Canada: Environmental Review Tribunal gives Ministry Broad Preventative Powers over Migrating Contamination

Article by Stanley D. Berger, Fogler, Rubinoff LLP

On September 1, 2017, the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal in the matter of Hamilton Beach Brands Canada Inc. et al. v. the Director, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change made a preliminary ruling that the Director had jurisdiction to make an order under s.18 of the Ontario Environmental Protection Act (Ontario EPA) requiring a person who owns or owned, or has or had management or control of a contaminated undertaking or property to delineate contamination that had already migrated to off-site properties.  The property in question, formerly a small-appliance manufacturing business, was contaminated and the various contaminants were of concern to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, having migrated to other Picton residential, commercial and institutional properties where they might be entering nearby buildings by vapour intrusion.  Section 18 of the Ontario EPA provides that the Director may make orders preventing, decreasing or eliminating an adverse effect that may result from the discharge of a contaminant from the undertaking or the presence or discharge of a contaminant in, on or under the property.  The Director’s Order was challenged on three grounds:

  1. The adverse effect the Director could address was limited to a future event or circumstance (given that s.18 is prospective and preventative);
  2. The adverse effect had to relate to the potential off-site migration of a contaminant that was on an orderee’s property at the time the order was made;
  3. The order could require work only on site but not off-site, to address the risk of an adverse effect.

The Tribunal rejected all three arguments, reasoning that adverse effects resulting from contamination were frequently ongoing rather than static, with no clear line between existing and future effects.  The Tribunal looked to the purpose of the Ontario EPA which was to protect and conserve the natural environment and found the orderees’ arguments were inconsistent with this purpose.  Contamination and adverse effects were not constrained by property boundaries and therefore it was immaterial whether the contaminant was on the orderee’s property at the time the order was made. Finally, the list of requirements that could be ordered under s.18(1) EPA included off-site work.

 

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About the Author

Stanley Berger is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as a specialist in environmental law.  He was called to the Ontario Bar in 1981. He joined the law firm of Fogler Rubinoff on July 4 2013.  Stanley was the founder of the Canadian Nuclear Law Organization and served as its President between 2008-2015, and remains a board member.  He is also is a former President of the International Nuclear Law Association.  He has taught nuclear law for the Nuclear Energy Agency in France and is an adjunct professor for York University’s Professional Master’s Degree in Energy.  Stanley is the author of a quarterly publication entitled “The Prosecution and Defence of Environmental Offences” and edits an annual review of environmental law.

Stanley represents suppliers and operators in the nuclear industry on nuclear liability, regulatory and supply chain issues. He provides legal advice to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization. Other clients include the CANDU Owners Group and a large Ontario municipality. His environmental practice includes litigation before courts, boards and tribunals, as well as solicitor’s work on behalf of renewable energy companies, landowners and waste management entities. He represented a First Nation on regulatory matters relating to a renewable energy project. His practice also includes the protection of proprietary information on applications before Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Commission.

This article was originally published on the Fogler, Rubinoff LLP website.

Environmental Opportunity for Women-owned Small Business Firms in the U.S.

Federal Business Opportunities, FBO-5787, Solicitation W912P917R0055, 2017

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a solicitation that is earmarked  for woman-owned small business (WOSB) firms.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District, plans to seek firms for environmental remediation construction efforts that include remedial design, remedial action, and remedial excavations of contaminated material at pre-determined depths; HTRW manifesting; utility relocation; water management; engineering support; and construction support.  The anticipated work lies within the geographic boundaries of the Mississippi Valley Division and U.S. EPA Regions 5 and 7.  Solicitation W912P9-17-R-0055 will be an RFP for lowest-price technically acceptable proposals. Contract duration is five years. The NAICS code for the work is 541620 (Environmental Consulting Services), with an SBA size standard of $15M.  Release of the solicitation is anticipated on FedBizOpps on or about October 9, 2017. For more information, visit https://www.fbo.gov/notices/106dd6fa43c17c865b58b8f17de28425

In-Situ Remediation of Tetrachloroethylene and its Intermediates in Groundwater

Researchers from Tianjin University in China recently released results from a study that showed the results of the use of an anaerobic/aerobic permeable reactive barrier at removing tetrachloroethylene (also known as “perc”) and its intermediates in groundwater.

The anaerobic/aerobic permeable reactive barrier (PRB) system that was tested consisted of four different functional layers and was designed to remediate PCE-contaminated groundwater.  The first (oxygen capture) layer maintained the dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration at <1.35 mg/L in influent supplied to the second (anaerobic) layer.  The third (oxygen-releasing) layer maintained DO concentration at >11.3 mg/L within influent supplied to the fourth (aerobic) layer.  Results show that 99% of PCE was removed, mostly within the second (anaerobic) layer.  The toxic by-products TCE, DCE, and VC were further degraded by 98, 90, and 92%, respectively, in layer 4 (aerobic). The anaerobic/aerobic PRB thus could control both PCE and its degradation by-products.

