Ontario MOECC Issues Draft Order to Mining Company in Northern Ontario

Ontario MOECC recently issued a draft Director’s Order to Ontario Graphite Ltd. and several Directors of the company that, if finalized, will require the company to perform remedial work related to an interceptor trench, mine tailings dam, polishing pond.

The mining operation, referred to as the Kearney Graphite Mine, is located Township of Butt in the District of Parry Sound, approximately 20 km north east of the community of Kearney.

Ontario Graphite Ltd. Kearney Mine Site (Photo Credit: Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal)

Under these sections of the Environmental Protection Act and Ontario Water Resources Act, the Director may require a person who owns, or owned, or who has or had management or control of an undertaking or property, to take immediate actions and environmental measures to protect the natural environment and to prevent or reduce the discharge of a contaminant into the natural environment from the undertaking or property, or to prevent, decrease or eliminate an adverse effect.

The overall objective of the proposed Director’s Order is to amend an existing Director’s Order issued on January 26, 2016 to have the company implement a work plan for the treatment of mine water discharges as well as submit a written report prepared by a qualified person.

On April 10, 2017, Ontario Graphite Ltd. reported that the open pit was overflowing to the environment as a result of spring melt.  Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) staff visited the site on April 12, 2017 and observed that the collection trench used by the company to prevent acidic water from entering Graphite Lake (i.e. the interceptor ditch) had also overflowed at some point prior to the site visit.

During the April 12, 2017 MOECC site visit, company staff reported to the ministry that additional erosion had occurred on the downstream dam that separates the tailings management area from the polishing pond. Company staff did not foresee concerns for dam stability; MOECC staff, however, recommended that the company have someone with the necessary expertise undertake evaluation of the structure.

In response to the MOECC recommendation, the company retained a consulting firm to provide recommendations for any needed remedial work on the tailings dam. As detailed in the updated action plan submitted to the ministry on October 30, 2017, the company awaits receipt of the report detailing these recommendations and following receipt, will implement the recommendations noted.

In 2017, Ontario Graphite Limited reported several non-compliance incidents with water quality discharge limits specified in the Environmental Compliance Approval including acute toxicity, iron, total suspended solids and pH.  Although the company attributed some of the exceedances to the dewatering of the open pit, a consultant hired by the company as a result of the Director’s Order noted a number of recommendations that should be implemented to improve operation of the sewage works and to maintain compliance with the final effluent limits.

Environmental Insurance in Canada

By Indrani Nadarajah

Environmental insurance policies are now widely available in Canada. While there are problems with wordings in many of those policies, the portfolio is evolving with more targeted products becoming available to address the changing liability landscape.  Meanwhile, a parliamentary review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act has just been completed, confirming that the country’s main pollution laws are outdated, and the courts have been leaning towards a more generous interpretation of current legislation in order to better protect the environment.  Environmental activism is not affecting the insurance portfolio yet as actions thus far have been targeted at prospective projects, but as stakes rise, this may change.

Environmental insurance has been available in this country for a while, with insurers relying on foreign policy wordings without necessarily ensuring their offerings cohere with the Canadian regulatory environment, explains Carl Spensieri, Vice President, Environmental Insurance at Berkley Canada.

“Most of the policies currently available in the Canadian marketplace originate from parent companies based in the US or Europe, where environmental regulations are much tougher.  It doesn’t always make commercial sense for the overseas-based insurers to tailor their wordings specifically to the market here, given that the size of the environmental insurance portfolio in Canada is only about $150 million, about 10 times smaller than the estimated $1.5-$2 billion market in the US,” Spensieri explains.

A complicating factor for the environmental portfolio is that unlike many developed jurisdictions, Canada is not regulated by prescriptive environmental standards. Rather, there are guidelines. (There are, however, exceptions such as when a former industrial site is to be converted to residential use. In these situations, requirements are very explicit.)

It is this difference that creates a misalignment between policy wordings and cover intent, Spensieri explains. The guidelines that stand in lieu for regulation, rather than allowing for greater latitude during cleanup, often pose problems for both the insured and the insurer when a claim is made.

