Second Opinions Can Offer a Distinctly-Different Path Forward

Written by Alan Hahn, Dragun Corporation

A story in the Washington Post from a year
ago discussed why second medical opinions can be very important.  In one case, a young man, at his mother’s
behest, got a second opinion and received life-saving surgery for cancer that
he would not have otherwise received. 
The other case they highlighted was a woman who did not get a second
opinion and had a double mastectomy and hysterectomy.  Neither, it turns out, were necessary.

A Mayo Clinic Study found
that as many as 88% of those looking for a second opinion left with a new or “refined
diagnoses,” and 21% had a “distinctly different” diagnoses.  

Medical second opinions can literally save
your life.

While environmental consultants are not in
the business of saving lives directly, in our experience,
environmental/scientific second opinions have provided some very stark results.

The intent of second opinions, medical, or
as is the case in our world, environmental, is not (or should not be) to
unjustly criticize.  The intent is to
objectively review the data and offer suggestions for a “refined diagnoses” and
occasionally offer a “distinctly different” path forward.

At Dragun Corporation, we began 30-plus
years ago providing second opinions, or, as we call them, peer reviews.  Below are very
brief discussions of some of these second opinions.

Second
Opinion of Groundwater Investigation

A site assessment and remediation program
that was confounding a company had many complicating factors.  When we were asked to review the project, it
was headed down a path of more investigation and remediation.  What we found, and why the subsurface data
were not making sense, was an underground storage tank that was “missed” early
in the investigation. The problem was compounded as they moved to each
subsequent phase of work.  Once this was
discovered, the other data began to make sense.  Collection of additional supporting data presented
to the regulators was convincing and the site was closed.

Second
Opinion of Remediation

An old industrial site with a lot of
“environmental history” was getting more complicated (and confusing) with each
subsequent set of data.  The calculated
groundwater flow at the site did not make sense, but a multi-million dollar
remediation was proposed nonetheless.  The
major issue uncovered in the peer-review process was improperly-screened
wells.  It was a “simple” mistake (and a
reminder of why field work is so important), but the potential consequences
could have been very expensive.  In this
case, a distinctly-different diagnoses led to a far-different (and less costly)
solution.

Second
Opinion Leads to Supreme Court

Another older industrial site that used a
common, but often problematic, chemical, trichloroethylene (TCE), was so
contentious that it ended up in a US State Supreme Court.  When the problem was first identified in the
groundwater, the client recognized that they had used TCE and “stepped up” to
take responsibility.  While operating a
groundwater pump-and-treat system to capture and treat the TCE plume, they were
approached by the state regulators to investigate a newly-discovered
plume.  The state theorized that the
plume had “escaped” the treatment system.  In this particular case, the client’s
consultant was not willing to “push back” and defend the client’s position;
they believed the best course of action was to do as the state directed.

The review of the data suggested that there
was no scientific reason to believe the escaped plume theory.  The subsequent technical and legal battles
ended in the State Supreme Court.  The
unanimous decision of the Supreme Court supported our scientific interpretation,
and the state was ordered to pay the client’s technical and legal costs (nearly
$4 million).

When should you consider a second
“environmental” opinion?  I don’t know if
there are any hard and fast rules.  From
our perspective, the requests for second opinions have come when someone is
considering a new scope of work for additional investigation, considering
remediation, or when a project is potentially headed toward litigation.  In each case, there are potentially-significant
expenses in the next step.

Often, but not always, legal counsel is
involved in this decision including vetting the firm that may be offering the
second opinion.  

Recently, we developed a list of issues we
have encountered more than once in providing second opinions.  You can download this list of “29 Potentially Costly
Soil and Groundwater Investigation Mistakes”
on our website.  This list may provide you with some guidance
as you review your data.

The findings published by the Mayo Clinic regarding medical second opinions providing both refined diagnoses and distinctly different diagnoses are quite remarkable.  And if our experience is any indication of environmental second opinions, it may be worth your effort to seek out a second opinion before taking significant action.   


About the Author

Alan Hahn works at Dragun Corporation, an environmental services headquartered in Farmington Hills, Michigan. His practical experience in the environmental business and the practical experience in marketing, allows him to develop realistic strategic business plans. His undergraduate and graduate studies are both in the environmental field (University of Michigan – Dearborn and University of Maryland). He also has substantial hands-on experience in the environmental field (both in an analytical laboratory and in collection of samples).

Environmental Site Assessments: In Search of Better Conclusions

Written by Bill Leedham, P. Geo., CESA, Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc.

Environmental consultants sometimes struggle with reporting their Phase One Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) findings and conclusions, especially for properties with limited available data, or where the identified environmental issues are deemed to be of low to moderate concern.

Environmental consultants are often in search of ‘Better Conclusions’. When I refer to “better conclusions”, I am talking about rational and defensible conclusions that are presented clearly and designed to meet the report objectives (as defined by regulation and client needs) and not simply stating that “no concerns were identified and no further action is needed” (which most clients would prefer).

