Quebec to Track Contaminated Soil Movement in Real Time

The Quebec Government recently announcement that it will adopt the regulation that will include the implementation of a system in which the movement of contaminated soil will be tracked in real time. Under the tracking system, the site owner, project manager, regulator, carrier, and receiving site, and other stakeholders will be able to know where contaminated soil is being shipped from, where it’s going, its quantity and what routes will be used to transport it.

Contaminated soil will be tracked in real time, starting from its excavation, through a global positioning system. The system, Traces Québec, is already in place in Montreal as part of a pilot project launched last March.

Traces Quebec , an initiative of Réseau Environnement in partnership with WikiNet , offers the first integrated traceability solution for contaminated soils in Quebec. Performing on a web platform, the Traces Quebec traceability system allows contaminated soil owners to follow in real time the movement of their materials and to have an encrypted, confidential and archived trace of the displaced materials. In an era of transparency and eco-citizenship, Traces Québec allows contaminated soil owners to demonstrate beyond any doubt their exemplary management of these materials.

Combining the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence, Traces Quebec is an independent application that allows complete traceability of materials to their destination. Transactions are encrypted, unalterable and private, and compatible with smart phones and conventional GPS fleet systems.

With a system such as Traces Québec, all players in the field in Quebec will benefit from increased traceability and responsible management of transported excavated materials, particularly treatment, transfer stations and landfills, which will increase the volume materials shipped to their sites. Owners of these materials concerned with their good management, including municipalities, will also come out winners and can easily testify to their good management. Management in compliance with the laws and regulations concerning the protection of the environment; this is the essential contribution of Traces Québec.

The Quebec government also intends to increase he number of inspections on receiving sites. Furthermore, fines will be increased for those taking part in illegal dumping — from $350 to $3 million depending on the gravity of the offence, the type of soil and if they are repeat offenders, among other criteria.

How the GPS tracking system works

Investigation finds Contaminated Soil from Montreal is being dumped on Prime Farmland

As reported by Marie-Maude Denis and Jacques Taschereau of CBC News, contaminated soil generated from the development of properties in Montreal is ending up on prime agriculture land.

Radio-Canada’s investigative program Enquête recently tracked demolition waste from Montreal sites to farmland in Saint-Rémi. When the investigators confronted the farmer, he claimed the material dumped on his property would be used as a foundation for a greenhouse and that it was legal.

An environmental lawyer contacted by the Radio Canada investigators disagreed with the farmer as did Quebec’s Environment Ministry. The Environment Ministry confirmed it found contaminated soil at the site last year, but it’s offered no further details about its origin, saying the matter is still under investigation.

When The Radio Canada investigators questioned the general contractor working on the site that was the source of the contaminated soil, he claimed the a subcontractor properly trucked the soil away.

Properly managed soil treatment facility

The claim of the general contractor and farmer is that the material is construction debris consisting mainly of bricks and stones and not contaminated soil. The investigators noted that the material they saw dumped on the farm included metal and concrete. According to the Environment Ministry, the kind of debris that was tracked by the investigators can’t be legally be use for the intended farmland construction.

In a similar investigation conducted by Radio Canada in 2016, investigative reporters followed trucks and observed debris being dumped in the countryside. The investigators arranged for the sampling and analysis of the soil from several farms and that found some samples to be contaminated.

New Cleantech innovations reduce emissions from vehicles and suppress dust at industrial sites

dynaCERT Inc and H2 Tek have taken home the $5,000 top prize at the Mining Cleantech Challenge in Denver, the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association (CCIA) has reported.

The two companies’ technology were chosen by mining executives and investors in the industry as the best among a competitive field of 12 total companies representing the US, Canada and Israel, the CCIA said. An international team of judges reviewed and voted on the winners, the CCIA said.

dynaCERT’s HydraGEN™ turns distilled water into H2 and O2 gases on-demand and introduces these gases directly to diesel engines’ air intakes. H2 Tek Vice President of Sales and Marketing, David Van Klaveren, said: “Our technology, HydraGEN can actually improve significantly those carbon emissions, reduce them and, along the way, pay for the capital cost of all this through fuel efficiency savings.

“We can’t ignore the fact that clean technology is an important part of our responsibility as participants and members of this industry, the mining industry,” he said. “I think it’s remarkable that an association considers this a priority: bringing together companies that have innovation for an extremely important cause.”

Hydrocarbons and CO2 are reduced due to the absence of carbon in hydrogen fuel and also due to better combustion of diesel fuel with the aid of hydrogen which has a higher flame speed, dynaCERT said.

“Although CO values for neat diesel operation is relatively lower, by inducting H2 & O2 into diesel the CO amount is further reduced,” dynaCERT said. dynaCERT has created partnerships to perfect a technology that would deliver on the promising findings with H2 & O2 injection. Not only have we developed patent-pending technology, we have completed testing and have validated that our technology works.”

