Market Insight: trends in UK contaminated land consulting (Part II)

How demand is being shaped by policy changes, Brexit and international opportunities

In the first part of this Market Insight series (EA 12-May-17), we explored the changing competitive landscape amongst contaminated land consulting practices and the impact of M&A, the fierce competition for skilled practitioners and the changes brought about government funding cuts. In the second installment, we focus on the potential ramifications of the shifting political scene and notably Brexit, as well as emerging opportunities both in the UK and internationally.

Streamlining the planning process is something the government and its agencies are focused on promoting, chiefly to address the shortfall in housing in the UK with the current supply at best meeting half the 232,000 new homes needed annually. The government has set quite ambitious targets, including building one million new homes by 2020 and having planning in principle on 90% of the brownfield sites on local authority registers. It has recently released its housing white paper which included proposed changes to the national planning and policy framework (NPPF), which could have implications for the sector if the Conservatives remain in office after the snap general election next month.

Technical director of WSP’s Manchester-based ground risk and remediation practice, Andy Moore, believes these policy shifts represent a general trend of changing regulation. He states: “The Environment Agency is looking at its core strategy and duties, relieving work to the local authorities. However, this won’t change the fundamentals, the risks in the ground are still the same – they’ll just be dealt with faster by streamlining the process for our clients to get to the contaminated land stage.”

This opinion is echoed by Bryan Cherry, contaminated land divisional manager at OHES Environmental, who says: “The emphasis on brownfield development has been reasserted which is good for us, but these changes have also loosened restrictions on green field development. What exact effects they will have on the market I’m not sure, but they will probably encourage development and make it easier to get through planning process, thus boosting demand for support services.”

However, he also believes there are wider issues in the sector which the government is failing to address. Cherry says: “There are a number of other areas which need to be changed, including around funding for developers, to give it a real kick start.” Landmark Information Group’s head of consultancy and customer services, Chris Loaring, concurs, commenting: “The proposed changes and the housing white paper are the latest efforts to reenergise the housing supply pipeline, which is way down on where it needs to be. I think there are still some bigger fundamental problems that need to be addressed first.”

He goes on to acknowledge that while the paper raises awareness of the problems surrounding starter homes, “it remains difficult to see how a universal solution is going to come from it”.

The result of the election in a few weeks’ time has the potential to radically alter the business environment for these firms – the manifestos from ache of the political parties released this week provide an insight into what may be in store. The Labour Party is promising to build over one million new homes (EA 17-May-17), although they don’t give a timescale, while the Liberal Democrats pledge is provide 300,000 per year up to 2022 (EA 19-May-17). Meanwhile, the Conservative manifesto commits to delivering a further half a million homes by the end of 2022, on top of the one million promised by the end of 2020 (EA 19-May-17). At the same time, all three main parties have committed to big national infrastructure spends.


However, there are even bigger political changes afoot, with the Brexit vote in June last year sending shockwaves through the economy and causing funding delays and uncertainties in the property development sector for a short period, impacting demand for site-related services. And now that the two-year process of exiting the EU is underway, Environment Analyst asked the contributors to this feature series what effects and impacts on their clients they have witnessed so far and what they believe may be still to come.

Although the economy has stabilised following the initial shock, consultancies are finding it difficult to predict the longer term fall-out from Brexit and are only able to speculate on what the future may hold.  WSP’s Moore offers a balanced outlook stating: “Realistically there’s the potential for a big shift, with the reorientation of funding and focus. Ideally we would see EU legislation transposed into UK legislation. Ultimately contaminated land is a public health risk and a priority for safe development, so I expect it to find its way through and remain as important.”

Business unit lead for site characterisation and remediation at Golder Associates, Robert Noden, agrees with this assessment of the sector’s regulatory future post-Brexit: “Contaminated land regulations in the UK are very mature and I can’t see that changing, as the market is so used to working under them.” But he adds, “Something I could see changing, is the amount of manufacturing in the UK, which would lead to an increase in opportunities for our services”.

