Ontario’s Proposed Excess Soil Regulations: Effects & Benefits

Written by Abimbola Badejo, Staff Writer

Where do the soils excavated from our
basements go? Our backyards, neighbors’ backyards or into our drinking water?

Background

Soil is an important natural resource that needs to be conserved for sustainability and hygienic reasons. Numerous activities and projects such as construction, mining, contaminated site remediation, expansive archaeological projects, etc., require soil excavation.

The excavated soil is used to refill the vacant land or removed from the project site as “excess soil” left over from a project. The disposal of excavated soil however, posses a challenge for the contractors undertaking the projects as the receiving sites or facilities for excess soils are either far, unavailable or result in expensive transportation costs.

In certain instances, this problem has resulted in illegal dumping of excess soils onto farmers fields and vacant lands across Ontario, without the appropriate consideration of soil quality or dumping location. A 2018 CBC story on illegal dumping estimated the amount of illegal soil dumped in Ontario could annually fill Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays, sixteen times.

Aerial view of Rogers Centre, Toronto (Photo by Tim Gouw from Pexels)

Previous Government Reactions

To tackle the problem of illegal excess soil dumping, the Ontario Environment Ministry released a guidance document titled: “Management of Excess Soil – A Guide For Best Management Practices.” There was no obligation for compliance to the guidance document and thus the illegal practice continued.

With illegal dumping continuing in the province, the Environment Ministry released of a legal document which required compliance. The legal document, Regulatory Framework on Excess Soil Management, was made to clarify the responsibilities of excess-soil generators and a list of requirements guiding the sampling and analysis, soil characterization, tracking and dumping of excess soils. The Excess Soil Management proposal was posted on the Environmental Registry of Ontario for public comments from concerned stakeholders for two months in 2017; and afterwards an amended proposal implementing changes influenced by the comments was released.

The Latest Regulatory Proposal

With the Ontario election in the June of 2018 resulting in a change of government, the regulatory proposals for excess soil management were put on hold. On May first, the government issued its an updated proposal for the management of excess soil.

The proposed Excess soil regulatory proposal and amendments to Record of Site Condition (Brownfields) Regulation have the following features:

  • A revised approach to waste designation, where excess soil is
    considered waste and should be treated as one according to Part V of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (Waste
    Management); unless the relocated excess-soil is reused in an appropriate way
    or is deposited at a final receiving site that has appropriate approval
    documents,
  • Reduced regulatory complexity, where waste related approvals
    for low-risk soil management activities may no longer be required, provided
    certain requirements are met,
  • Flexibility for soil reuse through a beneficial Reuse
    Assessment Tool to develop site-specific standards and to provide a better
    understanding of environmental protection,
  • Improving safe and appropriate reuse of excess soil by
    quality soil testing, tracking and registration of soil movements for larger
    and riskier generating and receiving sites,
  • Landfill restrictions on clean soil deposit unless it is
    required for cover.

Once promulgated, the transition phase into the new regulations will take place over the period of 2 to 3 years, where the more flexible excess-soil reuse regulations, such as the amended Record of Site Conditions (O. Reg. 153/04), are already in effect. Other amendments, such as excess soil management planning and landfilling restrictions will come into effect between 2020 and 2022, to allow time for the production of alternative excess soil reuse approaches.

Benefits of
Policy

From an environmental perspective,
the proposal’s call for some regulatory key points are quite sustainably
beneficial. Registering and tracking the excess soil movement from excavation
source to receiving site or facility will minimize illegal dumping.
Transporting and illegal dumping of the excess soils is a source of concern
because excavated soil is a source of trapped Greenhouse Gases (GHG).
Inappropriate tipping of a considerable amount of excess soil will result in
the release of a significant amount of GHG in the atmosphere. Moreover,
vigorous testing and analysis of the excess soils meant for landfill will
ensure that contaminated soil is properly disposed of as hazardous waste,
instead of illegally covering it up at a landfill where is poses a threat as a
potential source of contamination to ground water.

Excess Soil
Market Impact

Economically, implementing the excess soil management policy will be beneficial to contractors and will encourage them to be more proactive in making their Excess Soil Management Plan (ESMP) in favor of excess soil reuse. This will assist in developing alternative, better and cheaper ways of reusing their excess soils; or selling off some (or all) of the excavated soils to a buyer,  who will put it to good use.

