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.

Husky Oil fined $2.7 million for oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River

Husky Oil Operations Limited recently pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Canadian Fisheries Act and one count of violating the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 in a Saskatchewan court.

The company was ordered to pay a fine of $2.5 million for violating the Fisheries Act and a fine of $200,000 for violating the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994. The fines will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund and will be used to support projects within the North Saskatchewan and/or Saskatchewan River and their associated watersheds related to the conservation and protection of fish and migratory birds.  

The charges related to an incident that occurred between July 20 and 21, 2016, when an estimated 225,000 litres of blended heavy crude oil leaked from a Husky Oil Operations Limited pipeline. Approximately 90,000 litres of the oil entered the North Saskatchewan River near Maidstone, Saskatchewan. The oil was found to be deleterious, or harmful, to fish and migratory birds.   

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s National Environmental Emergencies Centre (NEEC) responded to the July 2016 spill. Environmental emergency officers were onsite from July 22, 2016 until early October 2016 to provide regulatory oversight and guide efforts to protect the environment. A year after the spill, in 2017, and once again in 2018, NEEC’s Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Team returned to the North Saskatchewan River to assess the water and shorelines following the spring ice breakup.

Clean-up Activities of the North Saskatchewan River

The spill resulted in a number of communities having to stop taking water from the North Saskatchewan River for drinking water purposes. The cities had to shut off their intakes and find alternate water sources after the oil plume from a Husky Energy pipeline spill moved downstream. The cities of North Battleford, Prince Albert, and Melfort were ordered by Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency to stop taking water from the river.

In addition to pleading guilty to offences under federal legislation, Husky Oil Operations Limited has pleaded guilty to one count under the provincial Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2010

UBC fined $1.2 million for Release of Ammonia-laden Water

The University of British Columbia and CIMCO Refrigeration were recently sentenced for offences committed in violation of the Canadian Fisheries Act, related to a 2014 ammonia-laden water release that ended up in a tributary of the Fraser River.

CIMCO Refrigeration was fined $800,000 after pleading guilty to depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into an area that may enter water frequented by fish.

The University of British Columbia was fined $1.2 million after being found guilty of the several offences including the depositing or permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish (Booming Ground Creek) and failing to report the incident in a timely manner.

Screenshot courtesy of Ministry of Justice.

In addition to the fine, the University was also ordered to conduct five years of electronic monitoring of storm-water quality at the outfall where the release occurred.

The University has filed an appeal against these convictions.

Background on the Incident

On September 12, 2014, Environment and Climate Change Canada was contacted regarding an ammonia odour at an outfall ditch connected to Booming Ground Creek in Pacific Spirit Regional Park. The source of ammonia was identified as coming from a refrigeration plant at Thunderbird Arena at the University of British Columbia.

CIMCO Refrigeration and the University were completing repairs of the refrigeration system and used a negative pressure device, known as a Venturi, to purge residual ammonia vapours from the system. The mixture of water and ammonia was then discharged into a storm drain at the arena, which flowed to the outfall, through a ditch, and into Booming Ground Creek, which is a tributary of the Fraser River.

Officers and park rangers found approximately 70 dead fish in Booming Ground Creek in the two days following the discharge. The level of ammonia deposited in the water in the storm drain and ditch was analyzed and found to be harmful to fish.

As a result of this conviction, both organizations’ names will be added to the Environmental Offender’s Registry.

Training for CBRNe & HazMat incidents at mass public events

Written by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

Preparing civilian first responders and military teams for the threat of possible chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive (CBRNe) attacks is a top priority for countries around the world.

The very nature of CBRNe threat detection, however, all too frequently relies on the ability to monitor and manage the ‘invisible’ – which can present unique challenges for both trainees and their trainers.

And the landscape in which CBRNe events can take place is ever expanding, as perpetrators exploit soft civilian targets at mass public gatherings – evidenced by the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka in 2019, the terrorist attack at the UK’s Manchester Arena in 2017 or the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013.

When training for these types of mass public CBRNe incidents, the challenge for instructors is to be able to authentically replicate the environment and conditions that are typical of large-scale public areas – be it a music stadium, sports arena or religious venue.