As environmental consultants, we understand each site and report is unique and the conclusions are dependent on the available data, as interpreted by a qualified professional. The suggestions offered are by no means comprehensive or all inclusive, but are meant to generate some thoughtful discussion when writing and reviewing Phase One ESA reports.

Follow the Regulation(s)

Depending on the locale and client requirements, you could be following one of several ESA guidelines. Make sure you have conducted your ESA in accordance with the applicable and/or client-requested format, and that the content and wording of your conclusions follows the suggested or mandatory requirements. For example, CSA Z-768-01 requires ESA Conclusions to state either no evidence, or evidence of actual and/or potential contamination has been revealed.

Ontario Regulation 153/04, as amended for filing a Record of Site Condition requires, among other things, that the assessor’s conclusions specifically state whether the RSC can be filed on the basis of the Phase One alone; and whether a Phase Two ESA is required to file the RSC. Failure to include the mandatory statements with the specified wording can result in denial of the RSC application.

If the report is to be compliant with ASTM E1527-13, the conclusions must summarize all recognized environmental conditions; provide one of the ASTM-prescribed concluding statements; and include statements certifying that an Environmental Professional (EP) has conducted All Appropriate Inquires (AAI). The assessor should always be familiar with the most current ESA standards, and ensure that that the format they utilize is applicable to the Site and meets all regulatory and stakeholder objectives.

Know Your Client…. And Other Stakeholders

Phase One ESAs are conducted for a variety of reasons including transactional due diligence, mortgage financing, regulatory requirements or private/internal planning needs. The types and objectives of clients can also vary from Site owners to property buyers, sellers, or managers. Often other third parties such as banks, municipalities, government agencies or environmental regulators can have a significant impact on the content and acceptability of the report conclusions.

As an assessor you need to know in advance all the involved stakeholders, especially those that will require and expect reliance on your report in their decision making process. Different clients can tolerate varying degrees of environmental risk.

For example, a client that has owned and operated an industrial facility since first developed use, and has no plans to sell, redevelop or obtain bank financing may be comfortable with the simple identification of potential environmental concerns and decide not to undertake any further confirmatory investigations.

However, a bank financing a purchase of the same industrial property may have a lower risk tolerance, and will likely require a better understanding of the environmental issues, including Phase One ESA conclusions that clearly state whether or not a Phase Two ESA is recommended by the assessor.

To produce a valid report that assists the stakeholders in their decision making, the assessor must also know all stakeholder objectives, and understand their respective risk tolerance and required level of comfort.


About the Author

Bill Leedham is the Head Instructor and Course Developer for the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada (www.aesac.ca); and the founder and President of Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc. You can contact Bill at info@down2earthenvironmental.ca.

Quebec Dry Cleaner fined $77,000 for environmental offences

The owner of a Quebec-based dry cleaning company (9042-6560 Québec Inc., operating as Net Escompte-Serge Daoust) in Laval, was recently sentenced in a Quebec court and ordered to pay a penalty of $77,000. He pleaded guilty to four counts of violating the Tetrachloroethylene (Use in Dry Cleaning and Reporting Requirements) Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. He also pleaded guilty to failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order issued by an enforcement officer under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The entire amount of the fine will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund.

In addition to the fine, the court made an order under subsection 291(1) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The order stipulates that the owner must:

  • refrain from engaging in any activity that may result in the continuation or repetition of the offence;
  • publish, within six months after the judgment, an article on the facts relating to the offence in Fabricare Canadamagazine and provide proof of publication to Environment and Climate Change Canada;
  • display the magazine article in the window of his business for a period of 12 months following publication;
  • complete Seneca College’s Dry Cleaners Environmental Management Training Course within 18 months after the judgment and provide proof of successful completion to Environment and Climate Change Canada;
  • design and implement training for his employees, develop a safe procedure for using and handling tetrachloroethylene, and provide Environment and Climate Change Canada with a copy of the procedure as well as the date and names of the employees trained as soon as possible; and
  • within two months after the judgment, bring into compliance the dry cleaning machine used in the offences committed under the Tetrachloroethylene (Use in Dry Cleaning and Reporting) Regulations and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, unless he decides to dispose of it voluntarily. Environment and Climate Change Canada shall be informed in advance of the persons selected to conduct the inspection and a copy of the inspection report shall be submitted to them. If necessary, corrections shall be made and confirmation sent to the Department.

Tetrachlorethylene, also called PERC, is a solvent whose use is widespread, especially in dry cleaning. The liquid has an ethereal odor, is colorless, volatile and almost non-flammable. It is designated as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 since it can enter the environment through the atmosphere, damage plants and end up in groundwater.