In addition, there has been a report of excess soil “black market” emergence in the industry; where contractors are avoiding the higher costs of tipping at provincially regulated designated facilities in exchange for illegal tipping at ignorant landowners’ fields. These landowners are receiving the excess soils at a small fee from the contractors, without consideration for the quality of the soil and possible environmental effect in the future. Implementation of the policy will minimize the expansion of this market, especially because of the registration and tracking requirements of the excess soil load and the approval documents required of the receivers.

U.S. EPA Updates the Superfund National Priorities List

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently announced that it is adding seven sites to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) where releases of contamination pose human health and environmental risks.

The NPL includes the United States’ most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing U.S. EPA Superfund cleanup funding and enforcement actions. Only releases at sites included on the NPL are eligible to receive federal funding for long-term, permanent cleanup.

“By adding these sites to the National Priorities List, we are taking action to clean up some of the nation’s most contaminated sites, protect the health of the local communities, and return the sites to safe and productive reuse,” said U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Our commitment to these communities is that sites on the National Priorities List will be a true national priority. We’ve elevated the Superfund program to a top priority, and in Fiscal Year 2018, EPA deleted all or part of 22 sites from the NPL.”

The following sites are being added to the NPL:

· Magna Metals in Cortlandt Manor, New York

· PROTECO in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico

· Shaffer Equipment/Arbuckle Creek Area in Minden, West Virginia

· Cliff Drive Groundwater Contamination in Logansport, Indiana

· McLouth Steel Corp in Trenton, Michigan

· Sporlan Valve Plant #1 in Washington, Missouri

· Copper Bluff Mine in Hoopa, California

McLouth Steel Corp in Trenton, Michigan (Photo Credit: CREDIT TRANSKOHR / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Superfund cleanups provide health and economic benefits to communities. The program is credited for significant reductions in birth defects and blood-lead levels among children living near sites, and research has shown residential property values increase up to 24% within 3 miles of sites after cleanup.

Redeveloped Superfund sites can generate a great deal of economic activity. Thanks to Superfund cleanups, previously blighted properties are now being used for a wide range of purposes, including retail businesses, office space, public parks, residences, warehouses, and solar power generation. At 529 Superfund sites returned to productive use, 8,600 businesses operate and 195,000 employees earn more than $13 billion in annual income.

The Superfund Task Force is working to improve the Superfund program. The U.S. EPA has implemented nearly half of the Task Force’s recommendations to expedite site cleanups and redevelopment and expects to complete the remaining recommendations by July 2019.

Source: U.S. EPA

Windsor provides $10.5 million in incentives to develop brownfield site

Farhi Holdings Corporation has been approved for almost $10.5 million in financial incentives from the City of Windsor as part of the Brownfield Redevelopment Community Improvement Plan.

The developer has owned a 24.5 hectare (60 acre) piece of vacant land next to the WFCU Centre, Windsors sports and entertainment complex, since 2005. It had been zoned industrial and had been the home of a GM trim plant and other industrial operations.

Farhi is working toward developing the site as office/retail/commercial space that will include 119 detached residential lots, four townhouse blocks, five multiple dwellings buildings, and a hotel. Approximately 3.1 hectares will remain for commercial development. The redevelopment is estimated to cost $59 million. The company is anticipating that work at the site will begin in the Fall.

The 24.5 hectare property represents approximately 11 percent of the City of Windsor’s brownfield inventory. It’s location next to the WCFU Centre makes it an ideal redevelopment opportunity.

The Windsor Brownfield Redevelopment Community Improvement Plan is designed to encourage the development of brownfields by offering incentives for development. In case of the Farhi Holdings property, the
$10.5 million in incentives from the City of Windsor will be in the form of tax breaks over a 13 year time period.

Farhi Holdings had a consultant conducted an environmental site assessment and estimate the cost of remediation. The environmental report estimates that 31,215 cubic metres of contaminated soil will need to be removed and replaced with clean fill. The total estimated cost for remediation and demolition work at the property is $6.4 million.

One section of the property (the area for the proposed hotel) has already been remediated and is not part of brownfield redevelopment incentive agreement. The hotel, once built, would generated between $380,000 to $450,000 in annual property tax revenue to the City.

