Ontario Government to handle contaminated land at Stelco

As recently reported in the Hamilton Spectator, the Ontario Government stated it will assume the environmental legacy issues associated with contamination at the Stelco property in the north end of Hamilton.  The reason for the decision by the Ontario Government is to make it easier for the sale of the company and keep steelworker jobs.

U.S. Steel Canada (Stelco) is the current owner of the steelworks and is in negotiations to sell the company to Bedrock Industries, an American investment fund.  As part of the sale-purchase agreement, Bedrock Industries was reportedly willing to put forward $80 million in a one-time payment that would partially fund the clean-up.

The environmental clean-up costs at the Stelco property is unknown but could be astronomical.  As a point of reference, the Canadian and Nova Scotia governments committed $400 million in 2007 to clean-up contamination from the steel plant in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

The commitment by the Province of Ontario to backstop the future environmental clean-up costs in order to aid in the sale of a company is a first in the Province.  The reasoning behind the decision is that it makes the Stelco and the lands it sits on a potentially valuable investment.  Any costs bore by the Province in clean-up would be balanced by the taxes and other benefits accrued with the infusion of new ownership in Stelco and redevelopment of unused lands at the property.

As reported in the Hamilton Spectator, the land deal would work like this:

  • All 325 hectares of Stelco property off Wilcox Street would be turned into a land trust administered by the province, union representatives and probably other parties such as the city and the Hamilton Port Authority.
  • The land trust then would lease 120 hectares back to Stelco. The company would then be able to operate without fear of costs associated with the contaminated ground it is operating on.
  • The remaining 200 hectares or so would then be remediated to an industrial use standard with the contribution from Bedrock and potentially other funds. That land would then be sold or leased.
  • Profits from the sale or lease would then be used to assist in shoring up pension funds for Stelco workers as well as to help finance benefits to pensioners.

The land proposal is part of a larger deal that as part of U.S. Steel’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) proceedings that have been continuing for two years.  CCAA has been compared proceedings under “Chapter 11” of the “Bankruptsy Code” in the United States.  If successful, Stelco will emerge from creditors’ protection under Bedrock ownership with a new lease on life.

Emergency Response Training Exercises Conducted in Quebec

As reported by Canadian Underwriter, Transport Canada (TC) and Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) recently conducted a field exercise designed to improve Canada’s response capabilities in the event of an incident involving a train carrying flammable liquids, such as crude oil.

TC and DRDC, an agency of the Department of National Defence, conducted Exercise Athéna on Feb. 25 and 26 in Lévis, Que.  The exercise provided a “unique forum for petroleum and railway industry experts and the first response community to improve effectiveness when responding to incidents involving a train carrying flammable liquids,” a TC backgrounder explained.

On the first day, first responders attended in-class and field training where they learned about the Emergency Response Assistance Plan program and resources available from industry and TC.  They also received information on the appropriate practices, strategies and tools to use when responding to a train derailment, including how to conduct a comprehensive site assessment; how to identify railcars that can carry hazardous material and dangerous goods placards (i.e. labels that appear on the side of train tankers which identify the hazardous substance or flammable liquid that is being transported); and an overview of basic railway operations during an incident, and specialized industry response strategies and tactics.

On the second day, first responders were able to practice the skills and knowledge they received on the first day by participating in an exercise comprised of three rotations, with “industry instructors” providing guidance at each of the stations.  The stations involved either a virtual reality application or a real life scenario.

In particular, in the first scenario, participants faced a simulated train derailment.  Using tablets, they had to conduct a comprehensive site assessment, including the following aspects: identifying the type of railcar based on its physical features and using the markings to identify the contents; making a preliminary damage assessment from a safe distance; and developing a risk assessment that takes into account the risk to life, health, property and the environment.

In the second scenario, participants were faced with an actual fire using a replicated railcar prop. Participants were tested for the appropriate response strategies, techniques and procedures to use when dealing with this type of fire.

The third scenario consisted of a combination of three interactive activities related to the government’s Emergency Response Guidebook 2016, gas detection and air monitoring methods and exposing responders to the different types of industry response equipment.

The event will build on those from Exercise Vulcan in March in Maple Ridge, B.C.  The most recent exercise is one activity supported by the Government of Canada to improve response capabilities following the 2013 train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Que.