Meanwhile, Cherry from OHES believes there is lots to remain positive about, stating: “Much environmental legislation in the UK is EU driven and which laws will be kept without the EU as a driving force is unclear, but any such changes will have a direct impact on the market I’m sure. It could go either way, becoming more stringent or more flexible, to give the market a boost. I wouldn’t like to put my hat on either one at the present time.” But he believes that “adaptability” is the best solution for consultancies to help clients through such uncertain times.

Although unsure of the direct implications of Brexit on its contaminated land consulting practice and the wider EC business going forward, RSK director and group chief scientist Lucy Thomas comments that “we already export services abroad and see these opportunities increasing, although until the trade deals have been signed, where and what they will be is uncertain.”

Eastern promise

China has been for many years now an exciting but daunting prospect for UK and international environmental consultancies looking to exploit pasture new (EA 22-Jan-14), where despite decades of highly-polluting industrial activity the assessment and remediation of contaminated sites has yet to become commonplace.

AECOM for one made the strategic decision to target this fledgling market a few years ago (EA 20-May-13), with Robbie Dow – its remediation director for Europe, Middle East and Africa at that time – tellingEnvironment Analyst: “There is a lot of rezoning, leading to industrial facilities being moved away from residential areas in order to segregate manufacturing from where people live, meaning China is potentially a really strong market for contaminated land services”. Danish-based consultancy COWI asserts that it too is an active player in China’s land contamination and remediation sector, where it is targeting larger projects in particular, in reflection of its global strategy (EA 22-Mar-17) .

The development of the Chinese market is set to receive a further boost with the implementation of a similar regulatory system to the UK’s ‘Part 2A’ of the Environmental Protection Act (otherwise known as the contaminated land regime), meaning as of July polluters in China will become responsible for any land contamination they have caused and its clean up. And prior to any development, remediation efforts must undergo a third party assessment, with failure to meet standards resulting in land use applications being declined.

With these changes in place Environment Analyst asked our contributors if this now makes China and other emerging markets a more attractive proposition? Cherry is candid about the opportunities coming through as a result of new regulatory frameworks being introduced overseas, commenting: “Countries like China and India will increase their environmental focus as they develop, which will be followed by regulation. So there will be opportunities out there for firms like OHES, and with the UK being a traditionally well regulated market UK-based consulting and remediation firms should be in a strong position to sell those services overseas.”

But he agrees with Thomas in that the deals the UK government strikes following Brexit will have a significant bearing on how easily this may be achieved. Furthermore he also envisages that more favourable deals with non-EU countries may lead to international firms from countries like Australia and the US increasingly moving into the UK market, making the domestic scene even more competitive.

Chinese opportunities are also on WSP’s radar, according to Andy Moore. He comments: “It appears China is engaged in contaminated land and its solutions. I think there would be opportunities there, we have 2,000 contaminated land specialists globally, including in China, so certainly WSP is readily able to serve that market.”

Golder Associates also has established foothold in China, boasting three offices across the country in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. With this presence, Noden explains the firm would be less likely to export services from the UK, unless at a client’s specific request, but having said that Golder’s UK team is involved in its Chinese projects on a case by case basis when certain technical expertise may be required to support the local offices.

Domestic scene

For many firms, the UK itself still offers some seductive emerging growth opportunities – including the flowback prone onshore fracking industry and as the wider maturing and presently price-constrained oil & gas industry looks towards decommissioning its assets.

Cherry is positive about both of these areas, identifying fracking as “a definite future workstream for the contaminated land market as a whole.” He adds: “Although as an industry there are still a lot of unknowns, accidents do happen and then it’s a case of managing the risk – and ultimately it’s the same process regardless of the industry or contaminant.” But he also believes that OHES’s existing foothold in oil & gas due diligence work could make transitioning into the decommissioning market more feasible, stating: “We have always had a good background in that area. It is a possible work stream we would be very keen to look at”.

Moore is also cautious when it comes to fracking opportunities, describing how WSP is employing a “wait and see approach in how the UK fracking industry plays out”. He is slightly sceptical about just how great the potential for contamination is, and is more enthused by the prospect of working on O&G decommissioning projects, saying: “I think our capacity to join together technological skills and project and commercial management means we could work in that market.”