Photo Credit: US EPA

Tetrachloroethylene is a manufactured chemical that is widely used for dry cleaning of fabrics and for metal-degreasing. It is also used to make other chemicals and is used in some consumer products.

Tetrachloroethylene is present in the subsurface at contaminated sites, often as a result of its inappropriate disposal and release from dry-cleaning and degreasing facilities or landfills.

QM Environmental Announces Appointment of New CEO

QM Environmental, a Canadian environmental and industrial services company, recently announced the appointment of Justin Sharp as Chief Executive Officer.

Mr. Sharp brings more than two decades of experience in senior leadership roles, most recently as President and Chief Operating Officer of FirstOnSite Restoration, a Canadian disaster restoration company, where he led a restructuring effort to position the company for sale to a US operator, resulting in the creation of the second largest restoration firm in North America.  Prior to that, he held progressive positions over almost twenty years at SNC-Lavalin, serving his last five years as Senior Vice President, Operations and Maintenance across North America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, where he led expansion efforts, refined product offerings to better serve the local markets and clientele, created a world-class team, and prepared the groundwork to position the company for long-term growth.

Mr. Sharp holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Saint Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia and a Master’s degree from the University of Toronto.

QM Environmental is a environmental and industrial services company with offices located across Canada.  QM services include: Environmental Remediation, Demolition and Decommissioning, Hazardous Materials Abatement, Civil Earthworks, Emergency Response, Training, Waste Management and Facilities, and Water Treatment.

Auto paint and Supply company fined for environmental violations

Fine Auto Paints and Supplies Ltd. of Toronto, Ontario, was fined recently $25,000, after pleading guilty in the Ontario Court of Justice last month to one count of contravening the Volatile Organic Compound Concentration Limits for Automotive Refinishing Products Regulations, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

An investigation by Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC) enforcement officers revealed that the company had sold automotive refinishing products that contained Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in excess of the allowable limit.

VOCs are primary precursors to the formation of ground level ozone and particulate matter which are the main ingredients of smog. Smog is known to have adverse effects on human health and the environment.

As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.  The Environmental Offenders Registry contains information on convictions of corporations registered for offences committed under certain federal environmental laws.

The fine will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund (EDF).Created in 1995, the Environmental Damages Fund is a Government of Canada program administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada. The Fund follows the “polluter pays” principle and ensures that court-awarded penalties are used for projects with positive environmental impacts.

Canadian Environmental Code of Practice for AST’s and UST’s

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) recently updated the Note to Reader of the Environmental Code of Practice for Aboveground and Underground Storage Tank Systems Containing Petroleum and Allied Petroleum Products to reflect Canadian Standards Association standard CAN/CSA-B837-14.  The new standard addresses collapsible fabric storage tanks.  Please click on the following link for details: http://www.ccme.ca/en/resources/contaminated_site_management/management.html

Ontario’s $25.8 Million in Funding Available For Low Carbon Innovations

The government of the province of Ontario, Canada recently announced $25.8 million has been allocated to the Low Carbon Innovation Fund (LCIF) as a part of the province’s Climate Change Action Plan.  The funding will be used to support emerging, innovative technologies in areas such as alternative energy generation and conservation, new biofuels or bio-products, next-generation transportation or novel carbon capture and usage technologies.  Innovative remediation projects that can prove to be low-carbon innovations will be considered for funding.

Funding is available either from:

  • The Technology Demonstration stream, which aims to support the development and commercialization of innovative low carbon technologies through testing in real-world settings; or
  • The Technology Validation stream, which aims to fund proof-of-concept or prototype projects from eligible Ontario companies or academic organizations to help them get to market faster.

To be eligible for LCIF, projects must be conducted in Ontario and must show significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario.  Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan is key to its achievement of its goal of cutting greenhouse gas pollution to 15 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, 37 percent below by 2030, and 80 percent below by 2050.

The deadline for the first round of funding was September 24th, 2017.  Notification on successful applications will be announced later this month.

Potential $9 million incentive to Developer for Clean-up and Develop Brownfield Site in Ottawa

As reported by the CBC, Ottawa city staff are proposing to offer a developer more than $9 million in incentives to build a multi-use building with three residential towers across from the future Bayview Station light rail station, approximately 2 kilometers (one mile) west of Parliament Hill.

TIP Albert GP Inc. owns the property at 900 Albert St. at the corner of Albert and City Centre Avenue, and is proposing a building that would have 1,632 residential units as well as retail and office space.