Some of the features delivered through the technology, dynaCERT said:

  • “Our patent-pending electrolysis system and Smart ECM provides a reliable and adjustable delivery of H2 & O2 concentrations. Not all engines are the same and having the optimal ratio of gases provides increased benefits;
  • “Our technology is scalable allowing use with Class 6-8 on-road vehicles and transition to applications with rail, marine, off-road and power generation;
  • “Our technology is leading edge and provides solutions without drawing excessive power to perform the task;
  • “It is designed to work with OEM manufacturer’s and compliment technological improvements.”

Earth Alive Clean Technologies

Second place in the cleantech competition went to Earth Alive Clean Technologies, a microbial dust control technology that is non-hazmat, 100% organic and has biodegradable properties.

Earth Alive offers EA1TM dust suppressant and RapidAll cleaner to remove dust, dirt and any other contaminant in a natural way. EA1 eliminates 90% of dust on work sites.

EA1TM reduces dust through the use of microbial technology to keep dust particles in the soil. EA1TM reintroduces natural microbial strains compounds already found in nature into the ground to create conditions that prevent dust from becoming airborne, while helping to retain soil moisture. Microbial spores are activated after application and thrive in the soil binding soil particles and creating a firm and resistant layer preventing dust emission.

Hazardous industry leaders give insight on the keys to operational excellence

A global survey of hazardous industries and Operational Index was recently published by Sphera. The annual Operational Excellence Index (OEI) survey report which highlights trends in digital transformation and OE strategies across the hazardous industries.

Previously conducted by Petrotechnics, now a Sphera company, the index is in its third year of surveying oil and gas, chemical, energy and industry manufacturing professionals to gauge attitudes around OE and the measures taken towards its adoption. Year after year respondents agree, OE programs help reduce risk, cut costs, and improve productivity. The 2018/2019 survey reveals senior leaders are relying on technologies to support their OE initiatives and identifies where they are coming up short and what they could do to improve.

Ninety percent of respondents agree digital transformation will accelerate their ability to achieve OE – not just as a one-off target but as an ongoing business objective. This is a significant increase from last year’s report where 73% of leaders agreed that going digital was key to achieving OE. Implementing digital technologies is now aligned with overall business goals with 55% leveraging technology to reduce operational risk and 55% to improve asset availability and uptime.

Paul Marushka, President and CEO at Sphera, commented, “As the third-annual Operational Excellence Index shows, digital transformation is upon us. As companies look for new ways to keep their people safe, their operations productive and their products sustainable, being able to tap into and monitor data from Industry 4.0 solutions will be a major differentiator for organizations looking to separate themselves from the competition. It’s not surprising that 90% of respondents agree that digital technology will accelerate operational excellence. We couldn’t agree more. Sphera believes digital is the wave of the future for operational risk mitigation.”

But while industry leaders agree digital is essential to OE, more than half are still trying to figure out what ‘digital transformation’ means for them, and 69% are just beginning their digital journey. The approach to digital matters, according to 83% of survey respondents, who admit they have relied on legacy systems to improve their business agility but had not embedded operational best practices cross-functionally.

The good news is the industry is on the brink of a major step forward when it comes to achieving OE through digitalization. Seventy-five percent of leaders recognize the need to create new, insight-driven business processes across enterprise functions. Advanced analytics and digital twins were highlighted as key solutions to help operators understand how to make better, safer planning and operational decisions. 

Scott Lehmann, VP, Product Management, ORM for Operations at Sphera, said, “This year’s survey clearly illustrates the challenges digital leaders face within their own organizations to understand what digital transformation means or could mean practically and tangibly to their company. While the pace of digital transformation and ROI is still in its early days, the survey points strongly to a rapid acceleration on the horizon. Digital leaders understand digital integration and the adoption of new technologies must focus on creating actionable insights to help underpin new cross-functional business processes that enhance decision-making and the way people work together.”

One survey respondent suggested: “The best approach to digital is not to use technologies to close gaps that you know already exist. Rather, start with a blank sheet of paper and define what you need – and then assess the available technologies.”

Petrotechnics, now a Sphera company, conducted the survey between October and November 2018, collecting 116 responses from a broad representation of functions, demographics and industries across the hazardous industries, including: oil, gas, chemicals, manufacturing, utilities, mining, engineering and other sectors. The survey included respondents from each major region – specifically Middle East (29%), Europe (28%), North America (28%), Asia Pacific (11%), Africa (3%) and South America (1%).

View the full report and results from the 2018/2019 Operational Excellence Index.

Canada: New Environmental Emergency Regulations Published

New regulations

The Environmental Emergency Regulations, 2019 (the final regulations) were recently published in the Canada Gazette. They come into force on August 24, 2019, and until then, the Environmental Emergency Regulations (first published in 2003) are in force.