RSK’s Thomas takes a practical view, identifying potential in the areas more suited to the consultancy’s existing contaminated land skill set. She explains: “We consider skills such as groundwater monitoring, groundwater fate and transport modelling, geophysical site investigation skills, gas monitoring and air quality measurements, as skills which could be transferable to other markets. However, I’m unsure as yet whether we would get involved in offshore oil & gas decommissioning as we tend to do more onshore work.”

A similar stance is taken by Golder, which Noden says will continue to focus on delivering onshore decommissioning projects having secured a number of land quality frameworks primarily in the O&G, nuclear and manufacturing sectors. “North Sea decommissioning is something we will look at, but firms need to have specific strengths in this area and as such it is not currently a key target for us at this time,” he tells Environment Analyst. But first and foremost he expects the main growth opportunities for Golder in this field to come large infrastructure projects and also favourable conditions in the manufacturing sector. Positively, Noden also notes that his firm – traditionally siloed in the natural resources sectors – is also now seeing “increasing work in the previously problematic mining industry”.

Growth projections

Initial research undertaken as part of Environment Analyst’s Market Trends Survey 2017 [which is still live and open for further responses] reveals that the vast majority of consultants active in this area remain positive about the five-year growth prospects for contaminated land services (see figure). Some 74% are predicting growth for these services, with 31% expecting strong or substantial growth (>5% per annum). Only 10% of those surveyed expect a decline.


In terms of the sector’s prospects going forward, Moore remains confident that for WSP, “provided there are no major macro-economic shifts, there will be opportunities within utility and energy frameworks and a lot of work from large national projects, with opportunities for multiple organisations with contaminated land skills to collaborate.” He cites the work being carried out for HS2 and Crossrail as prime examples, whilst also noting progression in the construction property and industry markets, something which “we can see continuing”.

Thomas agrees there are strong prospects in infrastructure & development, and she says that RSK’s contaminated land business will be targeting the increasing number of developers looking to build on more marginal sites, including former landfills and mining developments. “These sites need quite a lot of collaboration as they require many different technical disciplines to work together to solve the challenges posed by such complex sites. As a diverse consultancy we are well placed to capitalise on those projects.”

Interdisciplinary and inter-organisation collaboration is something Thomas envisages becoming increasingly common. She continues: “Contaminated land is becoming more encompassing of other technical disciplines such as sustainability, ecology, earthworks and flooding. It’s never just a contaminated land project anymore, but a collaboration of many technical disciplines to provide a development solution.”

Chris Loaring says Landmark has responded to this trend by evolving its conveyancing searches to package together contaminated land, flood risk, energy, infrastructure and ground stability reports to better serve the growing demand amongst its clients for one-stop information on all of these risks. He believes focus is shifting away from the more mature and in a way “static” contaminated land area towards the more “dynamic, topical and growing” threat of flooding/climate change resilience.

He also identifies environmental insurance as a potential growth area for the sector as a mechanism to reduce or transfer risk, as investors seek a solution to the potential threat of contaminated land liabilities posed by their real estate assets – although this has long been on the cards. This could spell good news for smaller specialist players such as OHES Environmental, a company initially established to respond to pollution incidents coming from insurance policies set up by its parent company, OAMPS, an insurance broker.

Both Noden (Golder) and Moore (WSP) are adamant the future for the UK contaminated land market is extremely positive, describing it as “very buoyant” and “looking busy” respectively. Moore advises that consulting firms may need to “increase their technical skills to keep up with the market and to ensure progress”, while Cherry is focused on “implementing innovative and adaptable ways of working” to stand OHES in good stead moving forward.


This article has been republished and first appeared at

Oil Spill Detection: Remote Sensing Equipment Tested

As reported in Marine Technology News, testing of the latest in satellite, airborne and in-water surveillance and communications equipment occurred recently off the cost of England to determine how remote sensing technologies can help identify and monitor oil spills at sea more effectively.

