The Development and Implementation of Oil Spill Technology in Europe

As reported in the Hellenic Shipping News, a mix of methods plus more interest from the private sector characterise the development of oil spill technology and methods in and around ports. More efficient chemicals, boats and booms are all coming to the aid of clean ups.

Suppliers and users agree that the best way to limit the effects of an incident is to rely on a combination of methods and not look for a single panacea or believe in the ‘one size fits all philosophy’.  The common theme among the latest methods is that they can be adapted to be used on almost any size of spill.

Finland’s Lamor specialises in booms and skimmers that can be attached to and operated by vessels.  Dan Beyer, US general manager of Lamor, says: “It’s a pretty competitive market in the products that we offer.  Norway’s NOFO has put our Marine Oil Spill Sweeper (LMOS) through a rigorous testing regime which, unlike the US, involves putting a specified, measured quantity of oil in the water and removing it. We came out on top for all the products.”

Boom sizes range from 15 metres to 50 metres, used in offshore operations.  “We are able to undertake large sweeps very fast,” says Mr Beyer. Lamor has sold a unit to the US Air Force in Greenland, while orders have come from Norway, Brazil, Ireland’s Coast Guard and other countries.

Booms are “another tool in the tool belt”, says Mr Beyer.  “I am an environmentalist who strives to keep the environment as pure as possible,” he says. “Why introduce another chemical into the water to remove a chemical that is there?”

Although the Deepwater Horizon spill caused a huge international outcry and political furore in the US, Mr Beyer notes that the U.S. has been extremely environmentally aware since the Exxon Valdez incident in 1989. “The Oil Pollution Act was introduced very soon afterwards, in 1990, and generally the authorities and industry have been really pro-active.”

His advice for ports and the industry is to check the equipment and anti-pollution inventory regularly and make sure there is equipment and service back up.

Lamor’s future target is the Arctic. “Drilling is increasing there all the time and we don’t see the US or Canada as having enough spill response equipment. The Russians are ahead tenfold in both icebreaking technology and oil spill clean-up.

Research and Development

Dutch technological start up Oilspill Cleaning and Rescue Solutions (OCRS) is securing a partner for its liquid polyurethane foam that captures oil and other pollutants. “We hope to finish the research and development within the next nine months,” says co-founder Henk Smith.  Technological and financial incubation help has come from two local authority incubation agencies, the Port of Rotterdam’s Port Innovation Lab and Yes!Delft.  Mr Smith says it is usual for funding for anti-pollution research and development to come from the government as the private sector is “risk averse to this sort of investment”.

In this technology, foam is sprayed on the spill, absorbs the oil like a sponge and is pumped onto a storage vessel where the water and oil are separated and can be reused.  Any water is returned into the sea after being filtered.  Oil will be stored on board in tanks for recycling into the economy.  The remaining absorbent (carpet) can be pressed and stored in containers. One litre of foam is capable of absorbing nine litres of diesel oil.

Gobbler Boats in the UK uses sweep arms on its vessels to collect up to 960 tonnes of oil in 24 hours. The collected oil is pumped internally and transferred to quick release bladders towed astern. “The oil resale value alone pays for the vessel in just 3-1/2 days,” says founder and co-director Paul Jauncey.

The company is now working on a mini hovercraft vessel which will be able to recover oil from a beach or river bank. Some of the development cost is being covered by a government tax credit for research and development projects.

Herd instinct

Matthew Sommerville, executive committee member of International Spill Control Organization (ISCO), notes that a herd instinct applies throughout the world in implementing spill control. “When one country does something, all countries do it. You get a big incident and everyone jumps on it, then there is nothing for another five years.”

Following the principle of “better to be safe than sorry”, he says: “People buy equipment but no one intends to use it and it might sit around for 20 years. It’s not an industry where there is lots of repeat business and there are fewer people needed to operate it.

