Alberta government announces $1.3 million creosote monitoring project for Calgary

As reported in the Calgary Herald, the Province of Alberta recently announced a five-year project to continue monitoring creosote levels in the West Hillhurst community in the City of Calgary.

The Alberta government said the goal of the $1.3-million study is to assess the extent of contamination in the neighbourhood and examine levels throughout the year to determine any changes between seasons.

What is the Source of the Creosote?

The source of the creosote contamination is the former Canada Creosote Plant that operated on the south side of the Bow River in Calgary for over 40 years, from 1924 to 1962.  The Canada Creosote Company (later Domtar Corporation) operated a wood treatment plant in downtown Calgary.  Wood treatment, using a mixture of chemicals occurred at the Plant.  With time, these compounds migrated into and under the Bow River into the community of West Hillhurst.

In its recent news release, the Alberta government stated: “The most recent monitoring, between 2010 and 2014, did not identify risks to human or aquatic and environmental health.  However, the province is funding this long-term project to better understand the scope and nature of the creosote in the community and along the Bow River.”

What is Creosote?

Creosote is the name used for a variety of products that are a mixture of many chemicals.  Coal tar creosotes are distillation products of coal tar, and coal tar pitch is a residue produced during the distillation of coal tar. Coal tar creosote volatiles are rarely formed in nature. Coal tar creosote, coal tar, and coal tar pitch are mixtures of similar compounds. For this reason, many profiles of coal tar creosote also include coal tar, and coal tar pitch and all three are simply referred to as creosote.

What the Environmental and Human Health Impacts?

Coal tar creosote contains some components that dissolve in water and some that do not. Coal tar creosote components that dissolve in water may move through the soil to eventually reach and enter the groundwater, where they may persist. Once in the groundwater, breakdown may take years. Most of the components that are not water soluble will remain in place in a tar-like mass. Breakdown in soil can take months for some components of coal tar creosote, and much longer for others. Sometimes, the small amounts of chemical remaining in the soil or water that take a long time to break down are still toxic to some animals and possibly to humans..

Volatile chemicals in coal tar creosote may evaporate and enter the air. About 1-2% of the coal tar creosote applied to treated wood is released to the air. This is a small amount compared with the amount of coal tar creosote found in waste water or soil.

Once coal tar creosote is in the environment, both plants and animals can absorb parts of the creosote mixture. Some components of coal tar creosote have been found in plants exposed to creosote-treated wood in nearby soil. The plants absorb very little (less than 0.5% of the amount available to the plant). Animals such as crickets, snails, and worms take up coal tar creosote components from the environment that are passed into the body through skin, lungs, or stomachs. Animals that live in the water, such as crustacea, shellfish, and worms, also take up coal tar creosote compounds. For instance, mussels attached to creosote-treated pilings and snails and oysters living in water near a wood-treatment plant had creosote in their tissues. Coal tar creosote components are also broken down by microorganisms living in the soil and natural water. The components of coal tar and coal tar pitch move in the environment in a similar way.

The West Hillhurst Study

The study is a continuation of monitoring in West Hillhurst that began more than two decades ago when officials discovered creosote had seeped into the area from a former creosote plant across the Bow River in the West Village.

“They’re being responsible about this because I think for a long time … we’ve had successive governments in the municipal and at the provincial level kind of think the containment was enough, the monitoring was enough,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters.

“What we’re really seeing both from the city and the province is, you know what, we actually can’t just contain it. We really have to move towards cleaning it up.”

The first year of the project will consist of sampling from an existing network of monitoring wells throughout the community.

The first report is expected to be available in mid-2018.

Environmental monitoring determined in the early 1990s that contamination had migrated under the Bow River into the neighbourhood of West Hillhurst.

A containment wall was put in place between 1995 and 1996 to prevent further migration of creosote into the Bow River.

 

Company pays $3.5 million in law suit alleging illegal Hazwaste Disposal

Big Lots Stores Inc. was recently ordered to pay more than $3.5 million in fines following settlement of a lawsuit alleging illegal hazardous waste disposal at its 206 California stores and a distribution center.  The law suit, filed by 35 California District Attorneys, was the result of an investigation into the company’s disposal of hazardous waste into trash bins at its stores throughout California.

In the opinion of the District Attorneys’, Big Lots failed to properly handle waste at all of its stores and its distribution center.  The hazardous materials were also illegally transported to local landfills not permitted to receive the waste.

“The hazardous waste included ignitable and corrosive liquids, toxic materials, batteries, electronic devices and other e-waste,” Deputy District Attorney Dan Loug for San Bernardino County said to Daily Press. “In some instances, the hazardous waste was the result of overstock or expired merchandise. “In others, it was the result of spills, damaged containers and customer returns.”