The exercise took place on June 13, 2017 in open sea off the southern coast of England, showcased through Oil Spill Response Ltd.’s (OSRL) Southampton-based Visualization Center, which provided a ‘Common Operating Picture’, integrating data from each of the technology partner’s equipment as well as oil spill modeling platforms and satellite feeds.

The main surveillance tools and providers involved in the exercise included:

Radar and optical satellite imagery (MDA, Earth-I, Airbus, Telespazio)
Infra-red and Ultraviolet sensors on the OSRL UKCS aircraft (2Excel Aviation)
Airborne hyperspectral sensors (2Excel Aviation)
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) (Sky Futures and Bristow Group)
Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) (Blue Ocean Monitoring and Planet Ocean)
A surveillance kite with COFDM link (Domo Tactical Communications (DTC))
IP Mesh Network on vessel and crew (Briggs Marine and DTC)
SCAT (Shoreline Clean-up Assessment Technique) based surveys testing a new SCAT e-tool
A minimal amount of oil was released under carefully controlled conditions and with approval from the Marine Management Organization (MMO) following a rigorous planning and stakeholder consultation process. On hand was the full complement of oil spill response equipment and personnel, including a purpose-equipped vessel, containment and recovery equipment and U.K. approved dispersant.

“Achieving maximum effectiveness in response to an oil spill incident is based on prior preparedness and understanding the capabilities of the equipment contained within our ‘response toolkit’. As a result, we are constantly reviewing the potential impact the latest response technology can have on further negating the impact of a spill incident,” said Robert Limb, Chief Executive for OSRL. “Through the course of this exercise we were able to monitor, evaluate and mitigate the oil – giving us, our members and the general public total confidence in our systems and approach.”

The remote sensing technology used was able to identify and monitor the controlled spill, and OSRL said it was satisfied by the performance of the various new technologies involved. In addition, OSRL said the response equipment and personnel operated in an efficient and effective manner providing validation of its approach.

Limb said, “We work closely with technical partners to monitor developments in cutting-edge remote sensing technology to identify development opportunities for OSRL and its members. There is no doubt that as part of any oil spill response, both now and in the future, the technology we used on this exercise will continue to play an ever more significant role. Events such as this are vital to staying at the forefront of our industry and to delivering on our commitment to reducing risk and protecting the environment.”

Ontario’s Proposed Excess Soil Regulatory Regime

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) recently released its “Excess Soil Regulatory Proposal,” (Proposal) which puts forward the following: (1) enacting a new regulation and amending complementary regulations regarding the management of excess soil; (2) developing new excess soil reuse standards and sampling guidance; and (3) clarifying approval requirements for temporary and processing sites for excess soil. The MOECC has invited public comment on the Proposal until June 23, 2017 through the Environmental Registry website or directly to the MOECC via the contact identified on the Proposal notice.

What You Need To Know

Under the Proposal, a new regulation, the Excess Soil Reuse Regulation (Regulation), would:

  1. define “excess soil” as excavated soil that leaves a project area (a construction or development site);
  2. designate “excess soil” as “waste” from the time it leaves the property from which it is excavated to the time it is deposited in accordance with the Regulation (e.g., a final receiving site that meets certain requirements); and
  3. impose on many proponents the obligation to prepare an excess soil management plan (ESMP) and to meet certain other conditions prior to moving the excess soil from the project area.

Other Key Takeaways

When Excess Soil Ceases to be Waste

Once excess soil leaves the project area and is designated as waste, the excess soil would be subject to both certain requirements of Part V of the Environmental Protection Act (Waste Management), as well as to new obligations, including related to tracking the transportation of the excess soil. Under the Regulation, excess soil would cease to be considered “waste” when one of the following occurs:

  1. the excess soil is from an infrastructure project and is deposited at an infrastructure project belonging to the same proponent;
  2. the excess soil is deposited at a final receiving site that is not a waste disposal site and that is governed by a site specific instrument or by-law; or
  3. the excess soil is deposited at a final receiving site that is not a waste disposal site and that is not governed by a site specific instrument or by-law, and all of the following criteria are met:
    1. the excess soil is deposited at the receiving site in accordance with the MOECC’s proposed guidance entitled “Reuse of Excess Soil at Receiving Sites”;
    2. the excess soil has been used at the receiving site for one of the uses specified in the Regulation, including backfill for an excavation or final grading; and
    3. the receiving site is not being used primarily for the purpose of depositing excess soil.