The charges were laid after an inspection of the company’s premises in October 2016, during which Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers found violations of the Tetrachloroethylene (Use in Dry Cleaning and Reporting) Regulations. The offences identified involve the storage and disposal of tetrachloroethylene waste and the maintenance, conservation and production of records in relation to dry cleaning activities. To remedy these offences, a compliance order was issued. However, the owner did not comply with it.

Record $2.7 million fine for company causing oil spill in B.C.

Kirby Offshore Marine Operating LLC was recently sentenced in the Provincial Court of British Columbia, in Bella Bella, after pleading guilty to three charges of violating federal legislation, in connection with an October 13, 2016, spill from the vessel Nathan E. Stewart into Seaforth Channel near Bella Bella, British Columbia.

The company was sentenced to pay the following penalties:

  • $2.7 million for the offence of depositing a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish, in violation of the Fisheries Act;
  • $200,000 for the offence of depositing a substance harmful to migratory birds, in violation of the Migratory Birds Convention Act1994; and
  • $5,000 for the offence of failing to comply with the pilotage requirements under the Pilotage Act.

The $2.7 million penalty imposed under the Fisheries Act is the largest fine for the deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish from a single spill. This penalty will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund and is recommended to be used toward the conservation of fish and fish habitat in the Central Coast region of British Columbia. The $200,000 penalty for the offence under the Migratory Birds Convention Act1994 will also be directed to the Fund.

On October 13, 2016, the tug boat Nathan E. Stewart ran aground at Edge Reef near Bella Bella, British Columbia, resulting in the release of approximately 107,552 litres (28,412 gallons) of diesel fuel and 2,240 litres (591 gallons) of lubricants. Both substances are deleterious to fish and migratory birds. Kirby Offshore Marine Operating LLC owned the Nathan E. Stewart.

The articulated tug-barge combo was on its way back to Vancouver from Alaska at the time of the incident. The fuel barge was empty, but the tug quickly began leaking diesel into the water. Seven crew members were on board, but no one was injured.

The tug and barge combo Nathan E. Stewart  (Photo Credit:  NORMAN FOX / FOR PNG )

Kirby Offshore Marine is the largest United States operator of coastal tank barges and towing vessels participating in the regional distribution of refined petroleum products, black oil, and petrochemicals. Kirby’s coastal fleet operates along the U.S. coastal network and calls on ports along the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts, as well as ports in Alaska, Hawaii and on the Great Lakes.

As a result of the federal conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

What Will Be driving Growth of Waste Management & Remediation Services Market Near Future

Garner Insights, a market intelligence and consulting firm, recently published a research report on the global waste management and remediation services market. The report 99-page report covers a market Overview, future economic impact, competition by manufacturers, along with supply (production), & consumption analysis.

The report states that waste management companies are using technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) for better management of waste and recycling. IoT provides solutions such as route optimization and operational analytics to reducing costs.

The leading waste management companies covered in the report include Waste Management, Republic Services, Clean Harbors, Stericycle, and Progessive Waste Solutions.

The product segment analysis is broken down in the report as Waste Collection, Waste Treatment And Disposal, Remediation, Material Recovery.

The report covers the United States, EU, Japan, China, India, Southeast Asia markets and provides information on each geographic market including sales, revenue, and market share and growth rate.

Federal Government Passes Controversial Environmental Legislation and Tanker Ban

Written by Blakes Environmental Law Group

The Government of Canada has enacted two new pieces of environmental legislation, significantly altering the process for federal project approvals in Canada. It has also passed extensive amendments to the rules regarding navigable waters and fish habitat protections that had been previously changed through omnibus legislation in 2012.

On June 20, 2019, the Senate passed three bills:

  1. Bill C-69, the controversial Act entitled An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
  2. Bill C-48, Oil Tanker Moratorium Act
  3. Bill C-68, Act to Amend the Fisheries Act

All three bills received royal assent on June 21, 2019. Bill C-69 and significant portions of Bill C-68 will come into force later, through orders-in-council. Once in force, the bills will result in significant changes to how the government manages and approves projects in Canada. For more information on Bills C-69 and C-68, please see our February 2018 Blakes Bulletin: Federal Government Overhauls Canadian Environmental Legislation.

BILL C-69

Originally introduced in the House of Commons in February 2018, Bill C-69 toured the country and was amended three times before ultimately receiving royal assent over a year after its introduction. The final Senate vote was 57 to 37 with one abstention. Highlights of Bill C-69 include the repeal of the National Energy Board Act (NEB Act) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA), signalling the end of the National Energy Board (NEB) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. To replace them, the new Canadian Energy Regulator Act (CERA) and Impact Assessment Act (IAA) respectively, will create two new regulators: the Canadian Energy Regulator (CER) and the Impact Assessment Agency (Agency).