The site, a one-time rail yard and later a storage yard and snow disposal site, is eligible for the city’s brownfields rehabilitation grant program.  Under the program, developers can apply to have municipal development charges and soil remediation costs reduced, up to about half the expected cost of the cleanup.

City staff are recommending a grant not exceeding $8,255,397 over a maximum of 10 years, according to a report tabled in advance of next week’s finance and economic development committee meeting.

The property is also along the path of city sanitary and storm sewers, and for the development to go forward, the builder will have to move that infrastructure to an adjacent city property.

While the developer would pay for that work to be done, the city would have to release their eight easements on the property.

While normally the city would get market value from a developer for giving up those easements — an estimated $920,000 — city staff are proposing waiving that policy to make the project happen.

Somerset Ward Coun. Catherine McKenney, in a comment appended to the report, wrote that while she supported the brownfield grant, she couldn’t support waiving the encroachment fee, calling it “premature.”

“As this application is still under negotiation I believe it would be more prudent to measure the total monetary value to be waived against measurable features of the proposed development in its final form as ultimately presented to committee and council,” she wrote.

McKenney said such features would include affordable housing and contributions to active transportation networks like cycling and walking paths.

The development is not the only project being considered for a grant at next week’s committee meeting.

City staff are also proposing a grant of up to $2,320,420 over a maximum of 10 years to Colonnade Development Inc. to build a hotel near the Department of National Defence headquarters.

That grant, for the property at 300 Moodie Dr., would come from the Bells Corners Community Improvement Plan, which aims to encourage development in the area.

It would provide what would amount to a 75 per cent property tax break after the property is developed. If the development doesn’t happen, no grant would be paid.

Colonnade is proposing a restaurant with a drive-thru and a six-storey, 124-room hotel. Right now, the site is home to a Salvation Army thrift store, an automotive repair garage and auto parts distributor.

The finance and economic development committee will consider both proposals.

One Proposal for Development of 900 Albert Street, Ottawa

U.S. EPA Funding for Small Business Innovation Research

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) is pre-soliciting companies interested in bidding on $100,000 grants under the Agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program.  Under the program, the U.S. EPA will award about 12 firm-fixed-price contracts of $100,000 each under during FY 2018 to small businesses that propose winning research proposals.

The U.S. EPA has identified six topic areas of priority for feasibility-related research or R&D efforts including removal of PFOA/PFOS from drinking water, removal of PFOA/PFOS from wastewater, and remediation of PFAS-contaminated soil and sediment.

The anticipated release date of the solicitation is October 17, 2017, with proposals likely due December 7, 2017.  The U.S. EPA will grant the awards June 30, 2018, each with a 6-month period of performance.  For more information, see http://www.epa.gov/sbir/sbir-funding-opportunities.

TURI Publishes Nanomaterials Fact Sheet

Recently, the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI), a research, education, and policy center established by the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act of 1989, published a nanomaterials fact sheet.  The fact sheet is part of a series of chemical and material fact sheets developed by TURI that are intended to help Massachusetts companies, community organizations, and residents understand the use of hazardous substances and their effects on human health and the environment.  The fact sheet also includes information on safer alternatives and safer use options.

According to the fact sheet, TURI researchers have started a blueprint for design rules for safer nanotechnology.  The design rules include five principles, which together follow the acronym SAFER, as shown below.  The principles focus on aspects such as modifying physical-chemical characteristics of the material to diminish the hazard, considering alternative materials, and enclosing the material within another, less hazardous, material.  The fact sheet notes that other researchers have proposed other more specific design rules, which include avoiding chemical compositions of engineered nanomaterials that contain known toxic elements, and avoiding nanomaterials with dimensions that are known to possess hazardous properties.

Design Principles for SAFER Nanotechnology

  1. Size, surface, and structure: Diminish or eliminate the hazard by changing the size, surface, or structure of the nanoparticle while preserving the functionality of the nanomaterial for the specific application;
  2. Alternative materials: Identify either nano or bulk safer alternatives that can be used to replace a hazardous nanoparticle;
  3. Functionalization: Add additional molecules (or atoms) to the nanomaterial to diminish or eliminate the hazard while preserving desired properties for a specific application;
  4. Encapsulation: Enclose a nanoparticle within another less hazardous material; and
  5. Reduce the quantity: In situations where the above design principles cannot be used to reduce or eliminate the hazard of a nanomaterial, and continued use is necessary, investigate opportunities to use smaller quantities while still maintaining product functionality.

The fact sheet provides a summary of regulations concerning nanomaterials.  Massachusetts currently has no regulations specifically governing the use or release of nanomaterials.  At the federal level, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) primarily regulates nanomaterials under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The fact sheet notes that as of 2017, companies using or manufacturing nanomaterials that have not been subject to pre-manufacture notices or significant new use rules will be subject to a one-time reporting and recordkeeping rule.