“In the Deepwater Horizon incident, BP bought every piece of equipment it could lay hands on, and much of it was unused – which the company has been selling off or sending to port authorities and other companies.” Regulations continue to be distinctly different between the US and Europe, with the US specifying the equipment a port must have and Europe opting for the Tier l, II and III approach – responses on a local, regional and international scope.

“The Torrey Canyon made governments and ports throughout the world realise they had to work together and since then there has been an emphasis on world co-operation,” says Mr Sommerville.

The establishment of international response centres, including Southampton and Bahrain, was possibly the most tangible result of the intense urgency for co-operation. “Looking at the worst-case scenario, you can’t keep enough equipment to deal with it.”

Changes of Officials

A reality of government life that ISCO has to deal with is regular changes of officials. “A department becomes knowledgeable about the industry but the staff changes every two to three years and you have to start at the beginning again,” says Mr Sommerville.

Most ports now employ an environmental expert and even a separate department, which the ISCO applauds, but safeguards and controls have become so effective that many have not had a serious incident in 10 years. “They tend to forget what the potential problems are.  A five-tonne spill today has as much effect on a port as 100 tonnes a few years ago

“Ports need to think about what they have done recently and keep up to date.  When was the last time a third party checked at what has changed?  Contact details of key people often still list radios/pagers when everyone is using cellphones, and these can pose a problem because in critical situations people have to talk for huge amounts of time and the batteries run down.”

Mr. Sommerville adds that the industry also has to adapt equipment to deal with the huge vessels that are now commonplace. “The Napoli incident in the UK involved a 2,000 tonne ship – and that took two years to unload.”

Difficulty with Drones

The industry sees drones as a natural and obvious tool in monitoring and measuring spills, but there is some difficulty, particularly in Europe and the US, in getting technology companies interested.

“These are concentrating on other uses such as package delivery – which get the public attention — and environmental uses are seen as somewhat boring,” says a US maritime consultant. “Investors are putting more money into the popular uses.  It’s not a coincidence that those looking at environmental uses often have to rely on backing from public authorities or the central government.”

In Singapore, the Port and Maritime Authority is testing the Water Spider, designed to monitor oil spills, with funding coming from government agencies.  Able to take off from and land on sea surfaces, the drone can be operated from patrol craft.  According to a government statement, it is “tethered to a power source onboard the patrol craft, which gives a much longer endurance of three hours compared to 30 minutes for an untethered drone”.

In the UK, Martek Marine has been awarded a two-year contract from the European Maritime Safety Agency to fly drones for a number of operations that will include pollution and oil spill monitoring.

The International Spill Control Organization embraces the use of drones, but cautions that they are not a perfect solution on their own. “You still need the human eyeball to see what is really going on,” says the organisation’s Matthew Sommerville.

“The drones can collect massive amounts of data, but you still need a trained human to analyse the data, determine how serious a spill is and work out priorities.”

University of Saskatchewan Developing Technology to Clean-up Oil Spills

As reported by CTV News, Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are developing a new soil to clean up spilled oil and gas from gas station sites.  The researchers are planning to add cattle bio-waste to soil that will trap and remove petroleum.

“It’s almost like putting the site on an IV, where we give it a low dose of nutrients and other things that will make them happy and they do the work for us,” Derek Peak, a soil scientist at the university, said.

The cattle waste materials will be converted into a water-based material, which will be injected into soil at gas stations and former gas station sites to help bacteria break down the petroleum.

According to the university, more than 30,000 gas station sites across Canada are contaminated. Many of these sites are left abandoned because businesses are reluctant to rebuild on contaminated land.

“It creates a little bit of inertia around these sites where nothing seems to happen, and that’s the biggest challenge we see,” said Lesley Anderson, the City of Saskatoon’s planning and development director.

“Typically what we want to see is that polluter of a site carries forward the risk and are responsible to clean it up. But some of these risks or contaminations happened many years ago where legislation has changed.”

Peak says he hopes the soil development will help clean up brownfields —  land previously used by large companies that is polluted by hazardous waste — and make the land useable.