The CER, like the NEB, will continue to govern the lifecycle of federal energy projects, including interprovincial and international pipelines and transmission lines, offshore energy projects, and international energy trade. However, the new Agency will take over all impact assessments and evaluate projects based on several mandatory factors, including project need, economic and social effects, and Indigenous knowledge related to the project. The Agency or appointed review panel must report to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada (Minister) or the governor-in-council on the positive and negative impacts of the project. This is in contrast to the existing procedure, where the NEB presides over project reviews and makes recommendations to the government. Cabinet or the Minister, however, will remain responsible for final determinations on the public interest.

The new IAA process will include an early planning stage and proponent impact statement prior to the commencement of an impact assessment. An impact assessment may be led by the Agency or a review panel, which may include panel members from lifecycle regulators such as the CER. Like the CEAA, the IAA will apply to designated projects; however, the regulations indicating which projects will be designated have not yet been finalized.

Bill C-69 was not passed with flying colours. The first round of amendments to the bill were made on the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (ENVI). The ENVI Committee Report was prepared with input from Indigenous Peoples, companies and individuals. The initial round of amendments included changes such as clearer timelines, clarification around factors to be considered in project review (only feasible alternatives to be considered, both positive and negative impacts), clarification of transitional provisions and allowance for integrated review panels to ensure projects are subjected to only one review.

The first round of amendments was approved and Bill C-69 was sent to the Senate, where it was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources (Senate Committee). After touring the country to hear from interested parties nationwide, in May 2019, the Senate Committee recommended, and the Senate subsequently adopted, nearly 200 amendments to the bill.

After the extensive amendments were approved by the Senate, Bill C-69 went back to Parliament. On June 13, 2019, the federal government accepted 99 of the amendments passed by the Senate and rejected the remainder. Of those 99, the majority were accepted as drafted, but a substantial portion were further amended. The resulting version of the bill (which has not yet been consolidated and released) was passed by the Senate on June 20, 2019.

Amendments

The accepted amendments are primarily amendments to the IAA. Among those amendments approved by the government and ultimately passed by the Senate are several changes to the IAA which re-allocate powers from the Minister to the Agency. For example, the ability to suspend time limits, or to determine relevant factors to consider in an assessment. Also, the Minister is not allowed to direct the Agency, its employees, or any review panel members with respect to a report, decision, order, or recommendation to be made under the IAA.

Several amendments recommended by the Senate Committee would have modified the mandatory considerations for project approvals set out in section 22 of the IAA, but all were ultimately rejected. Also included in the rejected Senate amendments were those which would have decreased the IAA’s obligations to consider the impacts of proposed projects on climate change. The resulting version of the IAA does not require the Agency to consider a project’s impact on climate change on a global level, to account for provincial enactments respecting climate change, or to explicitly exclude greenhouse gas emissions generated from another downstream physical activity or project from the definition of direct or incidental effects. The requirement to consider a project’s impact on Canada’s ability to meet its international climate change obligations remains.

Amendments that were accepted clarify that the Agency is responsible for determining the scope of the factors that must be considered when conducting an impact assessment. A clarifying amendment that appointed review panel members will be “unbiased and free from any conflict of interest” was also included, as well as those clarifying timelines for review panels. Obligations to consult with the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and lead Commissioner of the Canadian Energy Regulator (depending on the designated project) when establishing a review panel’s terms of reference are also included.

Global amendments include changing the adjective “adverse” to “significant” when referring to project effects, and clarifying that Indigenous knowledge includes the knowledge of Indigenous women.

Transitional Provisions and Coming into Force

Some of the accepted amendments clarify the transitional provisions and coming into force of the acts in Bill C-69. For example, the new section 182.1 clarifies that an environmental assessment commenced under the CEAA for which a decision statement has not yet been issued upon the coming into force of Bill C-69 is continued as if the CEAA had not been repealed. The new section 187.1 also confirms that a regional study commenced under the CEAA but not completed until after Bill C-69 comes into force is continued as an assessment under the IAA. Also, a regional report under the CEAA is deemed to be report under the IAA.

Completed studies, assessments and approvals under the NEB Act or the CEAA will be continued under the new legislation. If a designated project under the CEAA was determined not to require an environmental assessment, the IAA will not apply. Incomplete assessments or applications will be completed under the legislation they were commenced under, although by a new regulatory body (the Agency or the CER). NEB members may be requested to continue to hear applications that were active before them upon the coming into force of the acts.

Bill C-69 received royal assent on June 21, 2019. It will come into force on a day specified by the governor-in-council.

BILL C-48

The Oil Tanker Moratorium Act was also passed on June 20, 2019 in a Senate vote of 49 to 46, with one abstention. Like Bill C-69, Bill C-48 went on tour and faced two rounds of amendments before making it through the Senate. The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications ultimately rejected the Bill. Interestingly, one of the reasons the Senate Committee recommended that Bill C-48 not proceed was that it felt, should Bill C-69 be passed into law, Bill C-48 would be unnecessary. Despite this recommendation, the Senate rejected the Senate Committee’s recommendation and passed Bill C-48 with minor amendments. The House of Commons accepted the amendments in part, resulting in a requirement to review the act in five years.