Per the settlement, Big Lots must pay $2,017,500 in civil penalties and $336,250 to reimburse the costs of investigation.  Additionally, $350,000 more “will fund supplemental environmental projects furthering environmental enforcement and consumer protection in California,” according to the statement.

The company will also fund hazardous waste minimization and enhanced compliance projects valued at $803,750 and has implemented new policies, procedures and training designed to properly manage and dispose of hazardous waste.

Alberta Court Places Creditors over the Environment

As reported by the CBC and the Calgary Herald, the Alberta Court of Appeal (in a 2-1 decision) has upheld the Redwater Energy decision that gave secured creditors priority over environmental clean-up in the case of an energy bankruptcy.

The case centered on a small energy company called Redwater Energy, which went into receivership in 2015, owing $5 million to ATB Financial, a financial institution owned by the province of Alberta.  At the time of its bankruptcy, Redwater had few producing oil and gas wells, as well as many more assets that were not producing and would need to be reclaimed.

Alberta energy regulations say that producing wells would have to be sold to pay the environmental clean-up costs of the non-producing wells or other assets.

Insolvency wins the day

The receiver for the insolvent company — accounting firm Grant Thornton — along with ATB Financial, instead wanted to sell the producing wells to pay off the debt to ATB and leave the non-producing wells to be cleaned up by the Orphan Well Association, which is funded by industry.

The case went to a lower court that was tasked with deciding which has priority: federal insolvency law, or provincial energy regulations.  Two courts have now decided insolvency law wins the day and Grant Thornton is in the process of selling the producing assets.

This case has implications that reach far beyond one small energy company.  British Columbia and Saskatchewan both participated in the appeal in support of the Alberta Energy Regulator because the case could act as a precedent in other provinces.

 Costs and benefits

There are some benefits, said Kathleen Shannon, a lawyer with Field Law.

“Lenders will still feel secure in their creditor positions, so they’re likely to continue lending to the oil and gas industry.  If the decision had been reversed, there would have been more hesitancy from financial institutions.”

Shannon pointed out that the AER will have some work to do to ensure it has enough security against the environmental obligations of energy companies. It also has the option to further appeal.

“I think the fact that there’s dissent means that potentially there will be another appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada,” she said.

Opportunity in the U.S. for Oil Spill Response Training

The U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center in Port Hueneme, California, is soliciting proposals for a contract to provide Oil Spill Response Training via instruction of three classes–Facility Response Plan Training, Spill Management Team Training, and New Skimmer Training – at various locations worldwide.  The solicitation is available at https://www.neco.navy.mil/ under solicitation number N3943017R1912.  The resulting contract will be a single-award, firm-fixed-price IDIQ contract with a base ordering period of 60 months.  This requirement is set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses under NAICS code 541620. Quotes must be received by 4:00 PM PT on May 12, 2017.

 

Outlook of the Global Emergency Spills Response Market

Fior Markets recently issued a market study report entitled “The Emergency Spill Response Market Research Report.”  The report is a professional and in-depth study on industry Size, Share, Trends, Growth, Application, Consumption Volume and Value, Forecast, Supply, Production, Price, Professional Survey 2017 to 2022

The report offers a holistic overview of the Emergency Spill Response market with the help of application segments and geographical regions that govern the market currently.  Further, the report delves deep into the value chain of the Emergency Spill Response market so as to emerge with information specific areas that hold high revenue-generating potential. With the Emergency Spill Response market having undergone certain inherent shifts in the past decades, the report discusses how these changes will impact the future.

Moreover, the report also provides a realistic picture of the state of both traditional and emerging markets. The advantages and disadvantages of investing in these markets are discussed at length in the Emergency Spill Response market report. Companies in the Emergency Spill Response market have realized that innovation is of utmost importance for sustained growth. In keeping with this pressing need for innovation, the report tracks latest developments and analysts have dedicated substantial efforts toward spotting new business opportunities.

The report further focuses on the leading industry players that will steer the course of the Emergency Spill Response market through the forecast period. Each of these players is analyzed in detail so as to obtain details pertaining to their product/services, recent announcements and partnerships, investment strategies and so on. A detailed segmentation evaluation of the Emergency Spill Response market has been provided in the report. Detailed information about the key segments of the market and their growth prospects are available in the report.  The detailed analysis of their sub-segments is also available in the report.  The revenue forecasts and volume shares along with market estimates are available in the report.

U.S. EPA Marketplace 2017: Procurement Opportunities for Small Business

The U.S. EPA, Office of Acquisition Management, RTP Procurement Operations Division will be hosting Marketplace 2017 in Durham, North Caroline on May 31st, 2017.  The venue for the event is the Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center.

The Marketplace event is a bi-annual regional “reverse” trade show that provides small business owners a broad-based business opportunity to meet contracting officers from over 50 large prime contractors and federal, state, and local government agencies.  Contracting officers and representatives from industry will present training sessions and answer questions on a variety of contracting topics.  The Marketplace 2017 website hosts the complete event agenda and electronic registration at http://www.sbtdc.org/events/marketplace/.