The objective of the Environmental Emergency Regulations, 2019 (the final Regulations) is to further enhance environmental emergency management in Canada. For instance, improved environmental emergency management has been introduced through the addition of hazardous substances to Schedule 1 of the Regulations. This addition requires reporting on these substances, environmental emergency planning for higher-risk facilities, and reporting of environmental emergencies involving these substances.

In addition, the final Regulations aim to clarify and strengthen existing regulatory requirements and to ensure that the information available to public safety organizations and the Department is reliable, in order to help in minimizing the frequency and consequences of environmental emergencies in Canada and further enhance environmental emergency management in Canada.

The government estimates that the final Regulations implicate an additional 200 businesses, along with the existing 4 800 regulated parties across Canada. Of these facilities, approximately 3,000 will be required to prepare, implement, exercise and update environmental emergency (E2) plans.

Application

These regulations require that any person who owns, has the charge, management or control of a regulated substance at or above certain quantities notify Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). For higher-risk facilities, an environmental emergency plan must also be prepared, brought into effect and exercised.

Under section 193 of CEPA 1999 an environmental emergency means an uncontrolled, unplanned or accidental release, or release in contravention of regulations or interim orders made under Part 8 of CEPA 1999, of a substance into the environment; or the reasonable likelihood of such a release into the environment.

Hazardous substances

Schedule 1 of the final regulations includes 249 substances that pose an acute hazard to the environment or to human health should an accidental release occur. There are six  hazard categories covered under the final regulations:  

  • aquatically toxic
  • combustible
  • explosion hazard
  • pool fire hazard
  • inhalation hazard
  • oxidizer that may explode

E2 Plans

E2 Plans must be prepared by any company that owns or that has the charge, management or control of a substance listed in Schedule 1 of the E2 Regulations at the threshold quantity listed. Those companies companies must prepare, implement, and test an E2 plan. ECCC must also be notified about the E2 Plan.

The complexity of E2 plans may vary depending upon the circumstances of the person required to prepare and implement a plan. Although the primary goal of preparing and implementing an E2 plan is to prevent emergencies from occurring, such advance planning is critical for preparedness, response and recovery activities in the event that an emergency does occur. In accordance with the E2 Regulations, the person must consider the following factors when preparing an environmental emergency plan:

  • The properties and characteristics of the substance and the maximum expected quantity of the substance at the place at any time during a calendar year
  • The commercial, manufacturing, processing or other activity in relation to which the plan is being prepared
  • The characteristics of the place where the substance is located and of the surrounding area that may increase the risk of harm to the environment or of danger to human life or health
  • The potential consequences of an environmental emergency on the environment and on human life or health.

As per the E2 Regulations, the environmental emergency plan must include the following:

  • A description of the factors considered above
  • The identification of any environmental emergency that can reasonably be expected to occur at the place and that would likely cause harm to the environment or constitute a danger to human life or health, and identification of the harm or danger
  • A description of the measures to be used to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from any environmental emergency identified
  • A list of individuals who are to carry out the actions described in the plan in the event of an environmental emergency, and a description of their roles and responsibilities
  • The identification of the training required for each of the individuals listed
  • A list of the emergency response equipment included as part of the E2 plan, and its location
  • A description of the measures to be taken by the person referred to above to notify members of the public who may be adversely affected by an environmental emergency and to inform them of those measures and of what to do in the event of an environmental emergency

Environment Canada recommends that, while submitting information to fulfill the E2 Regulations requirements, regulatees consider a senior-level statement demonstrating their commitment to implementing and maintaining the E2 plan. They need to keep the plan current, comprehensive and effective (e.g., annual testing and updating of the plan). Appendix 1 of the Implementation Guidelines contains a list of suggested references to assist anyone having to develop an E2 plan.

Environment Canada strongly recommends that persons preparing an E2 plan include community and interest groups and local and provincial emergency authorities in the development and preparation of the plan, and also share the implemented plan with these persons.

Final Impacts on Business

ECCC commissioned a study on the financial impacts of the new regulations in 2014. The study found that the addition of the 33 additional substances to Schedule 1 of the final Regulations will result in some businesses having to prepare, bring into effect, exercise and update environmental emergency plans. Approximately 120 businesses will be required to prepare a new environmental emergency plan at an estimated unit cost of $14,000, while about 80 businesses will be required to update an existing plan at an estimated unit cost of $5,000.

Oil Spill Training Exercise (Photo Credit: Gaylord Herald Times)

The 2014 financial impact study also found that it will be necessary for the businesses preparing new environmental emergency plans to exercise their plans on an annual basis. In particular, a full-scale simulation exercise (action-based simulation exercise requiring the deployment of personnel, resources and equipment) will be required once every five years at each facility. The estimated cost for each full-scale simulation exercise will vary depending on the size of the facility in question, as follows: $3,000 for small-sized facilities; $5,000 for medium-sized facilities; and $10,000 for large-sized facilities. Simulation exercises (exercise simulating the response to an environmental emergency involving the release of a substance) will need to be conducted at each facility once per year during the four years that full-scale exercising is not conducted, at an estimated cost of $1,000 per exercise. 

