Follow us on twitter at @hazmatmag for the latest news on contaminated sites, brownfields, spills and spill response, hazmat, and dangerous goods in Canada, North America and the world.
Follow us on twitter at @hazmatmag for the latest news on contaminated sites, brownfields, spills and spill response, hazmat, and dangerous goods in Canada, North America and the world.
As reported by the CBC, the City of Hamilton recently paid $1.75 million for a brownfield site that once sold for $2. The property, located at 350 Wenworth Street North, sold for $2 a decade ago and then for $266,000 two years ago.
In the property was purchased in 2013 for $266,000, hundreds of barrels of toxic waste were discovered behind a fake wall. The barrels contained coal tar byproducts and industrial solvents, and roof tar. The new owner arranged for the proper disposal of the barrels. The Ontario Environment Ministry confirmed in an e-mail to CBC that the waste had been from the building and it was decontaminated by the fall of 2017. It also confirmed that the clean-up included the removal of approximately 200,000 litres of liquid waste.
It is not known how much the clean-up of the 800 barrels of toxic waste cost, but the Hamilton Spectator quoted the owner in 2017 that the clean-up would cost $650,000.
Property records for the building stretch all the way back to 1988, when Currie Products Limited spent a million dollars for 350 Wentworth. Currie ran a tar facility that went out of business there in the late 1990s, and was considered by many to be the company that originally polluted the site. Owner John Currie died in 2013.
Through the years, the building has changed hands multiple times for a wide swath of prices, ranging from that original million dollars, to $610,000 in 2007, to $2 in 2008, to the tax sale in 2016 and now, for $1.75 million. Over that time, building owners fought with each other and the province over who was actually responsible for cleaning up the site, in some cases heading to court in search of a resolution. For each sale, the price of the property reflected what buyers knew about the site at the time.
The city’s purchase of the property is all part of a reshuffling of buildings in the area to create a transit hub for the lower city like the Mountain Transit Centre at 2200 Upper James.
While it appears the city could have saved money by taking over the property when it was up for tax sale, that’s not really the case, officials say. The city does sometimes take carriage of properties after a failed tax sale, but woudn’t do so on a property like this one with environmental issues, Hamilton City Councillor Matthew Green told the CBC. He added, “The city won’t take on the liability by policy. The liability is way too big, because you don’t know what you’re buying … you have no idea what could be found or buried.”
Known as the Telephone City, Brantford may also become famous as one of the first municipalities in Canada to proudly showcase its brownfield projects.
Instead of hiding from its industrial past, the city is showcasing several brownfield projects and is encouraging residents and visitors to take the self-guided tour. Eight projects in various stages of remediation or redevelopment are highlighted in the tour.
Highlights of the the tour are the Greenwich Mohawk Site, Sydenham-Pear Site and Edward Gould Park. The Greenwich Mohawk Site alone is over 50 acres and was remediated over the course of two years, starting in 2014.
The City is investing $5,000 per year to promote the tour and hopes to attract interested individuals, school groups, and others. The tour itself provides participants with access to historical photos, newspaper articles and other project details through the tour website.
Users can access the Brownfields Discovery Tour online at Brantford.ca/BrownfieldsTour where they can follow along digitally or print a hard copy of the tour.
“The City of Brantford has become widely recognized as a leader for remediation, redevelopment and public education of brownfields,” said Amy Meloch, chair of the brownfields community advisory committee in an interview with the Brantford Expositor. “The tour is an exciting continuation of the work of the committee to raise awareness to both residents and visitors of the extensive work already accomplished in the city.”
The sites on the tour include those that are municipally and privately owned. They are:
In the same week the cannabis became legal in Canada, the federal government announced the prohibition of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. The government action is considered the final step in the prohibition of asbestos and asbestos-containing products in Canada.
These new regulations are part of the government-wide strategy announced in 2016 to protect Canadians from exposure to asbestos. The new regulations prohibit the import, sale, and use of asbestos as well as the manufacture, import, sale, and use of asbestos-containing products, with a limited number of exclusions.
In addition, exports of asbestos and asbestos-containing products are now prohibited, with a limited number of exceptions, and the existing Export of Substances on the Export Control List Regulations and schedule 3 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 were amended to reflect that.
The new regulations and related amendments will come into force on December 30, 2018. They will protect the health of Canadians by preventing new asbestos and asbestos-containing products from entering the Canadian market.
“This is the final step to ban asbestos in Canada. We have followed through on our promise to deliver new, tougher rules to stop the import, use, sale, and export of asbestos in Canada. These measures will protect our communities and the health and safety of all Canadians,” stated Catherine McKenna in a news release.
