Risk Solutions for Contaminated Sites Exposition – May 31st

GeoEnviro Training Professionals Inc. is hosting an exposition on risk-based solutions for contaminated sites.   The event is designed for site owners, project managers, regulators, and service providers.  It will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia on May 31st 2017.

For more information on the event and to register, visit the GeoEnviro website.

Montreal’s Electric Train Project could derail Contaminated Site Clean-up

As reported in the Montreal Gazette, the planned $5.9 billion (Cdn.) electric train project could interfere with proposed clean-up of a contaminated site along the St. Lawrence River.  Daniel Green, an environmental activist who is also running for the Green Party in the federal by-election in the St. Laurent riding, contends that the Pointe-St-Charles area of the City is one of the most contaminated sites in the Province of Quebec.  A tunnel is proposed through the Pointe-St-Charles neighbourhood as part of the electric train project.

Historically, the edge of the Pointe-St-Charles was a wetland, home to thousands of geese.  But between 1866 and 1966, household and industrial waste began to be dumped into the swamp. Between the 1930s and ’50s, dikes were built and the dump expanded right into the river, filling in part of the passage between Pointe-Saint-Charles and Nun’s Island.

2008 report by the Commission on Environmental Cooperation estimated the Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood, also referred to as the Technoparc sector, contains 4 to 8 million litres of diesel fuel mixed with other substances, “enough to fill about three Olympic-size swimming pools.” It also contains an estimated 1-2 tons of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).  Diesel fuel, which acts as a solvent, has accelerated the release of PCBs into the environment, the report said.

Mr. Green claims that digging a tunnel through the contaminated land in the Technoparc sector will disturb toxic chemicals in the sediment at the site that will then flow into the St. Lawrence River.

“It’s one of the worst hazardous waste sites in Quebec,” said Green, co-president of the Société pour vaincre la pollution (SVP), an Quebec-based environmental group.  Digging a tunnel in such a toxic environment is a risky and costly enterprise that could endanger current efforts to contain and clean up the contamination, he said.  “By just building the tunnel, it will change the approach of containment,” he added.

The proposed tunnel for the e-train is five kilometres long and will run from the southern tip of Pointe-St-Charles to south of Central Station in Griffintown in Montreal.  About 500 metres will run through the contaminated site, Green said.

A spokesperson for the company responsible for the rail project, Jean-François Lacroix from CPDQ Infra, refutes Mr. Green’s concern.  “We’ve been working hand-in-hand with the city for more than a year.  We are co-ordinating the two projects,” Mr. Lacroix stated.  The company will ensure measures to mitigate risk and respect environmental norms will be taken to prevent contamination of the St. Lawrence River said Mr. Lacroix.

In the summer of 2016, a plan to address contamination at the Point-Saint-Charles neighbourhood was announced by the federal, provincial and municipal governments.  The plan called for the construction of a retaining wall to intercept contaminated groundwater and a system for treatment. It was estimated the system would need to be in place for the 25 years and cost more than $100 million.

In an interview with CBC, Alfred Jaouich, a professor in the department of earth and atmospheric sciences at L’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), says he is in favour of the train, but that everyone involved will have to be very careful.  He says the rock underneath is not stable and could crack, meaning contamination could easily spread.

The City of Montreal has been working on cleaning up the site for 25 years.  City officials hold that view that any company hoping to work there will have to respect the provincial laws in place, and that includes CDPQ Infra.

Green said fuels and heavy metals on the site, long the location of one of Canada’s largest rail yards, have been leaking into the river for decades. In the 1960s, industries dumped toxic landfill on former marshland there, which was used as the main parking lot for Expo 67.

A 2008 report by the Commission on Environmental Cooperation estimated the Technoparc contains 4 to 8 million litres of diesel fuel mixed with other substances, “enough to fill about three Olympic-size swimming pools.” It also contains an estimated 1-2 tons of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Diesel fuel, which acts as a solvent, has accelerated the release of PCBs into the environment, the report said.