However, excess soil that is hazardous waste would remain designated as waste throughout its lifecycle and be subject to the regulatory requirements associated with hazardous waste.

When an ESMP is Required

In order to ensure the proper management and relocation of excess soil, the Regulation would require a proponent to complete an ESMP if:

      1. 1000m3 of excess soil (which is approximately 100 truckloads) will be removed from a “project area,” as defined below; or
      2. excess soil will be removed from a project area that has or had a potentially contaminating activity that may have affected a planned area of excavation.


According to the Regulation, a “project area” would be defined as “the property owned or controlled by the proponent within which the proponent’s project is undertaken…” If a project is being undertaken on more than one property and the properties are contiguous or would otherwise be considered contiguous except for separation by a road, then the “project area” would also include these properties.

The Regulation also proposes certain exemptions to preparing an ESMP, such as the following circumstances:

      1. excess soil leaving a project area in response to an emergency and such response is necessary to reduce specified risks to humans or the environment;
      2. excess soil resulting from regular maintenance and repair of infrastructure;
      3. projects generating less than 100m3 if the excess soil is going to be sent directly to a waste disposal site;
      4. excess soil transfers between infrastructure projects with the same proponent; or
      5. excess soil is removed from a project area that is on Crown land.


This publication is a general discussion of certain legal and related developments and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, we would be pleased to discuss the issues in this publication with you, in the context of your particular circumstances. This article was first published on the Torys website.

About the authors

Dennis Mahony is the head of Torys’ Environmental, Health and Safety Practice, the Co-Chair of the firm’s interdisciplinary Climate Change and Emissions Trading Practice and one of the core members of our Infrastructure and Energy Group.

Michael Fortier is a key partner in Torys’ Environmental and Aboriginal Law Practices. His environmental, health and safety and Aboriginal law practice focuses on the energy, infrastructure, mining and real estate industries. Michael has been recognized as a leading lawyer by those outside and inside the profession and is currently the immediate Past Chair of the Ontario Bar Association’s Environmental Law Section and an executive member of the OBA’s Aboriginal Law Section.

Tyson Dyck is a member of the firm’s Environmental Group, and practises extensively in the areas of Energy and Infrastructure, Mining and Metals and Climate Change. He has been recognized in Chambers Global and Chambers Canada as a leading lawyer in environmental law, and in Who’s Who Legal as one of the world’s leading climate change lawyers.

Aleksandra Ramsvik’s practice focuses on corporate law, with an emphasis on infrastructure and energy projects.

Perspectives of Boom Failure – Deprogramming What Doesn’t Work

As we’ve said many times, “you don’t know what you don’t know until you understand it” – there is no exception for those who provide oil spill response training. In this post we’ll show why spill training, no matter how well intentioned, should be done by those who know and understand spill response.

There are many past and current examples of well-meaning individuals who provide training but it’s based on the same flawed thinking that has been around for decades. Changing that requires all the wrong ways to be “deprogramed” before the right way can be learned. It also requires an acknowledgement that experience is not competence. Experience doing something incorrect for years is just that – experience doing something incorrect. Understanding and competence, on the other hand is having the ability to know how and why something works (understanding) and having the ability to do it well (competence).

Oil spill training as we’ve previously addressed consists of information that has been copied and pasted for decades without any verification or authentication that what is presented actually works. We have shown nearly every tactics manual, training manual, website and other resources are simply wrong and have shown mathematically and scientifically why they are wrong and what we should be doing instead. Yet, in 2017 a major challenge to the response industry is replacing “experience” and repeating what hasn’t worked with “competence” and what is proven and effective.