For example, a policy may state that the insurer will foot the cost of cleaning up a polluted site to the standard “as required by law,” but what happens when the law is silent on the matter?

The claim is often denied, which then forces the insured to petition a regulatory authority to issue a cleanup order.  Canadian regulators, however, are very hesitant to offer specific advice or issue orders.  “In Canada, we have the underlying philosophy of the polluter pays principle.  But if the property you pollute is your own, there is rarely any requirement to remediate,” Spensieri points out.  A regulator, however, will take action (including issuing an order) if the pollution seeps or affects a neighbouring property not owned by the polluter, or a public natural resource.

This lack of clarity has served to dampen the environmental insurance market, with some insurers electing to only offer policies which respond to cleanup when legally required.

David V. Tupper, a partner at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP in Calgary, notes that the courts have yet to give clear direction in an area which affects commercial and general liability (CGL) policies. CGL policies have a 120-hour provision within which the insured has to report the pollution to the insurer.  Only then can the provision for cover be triggered.  However, whether the 120-hour provision is an absolute requirement has not been clarified by the courts, with no resolution of this matter in terms of reported decisions, says Tupper.

 EVOLVING PORTFOLIO

According to Tupper, there are three broad developments in environmental liability insurance that have occurred over the last five years.

  1. Environmental impairment liability policies (EIL)

EIL policies cover third party exposures for the manufacturing or servicing industries. They cover first party cleanup expenses and pollution from waste material, as well as third party cleanup expenses, bodily injury and property damage arising from a pollution event.

“EIL policies are usually not tied to sudden accidental release of pollutants, but most do provide broad coverage for businesses after extensive due diligence by the insurers,” says Tupper.  “EIL policies also have strict limits.”  Such policies tend to focus on non-legacy, light hazard, and fixed site exposures.  They typically avoid known contamination conditions.

Strategic Underwriting Managers for example, bills its EIL policy as an endorsement that is meant to address the gap created by the pollution exclusion in CGL policies.

  1. D&O insurance and environmental liability

The second development in environmental insurance arose out of a recent case in Ontario.

The decision in Baker et al. v. Director, Ministry of the Environment cast a pall over Canadian boardrooms when the former directors and officers of Northstar Aerospace, Inc. and its parent, Northstar Aerospace (Canada) Inc., were held personally liable by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) for contamination at the insolvent company’s former manufacturing and processing facility in Cambridge, Ontario.

Northstar Aerospace Facility, Cambridge, Ontario (Photo Credit: Richard Vivian, Cambridge Times Staff )

The environmental contamination arose from the migration of trichloroethylene from the site to nearby residential properties.  Northstar began a voluntary remediation of the site in 2005 but after it began to encounter financial difficulties, the MOE issued a remediation order in March 2012 to secure continued performance of the work. Following the sale of substantially all the company’s operating assets (other than the site) in July 2012 under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), no personnel or resources were left to continue the work.  Due to human health concerns, the MOE took the extraordinary step in August 2012 of undertaking the remediation work itself.

When the stay of proceedings under the CCAA expired in October 2012, the MOE issued a remediation order against certain directors and officers of the company.  The directors and officers appealed to the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal, pointing out that some of them were not on the board when the contamination occurred and they had had no specific responsibility for environmental matters.  The MOE counter- argued, pointing out that the directors and officers had allowed the company to file for CCAA protection and stop remediation activities, which therefore made them responsible for remediation under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act.  The ERT agreed with the MOE’s argument and ordered the directors and officers to foot the bill so that remediation work could continue until the appeal process was completed. The directors and officers were forced to pay approximately $800,000 for the interim work and subsequently reached a settlement with the MOE, where eight of the individuals paid a total of $4.75 million.

“It’s not surprising that this case created a significant concern among directors and officers that they would be pursued for environmental cleanup,” says Tupper.  “And what’s happened in the last few years – a focus on D&O insurance and the environmental provision.”

Some D&O policies have been revamped to include environmental cover.  For example, last September, RSA Insurance introduced a policy called “Ironclad,” which the company describes as a comprehensive Side A DIC (Difference in Conditions) insurance policy to bridge the gap between “unavailable corporate indemnification, an unresponsive or exhausted underlying D&O policy, and the directors’ and officers’ personal assets.”  But there are questions about the level of protection that would actually be offered, warns Tupper.