Groundwater Sustainability Assessment Approach: Guidance for Application

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) recently issued a document entitled Groundwater Sustainability Assessment Approach: Guidance for Application.  The document is intended to assist users to successfully apply the Groundwater Sustainability Assessment Approach (GSAA) developed by the CCME.  The document provides a balance of high-level guidance and practical how-to advice, highlighting issues and actions jurisdictions should take into account in implementation of the approach.  The guidance is comprehensive in scope with specific explanations on the GSAA, definitions and principles.

The GSAA was developed and tested by the CCME as an approach for assessing the sustainability of groundwater resources at a local, regional or Canada-wide scale.  The resulting GSAA is a high-level framework that can be interpreted for application across various scales, locations and circumstances.

The guidance document was produced by the CCME to support the use of the GSAA and is meant to assist users to successfully apply the GSAA. It provides a balance of high level guidance and practical how-to advice while highlighting issues and actions jurisdictions should take into account as they work through the GSAA.

The document itself is modular. It can be applied linearly, from beginning to end, but also allows users to focus on the specific guidance most appropriate to them.  It is comprehensive in scope with specific explanations provided on the GSAA approach, definitions, and principles for reference.  Useful background links to past research or reports are also included for easy reference. To help gather and contextualize best practices, interviews were conducted with the leads of all pilot projects.

Geospatial Analysis for Optimization at Environmental Sites

The U.S. Interstate Technology Regulatory Council (U.S. ITRC) recently released a document entitled Geospatial Analysis for Optimization at Environmental Sites guidance (GRO-1) to help practitioners better apply geospatial analyses in environmental projects.

Geospatial analysis supports optimization activities throughout all stages of an environmental site by:

  • improving performance of characterization and remediation activities;
  • increasing monitoring efficiency; and
  • justifying decisions at environmental sites.

The Guidance document illustrates the practical application of geospatial analyses to support optimization activities, and serves as a companion to Groundwater Statistics for Monitoring and Compliance: Statistical Tools for the Project Life Cycle (GSMC-1).

The guidance document will help state regulators and other practitioners to understand, evaluate, and make informed decisions about geospatial analyses for optimizing activities at environmental sites.

For users assessing the documentation for the first time, they are directed to review the Overview of this guidance.  All users may find the Navigating this Website page helpful.

Contaminated mine “an embarrassment to Canada”

As reported by the CBC, a Yukon judge recently gave a scathing assessment of the clean-up efforts at the Mount Nansen mine.   Formerly owned by BYG Natural Resources Inc., the Mount Nansen mine is an abandoned former gold and silver mine located in the heart of the Yukon Territory in northwestern Canada.  It is currently under government care.

Yukon Supreme court justice Ron Veale approved a clean-up plan for the abandoned Mount Nansen mine in the spring of 2016.  However, he issued his written decision only recently.

In the decision, the judge heavily criticizes the former owner of the mine, BYG Resources, for an “unscrupulous history of … operational mismanagement” that left a big, toxic mess is to be clean-up using Canadian taxpayers’ money.

“This case stands as a painful reminder of the lasting and egregious damage that unscrupulous and unchecked profiteering can bring about in the mining sector.  It is an embarrassment to Canada, Yukon and the responsible mining community,” Veale’s decision reads.  “It is my opinion that an account of BYG’s historical activity in the Yukon should be brought to the attention of the federal and territorial taxpayers, who remain fiscally responsible for remediation efforts.”

History of the Mine

BYG began mining gold and silver at the Mount Nansen site in 1996.  By 1999, the company ceased operations as it was unable to meet the requirements of its water licence.

Immediately after shutdown, BYG appointed a receiver to the site.  In July 1999, the receiver abandoned the property.  The Government of Canada took control of the site and began implementing care and maintenance operations.

In 2003, under an agreement between the Yukon and Canadian governments, the Yukon government became responsible for the property along with the development and implementation of a remediation plan.  The financial responsibility for the site resides with the Government of Canada.

In a 2007 decision by the Yukon Supreme Court ruled on environmental charges, the court found the company guilty of “raping and pillaging” the Yukon’s resources.

A 2011 environmental assessment at Mount Nansen estimated about 55,000 cubic metres of contaminated soil, 300,000 cubic metres of tailings and 500,000 cubic metres of waste rock at the site.

To date, it is estimated that approximately $25 million has been spent by the government to monitor and control the site.