A search of the Record of Site Condition (RSC) registry shows that one has not yet been filed for the property – 1600 Lauzon Road. Typically, an RSC is required prior a property zoning being changed. An RSC is a record of the site conditions and includes information on any remedial activity and the level of contamination at a site.

Farhi Holdings Corporation is a real estate and development company based in London, Ontario. The company was founded in 1988.

Saskatchewan Accepting Applications for government funding of Contaminated site Clean-ups

The Environment Ministry of Saskatchewan recently announced that it was accepting applications from municipalities for funding to clean-up contaminated sites.

Critics claim the paltry $178,000 in the fund is barely enough to cover the costs of the clean-up of one site. The source of money in Saskatchewan’s Impacted Sites Fund are the fines collected under The Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2010. 

Administered by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment, the fund provides financial support to municipal governments to clean up these sites so they can be used for future economic or social development opportunities.  An abandoned, environmentally impacted site is an area, such as a former gas station or laundromat, that has been contaminated.

“In addition to the obvious environmental and human health benefits of cleaning up contaminated sites, the Impacted Sites Fund will allow communities to use those sites for other, economically beneficial purposes,” Environment Minister Dustin Duncan said.

Municipalities can apply for funding at the Saskatchewan Environment Impacted Sites Fund web page. Municipal governments and municipal partnerships, which may include municipally owned corporations, not-for-profit organizations, and private companies, are eligible to apply for project funding to clean up the contaminated sites using the Impacted Sites Fund. 

Applications are not funded on a first-come, first-served basis.  The Ministry of Environment will assess and rank the applications according to environmental, social, and economic factors.  First priority will be given to sites that pose the greatest risk to human or ecological health.

Leaking Sewers Cost City 50% of Dry Cleaner Site Cleanup Costs

Written by John A. McKinney Jr., Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC

Are you in a case where an on-site and off-site groundwater plume of dry-cleaning solution (perchloroethylene or PCE) or other hazardous substance is intersected by sewers through which the used and disposed solution flowed?  If so, the case of Mission Linen Supply v. City of Visalia (2019 WL 446358) bears your close review.

Based on the facts and expert testimony adduced at the bench trial, the court determined that: 1) the sewers were installed by the City below general industry standards; 2) the City sewers had numerous defects including holes and broken pipes, cracks, separated joints, missing portions of pipes, root intrusion and other conditions; and, 3) PCE was released into the environment as a result of these defects.

Pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (42 U.S.C. § 9601 et seq.), the two dry cleaners who operated at the site and the City were found liable.  In allocating the future cleanup costs, the court determined the equitable basis for allocation was the plume itself.  The prior dry cleaners were responsible for the on-site costs and the City was responsible for the off-site costs “because the City’s defective/leaking pipes transported and spread the PCE beyond the property boundaries.”   50% of future costs were assigned to the City.

A review of this case’s Findings of Fact show what expert testimony and evidence is necessary to reach the result reached by this court.  The case is also a warning to municipalities with sewer lines intersecting cleanup sites or what could become cleanup sites.  Do not fail to regularly and properly maintain your sewer systems.


This article has been republished with the permission of the author. It was first published on CSG’s Environmental Law Blog.

About the Author

John A. McKenney Jr. has been a frequent speaker at conferences and continuing legal education programs. For 18 years, John was on the faculty of Seton Hall University School of Law as an Adjunct Professor where he taught New Jersey Environmental Law. He also served as moderator of the ABA satellite seminar on Hazardous Waste and Superfund.

John is a co-editor of the ABA publication, CERCLA Enforcement – A Practitioner’s Compendium of Essential EPA Guidance and Policy Documents and co-authored the Generators’ Obligations chapter of the ABA’s RCRA Practice Manual. The standard form group agreement used at many remedial sites around the nation is based on a version he developed for The Information Network for Superfund Settlements.

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. 