  1. New entrants in the marketplace

There is no doubt that notwithstanding certain shortcomings outlined above, the environmental insurance portfolio is evolving with new entrants in the marketplace differentiating themselves.

Berkley Canada, for example, offers expedited cleanup in its environmental policies, a feature which it says is unique in Canada.  Expedited cleanup not only ensures that an insured can file a claim for cleanup, but also ensures the cleanup method used is fast and efficient, rather than the most cost-effective.  This enhancement helps minimize project delays, says Carl Spensieri.

The company is also specifically targeting public private partnership consortiums involved in major infrastructure projects in Canada.  Berkley’s environmental policies target companies undertaking such projects by covering not only cleanup of pollution caused by the contractor’s work, but also the financial cost when pollution is discovered on the owner’s site.

“Today, risk is more complex than ever before.  As such an insured should always undertake the appropriate level of due diligence and ensure they are engaging the appropriate underwriting and broking expertise when purchasing environmental insurance,” Spensieri warns.

Over the summer, Beazley, a provider of specialist environmental liability insurance launched its local environmental coverage in Canada, focusing on fixed site and operational liability risks.

“Key target industries are the manufacturing, industrial, real estate, hospital and educational sectors,” notes a company statement.

CANADIAN LEGAL INTERPRETATION BROADENING?

In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada held that environmental laws may be interpreted broadly, even when no obvious damage to the environment was discerned, in order to better protect the public.

In Castonguay Blasting v Ontario, a company, Castonguay Blasting, conducted a blasting operation when it was working on a highway-widening project in Eastern Ontario.  The blast damaged a nearby home and vehicle with fly-rock from the blast-site, but the natural environment was not harmed.  However, Castonguay was charged and convicted for failing to report the incident to the environment ministry under Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act.

Castonuay Blasting,a drilling and blasting contractor, has more than 40 years of experience in the quarry sector

Castonguay Blasting, which was granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, argued that the EPA does not apply if the natural environment is not also harmed.  A unanimous Supreme Court, however, disagreed with Castonguay’s position.

Justice Rosalie Abella, writing for the seven-member Court, held that the EPA is entitled to a generous interpretation to ensure that it can properly respond to a wide variety of environmentally harmful scenarios so as to protect the public.  “The statute places both the obligation to investigate and the decision about what further steps are necessary with the Ministry and not the discharger,” she affirmed.

In a separate case, however, the British Columbia Court of Appeal confirmed the application of the environmental exclusion provision in CGL policies.

In Precision Plating Ltd. v. Axa Pacific Insurance Company, 2015 BCCA 277, the BC Court of Appeal held that the insurer had no duty to defend the insured for claims alleging property loss arising from the escape of toxic chemicals.

The insured, Precision Plating, had leased a space within a multi-tenanted commercial strata building and stored vats filled with toxic chemicals used in its electroplating business.  In 2011, a fire broke out on the insured’s premises, activating the sprinkler system.  The water caused the toxic chemicals in the vats to overflow and seep into neighbouring units.  The insured applied for a declaration that the insurer had a duty to defend these claims, which Axa disputed.

At issue was the interpretation of the pollution exclusion clause in the CGL policy.

Precision’s CGL policy stated that insurance does not apply to “Bodily Injury, Personal Injury or Property Damage caused by, contributed to by, or arising out of the actual, alleged or threatened discharge, emission, dispersal, seepage, leakage, migration, release or escape at any time of Pollutants.”

The trial judge determined that a literal interpretation of the pollution exclusion clause would lead to a result that was inconsistent with the insured’s “reasonable expectations” of coverage, especially since the main purpose of the insurance policy was to indemnify against liability for fire damage.

On appeal, Axa contended that the unambiguous terms of the pollution exclusion in the policy state clearly that any liability created because of property damage caused by the “seepage or leakage, migration, release, or escape of a pollutant is expressly excluded from coverage.”  The Appeal Court upheld Axa’s reading, noting that the CGL policy “does not cover a claim where liability associated with the release of pollutants is alleged, whether as a sole or concurrent cause.”