The Oil Tanker Moratorium Act will prevent all oil tankers carrying more than 12,500 tonnes of crude oil or persistent oil as cargo from stopping or unloading at ports or marine installations north of Vancouver Island to the Alaskan border. It is particularly criticized as being prejudicial to Western Canadian interests.

BILL C-68

Originally introduced in the House of Commons in February 2018, Bill C-68 was amended at the third reading stage in the House of Commons, and then further amended by the Senate after consideration by the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. It was passed by the Senate after the House of Commons agreed to accept 30 of the amendments proposed by the Senate and the Senate agreed to the House’s rejection of the rest of the Senate’s amendments.

Significant parts of Bill C-68 relate to the fishery itself but there are some key changes to the fish and fish habitat protection and pollution prevention provision of the Fisheries Act which are of relevance to project development and ongoing operations affecting fish and fish habitat. Of most importance is the repeal of the prohibitions against causing serious harm to fish and the return of the separate prohibitions on death to fish, and causing harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat, or HADD as it is usually called. A last-minute amendment at the third reading stage had been added to create a provision which deemed the: “quantity, timing and quality of water flow necessary to sustain freshwater or estuarine ecosystems of a fish habitat” to be fish habitat. However, with significant opposition to the deeming provision from stakeholders across the country, the Senate voted to remove it, and the House of Commons agreed.

The amendments to the act expand the authority of the Ministry to establish standards and codes of practice, and also broaden the exceptions to the prohibitions not to cause HADD or the death of fish to allow for the Minister to prescribe classes of works or undertakings that can be carried out. The amendments also allow for fish habitat banks and habitat credits granted in relation to conservation projects carried out by a project proponent for the purpose of creating, restoring or enhancing fish habitats within a prescribed area.

Most of Bill C-68 will not be in force until the government issues new and revised regulations necessary to implement the amended provisions.

CONCLUSION

The adoption of Bills C-69, C-48 and C-68 completes a legislative overhaul of environmental assessment laws in Canada. This multi-year process commenced in early 2016 and included recommendations from expert panels, significant nation-wide debate and travelling Senate Committees. While the changes to the Fisheries Act would appear to set back the clock somewhat, expanded regulatory powers may offset the retroactive aspects of the amendments for new projects impacting Canadian waters.

Bills C-69 and C-48 in particular have been highly controversial, with some provinces arguing that they constitute an invasion on provincial jurisdiction to develop natural resources. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced his intention to challenge both of the new acts in court. Critics are concerned that project approvals, in particular for pipelines, will not be forthcoming, and that the tanker ban is a targeted attempt to interfere with bitumen production in Alberta.

Although we now have certainty regarding the specifics of the legislation that new projects will be subject to, questions remain regarding whether the implementation of the legislation will achieve one of its main objectives, which is to enhance “Canada’s global competitiveness by building a system that enables decisions to be made in a predictable and timely manner, providing certainty to investors and stakeholders, driving innovation and enabling the carrying out of sound projects that create jobs for Canadians.”


Republished with permission from Blakes. This article was originally published Blakes Business Class website.

For further information, please contact any member of Blakes’ Environmental Law group.

TPH Risk Evaluation at Petroleum Contaminated Sites

Written by Abimbola Baejo, Staff Reporter

This report is from a webinar
conducted by the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) Total
Petroleum Hydrocarbon Risk Evaluation Team and the US EPA Clean up Information
Network on the 19 of June 2019. https://tphrisk-1.itrcweb.org/

The webinar was made to facilitate
better-informed decisions made by regulators, project managers, consultants,
industries and stakeholders, on evaluating the risk of TPHs at petroleum contaminated
sites.

What is TPH?

In environmental media, crude oil and individual refinery products are typically characterized as TPH. They are made up of hydrocarbons along with other elements such as nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur, inorganics and metals. The refining process generates various commercial products such as kerosene, diesel, gasoline; with over 2,000 petroleum products identified. These products are made up of various number of carbon atoms which may be in straight or branched chain forms.

TPHs can be found in familiar sites such refineries, air- and seaports, offshore sheens, terminals, service stations and oil storage areas. Hydrocarbons can be broadly classified into aliphatic (e.g. alkanes and alkenes) and aromatic (e.g. benzene and naphthalene) hydrocarbons.

For TPH assessment at contaminated sites, relevant properties to consider are water-solubility, polarity, boiling point and evaporation ranges. Aliphatic hydrocarbons are non-water soluble, non-polar, have lower boiling points and are more prone to evaporation compared to the aromatic hydrocarbons. At a typical petroleum contaminated site, substances such as fuel additives (such as oxygenates), naturally occurring hydrocarbon components, metabolites from degraded substances and individual petroleum constituents (such as BTEX).