The value of CBRNe training exercises

Realistic, hands-on exercises can provide a useful opportunity for trainees to practice carrying out their roles, and to gain familiarity and confidence with their CBRN detector equipment.

The more life-like the exercise, the greater the likelihood that the participants will become fully engaged in ‘alert’ mode rather than simply remaining in an ‘exercise’ mindset.

But while authenticity is valuable, it is also crucial to ensure that in creating these realistic scenarios there is no risk of harm to the participants, the trainers, the environment or the public at large.

Selecting the optimum training method

As we have explored in previous blog posts, traditional methods of CBRNe and HazMat training (such as those that incorporating Live Agents or simulants) can have their limitations.

The use of live simulants, for example, can often only be detected at very close range, which means the training scenarios can lack realism.

In addition, many simulated substances are not well suited to being used in repeated training exercises, due to the practical issue of managing residual contamination.

Electronic simulator detectors, however, offer a safe and practical alternative – by replicating the appearance, feel and functionality of actual detectors and by responding to safe electronic sources.

CBRNe training in action

With the use of electronic simulation equipment, it is possible to conduct realistic and easily repeatable training exercises that present no risk of harm to the personnel or the environment in which they are operating.

In one recent case study, the use of an inventory of electronic simulators was seen to vastly enhance the realism of a large-scale CBRNe training exercise that was conducted by the Bristol Police at the Bristol City Football Ground.


About the Author

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators. He is interested in liaising with CBRN professionals and detector manufacturers to develop training simulators as well as CBRN trainers and exercise planners to enhance their capability and improve the quality of CBRN and Hazmat training.

Solvent Spill from Transport Truck results in $100,000 fine

Penner International Inc., headquartered in Manitoba, was recently convicted on one charge on the Ontario Environmental Protection Act as a result of a spill of solvent from one its transport trucks in 2017. The company was fined $100,000 plus a victim surcharge of $25,000.

The driver of the vehicle involved in the solvent spill was also personally charged and convicted. He was fined $35,000 plus a victim surcharge of $8,750. He was given 12 months to pay the fine.

In spill occurred on July 20, 2017 in the Town of Gwillimbury, approximately a 1-hour drive of Toronto. A Penner tractor-trailer driven a by independent contractor was heading north on Highway 400 when it rear-ended a pick-up truck that swerved in front of it, ultimately leading to a spill of solvent VORTEX WPM onto the highway.

The VORTEX PM had been picked up by the driver earlier in the day from a Mississauga, Ontario distribution company and loaded onto the trailer. The load consisted of twelve stainless steel 1500-kilogram. The distribution company did not secure them to the trailer.  The driver did not inquire as to whether the totes were secured or not before he closed the doors to the trailer and drove off.

During transport and at the time of the rear-ending incident, as the totes were not properly secured, they shifted and the valves on two of the totes were knocked open. Solvent spilled from the trailer onto the highway and some also ran down gradient onto the soil of an adjacent construction site.

A one-kilometre evacuation zone was also established around the spill site. The closure remained in force for 10.5 hours, and the construction site’s operations were affected for a few days.

Hundreds of motorists were trapped on Highway 400, where the spill occurred, for up to five hours before they could be re-routed to ancillary roads.

VORTEX WPM is an organic solvent that is flammable. To clean up a large spill of VORTEC WPM, the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for VORTEX WPM states: “Eliminate all ignition sources. Persons not wearing protective equipment should be excluded from area of spill until clean up has been completed. Stop spill at source. Prevent from entering drains, sewers, streams, etc. If runoff occurs, notify authorities as required. Pump or vacuum transfer spilled product to clean containers for recovery. Transfer contaminated absorbent, soil and other materials to containers for disposal.”

Penner International Ltd. was founded in 1923 and specialized in truckload dry van, international, and Canadian transport.

Proposed Alberta Bill gives Municipalities the power to offer tax breaks for brownfield development

The Alberta government recently introduced a Bill in the legislature (Bill 7) entitled the Municipal Government (Property Tax Incentives) Amendment Act. The government claims it has been introduced to help municipalities attract investment and development by giving them the power to offer stronger property tax incentives to business and industry.

A proposed new law would allow Alberta municipalities to offer tax breaks for up to 15 years to businesses willing to set up in commercial or industrial areas of their town or city.