Brownfield Redevelopment in New York City and Community Air Monitoring – What you need to know

Written by Paul R. Pickering, Aeroqual Ltd.

Brownfield cleanup in New York City

As New York City’s need for space grows, existing stock of land must be used more effectively. Brownfield cleanup and redevelopment represents one of the best opportunities to engage communities and reclaim land for development in many cities. In 2018, the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation (MOER) announced 1000×21, the most aggressive land cleanup and revitalization goal of any city in the world. This OneNYCinitiative seeks to remediate and redevelop 1,000 lots in NYC by the end of the de Blasio administration in 2021.


A vacant lot in Mott Haven, NY before remediation. Photo: OneNYC

Remediation air quality challenges

Any time a remediation or construction project involves earth-moving, it has the potential to release particulate (dust) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contaminants that exist below the surface. VOCs will readily transition to the gaseous, breathable phase, when exposed to air. Particulate emissions must be controlled to prevent impacts to the respiratory system. Negative impacts range from mild lung irritation to chronic lung disease. 

Regulations to protect community

To protect workers and the surrounding community, construction and demolition projects that involve excavation need to follow a stringent Community Air Monitoring Plan(CAMP), as specified by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH). If the excavation activities are occurring on a remediation or cleanup site, additional requirements are outlined in a guidance document known as DER-10. NYSDOH and DER-10 specifically apply to sites in New York. However, agencies and authorities in other states may also recognize these guidelines. They have been known to apply or refer to them for projects in their designated territories.

What is DER-10?

In 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) issued Division of Environmental Remediation (DER)-10 Technical Guidance for Site Investigation and Remediation, known as DER-10. This is the source document the NYSDEC refer to for authority to oversee remediation projects. It was designed to help parties and consultants (environmental and engineering) in developing and implementing investigation and remediation projects at contaminated sites.

DER-10 extensively (over 225 pages) describes the A to Z requirements for remedial site investigations, cleanups, post-cleanup monitoring and site closure. It presents detailed technical guidance for each of the investigative and remedial steps undertaken at contaminated sites. DER-10 covers procedures for assessing the environmental conditions at the site, including air monitoring during remediation activities.

What is CAMP?

Appendix 1A of the DER-10 outlines requirements for the implementation of a CAMP. This air monitoring plan is prescribed by NYSDOH. It involves direct-reading air monitoring instruments placed at defined locations around the perimeter of a remediation, construction or demolition site.

A CAMP requires real-time air monitoring for total VOCs (also referred to as total organic vapors) and PM10 (particulate matter 10 micrometers or less in diameter) at downwind and upwind locations relative to each designated work area when certain activities are in progress at contaminated sites. The CAMP is not intended for use in establishing action levels for worker respiratory protection. Rather, it is intended to protect the downwind community) from potential airborne contaminants released as a direct result of investigative and remedial work activities. The downwind community includes off-site receptors such as residences, businesses, and on-site workers not directly involved with the subject work activities. The specified CAMP action levels require increased monitoring, corrective actions to abate emissions, and/or work shutdown. Additionally, the CAMP helps to confirm that work activities did not spread contamination off-site through the air.

VOC and particulate monitoring

Basic requirements of a CAMP call for real-time air monitoring for VOCs and/or particulate levels at the perimeter of the exclusion zone, or work area. Sites known to be contaminated with heavy metals alone may only require particulate monitoring. If radiological contamination is a concern, additional monitoring requirements may be necessary in consultation with NYSDEC and NYSDOH. The table below summarizes CAMP Monitoring Action Levels for total VOC and particulate monitoring.

CAMP air monitoring equipment

Since the introduction of DER-10 in 2010, sensor-based technologies have reduced the cost of air monitoring and increased efficiency of the implementation of CAMP. Real-time air monitoring solutions are available to fit the budget and complexity requirements of every project. Below is a sampling of equipment options:

Entry Level – Basic environmental dust monitoring kit

Assembled kits, like this Basic Environmental Dust Monitoring Kit from Raeco Rents, are portable and suited to short-term or temporary CAMP. The ensemble includes an off-the-shelf dust monitor, handheld PID monitor for total VOCs, and a cloud-based telemetry system mounted in an environmental enclosure.