On January 14, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed, with costs, the application for leave to appeal the decision of the BC Court of Appeal.

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM AND INSURANCE PORTFOLIOS

TransMountain Expansion Project

Based on media coverage, it would appear that environmental activism is getting noisier and, in some cases, becoming quite effective in changing the course of projects and the direction of business investments.

In a recent BNN TV interview, ‎managing director and head of portfolio strategy at CIBC World Markets, Ian de Verteuil, said that analysts calculate that about $25 billion of global energy money has left Canada this year, primarily because of the negative reputation that Canada’s oil sands have in Europe.

In March 2017, Royal Dutch Shell and Houston-based Marathon Oil sold their stake in the Athabasca Oil Sands Project for $12.7 billion to Canadian Natural Resources. Then, in the same month, ConocoPhillips sold its $6.8 billion stake in Cenovus Energy, in order to exit the oil sands.

Global players have a relatively small part of their production output tied to Canadan oil sands but de Verteuil said  European management would regularly be confronted by persistent questioning from a certain segment of shareholders.  For many, the trouble that oilsands was causing them was just not worth their while.  “This exit boils down primarily to environmental concerns,” de Verteuil said.

Blake’s Tupper notes that thus far, environmental activism has not impacted the environmental insurance portfolio because the actions are directed at prospective projects.

Map of proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Configuration (Credit: NRCAN)

An example is the highly contentious TransMountain Expansion Project (TMEP), which was approved by the Federal Government in November 2016. TMEP is currently facing 18 court challenges.  Most recently, Reuters reports that more than 100 environmental activists are practising seaborne drills to disrupt construction, slated to begin in September.  Analysts Credit Suisse even acknowledged in an investment note that, “British Columbia’s political changes translate into a difficult path for TMEP,” after the British Columbia government applied for intervener status in court challenges against the pipeline expansion.  The province’s former Liberal government had issued an environmental certificate for the project earlier this year, but Premier John Horgan successfully campaigned in the spring provincial election on doing everything possible stop it.

Kinder Morgan Canada, however, says it remains committed to expanding its TransMountain Pipeline, and says it expects to have the project in service by the end of 2019.  It reportedly has approximately $4-billion in financial capacity to clean up a pipeline spill — $750-million in spill liability insurance and $3.2 billion in equity (cash reserves and cash flow.)

This is an excerpt from the September 2017 CIP Society trends paper, Environmental Insurance. You can read the full paper online at https://www.insuranceinstitute.ca/en/cipsociety/information-services/advantage-monthly/0917-environmental-insurance

_____________________________

About the Author

Indrani Nadarajah is a business and insurance writer with extensive international experience. She is also an experienced health writer, who enjoys writing on the latest medical developments as well as health economics issues.  She has co-authored papers with researchers from the University of Toronto that have been published in prestigious journal including the Journal of the American Society of Information Science and Technology (JASIST).  She has previous been the editor of Thomson Reuters Australia for nine years and the news editor at Reed Business Information.  Indrani has a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science and a M.A. in Literature from the National University in Singapore.

Environmental Activists Call for Mandatory Action on Radon

In a commentary recently published in Environmental Health Review, the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) joined the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment (CPCHE), the Canadian Child Care Federation, public officials, and radon experts in calling for mandatory action on radon in child care settings.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive soil gas that can build up to harmful levels in indoor spaces.  It is a known carcinogen and the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada.  Despite its known risks and the availability of testing and remediation measures, most child care facilities in Canada are not tested to ensure that radon levels are below the Canadian guideline.

The authors of the report examined recent efforts to promote radon action in the child care sector and conclude that voluntary approaches that rely on child care staff to “go it alone” in ensuring radon safety often fall short.  Such approaches are unlikely to achieve radon safety at every child care program and thus could exacerbate health inequities given uneven resources and capacity.

A review of the regulatory landscape reveals specific requirements for radon testing in child care facilities remain scarce in Canada, despite their existence elsewhere.  Other available legal instruments that address radiation more generally, and that could apply to radon in child care facilities, are underutilized. The authors of the report argue that, whether through regulations, licensing requirements or ministry-funded programs, a comprehensive approach to radon safety in child care settings is needed to protect both children and staff.