If passed, Bill 7 would allow each municipality to decide if and how to implement the tax incentives by passing a single bylaw that would:

  • offer incentives to reduce, exempt or defer the collection of property taxes for non-residential properties for up to 15 years, with the option for renewal
  • establish an eligibility criteria and application process to streamline tax incentive offers, instead of requiring a separate council resolution or bylaw for each property

“This will give municipalities the tools they need to bring to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses, bring investment back into our communities and restore the Alberta advantage for all,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu, at a news conference Tuesday in Sherwood Park.

Right now, municipalities can only cancel, refund or defer taxes based on hardship, with decisions made on a case-by-case basis.

The government said it hopes municipalities can use these new powers to encourage economic development in non-residential areas — including vacant, derelict or under-utilized commercial or industrial property which are, or may be, contaminated.

Elsewhere in western Canada, Saskatchewan allows property tax incentives for up to five years and B.C. allows them for up to 10.

Respondents to Alberta Urban Municipalities Association Brownfield Impact Assessment were asked how many of each type of brownfield sites exist in their municipalities?

Hamilton Member of Parliament calls for RCMP investigation of illegal soil dumping

A Canadian Member of Parliament, David Sweet, wants the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to investigate alleged illegal soil dumping in Flamborough, near the City of Hamilton.

According to Mr. Sweet, a Conservative MP representing the federal riding of Flamborough-Glanbrook, the matter of illegal dumping requires the immediate attention of the federal government and the RCMP.

David Sweet, MP

In a open letter to federal Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, and the federal Minister of Organized Crime Reduction, Bill Blair, the Flamborough-Glanbrook MPP claims that there is illegal dumping of soil at a garden supply store in his riding because of “alleged links to organized crime and related illegal activities.”

“This matter requires the immediate attention of the government and the RCMP,” he said in a letter to Bill Blair, federal minister of organized crime reduction, and Ralph Goodale, public safety minister. 

The garden supply store has faced numerous environmental fines over the years. This includes in 2008, when it was fined $50,000 after it pleaded guilty to violations under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act. The company was violating several conditions, including not monitoring its wells. 

Recent scrutiny, however, has focused on the dumping of excess soil there. Neighbours say trucks arrive day and night and dump dirt there. Hamilton authorities say there’s an ongoing issue across the city with trucks dumping untested soil from GTHA developments on rural properties. 

Proposed Ontario Rules on Excess Soil

Ontario is proposing changes to the excess soil management and brownfields redevelopment regime.

The changes are designed to “make it safer and easier for more excess soil to be reused locally…while continuing to ensure strong environmental protection” and to “clarify rules and remove unnecessary barriers to redevelopment and revitalization of historically contaminated lands…while protecting human health and the environment.

The changes will include the development of a new excess soil regulation supported by amendments to existing regulations including O. Reg. 347 and O. Reg. 153/04 made under the Environmental Protection Act supports key changes to excess soil management.

Proposed changes include:

  • clarifying that excess soil is not a waste if appropriately and directly reused;
  • development of flexible, risk-based reuse excess soil standards and soil characterization rules to provide greater clarity of environmental protection;
  • removal of waste-related approvals for low risk soil management activities;
  • improving safe and appropriate reuse of excess soil by requiring testing, tracking and registration of soil movements for larger and riskier generating and receiving sites;
  • flexibility for soil reuse through a Beneficial Reuse Assessment Tool to develop site specific standards;
  • landfill restrictions on deposit of clean soil (unless needed for cover).

From an environmental perspective, the proposal’s call for some regulatory key points are quite beneficial. Registering and tracking the excess soil movement from excavation source to receiving site or facility will minimize illegal dumping. Transporting and illegal dumping of the excess soils is a source of concern because excavated soil is a source of trapped Greenhouse Gases (GHG). 

The proposal is posted for comment on the Environment Registry until May 31, 2019. To read the full proposal, click here.

Quebec’s Action on Illegal Soil Dumping

The Quebec Government recently announcement that it will adopt the regulation that will include the implementation of a system in which the movement of contaminated soil will be tracked in real time. Under the tracking system, the site owner, project manager, regulator, carrier, and receiving site, and other stakeholders will be able to know where contaminated soil is being shipped from, where it’s going, its quantity and what routes will be used to transport it.