Ultimate Flexibility – All-in-one air quality monitor

All-in-one air quality monitors, like the AQS1 and the Dust Sentry from Aeroqual, are highly flexible and defensible, as well as good allrounders for short or long-term CAMP. In addition to the primary particulate fraction PM10, these monitors can also measure PM2.5, PM1 and Total PM. They can also be configured for monitoring total VOCs and NO2 emissions from remediation and construction sites. A robust light-scattering Nephelometer with sharp cut cyclone is integrated with a PID-based VOC analyzer module (or GSE-based NO2 gas module), Cloud telemetry platform, air quality software, and optional plug-and-play weather and noise sensors. Trigger alerts are programmable for SMS and email notifications, or can be used to activate an external VOC canister sample collection for speciated analysis according to EPA Method TO-15.

The Rolls Royce – GC-based perimeter air monitoring station

Perimeter air monitoring stations, like the AirLogics Classic 2, contain analytical, climatic, and communications instrumentation. This equipment includes: a gas chromatograph (GC) to measure specific VOCs, a respirable particulate meter to measure dust levels, shelter heaters and air conditioners, and a radio-based data acquisition system. These systems were originally developed for use in the cleanup of former manufactured gas plant (MGP) sites.

Weather monitoring

DER-10 guidelines require daily measurement of wind speed and direction, temperature, barometric pressure, and relative humidity, to establish background weather conditions. Wind direction data is used to position the air monitoring equipment in appropriate upwind and downwind locations.

The evaluation of weather conditions is also necessary for proper fugitive dust control. When extreme wind conditions make dust control ineffective, remedial actions may need to be suspended. There may be situations that require fugitive dust suppression and particulate monitoring requirements with more stringent action levels.

Additional monitoring

Under some circumstances, the contaminant concentration and/or toxicity may require additional monitoring to protect site personnel and the community. Additional integrated sampling and chemical analysis of the dust may be required. This must be evaluated when a Health and Safety Plan (HASP), is developed. Appropriate suppression and monitoring requirements are established for protection of people’s health and the environment.

Reporting

All recorded monitoring data is downloaded and field logged daily, including Action Limit Reports (if any) and daily CAMP monitoring location plans. Records are required to be maintained onsite for NYSDEC and NYSDOH to review. A description of the CAMP-related activities is also included in a monthly progress report submitted to the NYSDEC. The overall report submitted to the NYSDEC should include all CAMP monitoring records. If site works are stopped due to inability to control fugitive emissions to below the action limit, the NYSDEC is to be notified within twenty-four hours of the work stoppage.

For a real-life example of air monitoring at a remediation site please read my blog about the pilot cleanup of the Gowanus Canal, NY.

What CAMP solutions does Aeroqual offer?

Aeroqual’s Dust Sentry and AQS1 are flexible air monitoring platforms used by air quality professionals, and environmental and geotechnical consultants, for community air monitoring plans on remediation sites. We help environmental consultants deliver defensible data on projects by providing cost-effective and reliable instrumentation. For insights on the latest air monitoring trends at construction sites please read our blog about measuring NO2 and multiple PM fractions.


About the Author

Paul R. Pickering is the Business Development Director at Aeroqual Ltd., and is located in Auckland, New Zealand. Aeroqual Ltd. is a company that delivers innovative air quality and environmental monitoring solutions. He is passionate about making it easier to measure the air with advanced sensor-based technology. He believes that more relevant information about our environment can help us make better informed decisions, enjoy better quality of life, and make our planet a better home. 

Are New United States Regulations Coming for Accidental Releases into Air?

By Louis A. Ferreira, Willa B. Perlmutter, and Guy J. Thompson, Stoel Rives LLP

On February 4, 2019, a federal court ruled that the U.S. Chemical and Safety Hazard Board must issue regulations within one year that set forth reporting requirements for accidental releases of hazardous substances into the ambient air. This requirement has been part of the Board’s statutory mandate since its inception in 1990 pursuant to Section 112(r)(6)(C)(iii) of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”). Nevertheless, the Board has never issued any such regulations.

Four non-profit groups and one individual filed a one-count complaint against the Board, seeking declaratory relief and an injunction to compel the Board to promulgate reporting requirements as required by the CAA. Plaintiffs claimed that the Board had violated the Administrative Procedure Act by not issuing any regulations. Plaintiffs further asserted the lack of reporting requirements have impaired their respective abilities to collect information that would help prevent future releases and the harm caused from such releases.

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled that the Board must issue regulations within one year. In reaching its decision, the Court rejected the Board’s defenses that the delay in promulgating regulations was reasonable given the Board’s limited resources, small staff size, and other required functions. “[I]f that is the case,” the Court said, “the solution to its resource constraints is not to ignore a congressional directive[,] [i]t is to return to Congress and ask for relief from the statutory requirement.” The case is Air Alliance Houston, et al. v. U.S. Chem. & Safety Hazard Investigation Bd., D.D.C., No. 17-cv-02608, February 4, 2019.