We have long promoted using math and science to improve oil spill planning and response in order to save time, money and impact. However, everyone must understand that math and science are just the beginning; once the calculations are understood, you’ll see the calculations in many cases actually provide the proper deployment tactic. So before continuing, understand this: without calculations you can’t talk about tactics and without tactics you can’t talk about calculations. Both are required for effective countermeasure deployment whether it’s booming, damming, recovery, vectoring, anchoring or other planning and response issues.

When it comes to effective boom deployment (or any other skill), recognize that learning HOW to effectively deploy boom is exactly the same as learning HOW NOTto effectively deploy boom.

That deserves repeating: learning HOW to effectively deploy boom is exactly the same as learning HOW NOT to effectively deploy boom. Whatever is presented – whether or not it is valid or correct – is exactly what will be learned and is how responders will act when the time comes to respond to an oil spill.

Take a look at the photograph headlining this post of a recent booming class. What do you see? Are boom angles correct? What about the catenary angles? How does the anchor look? If this were an actual spill, would oil be effectively contained? The overlays showing the deployed booming angles, catenary angles and more are shown in the photograph with discussion following the photograph.

Blue Lines: deployed booming angle
Red Lines: Catenary angle of 90° and oil / boom encounter angle of 90°
Yellow Arrow: Simulated oil accumulation


The deployed booming angle (blue line) is incorrect as shown; the booming angle is approximately 55° (upstream) and approximately 60° (downstream). No boom should be deployed greater than 45°, regardless of current speed. Doing so causes boom to “belly” in mid-stream where the oil will collect making collection difficult or impossible (as shown in the photograph). Additionally, entrainment of oil is likely. By angling the boom into the current, the oil will move to the shoreline for collection. Various effective booming angles are provided for various current speeds: 0.5 knot = 45°; 1.0 knot = 29°; 1.5 knot = 19°; 2 knots = 14° (all angles rounded down)
When deployed, boom angles should be as flat as possible with minimal catenary from the downstream anchor, upstream. The catenary oil/boom encounter angle is approximately 90°, virtually guaranteeing entrainment and a lack of containment
The nearshore boom end anchor is not “keyed” into the shoreline causing the boom to lay flat along the shoreline until the river depth becomes sufficiently deep enough to support the booms floatation allowing the boom to properly float in the river
The simulated oil – shown by the yellow arrow – is in belly of the boom, away from the shoreline and inaccessible to the deployed skimmer
Finally, look at how many people are attending this training…it’s that many more people who think they know how to boom after attending this class, but in fact now know how NOT to boom effectively


Knowing is not understanding. There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it.” – Charles Kettering

There is more to successful and effective boom deployment than just simply putting boom in the water. It requires understanding and skill to know where to boom and how to get the boom deployed to be effective at containing oil for recovery. There are countless examples of training, tactics manuals, conference presentations and more of incorrect and outdated information being presented without validation that it will work. Instead, things get repeated over and over for years and are assumed to be valid, but no proof is presented.

So long as unqualified but otherwise well-meaning individuals continue provide training on topics they don’t understand, the job of “deprogramming” what we’ve learned and that doesn’t work (or is supported by math or science) will make understanding and learning effective tactics and techniques even more difficult. As we’ve said many times before, if countermeasures aren’t deployed right the first time, it’s likely there won’t be time or resources to deploy them again. Understanding and applying proper and effective tactics and techniques based in sound math and science and not rehashing what hasn’t worked for decades is critical to saving time, money and impact.

For additional information or comments, please email us at or call 740.815.9660. This article was first published in LinkedIn.

About the Author

Joel Hogue is president of Elemental Services and Consulting, Inc. Established in 2003, ESCO develops oil spill Tactical Response Plans – including equipment specification, response tactics and job aid development. Mr. Hogue’s company also provides oil spill equipment design and testing as well as training and education on effective response tactics and techniques.

Prior to establishing ESCO, Mr. Hogue held senior management positions with several environmental firms establishing successful spill response divisions within those companies. He has made numerous conference presentations as well as has taught various education and training classes throughout the U.S. and Canada.