Contaminated soil will be tracked in real time, starting from its excavation, through a global positioning system. The system, Traces Québec, is already in place in Montreal as part of a pilot project.

The Quebec government also intends to increase he number of inspections on receiving sites. Furthermore, fines will be increased for those taking part in illegal dumping — from $350 to $3 million depending on the gravity of the offence, the type of soil and if they are repeat offenders, among other criteria.

$250 million Canadian Fund for Technology Companies that can modernize Industries

BDC Capital, the investment arm of BDC recently launched the $250 million Industrial Innovation Venture Fund to invest in tech companies and entrepreneurs accelerating the transformation of core Canadian industries including agriculture and food technologies, resource extraction technologies and advanced manufacturing.

The Industrial Innovation Venture Fund will invest in early to late stage firms with the genius and ambition to drive marked improvements in productivity and competitiveness across the value chains of the core competitive industries that are the backbone of the Canadian economy, through combinations of innovative and transformative technologies, processes, and business models.

“BDC Capital is excited to be a first mover again, this time supporting innovation and technology adoption among core competitive industries like ag-tech, resource extraction and advanced manufacturing with our new venture capital fund, said Jérôme Nycz, Executive Vice President, BDC Capital. “This fund is complementary to our existing work with the Industrial, Clean and Energy Technology (ICE) Venture Fund, and by launching the Industrial Innovation Venture Fund, we are doubling down on developing transformative solutions for Canadian industries.”

The goal of the Industrial Innovation Venture Fund is to enable technology innovation and commercialization in key Canadian industrial sectors like ag-tech, advanced manufacturing, oil and gas as well as mining tech.

BDC Capital is the investment arm of BDC- Canada’s only bank devoted exclusively to entrepreneurs. With over $3 billion under management, BDC Capital serves as a strategic partner to the country’s most innovative firms. It offers a full spectrum of risk capital, from seed investments to transition capital, supporting Canadian entrepreneurs who wish to scale their businesses into global champions. Visit bdc.ca/capital.

Researchers to study Arctic Spill Response and Clean-up

Researchers from Dalhousie University recently received $523,000 in Canadian federal government funding to investigate strategies to better separate oil from water and examine the risk of spills in the Canadian Arctic Archipeligo.

As climate change accelerates the melting of sea ice in the Arctic, the Northwest Passage could become a significant route between the Pacific and North Atlantic oceans. With the potential of increased Arctic vessel traffic, the Government of Canada is investing in science and research to ensure that we are prepared in an event of a spill.  

One research project funded under this program will test new methods to remove oil from water for greater efficiency during a cleanup. The other project will use advanced technology to help responders locate and identify spills, while minimizing harm to the marine environment. This new science and data will be important to inform decision makers and will help accelerate efficient decision making capacity. 

The two researchers that will be heading the investigation are Dr. Haibo Niu, and Dr. Lei Liu.

Dr. Niu currently works at the Department of Engineering, Dalhousie University. Haibo does research in Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering and Ocean Engineering. His most recent research paper is entitled A Comprehensive System for Simulating Oil Spill Trajectory and Behaviour in Subsurface and Surface Water Environments.

For the Arctic research project, Dr. Niu is trying to develop a computer model that will predict the movement of an oil spill so responders know where it’s going and what it threatens.

Dr. Liu’s major research interests include coupled simulation-optimization modeling for groundwater management, site remediation system design, modeling of air/water/waste pollution control systems, and environmental risk assessment. He also has exposure to areas of regional environmental systems planning and management, climate-change impact assessment and adaptation planning, GIS and its application to environmental information systems, system dynamics, and uncertainty analysis.

The federal government is funding Dr. Liu’s project that will involve trying to find a way to use existing membrane technology to filter oil from oily waste water collected on board vessels during a spill cleanup. The goal is to create a unit carried on board to remove oil, allowing clean water to be discharged at sea rather than carried back to shore for treatment.

The projects are funded under the $45.5 million Multi-Partner Research Initiative, which aims provide the best scientific advice to respond to spills in Canadian waters. The initiative connects leading researchers both in Canada and around the world. These efforts will improve our knowledge of how spills behave, how to contain them and clean them up, and how to minimize their environmental impacts.