Asbestos was declared a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, in 1987. At the height of its use, asbestos was found in more than 3,000 applications worldwide.
The regulations do not apply to residues left from mining asbestos. However, these asbestos-mining residues cannot be sold for use in construction or landscaping without provincial authorization, and they cannot be used to make a product that contains asbestos. The mining of asbestos in Canada ceased in 2011.
Risks related to asbestos-containing products that are already in use or installed—such as in existing buildings, equipment, and vehicles—will continue to be managed by existing federal, provincial, and municipal rules and regulations. There are no significant health risks if asbestos fibres are enclosed or tightly bound, in good condition, and left undisturbed.
The use, sale, and export of any asbestos-containing products that exist in inventories but that have not yet been installed are prohibited under the new regulations and related amendments.
The current Asbestos Products Regulations under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act will be repealed as these new regulations are more comprehensive.
Airthings, a company specializing in digital radon detectors, recently launched RadonMap.com, a live global Radon map. The map pulls constantly-updating Radon level data from Airthings’ devices all over North America, Europe ,and beyond to provide current localized analysis and advice – ideal for anyone looking to for the risks associated with radon exposure.
Facts about Radon
Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally when the uranium in soil and rock breaks down. It is invisible, odourless and tasteless. When radon is released from the ground into the outdoor air, it is diluted and is not a concern. However, in enclosed spaces, like homes and offices, it can sometimes accumulate to high levels, which can be a risk to the health of the occupants of the building.
Radon gas breaks down or decays to form radioactive elements that can be inhaled into the lungs. In the lungs, decay continues, creating radioactive particles that release small bursts of energy. This energy is absorbed by nearby lung tissue, damaging the lung cells. When cells are damaged, they have the potential to result in cancer when they reproduce.
Exposure to high levels of radon in indoor air results in an increased risk of developing lung cancer. The risk of cancer depends on the level of radon and how long a person is exposed to those levels.
Exposure to radon and tobacco use together can significantly increase your risk of lung cancer. For example, if you are a lifelong smoker your risk of getting lung cancer is 1 in 10. If you add long term exposure to a high level of radon, your risk becomes 1 in 3. On the other hand, if you are a non-smoker, your lifetime lung cancer risk at the same high radon level is 1 in 20.
RadonMap.com aggregates radon level data from Airthings’ devices dispersed all over the world to provide accurate, local radon readings for users seeking current and reliable insight into the dangerous indoor gas and how much exposure they are subjected to daily.
Previously, gaining an understanding of localized Radon readings was only possible through professionally-administered tests or government data, offering a one-time snapshot rather than a constantly-evolving picture. With the introduction of the Airthings RadonMap.com, radon levels and fluctuations can be tracked accurately through a community of user-generated data. RadonMap.com instantly becomes a very reliable and up-to-date information source available for alerting the public about the presence of Radon in their environments and enabling them to take corrective action, if necessary, before a situation becomes critical.
Airthings is a Norwegian tech company that develops and manufactures both professional and consumer facing technology. These products include monitors for radon and other dangerous indoor air pollutants. The company was founded in 2008.
by David Nguyen – Staff Writer
Clean Harbors is a hazardous waste management company operating across North America. Their location in Mississauga is a hazardous waste terminal and transfer station, receiving, handling, and transporting flammable solids destined to the U.S. for incineration. Non-flammable solids and liquid hazardous waste is sent to their facility in Lambton, Ontario. The Lambton facility includes a hazardous waste landfill and a liquid hazardous waste incinerator.
Clean Harbors coordinates hazardous waste management solutions across the Canada-U.S. border. It is makes business sense for the company to transport flammable solids that are hazardous to its U.S. incinerator instead of having a facility in Canada. “Liquid injection incinerators are a lot cheaper,” says Mike Parker, Vice President, Canadian Environmental Compliance. “There really isn’t a strong enough market to support [hazardous solid incineration] in Canada.”
Mississauga Site Activities
Carriers bring the hazardous waste to the transfer station, where the manifests and documentation are reviewed to ensure that the facility is permitted to receive the material. Receiving times are typically planned ahead of time to prevent surges of shipments on site. Once off loaded, the waste is sampled to confirm the material profile noted in the manifest and then staged for further processing. The entire staging area is built over sealed drains leading to a blind sump to prevent any spills from leaving the site. “All the liquids from our sumps, even if it’s just rain water… get put into tanks and go down for incineration,” says Parker.