Mercury Contamination in Sediment of Thunder Bay, Ontario Harbour Awaits Clean-up

As reported in TB News Watch, the recommendations in a clean-up report of mercury in Thunder Bay, Ontario harbour have yet to be acted upon.  It has been more than three years since a consultant’s report identified options for the management of 400,000 cubic metres (14 million cubic feet) of mercury-contaminated sediment.

Thunder Bay is located at the northwest corner of Lake Superior and has a population of approximately 110,000.  It

The source of the mercury in the sediment was industrial activity along Thunder Bay’s north harbour for over 90 years including pulp and paper mill operations.  The sediment is contaminated with mercury in concentrations that range from 2 to 11 ppm at the surface of the sediment to 21 ppm at depth and ranging in thickness from 40 to 380 centimeters and covering an area of about 22 hectares (54 acres).

Approximate Area of Contaminated Sediment in Thunder Bay Harbour

The preferred solution in the consultant’s report was to dredge the sediment and transfer it to the Mission Bay Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) at the harbour’s south end.  That came with an estimated cost of $40 million to $50 million, and was considered the best choice based on factors such as environmental effectiveness and cost.  The consultants also looked at other options, including building a new containment structure on the shoreline adjacent to the former Superior Fine Papers mill.

Jim Bailey, a spokesperson for the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan, a public advisory committee that is partially funded by Environment Canada and the Ontario Government and oversees monitoring of the harbour pollution, says no solution has been chosen as yet, and there is no money for doing the work.

“One of the holdups is identifying a lead organization or agency to lead this cleanup.  Without a lead, obviously the project can’t go forward, so that is one of the sticking points,” Bailey said in an interview with tbnewswatch.com.

Contaminated Sediment Dredged from Thunder Bay Harbour

Thunder Bay RAP members have recently explored the feasibility of getting the contaminated area added to a federal list of contaminated sites, which might make its cleanup eligible for government funding.

The sediment site is adjacent to the mouth of the Current River, and has been described as layers of “pulpy” material up to four metres thick in some spots.

Bailey said being added to the federal list is one of the keys to getting closer to a cleanup, but the project would still require a cooperative effort involving a number of organizations.

The preferred option for disposal at the Mission Bay CDF near Chippewa Park seems unlikely to come to fruition in any case.

“That’s been used for decades to dispose of sediment collected for navigational dredging. It was never designed, to my knowledge, for contaminated material,” Bailey said.

He added that the Fort William First Nation has also made it clear that it doesn’t want to see the contaminated material disposed of near their community.

According to Bailey, the federal government is the legal custodian of the harbour bottom, but “at this point, Transport Canada has not been fully engaged in this process. Work needs to be done to hopefully get them engaged,” he said.

B.C. First Nation says it has created world-class oil spill response plan

As reported by CTV News, A British Columbia First Nation has released a plan it says will give it a leading role in oil spill prevention and response on the province’s central coast.

A report from the Heiltsuk Nation calls for the creation of an Indigenous Marine Response Centre capable of responding within five hours along a 350 kilometre stretch of the coast.

The centre proposal follows what the report calls the “inadequate, slow and unsafe” response to the October 2016 grounding of the tug the Nathan E. Stewart that spilled about 110,000 litres of diesel and other contaminants.

Bella Bella Oil Spill (Photo Credit: HEILTSUK FIRST NATION)

Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett says during that disaster her people saw what senior governments had described as world-class spill response and she says the Heiltsuk promised themselves that this would never happen in their territory again.

The report says the proposed centre, on Denny Island across from Bella Bella, and satellite operations dotted along the central coast, would need a total investment of $111.5 million to be operational by next summer.

Unlike current response programs which the report says are limited specifically to spills, the new centre would answer all marine calls with the potential for oil contamination, including groundings, fires, bottom contacts and capsizings.

“(The centre’s) effectiveness hinges on a fleet of fast response vessels capable of oil clean up and containment, and a tug and barge system providing storage and additional oil spill clean-up capabilities,” the report says.