 

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Orders Clean-up of Contaminated Site

The Nova Scotia (N.S.) Supreme Court recently confirmed that polluters must clean up a contaminated site in rural community of less than 1000 people that is approximately 10 kilometres (6 miles) south of Halifax.

In the decision, the court ruled that a numbered company (3076525 Nova Scotia Ltd., referred as “307 NSL” by the court) must abide by a clean-up ordered issued in 2016 by the N.S. Department of the Environment.  The numbered company owns recycling operation and the property is contaminated.  The contamination from the property has spread into the groundwater and impacted the drinking water wells of residential neighbours.

Contaminants found in monitoring wells on the property and in neighbouring drinking water wells include uranium, lead and arsenic.  The contaminant levels exceed what is considered safe in the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines.

The numbered company had claimed that the clean-up order should not have been issued at it for a number of reasons.  The first reason being that is could not have known of the contamination with the exercise of due diligence.  Secondly, it did not receive any economic benefit when it purchased the assets of the previous owner, RDM Recycling [referred to by the court as “301 NSL”], and took over the recycling business in 2005 and the company name.  In particular, there was not any offset between the price paid and the fair market value of property.  In other words, they did not receive a discount for the purchase of contaminated property that would need to be remediated.

In the Court’s decision, it deemed the property “very polluted” and stated that for the past two decades the Province had received complaints from neighbours of the property about the deteriorating quality of drinking water in their residential wells.  During that time, from 1997 to 2005, 301 NSL, operating as RDM Recycling, ran a recycling business on the property for construction and demolition material.

In early 2000, Nova Scotia Environment (NSE) discovered stockpiles of waste material at the RDM C&D recycling site.  NSE allowed RDM to construct a one-time disposal cell on their site.  It took 4 years to complete, while the stockpiles remained, and finally in 2004 RDM finished the cell and they buried over 120,000 tonnes of stockpiled waste.

In 2005, the 307 NSL [the company appealing the existing clean-up order] took over the assets, operating name, and business operations of 301 NSL.  It did not purchase the property.  Instead, it leased the property from 301 NSL.

Government Orders for the clean-up of the property date back in 2010.  At that time, the clean-up cost was estimated at $10.6 million.  The two companies (301 NSL and 307 NSL) along with three individuals were named in the 2010 Order.  The 2016 Order before the Supreme Court replaces early Orders.  The companies have never fully complied with any of the Orders.

In its ruling, the N.S. Supreme Court dismissed the claims made by the 307 NSL and ruled that the clean-up ordered issued by the government was legitimate and must be followed.  As such, the 307 NSL must perform remediation of the property and conduct monitoring.

U.S. Army confirms PFOS/PFOA Contamination at New Jersey Base

U.S. Department of Defence officials at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst have confirmed that chemicals used in firefighting foam has been found in several groundwater sources on and off the base.

The chemicals in question are perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).  They are synthetic compounds classified that are components of Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), a type of fire-fighting foam.  AFFF is the most efficient extinguishing method for petroleum-based fires and is widely used across the firefighting industry, to include all commercial airports, to protect people and property.

PFOA and PFOS are fluorinated organic chemicals that are part of a larger group of chemicals referred to as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals.  They have been used to make carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food and other materials (e.g., cookware) that are resistant to water, grease or stains. They are also used for firefighting at airfields and in a number of industrial processes.

On the base, the groundwater monitoring program consisted of testing approximately 165 groundwater monitoring wells and 28 drinking water sources.  Results of analysis from groundwater samples show that 124 wells and two drinking water sources had contamination levels of PFOS and PFOA far in excess of the U.S. EPA health advisory for the compounds.  In some samples, the PFOS/PFOA concentrations were thousands of time higher than the standard.  The highest concentration of PFOS/PFOA was 264,300 parts per trillion.

To provide Americans, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure to PFOA and PFOS from drinking water, the U.S. EPA established the health advisory levels at 70 parts per trillion.  When both PFOA and PFOS are found in drinking water, the combined concentrations of PFOA and PFOS should be compared with the 70 parts per trillion health advisory level.

Results of analysis from groundwater samples taken from private wells off the base also showed high PFOS and PFOA concentrations.  Of 131 off-base private drinking water wells tested, three were contaminated, and one had combined PFOS/PFOA levels of 1,392 parts per trillion.

Since the 1970s, the Air Force used this foam at crash sites, in fire training areas and some maintenance hangers at active, Reserve, Air National Guard and former installations.  The Air Force is systematically testing for potential PFOS/PFOA releases in soil, surface water and groundwater U.S. Air Force-wide where AFFF may have been used.