Federated Co-op is set to test the cleanup solution on their fuel stations.

“Historically, the approach to clean up contaminated sites was to come in with a big yellow iron, excavate that material out, haul it out to somewhere else and dispose of it as a waste,” Kris Bradshaw, Co-op’s impacted sites manager, said.

Bradshaw says this new way of treating sites without tearing them apart is an advantage.

The federal government has given $750,000 to the soil research.

If the soil development is successful, it could save the government billions of dollars in remediation costs.

The research will be ongoing for the next three years and is projected to be tested on contaminated gas sites by next year.

Funding Opportunity: Ontario-Israel R&D Projects

The Canada-Israel Industrial R&D Foundation (CIIRDF) recently announced the launch of a new Call for Proposals (CFP) for the Ontario-Israel Collaboration Program (OICP).  Leveraging support from the Governments of Ontario and Israel, this CFP aims to stimulate R&D collaboration between firms in Ontario and Israel with a focus on the commercialization of new technologies.


Following a rigorous evaluation process, successful Ontario applicants are eligible to receive up to $300,000 CAD or up to 50% of the R&D costs of technology-based products and processes (whichever is less) from the Government of Ontario through CIIRDF to fund the Ontario portion of each project.  Successful Israeli applicants will receive funding from the Israel Innovation Authority to support the Israel portion of the project under the OICP.  The level of funding will be determined by the R&D Review Committee of the Israel Innovation Authority.


This CFP invites proposals with a non-defence application in all technology sectors from Ontario-based for-profit companies and Israel-based for-profit companies.  Special consideration will be given to projects in the following three areas: 1) Clean technologies, 2) Life sciences and medical devices, 3) Cyber security and other information and communication technologies.

Ontario firms have the opportunity to leverage academic expertise on their R&D project and engage students jointly with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)

Public sector organizations, such as universities and research institutions, are eligible to participate in R&D projects as subcontractors or consultants (not applicants)

Apply Now

For information on application guidelines, process, templates and proposal evaluation, please visit:

The summary proposal deadline is June 15, 2017 and the full Proposal Deadline is July 24, 2017.

For additional information, please contact:

  • Tomoko Nishino, CIIRDF Canada:
  • Avner Montemayor, CIIRDF Israel:



Responsible Energy receives ECA for Gasification Facility

Responsible Energy Inc. recently received all necessary Environmental Compliance Approvals (ECA’s) from Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to begin operating a Free Radical Gasification (FRG™) Demonstration Facility in Ontario.

Responsible Energy’s President and CEO, Gordon Fraser is quoted as saying, ‘This is the last missing piece of the puzzle needed for us to proceed with the final phase of commercializing our proven advanced thermal waste destruction technology.  After 8 years of development, which includes more than 25,000 hours of design, testing, trials, and operation, I extremely proud of everything our team has accomplished to date, while spending only 1/10th of the capital required by the competition.”

What is Free Radical Gasification (FRG™)?

Free Radical Gasification (FRG™) is a multi-patented technology that is able to economically protect the environment by destroying waste while at the same time provide an opportunity to produce a multiple of renewable resources. The secret of the FRG™ process is the precisely controlled generation of a >5,000oC conversion zone. At this temperature, similar to that of the sun, molecular bonds are broken apart creating two valuable commodities: a clean synthesis gas (syngas) and an inert granular aggregate

About Responsible Energy Inc.

Responsible Energy has created a proven waste destruction solution that enables the clean conversion of non-hazardous and hazardous solid and liquid waste into valuable commodities such as Electricity or Renewable Natural Gas.



BacTech Awarded OCE Grant in Support of Arsenic Research

BacTech Environmental Corporation (CSE: BAC, OTC Pink: BCCEF) recently announced that its joint application with Laurentian University to Ontario Centres of Excellence (“OCE”) has been approved for $75,000 through OCE’s Voucher for Innovation and Productivity II (“VIP II”), offered on behalf of the Province of Ontario.  These funds are to be leveraged against contributions from BacTech Environmental Corporation in the amounts of $37,500 cash and $37,500 in-kind.