The Court’s decision appears to follow a similar one issued in August 2018 in which some of the same plaintiffs brought a complaint against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In that case, the plaintiffs petitioned the D.C. Court of Appeals for review of the EPA’s decision to delay for 20 months the effective date of a rule designed to promote accident safety and enhance the emergency response requirements for chemical releases. The Court rejected all of EPA’s defenses justifying the delay in a strongly-worded opinion that held the agency strictly to the letter of the CAA. That case is Air Alliance Houston, et al. v. EPA, 906 F.3d 1049 (D.C. Cir. 2018).

The same directness is evident in this recent decision.

Ultimately, the practical effect of the ruling is not clear. There are already laws in place that require companies to report accidental releases to state and federal authorities. It is possible the Board will promulgate regulations that align with its current practice of deferring reporting requirements to other agencies. If the Board took that approach, there likely would not be a noticeable difference in reporting requirements from the current practice.

On the other hand, the two recent decisions discussed above suggest that a trend may be forming in which the courts are pushing back when the government steps off its clear statutory path.


This article has been republished with the permission of the authors. The original post of this article can be found on the Stoel Rivers LLP website.

About the Authors

Lou Ferreira is a senior partner with more than 27 years of complex trial experience.  His practice focuses on commercial litigation, insurance coverage and environmental, safety & health issues.  A seasoned litigator, Lou has significant experience in high-stakes litigation including successfully defending a class action filed against a utility by residents of a town in Washington asserting that the utility was liable for flooding as a result of the operations of its upstream dams.  Lou  successfully defended a port in Washington from a $20 million lawsuit brought by developers alleging breach of contract to develop a large mixed-use waterfront project on the Columbia River. 

Willa Perlmutter has more than 30 years of experience as a litigator, focusing for the last 20 on defending mine operators across all sectors of the industry in administrative enforcement proceedings brought by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for alleged violations of the Mine Act.  In addition, she regularly counsels clients on a broad range of issues that affect their mining operations, from personnel policies and actions to compliance with a broad range of federal statutes. Willa regularly defends companies and individuals facing investigations and formal legal proceedings for alleged safety and health violations under both the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, whether those arise out of a catastrophic event, such as an accident, or in the course of a regular inspection by MSHA or Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). She has successfully defended a number of mining companies in whistleblower cases brought under the Mine Act.

Guy Thompson is a litigator and advisor on a wide-range of insurance matters. His practice focuses on insurance coverage litigation, including natural resources/environmental insurance coverage, and a wide variety of risk management issues. Guy helps policyholders obtain the recovery they deserve from their insurers and has helped recover millions of dollars from insurance companies for his clients. Guy is skilled at getting insurance carriers to cooperate in paying claims and often secures settlements with insurers without the need for litigation. Recently, he helped recover over $1.65 million from multiple insurance carriers for a Portland company that was required to perform environmental cleanup by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

U.S. PHMSA Study Will Assess Aligning U.S. and International Regulations for Aerosol Containers

by Bergeson & Campbell

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) routinely reviews and amends the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) to harmonize the HMR with international regulations and standards.  In February 2019, PHMSA’s Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (OHMS) contracted with the Cambridge Systematics (CS) Team to conduct a risk assessment for the transportation of aerosol containers to align U.S. and international regulations.  The study is intended to determine whether the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods — Model Regulations (Model Regulations) definition of aerosols maintains an equivalent level of safety to the definition in the HMR and to assess the risk associated with aligning the definitions.  The study is expected to be completed in February 2020, and any rulemaking to align the definition of aerosol containers would be issued after that.

Federal law and policy favor the harmonization of domestic and international standards for hazardous materials transportation.  In a November 27, 2018, proposed rule to amend the HMR to maintain alignment with international regulations and standards, PHMSA notes that it was directed by the federal hazardous materials law “to participate in relevant international standard-setting bodies and requires alignment of the HMR with international transport standards to the extent practicable.”  While federal hazmat law allows PHMSA to depart from international standards to promote safety or other overriding public interest, “it otherwise encourages domestic and international harmonization.”

The Model Regulations define aerosol or aerosol dispenser as “an article consisting of a non-refillable receptacle meeting the requirements of 6.2.4, made of metal, glass or plastics and containing a gas, compressed, liquefied or dissolved under pressure, with or without a liquid, paste or powder, and fitted with a release device allowing the contents to be ejected as solid or liquid particles in suspension in a gas, as a foam, paste or powder or in a liquid state or in a gaseous state.”  The HMR, in 49 C.F.R. Section 171.8, defines aerosol as “an article consisting of any non-refillable receptacle containing a gas compressed, liquefied or dissolved under pressure, the sole purpose of which is to expel a nonpoisonous (other than a Division 6.1 Packing Group III material) liquid, paste, or powder and fitted with a self-closing release device allowing the contents to be ejected by the gas.”  Unlike the Model Regulations, the HMR permits only an aerosol with a liquid, paste, or powder.  Industry has petitioned PHMSA to align the definitions and permit certain non-refillable gas containers with or without a liquid, paste, or powder to be transported without needing a Special Permit.