The Uses of 3D Modeling Technology in the Environmental Remediation Industry

By: Matt Lyter (Senior Staff Geologist at St-John-Mitterhauser & Associates, A Terracon Company) and Jim Depa (Senior Project Manager/3D Visualization Manager at St-John-Mitterhauser & Associates, A Terracon Company)

Three-dimensional (3D) modeling technology is used by geologists and engineers in the economic and infrastructure industries to help organize and visualize large amounts of data collected from fieldwork investigations. In the oil and gas industry, petroleum geologists use 3D models to visualize complex geologic features in the subsurface in order to find structural traps for oil and natural gas reserves. In the construction industry, engineers use 3D maps and models to help predict the mechanics of the soil and the strength of bedrock for construction projects. Consequently, where construction projects are concerned, it is also advisable to start with design build, so it follows that these predictions can make the eventual construction process easier in the long term. Furthermore, In the mining industry, economic geologists use high resolution 3D models to estimate the value of naturally occurring ore deposits, like gold, copper, and platinum, in a practice known as resource modeling.

All of the models are built in almost the same exact way: 1) By collecting and analyzing soil samples and/or rock cores; 2) Using a computer program to statistically analyze the resulting data to create hundreds or even thousands of new (or inferred) data points; and 3) Visualizing the actual and inferred data to create a detailed picture of the ground or subsurface in three dimensions. These models can be used in the economic and infrastructure industries to help predict the best locations to install an oil or gas well, predict the size of an oil or natural gas reserve, assist in the design of a road, tunnel, or landfill, calculate the amount of overburden material needing to be excavated, or help to predict the economic viability of a subsurface exploration project.

However, because of the significant amount of computing power needed to create the models, usage of the technology by regulatory driven industries has been limited. But continuing technological advancements have recently made 3D modeling technology more accessible and affordable for these regulatory driven industries, including the environmental investigation and remediation industry. Complex 3D models that previously may have taken several days to create using expensive high-end computers, can now be made in several hours (or even minutes) using the technology present in most commercially available desktops. Because of these advancements, subsurface contamination caused by chemical spills can be visualized and modeled in 3D by environmental geologists at a reasonable price and even in near real-time.

3D Models of Soil Contamination

Some of the applications of 3D modeling technology in the environmental investigation and remediation industry are only just beginning to be utilized, but they have already helped to: 1) Identify data gaps from subsurface investigations, 2) Describe and depict the relationship between the geologic setting of a site and underground migration of a contaminant, and 3) Provide a more accurate estimate of the amount of contamination in the subsurface. The models have also helped contractors design more efficient remediation systems, assisted governmental regulators in decision making, and aided the legal industry by explaining complex geologic concepts to the non-scientific community. This is especially true when short animations are created using the models, which can show the data at multiple angles and perspectives – revealing complexities in the subsurface that static two-dimensional images never could.

The consultants at St. John-Mittelhauser and Associates, a Terracon Company (SMA), have used 3D modeling technology on dozens of sites across the United States, most recently, at a large-scale environmental remediation project in the Midwestern United States. Contamination from spills of trichloroethylene (TCE), a once widely used metal degreaser, were identified at a former auto parts manufacturer during a routine Phase 2 investigation. Dozens of soil samples were collected and analyzed in order to define the extent of contamination, and once completed, traditional 2D maps and a series of cross-sections were created. One of the cross sections is shown in the image below:

Cross-section of soil contamination

Traditional Cross-section Showing Geologic Units and Soil Sample Results

The maps and cross sections were presented to remediation contractors with the purpose of designing a remediation system precisely based on treating only the extent of the contaminated soil. The lowest bid received was for $4.2 million dollars (USD), however, it was evident to SMA that all of the proposed designs failed to take into account the complexity of the subsurface contamination. Specifically, large portions of the Site, which were not contaminated, were being proposed to be treated. Therefore, using a 3D dimensional modeling program, SMA visualized the soil sample locations, modeled the extent of the contaminated soil in 3D, and created an animation showing the model at multiple perspectives and angles, at a cost of $12,000 (USD). A screenshot of the model is provided below:

3D dimensional modeling program results

3D Side View of TCE Contamination in Soil (15 PPM in Green, 250 PPM in Orange)?

The project was resubmitted to the remediation contractors with the 3D models and animation included, resulting in a guaranteed fixed-price bid of $3.1 million dollars – a cost savings of over $1.1 million dollars for the client. Additionally, an animation showing both the remedial design plan and confirmatory sampling plan was created and presented to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (the regulatory agency reviewing the project) and was approved without any modifications. To date, the remediation system has removed over 4,200 pounds of TCE from the subsurface and completion of the project is expected in 2019. A short animation of the 3D model can be viewed on YouTube.

