The National Brownfield Summit – A Brief Recap

By David Nguyen – Staff Writer

This year’s conference is about charting the future of the CBN. (Image from CBN).

On June 13, 2018, The Canadian Brownfields Network (CBN) held their 8th annual conference, taking the form of a National Brownfield Summit. This year also marks the 15th anniversary of the 2003 National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy report, and the cornerstone of this year’s summit was to revisit the original report and reflect on the progress since then, as well as the challenges that still need to be addressed.

Keynote Speaker

After an introduction by president Grant Walsom, the conference began with the keynote speaker Marlene Coffey, Executive Director of the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association, who spoke about previous examples of the developments on Brownfields, including housing developed on a Goodyear Tires site, or the Vancouver Olympic village or Toronto Pan American housing facilities.

She spoke of Toronto’s current housing crisis and how costs have outpaced income for many renters due to the market response to the economic growth in the Greater Toronto Area, as well as Hamilton and Waterloo. She also spoke about how condominium development is preferred due to the pre-selling and reselling markets providing profit and equity for the developer before and during construction.  Contrast that to rental housing, where developers of must put up front all costs of development before any profits.

The city of Toronto’s plan to address these concerns include building 69 000 affordable rental units within 10 years, extending the life of 260 000 units, as well as income support for 311 000 households. In addition, the federal government launched the National Housing Strategy in 2017, with $40 billion over 10 years to support affordable housing initiatives across Canada. Coffey reports that municipality participation is key to obtaining funding for affordable housing, and a role that can be played is to donate available land for development.

Current Affairs

A series of professional presentations followed, discussing various emerging investigation and remediation techniques. These included Dr. Barbara A. Zeeb discussing the use of phytotechnologies to remediate brownfield sites. She compared the traditional method of soil excavation, transport, and disposal to phytoextraction – the use of plants to remove the contaminant while leaving the soil intact and reusable, such as using natural and native species to remove organics like DDT. Other benefits include its cost effectiveness and the uptake of greenhouse gasses, but technologies are site specific, and can take years to remediate fully – highlighting the role that phytoremediation can play alongside traditional remediation methods.

A legal update with lawyer John Georgakopoulos provided an overview of legal cases currently before the courts, with implications for the brownfield development. His presentation compared cases of regulatory liability to civil liability and about managing environmental liabilities through exercising due diligence. He noted, however, that due diligence plays a bigger role in regulatory liability and a smaller role in civil liability, and he encouraged environmental liability protections like environmental insurance and regulatory liability protection.

Cross-Country Check-Up Panelists Kerri Skelly (front left), Lisa Fairweather (centre) and Krista Barfoot (left) with President D. Grant Walsom (back). (Photo from the CBN).

A cross-country checkup with panelists from across Canada discussed the changing landscape for excess soils. Speakers include Krista Barfoot (of Jacobs Engineering Group) speaking about Ontario’s proposed guidelines on excess soils, such as the emphasis on the use of excess soil management plans and addressing issues such as situations where there is no beneficial reuse site. Lisa Fairweather spoke about the Alberta’s Remediation Certificate and its impacts on reducing barriers to brownfields development; and Kerri Skelly spoke about British Columbia’s new excess soil regulations and its goals of clarifying rules for businesses moving soil and increasing the opportunity for soil reuse.

Angus Ross (left) with Grant Walsom. (Photo from the CBN).

Before breaking up into working groups, the final presentations reviewed the current state of brownfield development in Canada. Angus Ross, who chaired the original task force, discussed how the National Strategy succeeded in addressing liability issues, financial funding, and building public awareness of brownfields. A major recommendation was the formation of a national brownfield network, which led to the CBN.

Ryerson PhD student Reanne Ridsdale presented findings on a survey of about 6,500 brownfield remediated sites across Canada, where 80 participants were polled, including environmental consultants, government officials, lawyers and financiers.

Reanne Ridsdale presenting the results of the CBN/Ryerson survey. (Photo from the Daily Commercial News).