“We are pleased to be part of a unique collaboration that we hope will lead to great advances in dealing with arsenic issues in mining. Given the amount of arsenic that is released globally through mining, both primary and artisanal, any advancements in this area should be welcomed”, said Ross Orr, President and CEO of BacTech.

The purpose of the funding is to test bioleaching against very high arsenic concentrates (+10%) that are becoming more prevalent, not only in Canada, but also in numerous South American countries. BacTech is interested in applying bioleaching as a process technology to treat high grade gold/arsenic concentrates being produced in Ponce Enriquez, Ecuador.  Presently, these concentrates are being sold overseas and include penalties for high levels of arsenic.  BacTech proposes a “made at home” solution whereby concentrates produced in Ponce Enrique will be processed locally using BacTech BACOX technology.  It is hoped that the introduction of a bioleach circuit would lead to lower levels of mercury use, as well as reduced discharges of arsenic into the local environment.

A 300-kg sample of arsenopyrite concentrate will be purchased shortly from the local flotation plants in Ponce Enriquez.  This material will then be shipped to Laurentian University in Sudbury, Canada for 5-6 months of bioleach test work.  The results of the test work will form the basis of the plant design for the proposed bioleach plant.  Laurentian University partner, Dr. Nadia Mykytczuk, is thrilled to have the funding to advance the use of genomic tools and selective microbial culturing to help optimize the BACOX process.  The cultures, which are isolated from various mine sites, including Sudbury, Ontario, are going to be used in the trials.


“We are very pleased to be able to support this impressive company,” says Dr. Tom Corr, President and CEO of Ontario Centres of Excellence. “This is a technological approach with the potential for widespread application and the ability to solve a serious problem.”

This OCE funded project will not only help advance the Ecuador work, but will also help advance the technology and potential application for re-processing various mine wastes in Ontario and elsewhere.

BacTech Environmental Corporation holds the perpetual, exclusive, royalty-free rights to use the patented BACOX bioleaching technology for the reclamation of tailings and mining waste materials.  The Company continues to field enquiries globally with respect to additional opportunities for remediation, including licensing transactions for the technology.

The future of environmental enforcement in the U.S.

A new decision in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals gives new influence to objection letters sent by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to state and local environmental agencies, and may open the door for the EPA to employ informal methods of strict environmental enforcement.  This would give the embattled, budget-restricted U.S. EPA less costly means of preserving its enforcement programs − all the more significant in light of the Trump Administration’s deep budget cuts and other restrictions on the agency.

The Ninth Circuit dismissed a petition by Southern California Alliance of Publicly Owned Treatment Works (SCAP) against the U.S. EPA, finding the court lacked jurisdiction to review an EPA objection letter to a draft stormwater discharge permit under the U.S. Clean Water Act (CWA).

The U.S. EPA’s objection said the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board’s draft permits needed specific numeric effluent limits. SCAP, an alliance of public treatment plants, argued such limits were not requirements under the CWA.  The Los Angeles Board responded, accepting the EPA’s objections and incorporating the limits into the permits themselves. SCAP sought review of the EPA’s objection letter, claiming that it incorporated guidance contrary to the CWA and was a de facto regulation, whereby EPA sidestepped the Administrative Procedures Act and the mandatory comment period.