The barge would also be equipped with enough safety gear, provisions and living space to allow a response team to remain on site for up to three weeks without outside support.

The marine response centre would have annual operating costs of $6.8 million, covering a full-time staff and crew of 37.

“From Ahousaht with the Leviathan II to Gitga’at with the Queen of the North to Heiltsuk with the Nathan E. Stewart, Indigenous communities have shown that we are and will continue to be the first responders to marine incidents in our waters,” says the report, signed by Slett and hereditary Chief Harvey Humchitt.

Indigenous rescuers were first on the scene when six people died after the whale-watching vessel the Leviathan II capsized north of Tofino in 2015. Two people were killed when the Queen of the North hit an island and sank in 2006 west of Hartley Bay and First Nations helped in the rescue.

“The time has come to meaningfully develop our capacity to properly address emergencies in our territories as they arise,” the report says.

Ontario Environment Industry Day – December 12th 2017

Register now: https://environmentindustryday2017.eventbrite.com

With a provincial election coming in June 2018, this year’s Environment Industry Day at Queen’s Park will feature a unique afternoon program and panel!

  • Join representatives from a range of environment and cleantech firms as we discuss what policies we need from Ontario’s major political parties in the coming election.  What does your firm need to grow?
  • What regulatory and legislative barriers are holding you back?
  • What do politicians of all stripes need to know about running and growing an Ontario environment and cleantech business?

We will hold a series of roundtable discussions, followed by our annual industry political panel that will feature:

  • Trish Nixon, Chief Impact Investing Officer, ‎CoPower Inc
  • Brandon Moffatt, cleantech entrepreneur and VP, Development & Operations, Stormfisher Environmental
  • Michele Grenier, Executive Director of the Ontario Water Works Association (OWWA)

Moderated by Sandra Odendahl, President & CEO, CMC Research Institutes

AGENDA for Tuesday, December 12, 2017:

1:30 PM                Registration and networking
2:00 – 2:45 PM     Roundtable discussions of industry issues
2:45 – 4:00 PM     Tables report back and panel responds
4:00 – 4:30 PM      Political and policy response
4:30 PM                 Networking and walk to Queen’s Park reception

LOCATION: Charbonnel Lounge of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, 81 St Mary Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1J4

TO REGISTER:
Please visit link https://environmentindustryday2017.eventbrite.com

Register now to secure your seat as space is limited!

Consider becoming a sponsor of EID for as little as $750 – and all sponsorships include tickets to the event.  Please contact Sonia Zorzos at info@oneia.ca / 416-531-7884 and she can put you in touch with the sponsorship committee.

Victoria Harbour, B.C. cleanup contract awarded to Milestone Environmental Contracting Inc.

Cleanup work to remove hazardous substances from Victoria Harbour in British Columbia is scheduled to begin shortly with the announcement early this month by Transport Canada that a clean-up contract had been awarded to Milestone Environmental Contracting Limited.  Under the $5,344,000 contract, Milestone will remove hazardous chemicals in sediments from Victoria’s Middle Harbour sea bed.

Victoria, B.C. is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island off Canada’s Pacific coast.  The city has a population of 86,000.  The harbour serves as a cruise ship and ferry destination for tourists and visitors to the city and Vancouver Island.

Map of Sediment Clean-up Area of Victoria Harbour, British Columbia

Once the contaminated sediments are removed, it is anticipated that the environmental health of the harbour will be restored.  Studies by Transport Canada found that presence of persistent contaminants in the sediments that don’t break down and remain in the environment.  The contaminants threaten the marine food web.

The cleanup work will begin in November 2017 and is expected to be completed by January 2018.  This involves dredging of contaminated sediment, and transporting the sediment by barge to an approved facility for treatment and disposal.  It is estimated that the dredging work will remove 1,200 cubic metres (4,200 cubic feet) of contaminated sediment from the sea bed.  The harbour bed will be backfilled with clean material.