Business Opportunity

The mine currently for sale to whomever is willing to take on a “government subsidized remediation project,” according to Veale.

In late 2016, pwc, the court-appointed receiver for the mine, announced a shortlist of proponents who successfully responded to a Request for Qualifications on the purchase of assets and remediation work.  The successful respondents are as follows:

  • 536086 Yukon Inc. (lead respondent Merit Consultants International)
  • Alexco Environmental Group Inc. (lead respondent)
  • Morgan Construction & Environmental Ltd. (lead respondent)

It is expected the pwc will issue a Request for Proposals shortly.  The costs to implement the remediation plan would be paid by the Government of Canada.

Under the conditions of sale, the purchaser will be required to prepare a detailed design for the remediation plan, subject to peer review, and approval under the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act.

Required remediation tasks include de-watering the existing pit in preparation to accept the waste rock, tailings, and contaminated soil, then sealing the pit with a permanent liner.  The plan calls for a clean up “as close to walk away as possible,” with nothing left on site that is not required for long term monitoring and maintenance.

The winning proponent will have up to 10 years to complete the tasks required, and could then acquire permits to mine any viable mineral deposits on the property.

$130,000 in Penalties for Improper Storage of Petroleum Products

The Clearwater River Dene Nation, the Clearwater Store, and band administrator, Walter Hainault, were recently sentenced in the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan after pleading guilty to failing to comply with an environmental protection compliance order (EPCO) issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).  The Clearwater River Dene Nation was fined $100,000; Clearwater Store was fined $25,000; Walter Hainault was fined $5,000.

The EPCO was issued following an inspection at the store to verify compliance with the Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations.  Charges were laid under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 after the EPCO failed to bring about full compliance with the Regulations.

EPCOs are issued under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 by ECCC enforcement officers to direct that various measures be taken to stop or to prevent the commission of an alleged contravention of the Act or its regulations.

The purpose of the Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations (SOR, 2008-197) is to reduce the risk of contaminating soil and groundwater due to spills and leaks of petroleum products and allied petroleum products from storage tank systems.  The regulations establish technical standards for the design and installation of storage tank systems, and include requirements for operation, maintenance, removal, reporting and record-keeping.

The fines collected will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund. The Environmental Damages Fund (EDF) follows the Polluter Pays Principle to help ensure that those who cause environmental damage or harm to wildlife take responsibility for their actions.  The EDF is a specified purpose account, administered by ECCC, to provide a mechanism for directing funds received as a result of fines, court orders, and voluntary payments to priority projects that will benefit our natural environment.

Cloud Delivery of Product Safety, Dangerous Goods, and Scientific Content

3E Company, a provider of environmental health and safety (EH&S) compliance and information management services, recently announced that its product safety, dangerous goods, and scientific content can now be accessed via the cloud for seamless integration with the SAP® Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) system.  3E’s Ariel® Content for the Cloud is a secure solution for optimized data delivery and maintenance that provides SAP users with improved access to the regulatory and scientific content needed to enhance product and facility compliance.  

Cloud delivery of 3E’s continually updated and value-added global regulatory research can reduce the cost and complexity of information technology (IT) setup and maintenance, accelerate content updates, streamline compliance processes, facilitate informed decision making, and mitigate the risk of noncompliance.  

Ariel Content for the Cloud enables Internet-based delivery of 3E’s global product safety, dangerous goods, and scientific content.  Together with 3E’s supplier data and hazard communication rules, phrases, and templates, Ariel Content for the Cloud offers a comprehensive compliance solution, allowing users to more easily manage inbound and outbound data and documents.

Compared with earlier generation content management approaches, Ariel Content for the Cloud offers a simpler, more efficient way to load and update 3E’s data into SAP EHS.  3E developed the solution to eliminate time consuming and resource intensive manual data maintenance processes, reduce technical infrastructure requirements, simplify deployment, and make software and content updates immediately available for customers.  By eliminating the need to host the server and database behind their firewall alongside their SAP EHS application, the flexible architecture and lighter technical footprint help lower the total cost of ownership for clients, particularly for smaller companies or those maintaining multiple SAP environments.