On April 12, 2017, the Ninth Circuit rejected SCAP’s arguments, concluding that the U.S. EPA’s objection letter was not the same as an “issuance or denial” of the permit, meaning the Ninth Circuit lacked the power to review it. Rather, SCAP would need to exhaust administrative review with the governing agency, the State Water Resources Control Board.  The U.S. Ninth Circuit noted that the Los Angeles Regional Board “may take a more aggressive view of the requirements for keeping the state’s waters clean. In that circumstance, any request for review of the U.S. EPA’s Objection Letter would be moot…”

This case suggests that the U.S. EPA, losing one-third of its budget and numerous employees and programs, might have an informal, cost-effective and quick mechanism to advance more stringent environmental programs and enforcement.  While the U.S. EPA’s “objection letters” are technically non-binding statements of advice, a state agency would be foolish to ignore one − the U.S. EPA has the ultimate power to transfer most environmental permits out of the state’s hands back to the federal level.  Some would argue the U.S. EPA may thereby exert de facto rulemaking power short of actual comment and adherence to the APA.  The Ninth Circuit’s refusal to undertake an independent review of the objection letter, and its observation that states may enact more aggressive environmental requirements, suggests it is unlikely that a state appeal would be successful.

This case paves the way for what could be a major element of future environmental enforcement, at least in the near term: informal objections and inquiries by the U.S. EPA or other federal agencies to impose robust standards in lieu of new rulemaking or legislation.


Find out more about the implications of this case by contacting any of the authors.


Kimberly Hyde is an associate at DLA Piper.  She has experience representing clients in several areas of complex business and commercial litigation, with a focus on environmental litigation under CERCLA, RCRA, the cleanup of contaminated sites and environmental compliance and transactional due diligence.  Kimberly also has experience representing clients in product liability and class action litigation, including claims under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and California Business & Professions Code §17200 and the Consumers Legal Remedies Act §1750.


George Gigounas is a Partner at DLA Piper.  He resolves environmental and product-related litigation, enforcement, and compliance issues for DLA Piper clients with industrial, manufacturing, and product-based businesses.  His environmental practice builds on a strong background in environmental science, a familiarity with the technical, chemical, and mechanical processes involved in industrial operations, and an understanding of the geophysical and toxicity issues arising with hazardous wastes, toxic exposures, and environmental remediations.



Chris Campbell is a partner in DLA Piper’s Product Liability and Mass Tort practice group, recently recognized by Law360 as the 2013 Product Liability Group of the Year.  Chris serves as head of litigation in DLA Piper’s Atlanta office, while also working out of the New York office.  Chris is a 2000 graduate of Harvard Law School with experience in all phases of litigation, including first-chairing jury and bench trials in state and federal courts and arguing appeals.


This are was originally published on the DLA Piper website and can be found here.


Business Opportunity for Ontario Water Technology Companies

The Water Technology Acceleration Project (WaterTAP) recently launched a call for applications for our new Export Development Pilot Program.  It’s open to all Canadian companies.

Is your Canadian water technology company interested in targeting high-potential water and wastewater utility clients in California or Texas?

WaterTAP, with funding from the Global Opportunities for Industry Associations (GOA) federal government grants and contribution program, is pleased to announce a call for companies to participate in an export development pilot program for the Canadian water sector.

WaterTAP is partnering with WatrHub Inc. to deliver this program. WatrHub is an Ontario-based data-mining and analytics company that delivers timely, tailored market intelligence on water and wastewater systems. WatrHub works with its clients to define sales targets, mine municipal data, and help identify, prioritize, and monitor high-potential leads.

Participating companies will work with WatrHub and WaterTAP over a four-month period to:

  • Identify up to 300 potential utility/municipal sales leads in California or Texas.
  • Monitor these leads using specified indicators to identify high-potential clients and shorten the sales cycle.
  • Contact high-potential clients and, where possible, set up meetings during WEFTEC (September 30 – October 4, 2017) and Ontario Water Innovation Week (October 30 – November 3, 2017)

Participants may also have the opportunity to attend a targeted Canadian trade mission to Texas or California to further pursue these high-potential leads.

With the generous support of the GOA Program, participating companies will receive WatrHub’s service at a special rate. The current cost of this WatrHub service is US$16,000; companies will be asked to contribute CAN$8,921+HST, which is less than half of this service’s full market value.

This is an excellent opportunity to invest in market intelligence and refine your company’s sales strategy based on defined, high-potential leads in California or Texas.

