive testing and measurement techniques into use for a standard Phase I ESA is a good thing in my opinion.  The more information that can be obtained during the Phase I ESA, the better the decision making on the need for a Phase II.

By not having to perform an unnecessary Phase II ESA, a client could save tens of thousands of dollars.  By performing a Phase II ESA based on information obtained from a magnetic survey that is a standard part of a Phase I ESA, a client could potentially save hundreds of thousands of dollars.