3E Company, a Verisk Analytics (Nasdaq:VRSK) business, offers a comprehensive suite of data and solutions for environmental health and safety (EH&S) compliance management.  3E was founded in 1988 and is headquartered in Carlsbad, California.

 

Robots Mapping and Cleaning Nuclear Sites

As report in Sputnik News, a team of researchers at the University of Manchester in Great Britain has been awarded a grant by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to develop a robotic system equipped with a wider range of sensors than ever before to map nuclear sites.

The world is home to a large number of sites contaminated by radioactive waste, which require the extent of the contamination to be delineated and remediation to occur.  The currently available methodology for mapping and assessing these radioactive sites are extremely expensive and time consuming, involving humans clad in radioactive protective gear, taking samples, and subsequent lab analysis.  In some cases, remote sensors are used which only offer part of the necessary picture.

The robotic system being development at the University of Manchester features optical spectroscopic techniques, advanced radiation detection methods and modern sensor technologies. Each piece of monitoring equipment on the robot will provide a piece of a holistic jigsaw, together with three dimensional mapping of materials within an environment.

The robot system was inspired by NASA’s Curiosity Rover, the robot used to explore the surface of Mars.  The robot will utilize advanced robotics and control technologies similar to those used in the Mars’ Rover.  It is due to be trialled at nuclear contaminated sites including Sellafield in the UK andFukushima in Japan.

Quebec Company fined $500,000 for Oil Discharge

Valero Energy Inc., Jean Gaulin Refinery (formerly Ultramar Ltd.) based Lévis, Quebec, recently pleaded guilty to six environmental offences and it was sentenced by a judge to pay the sum of $500,000.  The company was order to pay a $120,000 fine for failing to comply with an order issued by an officer from Environment Canada and Climate Change (the Canadian equivalent to the U.S. EPA), thereby committing an offence under paragraph 40(3)(g) of the Fisheries Act.  The court also ordered the company to pay the sum of $380,000, pursuant to paragraph 79.2(f), for the financial benefits it obtained through these violations.

An investigation conducted by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) found that Valero Energy Inc. – Jean Gaulin Refinery had failure to comply with a directive issued by ECCC requiring rehabilitation and environmental monitoring work issued following the deposit of a deleterious substance in water frequented by fish.

ECCC enforcement officers conduct inspections and investigations to verify compliance with the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act.  They ensure that regulated organizations are in compliance with environmental legislation.

As a result of this conviction, Valero Energy Inc. will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.  The Environmental Offenders Registry contains information on convictions of corporations obtained under certain federal environmental laws. The registry contains convictions obtained for offences committed since June 18, 2009 – when the Environmental Enforcement Act received Royal Assent.

The total amount of the fine will be deposited in the Environmental Damages Fund, which is administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada.  The Environmental Damages Fund, administered by ECCC and established in 1995, provides a mechanism for directing funds received as a result of fines, court orders, and voluntary payments to priority projects that will benefit our environment.

Researchers Invent a Sponge for Oil Spill Cleanup

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Lab recently announced that that had invented a new material that could completely revolutionize the way oil spills are cleaned up.

The sponge foam, called Oleo Sponge, can soak up 90 times its own weight in oil before it needs to be wrung out to be reused — and the oil can be recovered.

                                                                                                                   Oleo Sponge

“The material is extremely sturdy. We’ve run dozens to hundreds of tests, wringing it out each time, and we have yet to see it break down at all,” co-inventor Seth Darling said in a release.

Currently, most products for cleaning up oil are single use, and the oil is wasted.  One of the most common products is a sorbent boom — a long tube that’s thrown on the surface of the water to soak up part of the spill, before being removed to be safely disposed of.  It, and other solutions, can be pricey and slow.

Darling and his team tested the sponge at a giant seawater tank at the National Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Test Facility in New Jersey.

The researchers say it could be used to clean harbors and ports, where diesel and oil can accumulate from ships. They say it could also be adapted to clean different substances, by modifying the type of molecule that grabs onto the dirty substance.

The Argonne National Laboratory is a multidisciplinary science and engineering research center. The Laboratory was born out of the University of Chicago’s work on the Manhattan Project in the 1940.