The project is led by Transport Canada and funded through the Canadian Safety and Security Program, a federally-funded program led by DRDC’s Centre for Security Science, in partnership with Public Safety Canada.

Partners in the exercise included: first responders from rural Quebec, Association des chefs en sécurité incendie du Québec, École nationale des pompiers du Québec, l’Institut maritime du Québec, International Safety Research, Suncor Energy, CN Rail, CP Rail, Railway Association of Canada, Genesee and Wyoming Canada Inc., Emergency Response Assistance Canada, MD-UN, GHD Canada, Williams Fire and Hazard Control, Inc.

B.C. contaminated soil landfill loses Environmental Permit

The British Columbia (B.C.) Ministry of the Environment (MOE) recently canceled the environmental permit for Cobble Hill Holdings for the operation of its contaminated soil landfill.  The landfill, located near Shawnigan Lake in British Columbia, had been use as a quarry.  A consortium of companies own and manage the landfill.  The companies include South Island Aggregates (SIA), Cobble Hill Holding (CBH), and South Island Resource Management (SIRM).  The permit, issued by the B.C. Environment Ministry permits the disposal of approximately 5 million tonnes of contaminated soil at the landfill.

In a written statement, Mary Polak, the B.C. Minister of the Environment stated, ““Effective immediately, I am cancelling the waste discharge permit for Cobble Hill Holdings because the company has failed to meet the requirements outlined in my Jan. 27 letter.

“The company was given 15 business days to provide three required documents and submitted only two prior to the deadline given. Specifically, the company failed to provide the Province with adjusted financial security in the form of an irrevocable letter of credit.

In the written statement, the Minister Polak further states that the company failed to respond to outstanding non-compliances and missed deadlines with respect to the permit.

The letter further states that B.C. MOE are taking actions to ensure material on the property is managed in a way that does not present a risk to human health or the environment.  The letter does not specify the exact nature of the actions.

The minister’s letter of cancellation and reasons for decision can be found at: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-land-water/site-permitting-compliance/sia

The cancellation of the permit by the Minister of the Environment follows the January 24th release of a judicial review of the permitting process in which Justice Robert Sewell documented misrepresentation during the approval process including conflict of interest and “false and misleading information.”

South Island Aggregates/Cobble Hill Holdings was granted a permit back in 2013 under the B.C. Environmental Management Act (EMA) to receive contaminated soils and ash and process it through bioremediation or landfilling, and discharge treated effluent to an ephemeral stream.  The permit is specific to contaminated soil management activities. There has been fierce opposition to the landfill since that time.

Sonia Furstenau, the Cowichan Valley regional director who led the fight against the landfill, said, “We are happy the government cancelled the permit, but the cancellation leaves a lot of unanswered questions about the cleanup.”

The landfill operation is occurring at a quarry operated by South Island Aggregates.  The quarry operations are regulated by the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines under the B.C. Mines Act.

There are approximately 100,000 to 200,000 tonnes of contaminated soil landfilled at the site.  The Minister of the Environment would not comment on if it threatened local health and the environment.  She said MOE technical staff would determine what would need to be removed.

Five Reasons to perform a Hazardous Building Materials Assessment before every property purchase

Investors, owners, and banks know that a Property Condition Assessment (PCA) is a must on every new commercial property purchase.  Increasingly, these individuals are likewise recognizing the limits of the PCA to fully cover their potential liability.  Along with reserve tables and code compliance reviews, many have begun to add the hazardous buildin2g materials assessment to their due diligence. Here are five reasons to do the same.

1. The Presence of Hazardous Building Materials Increases the Cost of Renovations

Whether you plan to renovate immediately, change the property’s use, or simply want to understand the cost of maintenance and renovations down the road, a hazardous building materials assessment gives you critical information.  Asbestos, lead paint, silica, PCBs, and mercury are among the most common hazardous materials that impact the cost of renovations, and even new buildings are likely to contain one or more of these materials. It pays to know which ones and how much of it is present, as well as what the likely remediation costs will be.

2. Some Materials May Make the Property Unsuitable for Certain Purposes

Lead paint is usually only a problem when you disturb it, due to renovations. However, its presence can make the property unsuitable for use, particularly by child-occupied facilities such as hospitals, child care, and residential developments.  If you plan to use the property for any of these purposes, it’s good to know in advance whether you’ll have an immediate problem to deal with.