TPHs are made up of various constituents with similar or different carbon atoms. This means that there is the challenge of analytically separating TPH constituents in a risk assessment context since hydrocarbon constituents from a specific range of carbon atoms could be a challenge, especially if they are diesel, jet fuel or petroleum. With this knowledge, one can conclude that bulk TPH analysis, though a good screening method, is not a suitable method for TPH risk evaluation. A good way of summarizing this is in shown below.

Chromatograms of samples from the same analysis. Sample 1, 2 and 3 are Gasoline, Diesel fuel and South Louisiana Crude respectively. The analysis method used was EPA method 8015. (Image courtesy of ITRC, 2019)

The same concentration of TPHs in
different areas of a site might be composed of different products; which in
turn, may present different risks to the ecological environment. Therefore, we
can safely say that TPH is:

  • a
    complex mixture with an approximate quantitative value representing the amount
    of petroleum mixture in the sample matrix
  • is
    defined by the analytical measure used to measure it, which varies from  one laboratory to another.
  • is
    either made up of anthropogenic products freshly released into the environment
    (or weathered) or natural products from ecological activities
  • not
    totally of petroleum origin and may simply be detected by the analytical method
    used.

This definition then enhances the
challenges faced with TPH risk assessing such as dealing with continual changes
in TPH composition due to weathering brought on by site-specific conditions,
trying to analyze for hundreds of individual constituents in the mixture and
having limited data on the toxicological effects of the various constituents.

To overcome the challenge of drawing erroneous conclusions about a contaminated site therefore, the project manager should not focus only on TPH individual constituents when making remedial decisions, which mostly degrade before the toxic fractions do, but should collect samples for both fractions and individual constituents. A detailed Conceptual Site Model (CSM) is suggested as a good guide in assessing TPH risks as it shows where the the remediation focus should be, away from human exposure routes; and periodic revision of this CSM will assist in documenting contaminant plume changes and identifying areas with residual contamination.

TPH ANALYSES

Due to the complexity of TPH mixtures,
analytical methods should be selected based on the data quality objective,
application of the results (whether to delineate a contaminated area or to
conduct a risk assessment), the regulatory requirements, the petroleum type and
the media/matrix being tested. As long as the method is fit for its purpose and
cost effective. TPH mixtures require separation and most laboratories use GC as
a preferred method as it separates I the gas phase based on its volatility.
Since it is difficult to evaluate risk for a TPH mixture, most methods suggest
separation into fractions. Guidelines are usually provided on what methods suit
a purpose best by governmental records but if such records are inaccessible,
getting information from seasoned chemists is the best option. 

Prior to TPH mixture separation,
removing method interferences, such as non-petroleum hydrocarbons, is ideal for
more accurate results. US EPA method 3630C describes the use of silica gel to
remove polar, non-PH and naturally occurring compounds from the analysis. This
gel cleanup leaves only the hydrocarbons in the sample which is the analyzed
for bulk TPH. The silica gel used is a finer version  of the common ones found in clothing
accessories and using it in a gel column setup is most effective at removing
non-hydrocarbons. Quality controls using laboratory surrogates is also advised.
Cleaning up prior to bulk TPH analysis is ideal in determining the extent of
hydrocarbon impact, biodegradation locations and knowing where to focus
remediation activities.

Silica gel can also be used to fractionate samples into aliphatic and aromatic fractions; and the technique can be applied to all matrices. However, alternative fractionation method is suggested for volatile samples. The eluted fractions are then run on the GC instrument  to obtain information on the equivalent carbon ranges. It is good to note that fractionation is more expensive compared to bulk TPH analyses as it provides a more detailed information, removes non-hydrocarbons from the analyses and raises reporting limits.

Chromatograms provide information such as sample components, presence of non-hydrocarbons, presence of solvents, presence of non-dissolved hydrocarbons, poor integration and weathering. They can also be used to compare samples with interferents as shown below:

Chromatograms from the same sample collected at different times showing an unweathered sample (above with red asterisk) and weathered samples (below). (Image courtesy of ITRC, 2019)

Chromatograms from the same TPHd contaminated groundwater sample comparing analysis before silica gel cleanup (left image, TPHd=2.3mg/l)) and after silica gel cleanup (right image, TPHd = <0.05 mg/l). The hump centered around the C19 internal standards and the non-uniform peaks indicate the presence of non-hydrocarbons, as confirmed after silica gel cleanup. (Image courtesy of ITRC, 2019)

Methods used to analyze TPH in
contaminated samples can yield different results when compared with one another,
as well as the presence of non-petroleum hydrocarbons being quantified as TPHs.  To overcome this, use field methods such as
observed plume delineation during excavation, PID analysis of bag headspaces
and oil-in-soil analysis for semi-volatiles, as well as the CSM to get valuable
information, before using laboratory methods and chromatograms to confirm
conclusions made from the field observations.