Following was a presentation by a Ryerson student planning studio group compared brownfield policies of each province, based on criteria such as clear policies, an accessible brownfield site inventory, and incentives for development. Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia were considered to be very progressive in their policies towards brownfield development, but improvements could still be made across Canada in terms of standardizing rules and policies and producing developer friendly guidelines for site remediation. Then PhD student Reanne Ridsdale talked about the results of the CBN/Ryerson survey of the brownfield community’s view of progress in the last 15 years. Respondents indicated that the CBN is too eastern focused on central and eastern Canada, with little presence in the Prairies, as well as being too research-focussed and not conducting enough outreach.

Charting the Future

The day was capped off with breakout discussion groups to discuss “challenge questions” and allow attendees to contribute ideas to future CBN activities to advance brownfield developments. Challenge question topics included the roles of the federal, provincial, and municipal governments, the development of a brownfield inventory, innovations in brownfield developments, and the societal impacts of brownfield development on communities. One of the key discussion points was for the CBN to promote a “Put Brownfields First” mentality, particularly within governments. This includes developing a financing model/regime for governments to support brownfield developments, particularly in smaller municipalities, as well as to harmonize rules and guidelines for brownfield development. In addition, the CBN should facilitate the education of brownfields to local communities and involve land owners and developers in the process of implementing brownfield policies.

The National Brownfield Summit provided an amazing opportunity for members and attendees to provide input towards the goals of the CBN. More information about the Canadian Brownfields Network can be found at https://canadianbrownfieldsnetwork.ca/ including the summit program and information about the presenters.

Snapshot of the Canadian Brownfields Programs

As reported by Don Proctor in The Daily Commercial News, the federal government has an important role to play in supporting brownfield development, suggests a recent report authored by third-year undergraduate Ryerson University students working on behalf of the Canadian Brownfields Network (CBN).

“There is a sense among industry professionals and academics that the industry as a whole has not progressed as much as it should,” said one of the students, David Sturgeon, at the CBN’s annual conference held recently at the downtown Toronto university campus.

Map of Brownfield Sites in Regina, Saskatchewan

The students conducted a broad snapshot of federal brownfield programs, highlighting cleanup and best practices.

Sturgeon said the student team organized a three-tier rating scoresheet for each province’s progress on brownfields. B.C., Ontario and Quebec got the highest marks. Quebec is a leader because of its incentives-based cleanup programs. One initiative offers 70 per cent funding for onsite remediation work.

Quebec also has an accessible and up-to-date brownfield site inventory, which is a step ahead of other provinces, Sturgeon told delegates.

While the country’s three most populous provinces scored high, the students ranked Alberta lower down, closer to the middle tier.

“It (the Alberta government) has made quite a bit of progress towards cleanup in the last couple of decades,” Sturgeon said. “But where they struggle is helping developers to act sooner than later on idle or vacant contaminated sites.”

The student team was led by Chris De Sousa, the vice-president of the CBN and a professor at the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University. De Sousa said the study compiled extensive information on brownfields from federal, provincial and territorial governments. Also reviewed were provincial stakeholder groups and comparisons were made with the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Reanne Ridsdale, a Ryerson PhD student, conducted research into actual practice versus the objectives outlined in the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), founded in the late 1980s. For a survey of about 6,500 brownfield remediated sites across Canada, Ridsdale polled 80 participants, including environmental consultants, government officials, several lawyers and financiers.

Eighty-five per cent of those polled said brownfields were a medium to high priority in their organization.

She said 59 of the 80 respondents indicated Canada would benefit from a national fund for brownfield redevelopment. The top three developmental barriers indicated by respondents deal with remediation costs and lack of information available on site conditions, Ridsdale said.

The survey also supported the CBN as a national organization but some respondents were negative because the CBN does not receive federal funding so its scope is limited.

“We are a little bit eastern-centric,” which is probably because of the lack of funding, Ridsdale told delegates, adding the survey results will be published as part of a white paper this summer.

Angus Ross, chairman of L and A Concepts, chaired two government task forces on brownfields, including one that created the National Brownfield Redevelopment Strategy for Canada in 2003. The findings were not the last word on brownfields “but they did a tremendous job in kickstarting the entire brownfield file in Canada,” he said.