3. Other Materials May Make the Property Unusable for Any Purpose At All

Mold can grow for a year undetected until the building changes hands and becomes occupied by that one sensitive individual. Suddenly, remediation becomes the problem of the new owner, even if the mold has been there for years. It’s also possible for hazardous materials that were previously contained to deteriorate and become a problem more or less on their own. For example, we did extensive remediation on the Ringling mansion, Ca d’Zan, after it was discovered that rats had disturbed asbestos-containing materials. The dust had been disbursed through the HVAC system, and coated every surface in the building. Remediation cost the property owner millions of unbudgeted dollars, and was required before any use of the facility could proceed.

4. Improperly Disposed Materials Can Become Your Problem at Purchase

The presence of barrels, cans, bottles, or other containers of hazardous materials can become an environmental problem after the purchase. Current law holds that hazardous material disposal liability stays with the property—meaning that even if you did not create the situation, you are responsible for remediating it if you own the property.  Further, undetected containers of hazardous material can deteriorate over time and create a larger environmental problem that will be even more costly to remediate.  Knowing about the materials before you make the purchase allows you to remediate earlier rather than later—or to require the seller to perform the remediation.

5. Discovering Hazardous Materials Presents an Opportunity to Negotiate More Favorable Terms

Discovering the presence of hazardous materials on a property is not usually a deal-breaker. Instead, having a thorough understanding of the building’s hazardous materials liabilities gives the buyer an opportunity to renegotiate terms to ensure they receive the good value for their purchase. In the event that the purchase decision proceeds with the expectation of renovations, lenders can often increase the value of the loan in order to cover the true cost of those renovations.

Whether you’re a buyer or a lender, a hazardous building materials assessment just makes sense. You can talk to one of our assessment experts right now, or read more about hazardous building materials during renovation here.

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 About the author

Bob Greene, PE, PG, CIH, LEED AP President As the founder and president of GLE, Bob Greene leads a highly diverse team of architects, engineers, environmental consultants, and construction experts to design fast and effective property solutions.  He has served in the architecture, engineering, environmental consulting and remediation, and general construction arenas for nearly 40 years.

This article was first published on the GLE Associates website.

Demonstration of Innovative New Oil Recovery System

In mid-February, Lamor Corporation demonstrated an innovative new way to recover oil by deploying the Lamor Marine Oil Spill Sweeper LMOS 15 Speed Skimming system in Halifax, Canada in cooperation with their local representative, Griffin Engineered Systems, for leading Canadian response organizations and companies, represented by Eastern Canada Response Corporation (ECRC), Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Defense (DND), ALERT and RMI Marine.

The demonstration in Halifax involved deploying the LMOS 15 (15 indicates the size of the opening in meters, it is also available in 25m, 40m and 50m) from a jetty, and towing the system with a single vessel and a paravane (the paravane floats independently of the vessel and is connected by ropes, and once under way, will hold the sweep system open).  Once in the water, the observers boarded a second vessel which allowed them to see how the water flow was visibly slower as it moved through the LMOS Sweeper.

The system is designed to slow the velocity of the oil from 4.5 knots at the entrance, to approximately 0.7 knots in the collection pool, which allows the skimmer to collect and pump the oil back to the tow vessel.  The observers at the Halifax demonstration were able to see how easily the LMOS was to maneuver through the water, even when changing directions, the parvane keeps it in formation.

Although the Halifax demonstration did not include skimming of oil, a 2015 demonstration of the system in Norway did.  During that demonstration, the LMOS Sweeper was tested by NOFO during their oil on water spill response exercise.  During that exercise 45 m3 of oil was discharged and the LMOS Sweeper collected 43.4m3, a recovery efficiency of 96.4%.

Despite the harsh weather conditions Halifax harbor that day, with winds up to 35 knots, including snow changing to freezing rain and ice pellets, while temperatures were ranging from minus 4°C to plus 6°C, the deployment of the LMOS 15 went well and proved the system’s effectiveness and recovery capacity in various climatic scenarios.

Michael Hebb, VP Sales of Griffin Engineered Systems, commented: “Its solid floatation design ensures it [LMOS] is easier to deploy, is less susceptible to wind forces, and provides continuous pumping of oil to the tow vessel from the collection pool.  The LMOS Sweeper’s design allows for a single vessel operation that provides effective maneuverability and superior recovery at speeds of up to 4.5 knots.”