The project will be closely monitored by Transport Canada to ensure the safety of workers and the community.  Sediment and water quality will be monitored throughout the project to ensure that cleanup objectives are met and that the dredging activities do not have a negative impact on the surrounding environment.  For the public’s safety, sections of the lower David Foster Pathway at Laurel Point Park may be closed, but the upper pathway will remain open for the duration of the project.

The Victoria Middle Harbour Remediation Project is funded through the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan, which is coordinated by Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, and provides funding to assess and remediate federal contaminated sites.

The source of the contamination in the harbour is from a paint factory that occupied Laurel Point from 1906 until the mid-1970’s.  Factory operations caused damage to the sediments surrounding Laurel Point Park.

Laurel Point, Victoria Harbour, British Columbia

New spill reporting, response and recovery requirements in British Columbia

As reported by Norton Rose Fulbright, the Province of British Columbia recently brought into force a new land-based spills regime and three new regulations requiring transporters of liquid petroleum products to have provincial spill response plans, to test such plans and to report and clean up spills. The new regulations apply to two categories of people:

  • “regulated persons,” which are rail and highway transporters in possession, charge or control of 10,000 litres (62.898 barrels) or more of liquid petroleum products and pipeline operators with any quantity of liquid petroleum products in their pipeline; and
  • “responsible persons,” which are persons in possession, charge or control of a substance when a spill occurs or is imminent.

The three new regulations are the Spill Contingency Planning Regulation, the Spill Preparedness Recovery Regulation and the Spill Reporting Regulation.

Spill contingency planning

Regulated persons are required to develop and maintain spill contingency plans based on a worst-case scenario spill. Investigations, tests and surveys must be undertaken to determine the magnitude of the risks to human health, the environment and infrastructure from a worst-case spill. Pipeline and rail transporters must have their spill contingency plans in place by April 30, 2018, while trucking firms have until October 30, 2018.

Spill response efforts have failed to contain an estimated 110,000 litres of diesel and other petroleum products from the tugboat Nathan E. Stewart, which ran aground Oct. 13 in the Seaforth Channel near Bella Bella. (Photo Credit: Ian McAllister/CBC)

It is important to note that, while the spill planning obligations may resemble transportation of dangerous goods-type plans, they impose new requirements.

Spill reporting

New spill reporting requirements require a responsible person to immediately report any intentional or unintentional spill of a substance into the environment that may cause, is causing or has caused an adverse effect to water, the environment, human health or property if the volume of the substance exceeds the amounts set out in a schedule to the Spill Reporting Regulation or if the substance has or is likely to enter a body of water, regardless of the volume. Natural gas spills greater than 10 kg and releases from breakages of pipelines or fittings operated above 100 psi must also be reported.

The new regulation expands the scope of spills that must be reported, as it removes the previous volume/quantity threshold for spills to water.

It also expands the information that must be reported.

If a spill occurs or is imminent, a verbal report must immediately be made to the BC Provincial Emergency Program’s spill reporting hotline (1-800-663-3456) by the responsible person. New requirements stipulate the initial report must include the name of the owner of the spilled substance and a description of the source of the spill.

Starting on October 30, 2018, a written report must also be made within 30 days of the spill, or as soon as practicable on the minister’s request. An end-of-spill report must also be made within 30 days of the end of a spill’s emergency response activities.

Spill response

A responsible person must ensure persons with the skill, experience, resources and equipment arrive at the spill site within a prescribed period and activate an incident command system. They must also ensure actions are taken to address the threat or hazard caused by the spill, including assessing, monitoring and preventing the threat or hazard; stabilizing, containing and cleaning up the spill; identifying the immediate and long-term risks and impacts of the spill; and taking steps to resolve or mitigate such risks and impacts.

 

U.S. EPA reaches settlement with Hazardous Waste Facility over Environmental Violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), Region 10, recently reached a settlement with Emerald Services, Inc., a hazardous waste storage and treatment facility in Tacoma, Washington, over violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and violations of the facility’s RCRA permit. This enforcement action was coordinated with the Washington Department of Ecology. The facility is located within the boundaries of the Puyallup Tribe’s reservation.