Every drum the facility receives has its contents verified, sampled, and tested. Samples are analyzed for PCBs, pH, ignitability/ flashpoint, sulfide, chloride, oxidation, cyanide, and water reactivity in order to get a profile for the waste, after which a code is attached to the drum to indicate its destination and disposal.
This information is stored in their management system that tracks the inventory at their various facilities, including the shipping information and profiles of all items. The information is removed for approval to be received on site. The system also tracks the manifests for the generator, carrier, receiver, and the ministry, internal inspections, and monthly reports to be sent to the ministry.
After sorting and sampling, the waste is safely sorted into various streams for consolidation, bulking, or blending.
“It has to be in the same waste class to mix and match. We can’t mix something flammable with something non-flammable,” says Parker.
“Even if they are in the same waste class, we take samples from each drum, mix it together, and if nothing happens, we can do it” says Erica Carabott, Facility Compliance Manager.
Liquid waste is bulked in tank farms until there is enough to fill a taker truck to be sent to Lambton for incineration. Solid waste is loaded into pits where the material is shredded up, bulked, and mixed with a solidifying agent to take up any free liquids in the solid waste streams.
Lambton Facility Activities
Many of the materials received at the Mississauga Transfer station are transported to the Clean Harbors Lambton facility offers services including waste neutralization, incineration of hazardous waste, inorganic pre-treatment of hazardous waste, thermal desorption of solid and sludge, and landfill disposal of hazardous waste.
Liquid waste is blended in a controlled neutralization process at the acid and alkali plant before being fed to the incinerator. The liquid waste injection incinerator operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, consisting of a fix unit incinerator, a semi-dry spray dryer absorber, and a four-compartment baghouse. The site capacity is about 100 000 tonnes per year and can process pumpable material that does not contain PCBs, pathogens, radioactives, and cylinders.
The landfill is situated in natural clay, and accepts a variety of hazardous waste excluding explosives, PCBs, radioactive, pathological wastes, or compressed gasses. Due to the Land Disposal Restriction prohibiting the disposal of untreated hazardous waste on land, Clean Harbors has an inorganic solid pre-treatment processing plant which mixes inorganic waste (primarily metal bearing solids) with reagents to prevent the metals from becoming leachable.
Furthermore, a thermal desorption unit is used to condense and recover water and organics from organic solid waste. The waste is fed into a kiln that heats the waste to 400-450 degrees Celsius to strip the organics from the waste. The vapours are condensed to remove liquid organics during the process, with the remaining emissions vented to the incinerator. The residual solids are then tested for any remaining organics or metals, and then disposed of in the hazardous landfill on site.
“You can understand why it takes a lot of money to treat the stuff in the landfill. It cooks it for about a half hour – that’s a lot of heat and a lot of money” says Parker. “With testing at the front and testing at the end,” adds Carabott .
These facilities and processes allow Clean Harbors to work with their clients to develop cost effective solutions to handling and disposing of hazardous waste materials throughout the Great Lakes Basin in both Canada and the United States. In addition, Clean Harbors conducts regular outreach programs with the local community regarding the safe operations and reporting conducted at the Lambton facility.
Special thanks to Mike Parker and Erica Carabott for taking the time to speak with me and show me around the Mississauga Transfer station.
As reported by the South China Morning Post, China’s government recently approved a new plan to tackle growing pollution threats in its countryside, and will strive to clean up contaminated rural land and drinking water and improve waste management.
The new plan, approved “in principle” by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment is the summer also mandates cuts in fertilizer and pesticide use and improved recycling rates throughout the countryside.
China is in the fifth year of a “war on pollution” designed to reverse the damage done by decades of tremendous economic growth, but it has so far focused primarily on air quality along the industrialized eastern coast, especially around the capital Beijing.
China’s countryside has struggled to cope with land and water pollution caused not only by unsustainable farming practices, but also by poorly regulated, privately-owned mines and manufacturing plants, as well as rising volumes of plastic waste.
Rehabilitating contaminated land has become a matter of urgency for the Chinese government, which is under pressure to maximize food production while at the same time it is setting aside one-quarter of the country’s land as off-limits to development by 2020.
Total arable land declined for a fourth consecutive year in 2017 as a result of new construction and tougher environmental requirements, the government said in May.
The State Council published a plan in February to deal with growing volumes of untreated rubbish dumped in the countryside, promising to mobilise public and private funds to make “noticeable improvements” to the living environment of rural regions by 2020.
It vowed to restore wetlands, plant trees and eliminate “disorderly” rural construction to improve the appearance of China’s villages, and would also focus on improving garbage and sewage treatment.