Jacek Dabrowski, Marine Environmental Emergency Response Officer, OHM, from the Canadian Department of National Defence enjoyed the demonstration and thought that the equipment looked very promising.

“Being able to demonstrate our equipment on location in the operators’ environment utilizing their people and resources is key to proving its ease of use and effectiveness,” said Dan Beyer, General Manager Lamor USA.

One of the unique features of the LMOS Sweeper is the multi-barrier system consisting of deflectors in a herringbone pattern, used to concentrate the oil in the water and to lead the oil back through the system to the skimmer.  These same multi-barriers help to prevent entrainment of oil under the barriers during turns or maneuvers.

Canada’s Safety Board seeks strategies to reduce Hazmat Derailments

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) recently issued a recommendation (R17-01) calling for Transport Canada (TC) to develop strategies to reduce the severity of derailments involving dangerous goods.  The recommendation was issued as part of its investigation(R15H0013) into the February 2015 derailment and fire involving a Canadian National Railway (CN) crude oil unit freight train near Gogama, Ontario.

On 14 February 2015, a CN unit train transporting 100 tank cars loaded with petroleum products derailed.  It was travelling at 38 mph, below the 40 mph speed limit in place at the time.  Twenty-nine tank cars of petroleum crude oil derailed and 19 of these breached, releasing 1.7 million litres of product.  The crude oil ignited, resulting in fires that burned for 5 days.  There were no injuries.

“This accident occurred at a speed below the maximum speed permitted by the Transport Canada approved Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes,” said Kathy Fox, Chair of the TSB.  “The TSB is concerned that the current speed limits may not be low enough for some trains — particularly unit trains carrying flammable liquids.  We are also calling for Transport Canada to look at all of the factors, including speed, which contribute to the severity of derailments, to develop mitigating strategies and to amend the rules accordingly.”

The investigation found that the derailment occurred when joint bars in the track failed.  Pre-existing fatigue cracks in the joint bars at this location had gone unnoticed in previous inspections. Once the fatigue cracks reached a critical size, the combination of the cold temperatures (-31 °C) and repetitive impacts from train wheels passing over the joint caused the joint bars to fail.  These defects went undetected as the training, on-the-job mentoring, and supervisory support that an assistant track supervisor received was insufficient.

The cars in this train were Class 111 tank cars built to the newer CPC-1232 standard.  Although this standard requires the cars to have additional protective equipment, the TSB determined that the speed of the train had a direct impact on the severity of the tank-car damage.  Additionally, the lack of thermal protection contributed to thermal tears in those cars located in the pool fire, which led to additional product release.  Consequently, the cars displayed similar performance issues as in theLac-Mégantic derailment.

“The Transportation of flammable liquids by rail has been on the TSB Watchlist since 2014”, said Chair Fox.  “While stronger tank cars are being built, the current ones will be in service for years to come.  The risks will also remain until all of the factors leading to derailments and contributing to their severity are mitigated.  This is the focus of the recommendation we issued today.”

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

City of Prince Albert Rewarded for Rapid Spill Response

The Saskatchewan Municipal Awards were recently handed out and the City of Prince Albert was earned a First Place Award for its response to the oil spill in the summer of 2016.  In handing out the award, it was noted that Prince Albert was quick to activate an emergency operations centre in response to an oil spill that contaminated the source of their drinking water, the North Saskatchewan River.

Husky Energy was responsible for an oil spill of 250,000 litres into North Saskatchewan River. Crews discovered the oil leak from a pipeline on July 20th after pressure anomalies were remotely measured in the pipeline.  A crew investigated the pressure anomalies and discovered the leak.  The spill caused communities downstream, including Battleford and Prince Albert to declare states emergency, and stop taking their drinking water from the river.

Unlike some other communities on the North Saskatchewan River such as North Battleford and Battleford, Prince Albert relied on the river water and did not have a ready source of well water at for use.  The City of Prince Albert installed two improvised lines to provide an alternative supply of water to the City’s 35,000 inhabitants from the Little Red River, also known as the Spruce River and the South Saskatchewan River.

Arctic Oil Spill Researchers Receive Significant Funding

A collaborative research project titled ‘GENICE’ that partners the University of Manitoba and the University of Calgary were recently awarded $10.7 million as part of the Genome Canada Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition (LSARP).