Company eligibility requirements:

  • The company must be a Canadian registered for-profit company operating under the laws of Ontario or Canada and must have a permanent establishment in Canada.
  • Municipalities must make up 75 percent or more of company sales.
  • The company’s technology must be implemented or piloted in California or Texas.
  • Annual company revenues must be between $2 million and $10 million.
  • At least one company representative is attending WEFTEC 2017.
  • The company has never used WatrHub’s services.

Four companies from across Canada will be selected for this pilot program.  If your company meets the above eligibility requirements and you are interested in this opportunity, please submit this application form.

If you have any questions, please contact Lesley Herstein (, 416-593-0303 x108).

Template to Help Create OSHA HazCom Written Plan

VelocityEHS, the cloud environment, health, safety (EHS) and sustainability software provider, recently announced the availability of its new MSDSonline Written HazCom Plan Template aimed at helping EHS professionals save time and money in researching and compiling their OSHA-required written plans.  The fully customizable template – available to EHS professionals at no cost – contains the basic elements of a compliant written plan, according to United State’s OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, which can be easily edited to include specific work environment information.

Hazard Communication Standard violations have continuously held a top spot on U.S. OSHA’s annual list of frequently cited standards, with the Agency often citing employers for failing to provide a written HazCom plan or for having an inadequate plan in place.  For workplaces containing hazardous chemicals required to have a written HazCom plan in place, it can be difficult knowing where to start with so much information to cover.  The MSDSonline Written HazCom Plan Template helps simplify the process by laying the groundwork for EHS professionals to more quickly and easily create a comprehensive plan that meets compliance requirements.

“GHS brought increased scrutiny to an already frequently violated OSHA standard.  Given that, plus the recent increase in government-imposed fines, employers that have hazardous chemicals are at a higher risk of and face more severe consequences for being found out of compliance,” said Glenn Trout, president and CEO of VelocityEHS.  “The Written Plan is an employer’s playbook for how hazardous chemicals are being managed in their workplace.  It communicates how everything related to hazardous chemicals is being addressed – from the workplace label strategy to the SDS management processes to employee training.  This new Written HazCom Plan Template blends education with utility.

Download the MSDSonline Written HazCom Plan Template for no cost here.

Environment and Cleantech Business and Policy Forum – May 30

In partnership with the Ontario Environment Industry Association (ONEIA), we are pleased to offer a joint invitation to the annual Environment and Cleantech Business and Policy Forum on May 30, 2017.  

 Ontario is transitioning to a low-carbon circular economy and moving rapidly on implementing a cap-and-trade program and a new resource recovery framework, while also rolling out major infrastructure projects. What new opportunities can Ontario’s clean technology sector expect and how can it innovate and prosper during this transition? How will various external factors – in Canada and beyond – impact the situation in Ontario?

Registration for the event is filling up quickly and here’s another reason to attend!  Senior representatives from the Ministries of Environment and Climate Change, Economic Development and Growth and Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs will join us for the day as well as our annual afternoon roundtable discussions.

ONEIA’s fifth annual Business and Policy Forum is a day-long event that will offer:

  • Insights into the political environment impacting the clean technology sector both within and outside the province;
  • An industry outlook for Ontario and export markets;
  • Examples of innovative businesses and technologies within Ontario’s clean technology sector;
  • Presentations from key Ontario Deputy Ministers on current and future policies and programs;
  • Roundtable discussions with senior Ontario government officials on public policy and programs including: cap and trade; water/wastewater/storm water management; resource recovery; organics diversion; soil management; modernization of approvals; infrastructure development; and cross-border procurement impacting your business
  • The opportunity to meet a diverse network of persons and organizations that can help you grow your business.