Ross, who was appointed by the federal government in 1996 to head the NRTEE and in 2004 to chair the CBN’s advisory panel, said brownfields became “a household word” in the early 2000s through media reports on the NRTEE.

“We got very immediate provincial and municipal buy-in,” he told delegates at the conference.

Hamilton Waterfront

Global Emergency Spill Response Market – Trends and Forecast

Analytical Research Cognizance recently issued a report on the Global Emergency Spill Response Market.  The report focuses on detailed segmentations of the market, combined with the qualitative and quantitative analysis of each and every aspect of the classification based on type, spill material, spill environment, vertical, and geography.

The report provides a very detailed analysis of the market based on type, the emergency spill response market has been classified into products and services.  The products include booms, skimmers, dispersants and dispersant products, in-situ burning products, sorbents, transfer products, radio communication products, and vacuum products.

The report has a services section that provides a forecast on the future growth of the services sector.  The services segment has been classified into product rental services, waste management services, manpower training services, transportation and disposal services, spill response drill and exercise services, tracking and surveillance services, risk assessments and analysis services, and other services.

Scope of the Report:

This report studies the Emergency Spill Response market status and outlook of global and major regions, from angles of players, countries, product types and end industries; this report analyzes the top players in global market, and splits the Emergency Spill Response market by product type and applications/end industries.

The market is expected to have significant growth in the coming years owing to stringent environmental regulations across the world to reduce the environmental pollution from spills.

Skimmers held the largest market size, in terms of product, primarily due to the increased demand for mechanical recovery methods for spill recovery.  Unlike other methods, the mechanical recovery methods remove the spill material from the spill environment.  Thus, skimmers are more effective in mitigating the environmental impact of the spills.

The global Emergency Spill Response market is valued at 2,530 million USD in 2017 and is expected to reach 3,410 million USD by the end of 2023, growing at a CAGR of 5.1% between 2017 and 2023.

The Asia-Pacific will occupy for more market share in following years, especially in China, fast growing India, and Southeast Asia regions.

North America, especially The United States, will still play an important role which cannot be ignored. Any changes from the United States might affect the development trend of Emergency Spill Response.

 

Innovation in Detecting Oil Spills at Sea

The company ISPAS AS, headquartered in Norway, recently announced that it has developed a Ku-band polarimetric Oil Spill Detection (OSD) radar that can detect oil spills at sea and the open water under most conditions including dead calm.

The radar is specifically developed for this purpose and uses a higher frequency than typical navigational X-band radars.  The radar has electrically steered antennas with both electromagnetic polarizations and can map an oil spill continuously using the steerable antenna.

Radar image (left) of the oil spill (seen on right).

ISPAS has completed the installation of 4 new OSD radars.  The radars small size and weight makes it easy to integrate without large structural foundations.

ISPAS participated in the 2018 “Oil on water” exercise offshore of Norway recently with a small version of the polarimetric Ku-band OSD radar. The small radar performed exceptionally well. An example showing the real time display of radar measurements of oil on seawater onboard a vessel is presented in this picture. The picture to the right presents the actual view of the sea.

The OSD radar

New Technology on Track to Vitalize Confined Space HazMat Training

by Steven Pike , Argon Electronics

Teams operating in confined spaces within hazardous industrial buildings or process facilities understand all too well the importance of adhering to strict health and safety regulations.

The hazards that confined spaces present can be physical or atmospheric in nature – from the risks of asphyxiation or entrapment to exposure to extremes of temperature or the release of toxic chemicals.

Confined Space Entry

According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, on average two people die in the US every day as the result of incidents that take place within confined spaces.

In many cases too, it is not just the victim who is at risk, but the rescuer or first responder who may be unaware of the hazard they are about to encounter.

Directives such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations (COMAH), the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR), Atex and many others all have a pivotal role to play in ensuring safety.

But despite the emphasis on prevention, any potentially harmful chemical release, and specifically one that occurs within the context of a confined space, will require personnel who are skilled and confident to handle a variety of complex challenges.

With these challenges in mind, a new app-based multigas simulator technology, specifically designed for use in confined space settings, is scheduled for release in late summer 2018.