3D Models Showing PCE Contamination in Soil

The 3D modeling software has also been used to help determine the most cost-effective solution for other remediation projects, and has been able to identify (and clearly present) the sources of chemical spills.  The following link is an animation showing three case studies involving spills of perchloroethene (a common industrial solvent) at a chemical storage facility, ink manufacturer, and former dry cleaner: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IlN_TIXkGk

The most cost-effective remediation option was different for each site and was based on the magnitude of the contamination, maximum depth of contaminated soil, geologic setting, and the 3D modeled extent of contamination.  Specifically, the contamination at the chemical storage facility was treated using electrical resistance heating technology, chemical oxidants were used to treat the soils at the ink manufacturer, and soil vapor extraction technology was used at the dry cleaner.

However, several barriers remain which prevent the wide-spread use of 3D modeling technology. The various modeling programs can cost upwards of $20,000, as well as yearly fees for software maintenance. There are also costs to organize large datasets, build the necessary files, and create the models and animations. It also must be noted that the 3D models are only statistical predictions of site conditions based on the available data, and the accuracy of the models is wholly dependent on the quantity, and more importantly, the quality of the data. Even so, 3D modeling technology has proven to play an important role in the environmental remediation industry by helping project managers to understand their sites more thoroughly. It has also provided a way to disseminate large amounts information to contractors, regulators, and the general public. But, perhaps, most-importantly, it has saved money for clients.


About the Authors

Matt Lyter (Senior Staff Geologist at St-John-Mitterhauser & Associate, A Terracon Company) provides clients with a wide range of environmental consulting services (Environmental litigation support; acquisition and transaction support; site specific risk assessment, etc.), conventional and state-of-the-art environmental Investigation services, and traditional to advanced environmental remediation services.

Jim Depa (Senior Project Manager/3D Visualization Manager at St-John-Mitterhauser & Associate, A Terracon Company) has over 12 years of experience as a field geologist, project manager, and 3D modeler. He is well-versed with a variety of computer programs including: C-Tech’s Earth Volumetric Studio (EVS), Esri’s ArcGIS, AQTESOLV, MAROS, Power Director 16, and Earthsoft’s EQuIS

Cost of Nuclear Waste Clean-up in the U.S. estimated at $377 Billion

A new report by the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) estimates the total cleanup cost for the radioactive contamination incurred by developing and producing nuclear weapons in the United States at a staggering $377 billion (USD), a number that jumped by more than $100 billion in just one year.

The United States Department of Energy (DoE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) is responsible for cleaning up radioactive and hazardous waste left over from nuclear weapons production and energy research at DoE facilities. The $377 billion estimate largely reflects estimates of future costs to clean up legacy radioactive tank waste and contaminated facilities and soil. 

The U.S. GAO found that EM’s liability will likely continue to grow, in part because the costs of some future work are not yet included in the estimated liability. For example, EM’s liability does not include more than $2.3 billion in costs associated with 45 contaminated facilities that will likely be transferred to EM from other DOE programs in the future.

In 1967 at the height of the U.S.–Soviet nuclear arms race, the U.S. nuclear stockpile totaled 31,255 weapons of all types. Today, that number stands at just 6,550. Although the U.S. has deactivated and destroyed 25,000 nuclear weapons, their legacy is still very much alive.

Nuclear weapons were developed and produced at more than one hundred sites during the Cold War. Cleanup began in 1989, and EM has completed cleanup at 91 of 107 nuclear sites, Still, according to the GAO, “but 16 remain, some of which are the most challenging to address.” 

EM relies primarily on individual sites to locally negotiate cleanup activities and establish priorities. GAO’s analysis of DOE documents identified instances of decisions involving billions of dollars where such an approach did not always balance overall risks and costs. For example, two EM sites had plans to treat similar radioactive tank waste differently, and the costs at one site—Hanford—may be tens of billions more than those at the other site. 

Each of the 16 cleanup sites sets its own priorities, which makes it hard to ensure that the greatest health and environmental risks are addressed first.
This is not consistent with recommendations by GAO and others over the last two decades that EM develop national priorities to balance risks and costs across and within its sites. 

By far the most expensive site to clean up is the Hanford site, which manufactured nuclear material for use in nuclear weapons during the Cold War. In 2017, the DoE estimated site cleanup costs at $141 billion.

Environmental liabilities are high risk because they have been growing for the past 20 years and will likely keep increasing.