The U.S. Air Force identified approximately 200 installations (active, Reserve, Air National Guard and closed) where firefighting foam may have been released and is conducting site inspections to confirm if releases occurred.  As of November 2016, the U.S. Air Force completed preliminary assessments for 96 percent of the 200 installations.  The U.S. Air Force is prioritizing sampling based on factors, such as; potential pathways to drinking water, depth to groundwater and potential for contam

inate to migrate off base.

Currently, the U.S. Air Force is focused identify bases where there is PFOS/PFOA contaminated drinking water.  If contamination is found in the drinking water supply, immediate action will be taken to provide an alternative drinking water source.  Furthermore, the U.S. Air Force will initiate a long-term solution for safe drinking water which may include carbon filtration systems, plume-migration control, land use control, or other measures.  Finally, the U.S. Air Force is taking measures to prevent further groundwater contamination by replacing PFOS/PFOA-containing AFFF with more environmentally responsible AFFF.

Charges Laid for Oil Spill in British Columbia

As reported by CTV News, charges have been laid against the owners of the MV Marathassa nearly two years after a leak of bunker fuel fouled the beaches of English Bay in Vancouver, but the company is trying to scuttle the case.

Documents filed in British Columbia’s provincial court show the Marathassa and Greece-based Alassia NewShips Management Inc. face a total of 10 charges including discharge of a pollutant, unlawful disposal of a substance and failure to implement an oil pollution emergency plan.

The company is also accused of depositing a deleterious substance in a way that may have allowed it to reach waters frequented by fish, as well as depositing a substance harmful to migratory birds.

In all, six charges have been laid under Canadian shipping legislation, two relate to alleged Fisheries Act violations and single charges linked to alleged violations of federal environmental laws and the Migratory Bird Act.

None of the allegations have been tested in court.

At least 2,700 litres of bunker fuel spilled on April 8, 2015, while the Cypriot-registered vessel was moored in English Bay. The ensuing miscommunication among Canadian authorities and delays in cleanup raised questions about Canada’s preparedness for oil spills at a time when the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was being hotly debated.

A provincial court date has been set for Wednesday, but Alassia is attempting to stop the proceedings with an application for a judicial review filed in Federal Court. The company will ask the Federal Court on Tuesday to stop the provincial court hearing from taking place until a judicial review has been heard.

In court documents, it says summonses in the case were invalid because they were served to a Canadian insurance adjuster and a ship captain who has only worked for Alassia on two fixed contracts.

Alassia argues that Canadian law requires summonses to be delivered to an executive officer of a corporation or a branch, and that neither the insurance adjuster or the captain fit that description.

“This is a serious issue to be tried in that it is doubtful that either attempt to serve the applicant was valid,” the company’s Vancouver-based lawyer Peter Swanson says in court documents.

Swanson says the company will suffer “irreparable harm” if the provincial court hearing proceeds as there’s no way for the company to challenge the validity of the summons in provincial court without submitting to its jurisdiction.

Alassia is seeking an order declaring the attempt to serve the summons to be invalid, quashing and setting them aside, as well as an order prohibiting further attempts to serve the summons in a similar manner. The company is also seeking costs.

In an affidavit, Valakitsis Antonios, the ship captain who was served the summons, says he worked on a vessel associated with Alassia between April 2014 and March 2015, but he was at home in Colombia in April 2015 at the time of the spill.

He says he is currently the master of the MV Afroessa, which is owned by Afroessa Shipping Corp., and he has no long-term relationship with Alassia.

Eric Renteria, an insurance adjuster at Charles Taylor Adjusting in Vancouver, says in an affidavit that an Environment and Climate Change Canada employee did not explain why he was serving him with a summons.

He says he is not employed or otherwise associated with Alassia and hadn’t heard of the company prior to receiving the summons last month. Charles Taylor Adjusting is not a branch of Alassia, he adds.

B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said Thursday she couldn’t comment on the charges but she was “pleased” the federal government was taking spill response seriously.

Alassia declined to discuss the legal proceedings in a statement but thanked all those who assisted in the response.

Russians Patent Spill Response Technique for Arctic Oil Spills

LUKOIL, the largest oil and gas company in Russia, recently announced that it has developed a new technique to respond to oil spills in the Arctic waters.  The new multi-patented technology is based on the use of bio-sorbents with cold-resistant microbial strains at contaminated salt and fresh waters.

Pilot testing proved self-destructing bio-sorbents as the most efficient tool of emergency oil spill response in north latitudes, where low temperatures and ice conditions make conventional oil containment and recovery methods ineffective.

Biosorption is a physiochemical process that occurs naturally in certain biomass which allows it to passively concentrate and bind contaminants onto its cellular structure. Using biomass in environmental cleanup has been in practice for a while.

As soon as the new oil spill response technique is approved through the state environmental expert review, it will be integrated across the company’s facilities and will become a component of LUKOIL’s biodiversity conservation plan.