ENVIRONMENTAL FATE OF TPH

Determining the environmental fate of
TPH is critical to understand how the vapor composition and dissolved plumes
differ from the source zone  due to partitioning
and transformation processes. TPHs partition to vapor as well as water. When
partitioning to vapor, the smaller hydrocarbons are more volatile and therefore
dominate the vapor composition. A more complex process is involved when TPH is
partitioning to water because the smaller hydrocarbons are more soluble, based
on their molecular structure. Aliphatic hydrocarbons are less soluble compared
to the aromatics which are likely to dominate the soil water fractions. TPH
weathering on the other hand, contributes exceedingly to TPH mass reduction in
the environment may be due to aerobic or anaerobic biodegradation processes in
the soil or photooxidation processes; to generate petroleum metabolites which
may be further degraded. Petroleum metabolites produced have oxygen atoms in
their molecules, making them polar in nature and partition preferentially in
water. These metabolites are measured primarily via TPH analysis without silica
gel cleanup, and are identified using chromatogram patterns, understanding the
solubility of the parent compound and using CSMs maps. most TPH components
found in groundwater are metabolites and their toxicity characteristics are
usually different from their parent compounds.

The use of TPH fraction approach with
fractionation methods is considered best for assessing TPH risks because it
provides accurate hydrocarbon quantitation along with the toxicity values as
well as the chemical or physical parameters involved. To determine the
fractionation composition in a TPH, the fuel composition and the weathering
conditions are determined.

For example, Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (NAPL) undergoing weathering process overtime will first have the mobile hydrocarbons partition out while at the same time, further NAPL depletion will occur with the generation of metabolites  by continual biodegradation. There is the migration of vapor plumes to thin zones around the NAPL as well as heavily impacted media due to aerobic degradation in the unsaturated zone. Contaminated ground water could be made up of mostly small aromatic hydrocarbon fractions, some small aliphatic hydrocarbon fractions as well as medium aromatic hydrocarbon fractions.

Along a groundwater flow path, a differential fate affects the TPH composition which in turn affects the exposure.

Fate of TPH composition in Groundwater. (Image courtesy of ITRC, 2019)

TPH
 composition changes along the path of
flow  could be due to:

  • – differential transport and sorption of individual hydrocarbons,
  • – different susceptibilities of hydrocarbons to biodegradation and
  • – different redox zones along the path of flow.

On the other hand, bulk TPH composition show highest hydrocarbon concentrations near the surface and diminish downwards along the gradient while the metabolites generated via biodegradation, increase in concentrations downgradient of the source area and highest parts of the dissolved hydrocarbon plume. Over time, metabolite concentrations may increase near source, shifting the apex of the triangle to the right.

ASSESSING HUMAN AND ECOLOGICAL RISK
FROM TPH

TPH risk assessment is done in three
tiers where the first tier is a screening-level assessment; and the  site-specific assessment comprises the second
and third tiers.

Screening-level assessment involves
preliminary CSM development (source characterization and initial exposure
pathway assessment) and initial data review (regulatory requirement evaluation,
existing TPH data review).

Site-specific assessment involves more
detailed assessment which includes the identification of data gaps from data
obtained from screening-level assessment and collecting additional field data
such as bulk TPH  data and chromatograms,
indicator compounds and fractions, and CSM updates.

An environmental risk assessment may
not be necessary if viable habitats are absent at the TPH contaminated site, if
no contamination is found below the root zones and below the burrowing zones of
ecological receptors; and there is no potential release of the contaminant to
nearby viable ecological habitats. However, risk assessment is necessary if it
is a regulatory requirement, if the screening level values are available and if
the available levels are appropriate for the site conditions or the type of
release.

Site-specific assessment, therefore,
is required when screening levels are lacking or exceeded; and at complex sites
with multiple media, sensitive habitats and receptors. Such an assessment  should focus on direct exposure,  contaminant bioaccumulation and toxicity
assessment which evaluates the ecological risk, physical and chemical toxicity
effects and the metabolites produced.

STAKEHOLDER CONSIDERATIONS

The stakeholders involved are affected
property owners or communities with regard to the risks that are specific to
petroleum contamination as measured by TPH. Communicating with them requires sensitivity
and a timely approach  in order to help
them understand facts and clear their confusions and concerns about TPH risk
assessment. This could be done through factsheets, posters, outreach meetings,
websites and internet links on TPH information. There should be public
notification prior to sampling as well as the provision of post sampling TPH
data results with appropriate explanations.  Technical information and public health issues
should be translated and communicated in a format that is easily understood by
the general public.

Similar sensitivity should be shown to
other TPH assessment impacts to public property, including property value,
access, and private property rights. A major concern is the fear of property
devaluation as a result of possible residual TPH and a Monitored Natural
Attenuation (MNA) remedy. The fears can be effectively addressed by explaining
why the selected remedy is protective and effective (especially MNA), describing
how all activities are done with agency oversight (that is local organizations
and government agencies); and individual property owners concerns  should also be addressed.