And the new system looks set to deliver an enhanced level of realism for industrial HazMat training scenarios.

Applying CWA Technology to Industrial HazMat Training

The use of simulation technology for chemical warfare agent (CWA) training is already well established, with intelligent, computer-based training aids such as Argon Electronics’ PlumeSIM and PlumeSIM-SMART systems currently in use by military forces around the world.

The launch of PlumeSIM in 2008 provided CWA and CBRN instructors with a simulation package that enabled them to use their laptops, in conjunction with a map or images, to plan a diverse range of field and table-top exercises.

The type of substance, whether a single or multiple source and an array of environmental conditions (such as wind direction and speed) could all be easily configured. And the innovative technology enabled whole exercises to be recorded for after action review (AAR) and future contingency planning.

In 2016 came the introduction of PlumeSIM-SMART – which offered similar capabilities to PlumeSIM but replaced the use of simulator devices in the field with the simplicity of a mobile phone.

The ability to transform a mobile phone into a look-alike gas detector was to prove especially practical (and budget-friendly) for high-hazard industrial organizations and municipal responders.

And using mobiles offered some additional and unexpected benefits in that it enabled field exercises to take place in any location.

Realistic Multigas Training

The newest addition to Argon’s simulation technology portfolio has been devised for specific use within the training environs of confined spaces and multi-level buildings.

The device will offer HazMat instructors the flexibility to simulate specific levels and concentrations of gases, whether these be in the form of a gas escape or a dangerous device (or devices) concealed within a building.

It will also be highly configurable to enable instructors to select the use of either single or multigas sensors within their training scenarios.

The hardware will be identical to that currently available for CWA training and toxic industrial response training. It has also been configured to interact with existing hand-held gas detection simulators, such as PlumeSIM-SMART, to provide an enhanced level of realism and a more focused training experience.

Simulation sources will be able to be set to emit a signal that replicates the conditions of a particular substance, a low level or oxygen or an explosive atmosphere.

And as students move around the training environment, their display readings will adjust accordingly to simulate an event such as a breached alarm.

The latest detector also promises to overcome the issues posed by communications interference within buildings where GPS technology can often be limited.

Working in confined spaces within industrial complexes can present a daunting array of hazards, both for the staff operating within the facilities and for the emergency teams charged with first response.

The continued development of simulator technology can help to address these challenges by providing realistic, hands-on training opportunities that replicate real-life conditions.

This article was originally published in the Argon Electronics website.

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About the Author

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a world leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators.

In use worldwide, Argon simulators have applications for training and preparedness within civil response, the military, EoD, unconventional terrorism / accidental release, and international treaty verification, with a growing presence in the nuclear energy generation and education markets. We have been granted a number of international patents in this field.

United States: EPA Soliciting Comments On BUILD Act

Article by Phillip E. Hoover and Vickie C. RusekSmith Gambrell & Russell LLP

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to streamline the cleanup and reuse of National Priorities List sites with an emphasis on private party participation and private investment. NPL site designation was once a popular way for affected communities to secure federal funding for remediation, but the program has long suffered from lack of funding. Now, the Trump administration seeks to streamline the delisting of NPL sites in the same manner as the redevelopment of brownfields. One example of this initiative is the Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development (BUILD) Act, which was enacted on March 23, 2018, and reauthorizes EPA’s Brownfields program at current funding levels through 2023. EPA is currently developing policy guidance to implement the BUILD Act, and is soliciting comment on three of the Act’s provisions: (1) the authority to increase the per-site cleanup grant amounts to $500,000; (2) the new multi-purpose grant authority; and (3) the new small community assistance grant authority. Click here for more information about these provisions and submitting comments to EPA.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

This article was first published on the Smith, Gambrell & Russell LLP website.

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About the Authors

Phillip E. Hoover is a Partner in the Environmental and Sustainability Practice Areas of Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP.  Mr. Hoover’s practice includes providing counsel on numerous environmental regulatory matters, as well as the redevelopment of environmentally impacted properties. These include state and federal superfund sites, corporate mergers and acquisitions of such properties. His environmental experience includes representation of Potentially Responsible Parties at superfund sites. He has negotiated RCRA permits and corrective action plans on behalf of clients in various states.