Commentary

Since the study is not expected to be completed until February 2020, there will be no immediate impact for U.S. manufacturers of aerosol products.  The study will likely conclude that the definition of aerosols in the Model Regulations ensures an equivalent level of safety to the definition in the HMR, and that there is no risk associated with aligning the definitions.  Should this be the outcome, PHMSA would then initiate a rulemaking.  We would expect the rulemaking to align the HMR definition with the Model Regulations and permit certain non-refillable gas containers with or without a liquid, paste, or powder to be transported without needing a Special Permit.  Stakeholders may wish to keep an eye on the study and, of course, any ensuing rulemaking and comment as appropriate.


This article has been republished with the permission of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. The original post can be found at the Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. website.

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is a Washington D.C. law firm providing decades of experience in the manufacture, handling, and transport of conventional, biobased, and nanoscale industrial, agricultural, and specialty chemicals, including product approval and regulation, product defense, and associated business issues. www.lawbc.com.

U.S. Mining Sites – Legacy of Contamination Needs to be Addressed

https://www.thechronicleherald.ca/news/world/us-mining-sites-dump-50m-gallons-of-fouled-wastewater-daily-285939/

Rimini, Montana – Every day many millions of gallons of water loaded with arsenic, lead and other toxic metals flow from some of the most contaminated mining sites in the U.S. and into surrounding streams and ponds without being treated, The Associated Press has found.

That torrent is poisoning aquatic life and tainting water supplies in Montana, California, Colorado, Oklahoma and at least five other states.

The pollution is a legacy of how the mining industry was allowed to operate in the U.S. for more than a century. Companies that built mines for silver, lead, gold and other “hardrock” minerals could move on once they were no longer profitable, leaving behind tainted water that still leaks out of the mines or is cleaned up at taxpayer expense.

Using data from public records requests and independent researchers, the AP examined 43 mining sites under federal oversight, some containing dozens or even hundreds of individual mines.

The records show that at average flows, more than 50 million gallons of contaminated wastewater streams daily from the sites. In many cases, it runs untreated into nearby groundwater, rivers and ponds — a roughly 20-million-gallon daily dose of pollution that could fill more than 2,000 tanker trucks.

The remainder of the waste is captured or treated in a costly effort that will need to carry on indefinitely, for perhaps thousands of years, often with little hope for reimbursement.

The volumes vastly exceed the release from Colorado’s Gold King Mine disaster in 2015, when a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleanup crew inadvertently triggered the release of 3 million gallons (11.4 million liters) of mustard-colored mine sludge, fouling rivers in three states.

At many mines, the pollution has continued decades after their enlistment in the federal Superfund cleanup program for the nation’s most hazardous sites, which faces sharp cuts under President Donald Trump.

Federal officials have raised fears that at least six of the sites examined by AP could have blowouts like the one at Gold King.


Mine waste mixes with runoff at the Gold King Mine. (Provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Some sites feature massive piles or impoundments of mine waste known as tailings. A tailings dam collapse in Brazil last month killed at least 169 people and left 140 missing. A similar 2014 accident in British Columbia swept millions of cubic yards of contaminated mud into a nearby lake, resulting in one of Canada’s worst environmental disasters.

But even short of a calamitous accident, many mines pose the chronic problem of relentless pollution.

AP also found mining sites where untreated water harms the environment or threatens drinking water supplies in North and South Carolina, Vermont, Missouri and Oregon.

Tainted wells

In mountains outside the Montana capital of Helena, about 30 households can’t drink their tap water because groundwater was polluted by about 150 abandoned gold, lead and copper mines that operated from the 1870s until 1953.

The community of Rimini was added to the Superfund list in 1999. Contaminated soil in residents’ yards was replaced, and the EPA has provided bottled water for a decade. But polluted water still pours from the mines and into Upper Tenmile Creek.

“The fact that bottled water is provided is great,” said 30-year Rimini resident Catherine Maynard, a natural resources analyst for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Where it falls short is it’s not piped into our home. Water that’s piped into our home is still contaminated water. Washing dishes and bathing — that metal-laden water is still running through our pipes.”

Estimates of the number of such abandoned mine sites range from 161,000 in 12 western states to as many as 500,000 nationwide. At least 33,000 have degraded the environment, according to the Government Accountability Office, and thousands more are discovered every year.

Officials have yet to complete work including basic risk analyses on about 80 percent of abandoned mining sites on federal lands. Most are controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, which under Trump is seeking to consolidate mine cleanups with another program and cut their combined 2019 spending from $35 million to $13 million.