EM has not developed a program-wide strategy that determines priority sites. Instead, it continues to prioritize and fund cleanup activities by individual site. Without a strategy that sets national priorities, EM lacks assurance that it is making the most cost-effective cleanup decisions across its sites.

The GAO is made three recommendations to DOE: (1) develop a program-wide strategy that outlines how it will balance risks and costs across sites; (2) submit its mandated annual cleanup report that meets all requirements; and (3) disclose the funding needed to meet all scheduled milestones called for in compliance agreements, either in required annual reports or other supplemental budget materials.

Update on the Thunder Bay Harbour Clean-up

As reported in TB News Watch, a recommendation on the best method of cleaning up 400,000 cubic metres of contamination sediment in Thunder Bay Harbour is not expected until the end of 2019. There’s enough industrial sediment (mainly pulp and paper sludge), containing mercury and other contaminants, on the bottom of the north harbour to fill 150 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Thunder Bay is located at the northwest corner of Lake Superior and has a population of approximately 110,000. As the largest city in Northwestern Ontario, Thunder Bay is the region’s commercial, administrative and medical centre. It had been known in that past for it pulp and paper mills and as a key shipping port for grain.

Approximate Area of Contaminated Sediment in Thunder Bay Harbour

A new working group that’s revived efforts to manage 400,000 cubic meters of contaminated sediment in Thunder Bay’s north harbour has targeted the end of 2019 for a recommended solution.

Two federal departments, Transport Canada and Environment Canada, co-chair the group which also includes the Ontario environment ministry, the Thunder Bay Port Authority and numerous other local stakeholders.

A new steering committee has been formed to examine three options for remediation presented to the public in 2014. A previous committee formed to look at those options went dormant, necessitating the refresh.

“At this point, we want to further evaluate those [three existing] options and to look at additional options over the next 14 months,” said Roger Santiago, the head of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s sediment remediation group in November of 2018. The group primarily works on cleaning up contaminated patches in the Great Lakes.

A previous steering committee was established 10 years ago, and remediation options were developed, but momentum toward a cleanup or remediation of the contaminated site slowed after that.

That was despite the fact a 2013 risk assessment identified “unacceptable risks” to human health and to plant and animal life in the harbour area:

  • potential risk to people consuming fish (fish consumption advisory in place to mitigate the risk)
  • potential risk to people coming in direct contact with contaminated sediment
  • potential risk to kingfishers from mercury
  • potential risk to sediment-dwelling organisms from total resin acids

Impetus for a cleanup occurred earlier this year after Patty Hajdu, the MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North, raised the issue with her cabinet colleagues, the transport and environment ministers.

There’s enough industrial sediment, containing mercury and other contaminants, on the bottom of the north harbour to fill 150 Olympic-size swimming pools.

The area was classified by a consultant and by federal experts as a Class 1 polluted site using the Federal Aquatic Sites Classification System. Class 1 sites indicate high priority for action.

A Transport Canada spokesperson told Tbnewswatch the working group will spend the next 12 months on technical and environmental studies, and will consult with the general public and with Indigenous groups as it evaluates a short list of management options.

The source of the contamination is historical dumping of pulp and paper mill pollution that resulted in mercury-contaminated paper sludge up to 4 metres thick lying at the bottom of the harbour. The sediment is contaminated with mercury in concentrations that range from 2 to 11 ppm at the surface of the sediment to 21 ppm at depth and ranging in thickness from 40 to 380 centimeters and covering an area of about 22 hectares (54 acres).

Greyish, digested pulp sludge up to 4 metres thick lies across the north harbour bottom (Transport Canada)

Clean-up Options

A 2017 Consultants report stated that the preferred option was to dredge the sediment and transfer it to the Mission Bay Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) at the harbour’s south end.  The dredging and transfer option was estimated to cost $40 million to $50 million, and was considered the best choice based on factors such as environmental effectiveness and budget.  The consultants also looked at other options, including capping and excavation/isolation.

The capping option would consist of placing clean material on top of the contaminated material to contain and isolate the contaminants. A geotextile (a strong fabric barrier) will support the cap material. The budget for this option was estimated at $30-$40 million.