Vickie Chung Rusek is an Associate in the Environmental Practice of Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP. Ms. Rusek represents clients in all aspects of environmental compliance, enforcement, permitting, and litigation, including Superfund cleanups, Resource Conservation Recovery Act compliance, Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act permitting and compliance, and environmental tort litigation.

Oil Spill Response using Real Time Tracking and GIS Technology

A new project taking place of the coastline of St. John’s Newfoundland aims to reshape marine oil spill response through real-time tracking and GIS technology.

Integrated Informatics Inc., headquartered in Houston,Texas, recently received funding from the Newfoundland and Labrador Innovation Council to undertake a project that will aim to reshape the way in which asset and personnel tracking are handled for Marine Oil Spill Response in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In November 2008, the Odyssey, a British-owned oil tanker, broke in two, caught fire and sank in heavy seas about 900 miles east of Newfoundland, spilling about a million barrels of oil.

The project will include the development of a new Tracking Data Management System to be deployed to Marine Emergency Response Industry users.

A spokesperson for Integrated Informatics, Sharon Janes, stated in a press release, “It is not uncommon to still see paper maps and documents heavily relied upon in Emergency Response Plans.  The problem with these resources is that they do not present information that is as complete and current as possible within an emergency situation. This is what we are excited to help change – putting this data into the hands of responders as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The Tracking Data Management System will be completed by August 2019, consisting of a suite of applications for asset and personnel tracking and a data management system to streamline the acquisition of data necessary for emergency preparedness exercises and active response within command centers.  These products will utilize Geographic Information System (GIS) technology – including rich mobile and web interfaces – as well as a robust data analytics and reporting dashboard.

Ms. Janes also stated, “By accessing asset and personnel tracking data through mobile devices and the web, first responders will be able to more efficiently interpret data, analyze trends, and plan response in real-time. Because this system rests on such a familiar platform [mobile, web], those with technical and non-technical backgrounds alike will be able to implement it into their workflows with ease.”

The planned system is one that has long been of interest within the Emergency Response and Natural Resources sectors of the Province – especially as organizations explore new, more challenging environments alongside their own endeavors to align processes and practices with innovative digital technologies.

Integrated Informatics Inc. is a consultancy for Geographic Information System implementation and development. Founded in 2002, Integrated Informatics has offices in Calgary, Alberta, Houston, Texas, and St. John’s, Newfoundland.

First ship launched of Trans Mountain spill response fleet

As reported by jwnenergy.com, the first of 43 new spill response vessels being built to support the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion was launched recently in Prince Rupert, B.C.

The 26-foot Sentinel 30 workboat and landing craft was built for Western Canada Marine Response Corp. (WCMRC).  WCMRC is the Transport Canada-certified marine spill response organization for Canada’s West Coast. Its mandate under the Canada Shipping Act is to be prepared to respond to marine oil spills along all 27,000 km of British Columbia’s coastline, and to mitigate the impact when a spill occurs. This includes the protection of wildlife, economic and environmental sensitivities, and the safety of both the responders and the public.

The Sentinel 30 Spill Response Vessel built by WCMRC

The spill response vessels are part of an investment of $150 million committed after Kinder Morgan made its final investment decision on the pipeline in June 2017, British Columbia’s largest-ever expansion of spill response personnel and equipment.

“Workboats are the backbone of a response. These support vessels deliver equipment and personnel to a response, tow boom as part of a sweep system, deploy skimmers and can assist with waste removal,” WCMRC said in a statement.

“To perform these tasks, the new Sentinel 30 is powered by twin 150 HP counter-rotating Yamaha outboards and can travel at up to 35 knots.”

The Sentinel 30 will undergo spill response trials in Prince Rupert and ultimately be transitioned to the new 24/7 response base in Saanich on Vancouver Island.

In total, WCMRC is building 40 new vessels as part of the Trans Mountain pipeline spill response fleet. Other new vessel builds underway at WCMRC shipyard include purpose-built skimming vesselsCoastal Response Vesselslanding craft and response barges.