The funds will be used to study the areas of genomics, petroleomics and sea-ice physics to investigate the potential for native microbial communities to mitigate oil spills.  The research teams are led by the University of Calgary’s Casey Hubert, associate professor in the Faculty of Science and Campus Alberta Innovation Program Chair in Geomicrobiology and University of Manitoba’s Research Professor Gary Stern, Centre for Earth Observation Science.

One of the key aspects of the research will be genomic experiments that will allow scientists to determine how naturally occurring microbes present in sea water and ice could potentially break down oil in the Arctic.

Genomics refers to the DNA found in every living organism.  DNA is the code that directs its biological functions and influences how it grows and interacts with the environment.  Genomics is the science of understanding, interpreting and harnessing this DNA code to create real-world solutions.

“The expertise that we bring to the table are in the areas of petroleomics and sea ice physics, and a new facility located in Churchill that will allow us to study oil degradation process under controlled ambient Arctic conditions,” said Professor Gary Stern.

“The idea is that we will be able to emulate different thermodynamic states of the sea-ice and how, under these conditions, different crude and fuel oils will interact with native microbial population in a controlled environment,” said Professor Stern.

“The addition of this research partnership between our two institutions will expand our respective teams and their capacity to advance our knowledge about impacts on the Arctic ecosystem and effects of the changing climate on all aspects of the North,” said Dr. Digvir Jayas, vice-president (research and international) and Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba.

One way of cleaning up spills right now includes the use of “dispersants,” a mix of chemicals that turn sheets of oil on surface waters into tiny droplets after a spill.  But apart from containing toxins of their own, dispersants are currently illegal to use in Canadian waters.  It also isn’t yet clear whether they would work the same in the Arctic as they do in warmer environments, which is something the researchers hope to find out.

The research comes at the critical time as the use of the Northeast Passage in the Arctic Ocean is increasing.  Scientists anticipate that the Arctic Ocean could be completely every summer in as little as 30 years.

Winter Storm Spreads Contaminated Soil onto Neighbours’ Properties

Stockpiled contaminated soil at a brownfield site was dispersed onto neighbouring properties in the Town of Sept-Îles, Quebec after a blizzard blew off the tarps that covered the contaminated soil.

Following the storm, neighbours began to complain about the persistent smell of gasoline when they stepped outside.  Concerns have been expressed by town folk that the contaminated soil will continue to impact more properties over time.

The source of the petroleum-impacted soil is the former Moisie military base.  The contaminated soil was excavated in the summer of 2016 and stored on site.  The storage piles were covered with tarps.

It is uncertain as to why the soil was not treated or removed prior to winter.  The Canadian Department of National Defence had awarded SNC-Lavalin, headquartered in Montreal, to $3 million contract to remediate the site.

Besides assurances to neighbours by the DND that tarps will be more securely tied down on the remaining stockpiles there is no plan on dealing with the contaminated soil that has blown onto neighbouring properties and the Moisie River.

The Town of Sept-Îles became home to RCAF Station Moisie in the late 1950s, when the Royal Canadian Air Force established a Pinetree Line early warning radar station nearby. The facility was later renamed CFS Moisie and closed in the 1980’s.

 

27th Annual International Conference on Soil, Water, Energy, and Air

March 20th to the 23rd 2017 will mark the twenty seventh annual gathering of environmental professionals to the Conference on Soil, Water, Energy, and Air.  This year the event will take place at the Marriott Mission Valley in San Diego, California.

For the past twenty-six years, this annual conference has helped to bring the environmental science community closer together by providing a forum to facilitate the exchange of information of technological advances, new scientific achievements, and the effectiveness of standing environmental regulation programs.  The Annual AEHS Foundation Meeting and International Conference on Soil, Water, Energy, and Air offers attendees an opportunity to exchange findings, ideas, and recommendations in a professional setting. The strong and diverse technical program is customized each year to meet the changing needs of the environmental field.

Platform and poster sessions feature research, case studies, and the presentation of new programs. Exhibitions augment the conference program and bring applied technology to attendees.  Focused workshops provide attendees with practical information for immediate application.  Daily socials provide networking opportunities and discussion.

More information about the conference can be found at http://www.aehsfoundation.org/west-coast-conference.aspx.