The proposed excavation option would involve building a dam to isolate the contaminated material from the water prior to removal. Once the dam was built, the area would be dewatered so that earth-moving equipment like excavators, loaders and bulldozers can be used to remove the material. It would then be disposed of in a secure landfill. A new on-site Confined Disposal Facility has been recommended or the use of the the existing Confined Disposal Facility at Mission Bay. The excavation option is estimated to cost $80-$90 million.

No matter what is decided upon, the 2017 consultant’s report estimated it would take seven years to complete the clean up. 

Canadian Federal Government Proposing New Regulations on Cross-border movement of Hazardous Waste

Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC), which is the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recently released draft regulations to control the cross-border movement of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material. The regulations, if eventually promulgated, would repeal and replace the Export and Import Regulations, the Interprovincial Movement Regulations, and the PCB Waste Export Regulations. Although the proposed Regulations would maintain the core permitting and movement tracking requirements of the former regulations, the regulatory provisions would be amended to ensure greater clarity and consistency of the regulatory requirements.

Electronic Tracking System

The proposed Regulations would provide flexibility for the electronic movement tracking system by no longer prescribing the specific form required for tracking shipments of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material. Instead, the proposed Regulations would require specific information to be included in a movement document (that can be generated electronically) and would allow movement document information to be passed on to different parties in parallel to facilitate the tracking rather than prescribing the handover of copies from one party to another.

Furthermore, given that movement documents would be able to be managed electronically, the proposed Regulations would no longer require that the movement document and permit physically accompany the shipment. The proposed Regulations would instead require parties to immediately produce the movement document and the permit upon request. Similar simplifications would be included in the provisions related to the movement document for interprovincial movements of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material.

The proposed Regulations would clarify the responsibility of a receiving (importing) facility to pass on information regarding the origin of the hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material being transferred to a subsequent authorized facility for final disposal or recycling. As the safety of everyone is important and so is protecting the environment, it would make sense to find a contact for consultation if you need help with your company’s regulatory needs.
Clarifications would also be made to the provisions for the return and rerouting of shipments to better align those requirements with current practice and ensure that confirmation of disposal from the alternative facility is also required in order to properly complete the tracking of those shipments.

Definitions of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material

With respect to interprovincial movements, under the proposed regulations, the definitions of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material would be aligned with those of international movements. In addition, proposed changes to those definitions would ensure a more consistent application of regulatory provisions for all types of transboundary movements and would better align definitions with other jurisdictions and international agreements. Some of these proposed changes are listed below.

Toxicity characteristic leaching procedure

The proposed Regulations would reference the toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP), in its entirety. This procedure is a standard test method used to evaluate the mobility of a number of contaminants that may be found in waste and recyclable material and, therefore, their potential for release. While making reference to the TCLP, the Export and Import Regulations exclude a step requiring that the size of particles in a sample be reduced to fit into the testing apparatus. In order to ensure that the method is used consistently, hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material undergoing testing would need to be shredded to meet the TCLP’s specific particle size requirement.

Electrical and electronic equipment

Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) is not currently listed as hazardous under the Export and Import Regulations and must meet other criteria to fall under the definitions of hazardous waste or hazardous recyclable material, which can be difficult to ascertain. The proposed Regulations would clearly designate “circuit boards and display devices and any equipment that contains them” as hazardous waste or hazardous recyclable material to be controlled when destined for specific disposal or recycling operations. The proposed Regulations would maintain the exclusion currently under the Export and Import Regulations for this type of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material moving within OECD countries (including moving between provinces and territories in Canada).

Mercury

The proposed Regulations would remove the small quantity exclusion for hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material containing mercury. Any waste or material containing any amount of mercury that meets the definitions of hazardous waste or hazardous recyclable material would be subject to the regulatory provisions for both international and interprovincial movements.

Batteries

Batteries are not currently listed as hazardous under the Export and Import Regulations and must meet other criteria to fall under the definitions of hazardous waste or hazardous recyclable material. Some types of batteries are clearly covered by the definitions; however, for some other types it is not clear. The proposed Regulations would clarify that all types of batteries (i.e. rechargeable and non-rechargeable) being shipped internationally or interprovincially for disposal or recycling are included in the definitions of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material.

Terrapure Battery Recycling Facility

Waste and recyclable material generated on ships

The proposed Regulations would add a new exclusion to clarify that waste or recyclable material generated from the normal operations of a ship is not captured by the definitions of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material. This exclusion would further harmonize the proposed Regulations with the Basel Convention (which excludes this waste) and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 where this waste is already covered.