An abandoned mining site in Clear Creek County. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Perpetual pollution

Problems at some sites are intractable. Among them:

  • In eastern Oklahoma’s Tar Creek mining district, waterways are devoid of life and elevated lead levels persist in the blood of children despite a two-decade effort to clean up lead and zinc mines. More than $300 million has been committed since 1983, but only a small fraction of the impacted land has been reclaimed and contaminated water continues to flow.
  • At northern California’s Iron Mountain Mine, cleanup teams battle to contain highly acidic water that percolates through a former copper and zinc mine and drains into a Sacramento River tributary. The mine discharged six tons of toxic sludge daily before an EPA cleanup. Authorities now spend $5 million a year to remove poisonous sludge that had caused massive fish kills, and they expect to keep at it forever.
  • In Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, site of the Gold King blowout, some 400 abandoned or inactive mine sites contribute an estimated 15 million gallons (57 million liters) of acid mine drainage per day.

AP also found mining sites where untreated water harms the environment or threatens drinking water supplies in North and South Carolina, Vermont, Missouri and Oregon.

This landscape of polluted sites occurred under mining industry rules largely unchanged since the 1872 Mining Act.

State and federal laws in recent decades have held companies more accountable than in the past, but critics say huge loopholes all but ensure that some of today’s mines will foul waterways or require perpetual cleanups.

To avoid a catastrophe like Gold King, EPA officials now require advance approval for work on many mining sites. But they acknowledge they’re only dealing with a small portion of the problem.

“We have been trying to play a very careful game of prioritization,” said Dana Stalcup, deputy director of the Superfund program. “We know the Superfund program is not the answer to the hundreds of thousands of mines out there, but the mines we are working on we want to do them the best we can.”

The 43 sites examined by AP are mining locations for which officials and researchers have reliable estimates of polluted water releases. Officials said flow rates at the sites vary.

Average flows were unavailable for nine sites that only had high and low estimates of how much polluted water flowed out. For those sites, the AP used the lower estimates for its analysis.

Questions over who should pay

To date, the EPA has spent an estimated $4 billion on mining cleanups. Under Trump, the agency has identified a small number of Superfund sites for heightened attention after cleanup efforts stalled or dragged on for years. They include five mining sites examined by AP.

Former EPA assistant administrator Mathy Stanislaus said more money is needed to address mining pollution on a systematic basis, rather than jumping from one emergency response to another.

“The piecemeal approach is just not working,” said Stanislaus, who oversaw the Superfund program for almost eight years ending in 2017.

Democrats have sought unsuccessfully to create a special cleanup fund for old hardrock mine sites, with fees paid by the mining industry. Such a fund has been in place for coal mines since 1977, with more than $11 billion in fees collected and hundreds of sites reclaimed.

The mining industry has resisted doing the same for hardrock mines, and Republicans in Congress have blocked the Democratic proposals.

Montana Mining Association director Tammy Johnson acknowledged abandoned mines have left a legacy of pollution, but added that companies still in operation should not be forced to pay for those problems.

“Back in the day there really wasn’t a lot known about acid mine drainage,” she said. “I just don’t think that today’s companies bear the responsibility.”

In 2017, the EPA proposed requiring companies still operating mines to post cleanup bonds or offer other financial assurances so taxpayers don’t end up footing cleanup bills. The Trump administration halted the rule , but environmental groups are scheduled to appear in federal court next month in a lawsuit that seeks to revive it.

“When something gets on a Superfund site, that doesn’t mean it instantly and magically gets cleaned up,” said Earthjustice attorney Amanda Goodin. “Having money immediately available from a responsible party would be a game changer.”

Ontario: Fertilizer Producer fined $90,000 for Ammonia Spill

Terra International (Canada) Inc., was recently was convicted of one offence under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act (EPA) and was fined $90,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $22,500. The conviction stems from an incident that occurred on August 11, 2016 when the company reported an ammonia gas release to the Ontario Environment Ministry’s Spills Action Centre. It was subsequently determined that approximately 8.57 tonnes of liquid ammonia was released and contained, which resulted in a release of 997 kilograms of ammonia gas to the air over a two-hour period.

The ammonia release resulted in various adverse effects including the closure of nearby roads for approximately one hour. In addition, two reports were received alleging odours, with one of those alleging irritation; a third report alleged irritation, nausea and difficulty breathing; and employees at one neighbouring company reported evacuating for approximately two hours.

Upon discovery of the ammonia gas release, personnel from Terra conducted a root cause analysis which concluded that a previously unknown mechanical deficiency in an ammonia pump resulted in the failure of a vent pipe containing liquid ammonia.

Terra International (Canada) Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of CF Industries and operates a facility in St. Clair Township, Ontario (30 km south of Sarnia, Ontario) where it produces ammonia and urea products. To produces up to 1.0 million tons of nitrogen products for agricultural and industrial use each year. Approximately 200 people work at the facility.