ERIS to offer new features to assist in ESA Reporting

ERIS, a company specializing in providing critical risk and historical information on properties, recently announced four new product offerings.

ERIS Direct is a new online subscription service that provides real-time environmental risk information for properties throughout the US and Canada.

ERIS Xplorer is an interactive tool for overlaying and analyzing data and historical images.

Physical Setting Report (PSR) provides comprehensive information about the physical setting surrounding a site and includes a complete overview of topography and surface topology, in addition to hydrologic, geologic and soil characteristics. The location and detailed attributes of oil and gas wells, water wells, public water systems and radon are also included for review.

As of early July, ERIS began offering U.S. Tax Parcel Data through an Online Order Form. The addition of parcel data can assist with securing accurate property information and boundary delineation.

Call for Abstracts – RemTech 2017

Special BCEIA Organized Session at RemTech 2017

ESAA has invited the BCEIA to organize a special session at RemTech 2017 to be held in Banff, Alberta from October 11-13, 2017. BCEIA members are urged to submit technical abstracts focusing on environmental remediation research and application.

Abstracts are encouraged in, but not limited to, the following areas:

Physical/Biological/Chemical Treatment
Remote or Difficult Access Sites
Emerging Contaminants
Spill Response and Management
Landfill management and closure
All other remediation-related topics will be considered

Abstracts should be no longer that 500 words (not including bio) and should also include a presenter biography. Please submit as a Word Document to by Friday, July 14. For more information, please contact Kate MacDonald at

SABCS Conference on Contaminated Sites – September 28th

September 28, 2017 | Vancouver, BC

The Science Advisory Board for Contaminated Sites in British Columbia (SABCS) is pleased to announce the 7th annual Conference on Contaminated Sites. The emphasis of this year’s conference will be on practical applications of emerging science, research, development and technology in contaminated sites. Speakers will be drawn from industry, government and academia. For more information, please contact Zahra Pirani at

CN Fined $2.5 million for diesel spill in Alberta

Canadian National Railway Company (CN) pleaded guilty, in the Provincial Court of Alberta, to one offence under the Fisheries Act and three offences under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. As a result, CN has been ordered to pay $2,500,000, which will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund. An additional fine of $125,000 was levied on May 25, 2017 in relation to the provincial charges laid by Alberta Environment and Parks, under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.

On April 9, 2015, Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers responded to a report of an oil sheen on the North Saskatchewan River. With assistance from the City of Edmonton’s Drainage Services’ staff, Environment and Climate Change Canada officers traced the substance over eight kilometres through Edmonton’s storm drain system to an engine fuelling station at CN’s Bissell Yard.

A joint investigation with Alberta Environment and Parks determined that the oil-water separator and fuel storage system at Bissell Yard was not compliant with a number of requirements under the Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations, which caused an estimated 90 litres of diesel to be released to the storm sewer. CN subsequently pleaded guilty, and it was sentenced for the following offences:

Deposit of a deleterious substance to fish-bearing water or to a place where it may enter fish-bearing water, in violation of the Fisheries Act, resulting in a $2,000,000 penalty;
Use of a centrifugal pump to transfer oil-contaminated water, in violation of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, resulting in a $150,000 penalty;
Failure to keep an emergency plan readily available, in violation of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, resulting in a $100,000 penalty;
Failure to withdraw and remove single-walled underground steel piping, in violation of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, resulting in a $250,000 penalty.
Release of a substance that may cause a significant adverse effect and failure to all reasonable measures to remediate after a release to the environment, in violation of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, resulting in a $125,000 total penalty.
In addition, CN was ordered to remove over two kilometres of single-walled underground piping, at a cost of approximately $750,000.

As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the federal Environmental Offenders Registry.

The purpose of the Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations is to reduce the risk of contaminating soil and water (surface and groundwater) due to spills and leaks of petroleum products from storage tank systems.

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to hear Pollution Case against Chevron

The U.S. Supreme Court recently made the decision not to hear the case against the Chevron Oil Company made by villagers in Ecuador that claim the company is evading the payment of $8.65 billion (U.S.) for a pollution judgement against it in that country.