In August, the Chinese government enacted the Soil Pollution Prevention and Control Law. This is the first time China has enacted a law targeting soil pollution. For existing soil pollution, the law holds polluters and users (as it is rare in China for individuals to own land) accountable for a series of risk management and remediation obligations, with the polluters being primarily responsible.
According to an article by IISD, the estimated cost for remediation efforts between 2016 and 2020 at $1.3 trillion (USD). The government itself estimates it might be able to cover only a small fraction of the overall cost. During China’s the 12th Five-year Plan (2011–2015), only $4.5 billion) was allocated to soil remediation, mainly for urban areas.
Combine polluter payments with government support and a prohibitive capital gap still exists in China’s efforts to restore land and protect public health. This gap will have to be filled by private sources.
HEPACO LLC (Charlotte, N.C.), a provider of environmental and emergency response services, has acquired Trans Environmental (Loves Park, Ill.), an environmental remediation, industrial cleaning, and emergency response services company. Trans founders Matt Warneke and Jeff Lonas will continue to lead the company. HEPACO is majority-owned by Gryphon Investors, which purchased it in August 2016. HEPACO has 31 locations in more than 20 states in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast United States.
HEPACO CEO Ken Smith said, “We are very excited to have completed the strategic acquisition of Trans. We have been impressed by Trans’ high service quality, outstanding safety culture, blue chip customer base and strong organic growth.” Mr. Smith added, “The acquisition of Trans benefits customers of both companies as it enables HEPACO to provide emergency response and other environmental services in the greater Chicago area while also allowing Trans’ customers increased geographic coverage capabilities through HEPACO’s operations in the Eastern U.S.”
Mr. Warneke stated, “We are very excited to join the HEPACO team. The Company’s sterling reputation and financial resources offer a great path to our continued development. We are looking forward to accelerating the growth opportunities for both our customers and our employees.”
In November 2017, HEPACO acquired Emergency Response & Training Solutions (“ERTS”). Based in Jacksonville, FL, ERTS is a provider of emergency response services to Fortune 500 companies through a national network of third-party vendors.
In a joint venture with several US firms, Halifax-based Maritime Launch Services (MLS) is building Canada’s first spaceport near Canso, Nova Scotia. At a total cost of $304 million—a figure that includes the cost of the first rocket launch and promotional expenses—the launch pad is slated to deliver commercial satellites to low Earth orbit aboard Ukrainian-built rockets on a due south trajectory, and at a cost of $60 million per launch.
The Canso Spaceport Facility will be 20 hectares in size and is aimed at attracting firms that want to put satellites into orbit for commercial purposes. The site will include a control centre, launch area and “horizontal integration facility,” where materials will be prepared for the launch and some propellants will be stored
The company would like to launch as many as eight rockets per year starting in 2022.
There are concerns about the spaceport from government experts. Specifically, concerns related to environmental and health & safety issues. Recently released documents released by the province detail numerous questions about the planned Canso Spaceport Facility. Nova Scotia’s environment ministry will not approve the project unless their concerns are addressed.
The specific concerns of the N.S. Environment Ministry is how the company will address an explosion, crash or fuel leak. According to the recently released government document, a spill would “destroy the impacted ecosystems with no chance of recovery within the next several hundred years.”
According to the Maritime Launch Services proposal, the rockets would use nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimenthyl hydrazine, or UDH, for the second portion of their launch into the atmosphere.
A letter from the Canadian Defence Department says the military “does not have sufficient knowledge” to assess the impacts of an accidental discharge of the UDH on the land or surface water, but “suggests an assessment should be completed.”
A professor at the University of British Columbia has raised concerns about an “exceedingly toxic” rocket propellant that will be used at the Canso, N.S., operation. Michael Byers, a political science professor at UBC, said there is a danger associated with UDH — which he said is known in Russia as “the Devil’s Breath.”
Professor Byers stated “If something goes wrong on launch, you know, if the rocket were to tip over and explode, or if there were some kind of spill during transportation or assembly, you’d still have a serious health and environmental concern.”
Other government officials comment that there isn’t enough information in the proposal to assess potential dangers.
Chuck McKenna, a manager with the resource management unit of the provincial Environment Department, says detailed plans on how dangerous goods will be stored and handled weren’t provided.
He says this should include details on the potential effects of a chemical accident, prevention methods and emergency response procedures.
Johnny McPherson, an expert on air quality in the provincial Environment Department, says in his submission that the first stage propellants of a rocket can create “black carbon (soot)” that is “harmful if inhaled because of small particle size and damaging effects.”