The Trans Mountain spill response enhancements also include six new response bases and about 135 new personnel. These new resources will be located along shipping lanes in the Salish Sea, with about 70 of the new WCMRC employees and most new vessels located at bases on Vancouver Island, according to Kinder Morgan.  Following the enhancements, there will be over 80 vessels in the fleet.

All new personnel, facilities and equipment will be in place several months before the first oil tankers associated with the expansion begin calling at Burnaby’s Westridge Marine Terminal in Burrard Inlet, the company said when the enhancements were announced last June.

Are you ready for Ontario’s Excess Soil Management Regulation Changes?

by David Ngugan, Staff Writer

A breakfast and seminar session organized by ECOH Management Inc. was held on June 20th in Mississauga, Ontario.  The seminar included a presentation by Vice President Jeff Muir titled “Digging Deep – Are you ready for Ontario’s Excess Soil Management Regulation Changes?” about the upcoming changes to the Excess Soil Management Regulations. He spoke about the implications of the new regulations, including cost, the depletion of sites with capacity to accept waste soils, illegal dumping and lack of tracking, and inconsistent oversight and criteria for the management of excess soils.

Jeff Muir, VP Environmental, EHOS

Jeff spoke about the current 2014 guidelines – “Management of Excess Soil – A Guide for Best Management Practices” that gives options for the management of excess soils both onsite and offsite,  as well as best management practices for project leaders. These include having an excess soil management plan to indicate where the soil will go and a sampling and analysis plan, including soil characterization and characterization of the receiving site.

He also pointed out some issues with the guidelines, particularly in the lack of clarity regarding who is responsible for the excess soil, as the term “project leader” is loosely defined. In addition, the requirements for proper characterization of soils are not clearly defined, such as a minimum number of samples required for a specific volume of soil. Jeff added that currently, many receiving sites are usually managed by municipalities that issue permits for the receiving of excess soil, and this presents opportunities for inconsistencies between various sites.

The proposed regulations enhance the responsibility and accountability of the generators of excess soil, as well as requiring an Excess Soil Management Plan (ESMP) for high risk or high volumes of soil. Under the proposed regulations, a ESMP should consist of a description of the project area and description and ownership, the names of qualified persons and contractors, excess soil sampling plan and characterizations, a list of receiving sites, a soil tracking system, and a record of the cumulative amount of soil moved.  The new regulations will also establish a registry where ESMPs will be submitted.

Jeff concluded his presentation by stressing the importance of preplanning – have all the costs, receiving sites, and estimated volumes of soil prepared ahead of time, as well as to focus on working with ESMPs well ahead of the promulgation of the regulations.  It is anticipated that the regulations will be promulgated this calendar year.

The Commodification of Phase I ESA’s and the Need for Innovation

Introduction

Individuals who read environmental site assessments (“ESAs”) in the early 1990’s as part of their job will likely remember the unevenness of recommendations and conclusions and the wide range in the quality of reporting.  During that time, as an in-house environmental engineer at a major law firm, I likely read more ESA reports from more environmental consulting firms than I care to remember.  To this day I still read my fair share of ESA reports from various consultants as part of my job.

Standardization

In the 1990’s there was a growing demand from users of ESA reports for some form of standardization.  Back then, and to this day, a potential buyer of a property and the associated lender used an ESA report to aide in determining the monetary risk associated with any environmental liabilities linked to a property.  The wide variety of styles, coverage, disclaimers, recommendations, and conclusions in ESA reports back in the early 1990’s made that task very hard.

More than one consultant in the 1990’s would try to absolve themselves of liability by merely stating the findings of the investigation and avoiding any recommendation or conclusions.  Others would include disclaimers that would essentially hold them blameless for all errors and or omissions.

The first standardized ESA reports that came across my desk conformed with the United States ASTM E1527 standard published in 1993.  The first Canadian ESA standard (Z768) was issued in 1994 by the Standard Council of Canada.

In Canada, the latest version of the CSA Z768 standard is what is used as starting point for conducting Phase I ESA’s.  A vast majority of ESA reports that I read begin quoting the CSA standard but with the added qualifying statement that the report is in “substantial conformance” with the standard.