The Supreme Court turned away an appeal by U.S. based lawyers for the Ecuador villagers that have spent more than two decades trying to hold Chevron responsible for pollution in that country.

Chevron, in its defence, did not dispute that pollution occurred but claimed it was not liable for it. According to a news report in Reuters, the company claims that the environmental report was biased and the presiding judge in the case in Ecuador was bribed. Chevron’s claim is backed up by lower court rulings in the United States. In 2014, a U.S. District Court Judge barred enforcement of the ruling made in Ecuador citing the corruption used to obtain it. A similar ruling was made by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Contamination of the soil and water of the Ecuador rain forest was caused by Texaco when it operated in the country between 1964 and 1992. The villagers claim that Texaco dumped billions of litres of toxic oil-drilling waters into hundreds of open-air pits. Chevron acquired Texaco in 2001. Prior to acquiring Texaco, Chevron signed an agreement in 1998 with the Ecuador government absolving it of any further liability.

The lawyers for Ecuador villagers vow that they will seek a court ruling in Canada. However, a January 2017 ruling by the Ontario superior court ruled that Chevron’s Canadian arm isn’t a party to the Ecuadorian court decision. The lawyers for the Ecuador villagers are appealing the decision.

City of Calgary pushes for control of Contaminated Sites

As reported by the CBC, the City of Calgary, Alberta is negotiating with the Canadian federal government for new powers that will give it more say over contaminated land within its borders. The City of Calgary is currently managing 34 contaminated sites within its borders. It has set aside a pool of $2.8 million for monitoring and clean-up of the sites. Additional monies have also been set aside for closure of existing landfills and as well as millions more earmarked for the clean-up of Old Refinery Park (the site of an oil refinery that operated from 1926 to 1976.

Besides the 34 contaminated sites managed by the municipality, the federal government is responsible for 13 contaminated sites, and there are undetermined number that are the responsibility of private landowners.

Commenting on the number of contaminating sites within the City of Calgary, Trent Parks, the leader of environmental risk and liability at the city, told the CBC, “We only know ones we’ve found. It goes back to the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. There may be more out there, we haven’t come across them yet.”

The City wants the authority to inspect and order the clean-up of the contaminated sites it doesn’t own. It also wants to have the ability to clean-up the sites it has control over without the need for approval from the Province of Alberta. City officials want to change the rules on contaminated sites and have included it as part of ongoing negotiations with the Province for a new city charter for Calgary.

The mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, cites the example of the contaminated site that was formerly a gas station called Gas Plus and now under control of the Province. A 9,000 litre link from an underground storage tank at the gas station contaminated the soil and groundwater. The Province is just starting to clean-up of the site after seven years.

Without an environmental site assessment, there is no way of knowing if a property is contaminated or not. In most jurisdictions, if not all, it is the provincial government that can order a private landowner to conduct an ESA on a property but only if off-site migration of contamination is suspected and adverse health or environmental impacts are suspected.

In the CBC article, Christopher De Sousa, the director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University in Toronto, stated it is fairly standard for municipalities not to have the power to order ESA’s. Even at the provincial level, Mr. De Sousa said that inventories of contaminated sites are focused on government owned properties only. “If they don’t own it, they’re not including it in that inventory,” he said.

“I would say a lot of jurisdictions are hesitant, historically, to inventory brownfields,” Mr. De Sousa said of industrial sites when asked by the CBC if it’s normally difficult to come up with hard numbers.

“The reason being, if a government identifies a site as potentially contaminated and they don’t own it, have they affected the value of that site?”

Mr. De Sousa only knew of one municipal jurisdiction in North America – New York City – that had the authority to order environmental investigations for contamination and clean-up. He said it can benefit a city to have more authority over the sites if they’re willing to look at it intelligently and strategically.

The Alberta government is going to release city charters for Calgary and in July, outlining expanded powers for the city on everything from contaminated sites to affordable housing to municipal tribunals for bylaw offences. It remains to be seen if the City will be granting the power of the control and management of contaminated sites it is seeking.