EVENT: Environment and Cleantech Business and Policy Forum 2017
DATE: May 30, 2017
TIME: 7:30 AM – 7:00 PM
LOCATION: DoubleTree by Hilton Toronto Downtown
108 Chestnut Street Toronto ON M5G 1R3
COST: ONEIA members $395.00; not-yet ONEIA members: $495.00

Alberta government announces $1.3 million creosote monitoring project for Calgary

As reported in the Calgary Herald, the Province of Alberta recently announced a five-year project to continue monitoring creosote levels in the West Hillhurst community in the City of Calgary.

The Alberta government said the goal of the $1.3-million study is to assess the extent of contamination in the neighbourhood and examine levels throughout the year to determine any changes between seasons.

What is the Source of the Creosote?

The source of the creosote contamination is the former Canada Creosote Plant that operated on the south side of the Bow River in Calgary for over 40 years, from 1924 to 1962.  The Canada Creosote Company (later Domtar Corporation) operated a wood treatment plant in downtown Calgary.  Wood treatment, using a mixture of chemicals occurred at the Plant.  With time, these compounds migrated into and under the Bow River into the community of West Hillhurst.

In its recent news release, the Alberta government stated: “The most recent monitoring, between 2010 and 2014, did not identify risks to human or aquatic and environmental health.  However, the province is funding this long-term project to better understand the scope and nature of the creosote in the community and along the Bow River.”

What is Creosote?

Creosote is the name used for a variety of products that are a mixture of many chemicals.  Coal tar creosotes are distillation products of coal tar, and coal tar pitch is a residue produced during the distillation of coal tar. Coal tar creosote volatiles are rarely formed in nature. Coal tar creosote, coal tar, and coal tar pitch are mixtures of similar compounds. For this reason, many profiles of coal tar creosote also include coal tar, and coal tar pitch and all three are simply referred to as creosote.

What the Environmental and Human Health Impacts?

Coal tar creosote contains some components that dissolve in water and some that do not. Coal tar creosote components that dissolve in water may move through the soil to eventually reach and enter the groundwater, where they may persist. Once in the groundwater, breakdown may take years. Most of the components that are not water soluble will remain in place in a tar-like mass. Breakdown in soil can take months for some components of coal tar creosote, and much longer for others. Sometimes, the small amounts of chemical remaining in the soil or water that take a long time to break down are still toxic to some animals and possibly to humans..

Volatile chemicals in coal tar creosote may evaporate and enter the air. About 1-2% of the coal tar creosote applied to treated wood is released to the air. This is a small amount compared with the amount of coal tar creosote found in waste water or soil.

Once coal tar creosote is in the environment, both plants and animals can absorb parts of the creosote mixture. Some components of coal tar creosote have been found in plants exposed to creosote-treated wood in nearby soil. The plants absorb very little (less than 0.5% of the amount available to the plant). Animals such as crickets, snails, and worms take up coal tar creosote components from the environment that are passed into the body through skin, lungs, or stomachs. Animals that live in the water, such as crustacea, shellfish, and worms, also take up coal tar creosote compounds. For instance, mussels attached to creosote-treated pilings and snails and oysters living in water near a wood-treatment plant had creosote in their tissues. Coal tar creosote components are also broken down by microorganisms living in the soil and natural water. The components of coal tar and coal tar pitch move in the environment in a similar way.

The West Hillhurst Study

The study is a continuation of monitoring in West Hillhurst that began more than two decades ago when officials discovered creosote had seeped into the area from a former creosote plant across the Bow River in the West Village.

“They’re being responsible about this because I think for a long time … we’ve had successive governments in the municipal and at the provincial level kind of think the containment was enough, the monitoring was enough,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters.

“What we’re really seeing both from the city and the province is, you know what, we actually can’t just contain it. We really have to move towards cleaning it up.”

The first year of the project will consist of sampling from an existing network of monitoring wells throughout the community.

The first report is expected to be available in mid-2018.

Environmental monitoring determined in the early 1990s that contamination had migrated under the Bow River into the neighbourhood of West Hillhurst.

A containment wall was put in place between 1995 and 1996 to prevent further migration of creosote into the Bow River.