Emerald Services manages large volumes of hazardous waste, solvents, and antifreeze and re-refines used oil at the Tacoma facility. Emerald was purchased by Safety-Kleen Systems, Inc. on July 8, 2016, and both Emerald and Safety-Kleen are owned by parent holding company, Clean Harbors, Inc. Ensuring that funds will be available if the company’s operations harm people or damage property is an essential element of the “cradle to grave” RCRA hazardous waste management program.

Emerald Services Inc. Facility, Washington State, U.S.A.

This settlement resolves several RCRA violations at the Tacoma-area facility. Specifically, the company failed to maintain adequate third-party liability insurance coverage of the facility for the past six years.  As part of the settlement, Emerald Services agreed to pay a $125,800 penalty and amended its current insurance policy to comply with its RCRA permit.

“Having adequate insurance coverage for your business, especially one that stores and handles hazardous waste, isn’t an option, it’s the law,” said Ed Kowalski, Director of EPA’s Region 10 Compliance and Enforcement Division in Seattle. “Liability insurance is a key requirement of the hazardous waste permitting system, ensuring that commercial hazardous waste handlers operate in a safe manner to protect people’s health and the environment.”

There is a history of spills and incidents at Emerald’s Tacoma facility. In 2013, a 1,900-gallon spill of a highly dangerous fuel oil/asphalt mixture injured a worker. Emerald’s pattern of spills and releases suggests the facility may have a higher probability of future accidents, underscoring the need to have liability coverage for possible bodily injury, property damage and environmental restoration.

Violating environmental laws puts public health and the environment at risk. EPA protects communities by ensuring compliance with federal environmental laws. By fairly enforcing environmental laws, we level the playing field by deterring violators and denying companies an unfair business advantage over facilities and businesses that follow the rules.

U.S. EPA Assesses Sunken, Leaking Marine Vessels

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) continues its response to Hurricanes Maria and Irma in close coordination with federal, commonwealth, territory, and local partners. EPA remains focused on environmental impacts and potential threats to human health as well as the safety of those in the affected areas.

“Our role is to assist both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to minimize environmental damage from boats leaking gasoline, fuel or other contaminants,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “We are doing this in a way that respects the vessel owner’s rights while still protecting people from spills and hazardous substances that might be onboard the vessels.”

Marine Vessels Recovery Operations

EPA is supporting Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the U.S. Coast Guard in marine vessel recovery work. Teams continue to locate, assess and retrieve sunken, damaged and derelict vessels around Puerto Rico and the USVI.  We are also assisting with the recycling and disposal of recovered oil and hazardous materials from the vessels.

The U.S. EPA’s support role includes recording the vessel’s location and collecting information such as the name of the vessel and identification number, condition, impact to surrounding areas and/or sensitive/protected habitats (e.g. mangroves, coral reefs) for future recovery missions and owner notifications.  A higher priority is placed on vessels found to be actively leaking fuel or hazardous materials, where containment and absorbent booms are placed to decrease contamination.

Once the damaged vessels are brought to shore, or are processed on a staging barge, EPA will be handling various hazardous materials for recycling and disposal, including petroleum products (oil, gas or diesel fuel), batteries, and e-waste, which can harm the environment if they’re not removed from the waters. EPA will also recycle or dispose of any “household hazardous wastes”, such as cleaners, paints or solvents and appliances from the vessels. It is important to properly dispose of these items to prevent contamination to the aquatic ecosystem.

Vessels are being tagged by assessment teams with a sticker requesting that owners contact the U.S. Coast Guard to either report their vessel’s removal, or to request U.S. Coast Guard assistance in its removal. There is no cost, penalty or fine associated with the removal of the vessels.

As of November 16, 2017,

  • 340 vessels were identified as being impacted in Puerto Rico
  • 589 vessels were identified as being impacted in the U.S. Virgin Islands

The effects of an spills from marine vessels will depend on a variety of factors including, the quantity and type of liquid (i.e., fuel, oil) spilled, and how it interacts with the marine environment. Prevailing weather conditions will also influence the liquid’s physical characteristics and its behaviour. Other key factors include the biological and ecological attributes of the area; the ecological significance of key species and their sensitivity to pollution as well as the time of year. It is important to remember that the clean-up techniques selected will also have a bearing on the environmental effects of a spill.