Commodity

Currently, many of the major lenders in Canada have lists of approved consultants for ESA’s.  Any borrower can choose freely from the list and arrange for an ESA on a property.  Other organizations have similar lists.

The CSA Z768 standard combined with the lists of qualified consultants typically supplied by lending institutions has created, in my opinion, a commodification of Phase I ESA’s.  An unsophisticated and occasional user of environmental services would most likely choose a consultant to conduct a Phase I ESA based on price.

Sophisticated buyers of environmental services have their own favourite consultants.  To earn the trust of a regular user of ESA services, a consultant needs to be able provide a clear explanation of environmental liabilities and a strong justification for the need further investigation (i.e., Phase II ESA).  The exemplary consultant has the ability to uncover the less than obvious environmental liabilities.  All trusted consultants provide timely report in a cost-effective manner.

The advantage of the sophisticated buyers of ESA services is the experience gained from reading reports from dozens of different firms and knowledge of the revelations and oversights of each.  Even amongst sophisticated buyers, there is a level of commodification that exists as they would likely have anywhere from 4 to 5 firms (any maybe more) that they trust to do good work.

Differentiation

When being sold environmental services from consultants, I typically ask a consultant what differentiates them from their competitors with respect tot the conduct of a Phase I ESA.  In essence, I want them to articulate to me how their ESA work is superior to the competition.  The typical list of replies can be found in the table below.  Based on the majority of responses I receive, it is my conclusion that the consultants themselves are unknowingly conceding that they are selling a commodity service.  The differentiators they describe can apply to almost any firm that provides the service.

Table 1: Common Reasons Cited by Environmental Consultants for Choosing Them

“Cost effective”

“better”
“Fast turn-around time” “more effective”
“Use only experienced assessors” “more thorough”
“Experienced reviewers and supervising Staff”

“quality controls”

Innovation

So how can a consulting firm give clients what they want – more certainty on risk associated with a property – and differentiate the ESA service they provide?

I have found one consultant that I now work with has risen above the commodity Phase I ESA.  This consulting firm, through innovation, has gone beyond the bare minimum of a Phase I ESA that would conform to the CSA Standard and utilized technology to enhance the Phase I ESA.

A standard Phase I ESA requires only observation as part of the site visit portion of the ESA.  The use of intrusive testing is saved for a Phase II.  However, with the utilization of field instrumentation that is non-intrusive, an enhanced Phase I can provide much more information that a standard Phase I ESA.

The environmental consulting firm, Altech Consulting Group, uses magnetic surveys as a standard part of the its Phase I ESAs.  A magnetometer measures the magnetic potential underground through non-obtrusive means.  It can identify the presence of underground steel tanks or drums, and other ferrous buried objects (i.e. pipes).

Enhanced Phase I ESA – Seeing underground with the magnetic survey

By including a magnetic survey as a standard part of a Phase I ESA, Altech has more information from which to base its conclusions and recommendations.  It can utilize the information found from the magnetic survey along with historical data and interviews with persons knowledgeable of the property to have a stronger argument for the need for a Phase II ESA or not.

Chad Stewart, the head of the environmental investigation group at Altech stated “one of the biggest sources of environmental liability at the majority of sites is leaks from underground storage tanks or pipelines.  By including a magnetic survey as part of our Phase I ESA, we are in a much better position to state if further intrusive investigation is required.  Our approach saves the client time and money.”

As I said earlier, I have seen my share of ESA reports from numerous consultants.  Their a some that are very quick to recommend a Phase II ESA based on the limited information that only hints that a UST may have been present.  A vast majority of the subsequent Phase II findings reveal that there is no contamination.

Any means of bringing non-intrusive testing and measurement techniques into use for a standard Phase I ESA is a good thing in my opinion.  The more information that can be obtained during the Phase I ESA, the better the decision making on the need for a Phase II.

By not having to perform an unnecessary Phase II ESA, a client could save tens of thousands of dollars.  By performing a Phase II ESA based on information obtained from a magnetic survey that is a standard part of a Phase I ESA, a client could potentially save hundreds of thousands of dollars.