The government comments were made in response to the environmental assessment of the project prepared by a consultant.
Nova Scotia Environment Minister Margaret Miller said last week the environmental assessment, submitted in July, didn’t contain sufficient information for her to make a decision on whether to approve the project.
Miller has given the company one year to provide additional information and studies.
The company’s president has said he’s confident the firm will finish the study in response to the concerns raised, and it is “optimistic” it can address the issues raised.
As reported by the CBC, testing performed on soil in several other Winnipeg neighbourhoods more than 10 years ago showed potentially dangerous levels of lead — but residents were never told about the results because the government at the time withheld the information, according to documents obtained by CBC News.
Documents obtained by CBC through government sources reveal an extensive round of soil testing was conducted by the provincial government in 2007 and 2008 around Point Douglas, Wolseley, Minto and South Osborne.
Residential boulevards were targeted, as were playgrounds, schools and sports fields.
Two draft reports written
At least two draft reports detailing the results were written in 2009 and 2011, as well as a draft news release and technical report. For reasons that remain unclear, the government never publicly released the reports.
Of the samples taken in the Point Douglas area, 17 came back positive for lead contamination above acceptable levels and a further 10 residential sites in other areas of Winnipeg also exceeded Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, or CCME, guidelines for lead levels.
A chart taken from a 2011 report that details lead levels found in residential boulevards in Point Douglas. A result of 140 ug/g — micrograms per gram, or parts per million — or higher exceeds national safety guidelines for human health protection. (Surface Soil Lead Levels in Winnipeg: 2007-2008)
The acceptable level is 140 parts per million. One result showed 2,240 ppm on Angus Street near Sutherland Avenue in Point Douglas.
According to the report, the possible causes of contamination in the city are historic use of leaded gas, a number of now-shuttered lead smelters, scrap recycling yards, the railyards and metal manufacturing operations.
At the sports field for Weston School — an elementary school located just off of Logan Avenue and 280 metres south of a now-closed smelter site — 19 soil samples came back with results that exceeded CCME guidelines.
Government officials could find no record of the Winnipeg School Division being told about the results or evidence that the sports field had been remediated.
A spokesperson for the province’s Sustainable Development department confirmed the documents were never publicly released by the previous government. He said residents and the school divisions were not informed of the results, according to people still working in the department.
He also said no soil remediation was done in response to the results of the report.
The Archibald Tot Lot, Hespeler Park, Maryland Park, Spence Tot Lot and Lord Nelson elementary school all had a least one sample showing unsafe levels of lead.
Children shouldn’t play in sports field: Professor
Francis Zvomuya, a professor of soil science at the University of Manitoba, wasn’t surprised by the test results but said some of the numbers were particularly alarming, including the high levels in Weston and in Point Douglas.
In the case of Weston School, the lead levels had increased since the 1980s, when the first round of tests were completed. Zvomuya said if no attempts were made to clean up the area in the past 10 years, children should not be playing there.
“The case that is particularly glaring is Weston elementary. When you look at the concentrations at the majority of sites [tested] … out of the 22 they looked at, only two sites were not contaminated,” he said.
“That is concerning when you look at the concentrations.”
He said there are a number of health issues that come with exposure to lead, including impaired neurological development and developmental delays in children, as well as learning difficulties.
Health Canada says even very small amounts of lead in the bloodstream can have harmful health effects and children are especially at risk.
Lead can affect their brain development, behaviour, blood and kidneys. Severe cases of lead poisoning are rare in Canada but can cause vomiting, diarrhea or convulsions.
Children are at risk of ingesting lead if they play in contaminated soil and put their hands in their mouth. Ongoing exposure puts people at higher risk of developing health complications.
“Every time you have a site that is frequented by kids or where kids spend a reasonable amount of time playing, then there is a concern — because then there is a risk of exposure to the contaminants,” Zvomuya said.
New testing in Point Douglas area
A senior official with the current government said that new testing of soil in the Point Douglas will be completed by the end of October. A report on the results will be completed by December 2018 and publicly released.
Zvomuya was in charge of the soil tests that occurred last year in St. Boniface and will lead the new tests the government has ordered for the Point Douglas area.
The best way to clean up the contaminated soil is to bring in new soil to these areas, he said. He said the clean-up should be concentrated in the areas most frequented by children
“If you have a site where our kids play and where humans spend a lot of hours working or playing or doing recreational activities … then they have to be remediated,” he said.
“It may be expensive but that is the only way we can have people doing activities without facing the risk of lead poisoning.”