Residual quantities

The proposed Regulations would add a new exclusion for waste or recyclable material that is to be transported in a container after the contents of that container have been removed to the maximum extent feasible and before the container is either refilled or cleaned of its residual content. This exclusion would clarify that such waste or recyclable material is not captured by the definitions of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material.

Recycling operation R14

Over the years, ECCC has received numerous questions regarding recycling operation R14 found in Schedule 2 of the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations. Section 2 R14 reads as follows : “Recovery or regeneration of a substance or use or re-use of a recyclable material, other than by any of operations R1 to R10”. This recycling operation is not included in the Basel Convention or the OECD Decision. ECCC is proposing to delete this part of operation R14 to remove uncertainty about its application. This change may result in some recyclable material no longer being captured and defined as hazardous. For example, a used material that is to be used directly in another process that is not listed as a recycling operation would no longer be captured.
This change would further align regulatory provisions with international guidelines under the Basel Convention.

Exports, Imports and Transits of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material 2003-2012

Proposed changes regarding waste containing PCBs

The regulatory provisions for the export of waste containing PCBs would be streamlined and integrated into those for hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material. This would include removing the partial prohibition on exports of waste containing PCBs in a concentration equal to or greater than 50 mg/kg to allow controlled exports beyond the United States. Therefore, waste and recyclable material containing PCBs in a concentration equal to or greater than 50 mg/kg would be able to be exported provided a permit is obtained and all of the conditions of the proposed Regulations are met.

Proposed changes to improve the permitting process

The proposed Regulations would no longer require the name of the insurance company and the policy number for the exporter, the importer and carriers with the notification (i.e. permit application). In addition, copies of the contracts would no longer need to be provided with the notification. In both cases, the applicant would be required to provide a statement to the effect that valid insurance policies and contracts are in place and to keep proof of insurance coverage and copies of contracts at their place of business in Canada for five years.

The proposed Regulations would require a new notification for any changes in information, other than correcting clerical errors, on a permit.

The proposed Regulations would increase the maximum duration of a permit from 12 months to 3 years, consistent with international agreements, for the movement of hazardous recyclable material directed to pre-consented facilities within OECD countries.

The proposed Regulations would set out conditions under which a permit may be refused, suspended or revoked.

Impacts on Business – Costs and Operations

According to the consultation documents prepared by ECCC, the proposed Regulations, if promulgated, would affect 295 companies, 281 of which would be considered small businesses. For these small businesses, the proposed Regulations are expected to result in incremental compliance and administrative costs of $296,000 in average annualized costs, that is, $1,070 per small business.

If the proposed Regulations are implemented, it would result in an clarifications to the definitions of hazardous waste and would ensure a more consistent application of regulatory provisions. In addition, the proposed Regulations would help minimize environmental impacts outside Canada by ensuring that exported hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material reach the intended disposal or recycling facilities. For any company that performs hazardous operations, the idea to try and find flexible safety doors is one that could benefit industries such as transportation and the medical field, as this helps increase safety in this process and acts as a security barrier between any hazards. The present value of compliance and administrative costs of the proposed Regulations would be $2.5 million in 2017 Canadian dollars, discounted at 3% to 2018 over a 10-year period between 2021 and 2030.

The proposed Regulations would impose incremental administrative costs on industry attributable to the completion of additional movement documents for interprovincial movements of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material. Provincial and territorial authorities that are using a tracking system would achieve small savings if they decided not to request movement document information. The present value of administrative costs of the proposed Regulations are expected to be $460,000 in 2017 Canadian dollars, discounted at 3% to 2018, over a 10-year period between 2021 and 2030.

Public Consultation

Public comments to the proposed Regulations are being accepted by ECCC until up to mid-February. Any person may file with the Minister of the Environment comments with respect to the proposed Regulations or a notice of objection requesting that a board of review be established under section 333 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and stating the reasons for the objection. All comments and notices must cite the Canada Gazette, Part I, and the date of publication of this notice, and be sent by mail to Nathalie Perron, Director, Waste Reduction and Management Division, Environmental Protection Branch, Department of the Environment, 351 Saint-Joseph Blvd., Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0H3 (fax: 819-938-4553; email: ec.mt-tm.ec@canada.ca).