Overall, a successful TPH risk
evaluation project requires an appropriate technical approach, careful review
of analytical methods chosen, a complete CSM with regular updates during
remediation as well as stakeholders’ engagement.

Business Opportunity: U.S. EPA’s Solicitation for Small Business Innovation Research

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) is calling for small businesses to apply for Phase I awards up to $100,000 to demonstrate proof of concept environmental technology. The solicitation is open the U.S. companies that have a ground-breaking idea that can be commercialized. The areas of interest to the U.S. EPA with respect to funding can be found below.

CLEAN AND SAFE WATER

  • Sampling devices for microplastics
  • Technologies for the rehabilitation of water infrastructure
  • Technologies for the destruction of PFAS in water and wastewater
  • POU treatment for opportunistic pathogens
  • Technologies for detection and treatment of antibiotic resistant bacteria in wastewater
  • Treatment for cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins in drinking water
  • Resource Recovery for Decentralized Wastewater Systems

AIR QUALITY

  • Air monitoring technology for Ethylene Oxide
  • Air monitoring technology for Sulfur Dioxide

LAND REVITALIZATION

  • Mining site characterization and remediation

HOMELAND SECURITY

  • 3-D Gamma Camera to Map Radiological Contamination
  • Water distribution and stormwater system sensors

SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS MANAGEMENT

  • New Applications for Industrial Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials
  • Preventing Food Waste

SAFER CHEMICALS

  • Safer paint and coating removal products

Phase II Funding and Deadline for Applications

Successful Phase I companies are eligible to apply for Phase II funding, which awards up to $400,000 for two years with a commercialization option of up to $100,000, to further develop and commercialize their technologies.

Last year, the U.S. EPA awarded Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contracts to 23 small businesses across the United States to develop technologies that provide sustainable solutions for environmental issues. These SBIR Phase I recipients are creating technologies that improve water infrastructure, air quality and homeland security.

More information on the solicitation can be found here. Applications are due by July 31, 2019.

U.S. Ecology Inc. and NRC Group agree to Merge

US Ecology, Inc. (Nasdaq-GS: ECOL) recently announced that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement with NRC Group Holdings Corp. (NYSE American: NRCG), a company that provides comprehensive environmental, compliance and waste management services to the marine and rail transportation, general industrial and energy industries, in an all-stock transaction with an enterprise value of $966 million.

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019. The transaction will create a company specializing in industrial and hazardous waste management services.

U.S. Ecology Inc. owns the Stablex hazardous treatment facility and landfill in Blainville, Quebec.

Stablex diposal cells

“The addition of NRCG’s substantial service network strengthens and expands US Ecology’s suite of environmental services,” said Jeffrey R. Feeler, President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of US Ecology. “This transaction will establish US Ecology as a leader in standby and emergency response services and adds a new waste vertical in oil and gas exploration and production landfill disposal to further drive waste volumes throughout the Gulf region.”

Headquartered in Great River, New York, NRC operates from over 65 offices and facilities throughout the Pacific (including Alaska and Hawaii), Southwest, Southeast, Atlantic, and Northeast regions.

As a nationally-recognized Oil Spill Removal Organization, NRCG generates a recurring, compliance-driven revenue stream, with upside from spill events and international expansion, particularly in Mexico and Canada.

NRCG is one of two leading national Oil Spill Removal Organizations (“OSRO”) that provide mandated standby emergency response for the transportation of oil products.  With more than 50 service centers, NRCG has a national service network providing emergency and spill response, light industrial services, hazardous and industrial waste management and transportation services.  From a growing base of disposal assets in the two key oil basins in the Gulf region, the Permian and the Eagle Ford, NRCG provides landfill disposal of waste from oil and gas drilling, treatment and handling of residual waste streams and rental and transportation services to support its disposal operations.

The combined company will use the US Ecology name, and its shares will continue to be listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker ECOL.  Jeffrey R. Feeler will continue to serve as President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Pario Engineering & Environmental Sciences LP Opens Québec City Branch

Pario Engineering & Environmental Sciences LP (Pario), a Canadian provider of specialized engineering and environmental services to the insurance and risk management industries, recently announced that it has opened a new branch location in Quebec City.

The Quebec location will serve Eastern Quebec and support the Atlantic region, and many of Pario’s insurance and claims clients will now have local support to manage and control the costs of spill response and the mitigation of environmental liabilities.

Pario Engineering & Environmental Scienceis a multi-disciplinary team of electrical, mechanical, material, chemical and structural engineers supporting the consumer, commercial, and insurance industries. Pario’s team of geologists, project managers, environmental engineers and environmental scientists provides full-service environmental consulting, specializing in spill response and management, site assessment, contaminated site remediation, hazardous materials identification and management, peer review, and subrogation support.