Webinar on Biodegradation of 1,4-Dioxane

A free webinar is scheduled for February 23rd on Biodegradation of 1,4-Dioxane: Bacteria, Pathways, Co-contaminant Effects and Monitoring Tools.  The speaker for the webinar is Dr. Shaily Mahendra, Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UCLA.

The webinar will be hosted by SiREM, a company that provides testing services and remediation products combined with technical support to the remediation of contaminated sites.  SiREM’s focus is the remediation of chlorinated solvents, metals, petroleum hydrocarbons and other recalcitrant contaminants in soil, sediment and groundwater.

The webinar will combine recent research and development activities for new and emerging contaminants and technologies with real word applications to characterize and remediate contaminated sites.  Specifically, the webinar will discuss the challenges with current remediation techniques for cleanup of 1,4-dioxane contaminated sites, a microbial culture which can grow using 1,4-dioxane as its only source of carbon and energy, and the role of monooxygenase enzymes in catalyzing 1,4-dioxane degradation.

The webinar will also include a discussion from Sandra Dworatzek (SiREM) who will provide an update on the work SiREM is doing to grow 1,4-dioxane microbial cultures, testing the microbial culture in laboratory microcosm studies and culture scale up for field applications.

To register for the free webinar, visit SiREM’s website.

The State of Green Business in 2017

According to the 2017 State of Green Business Report authored by GreenBiz Group Inc., companies continue to ratchet up their commitments and achievements on renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable supply chains, water and land stewardship, the circular economy and other aspects of a sustainable enterprise.  Technology continued its inexorable march, accelerating sustainability solutions in energy, buildings, transportation, food and just about everywhere else.

However, the report also states that indicators continue to be troubling including global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and the loss of natural capital.  The report further states that the recent U.S. election brings into question the future of future climate action and environmental protection.

The report predicts that the coming year or two in the U.S. may see head-snapping policy shifts as the public and private sector grapple with two seemingly unstoppable forces: the political momentum of an increasingly nationalist and protectionist world, and the wrath of a changing climate on a civilization ill-prepared to cope.

On the brighter side, the report states that corporate innovation, boosted by technology’s rampant pace, is enabling radical new levels of efficiency in materials, energy, water and other resources.  The Internet of Things — the interconnected world of tens of billions of objects that can talk to one another, and to us, and make real-time optimization decisions — is enabling buildings, vehicles, power grids, factories and many other things to do far more with fewer resources.  Cities and regions are accelerating their quest to become greener and more resilient, luring corporations to relocate there amid transit hubs and culture centers.

 

Best Practices for Environmental Site Management

The U.S. EPA recently issued an Issue Paper entitled Best Practices for Environmental Site Management: Recommended Contents of a Groundwater Monitoring Report(U.S. EPA 542-F-16-005).

The purpose of the issue paper is to recommend information to include in groundwater monitoring reports that will lead to improved report consistency and a useful, readable format. Incorporation of the recommended information will standardize groundwater monitoring report deliverables, which may in turn inform site characterization strategies, analysis of remedial alternatives, monitoring network optimization, remedy performance evaluation, continual refinement of the conceptual site model (CSM), and technical evaluation of groundwater data in five-year reviews.

 

$350M Spent on Planning the Remediation of a Yukon Mine

According to a recent article in the National Post, over $350 million has been spent to clean up an abandoned mine in the Yukon with no actual work being done at the site.  The Treasury Board of Canada’s annual report revealed that no actual remediation has occurred at the Faro Mine in Yukon over the past decade although considerable sums of money have been spent on studying and planning.

Classified as one of Canada’s largest contaminated site, the Faro Mine covers 2,500 hectares (6,200 acres).  The mine is located 15 kilometres (9 miles) north of the Town of Faro in Yukon Territory. The mine operated from 1969 to 1998, when its last operator declared bankruptcy and abandoned the site.

The mine site has approximately 70 million tonnes of tailings and 320 million tonnes of waste rock that require remediation to protect human health, as well as the local land, water and wildlife.

The remediation of the Faro mine site is being led by the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon.  This includes representatives from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada’s Northern Contaminated Sites Program and from the Assessment and Abandoned Mines branch of the Government of Yukon’s Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.

The financial responsibility for the site resides with the Government of Canada who provides funding for care and maintenance operations and remediation planning through the Federal Contaminated Sites Program.

“The biggest problem has been figuring out what to do,” said Lou Spagnuolo, the Vancouver-based Faro mine remediation project director for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), which has the lead on the mine clean-up, and is also working with the Yukon government and affected First Nations communities.

Between 2003 and 2009, more than 100 technical studies and assessments were undertaken, and 12 plans created to deal with various levels of government and affected communities.  A remediation plan was supposed to be in place by 2011.

In 2009, remediating the site was projected to take another 40 years and cost $450 million, according to a statement made at the time by a committee of senior officials from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (as it was known at the time), the Yukon Government, Selkirk First and Ross River Dena Council.

Parsons Corp., a California-based engineering and construction giant, recently won a $58-million contract to provide care and maintenance at the Faro mine site over the next four years.  Before Parsons, Denison Mines Inc. had the contract for $32 million.

These numbers are out of whack with the Treasury Board of Canada annual reports, which indicate that since 2005, just over $29 million has been spent on care and maintenance at the Faro mine, while more than $241 million has been spent on remediation.

The Yukon Conservation Society, a local environmental non-profit, is calling for an audit of Faro mine spending.  “Canadian taxpayers have already spent more than a quarter-billion dollars, and nothing has happened,” said Lewis Rifkind, the organization’s mining analyst.  “There hasn’t been any remediation or results on the ground.  We have no idea where the money has gone, and they’re still issuing contracts like crazy,” he added.

Spagnuolo, the Faro mine remediation project director, estimates that $150 million has been spent on care and maintenance at Faro.  Annual monitoring, regulatory compliance and site assessments, which are not included in care and maintenance contracts, have cost another $60 million, he said. Addressing problems at the deteriorating site, including installing a new water treatment system and covering a section of waste rock that was releasing contaminates, have cost an additional $60 million.  The remaining $80 million went to “overhead,” said Spagnuolo, including First Nation consultations and government salaries.

Consulting costs of the Faro mine remediation include the $82 million paid to CH2M Hill since 2011, according to the Yukon government’s contract registry.

The current timeframe for a remediation plan is 2018.  It is anticipated that the plan will include re-sloping the waste rock piles, installing engineered soil covers over the tailings and waste rock, and upgrading the contaminated water collection and treatment system.

If the plan is approved and the federal government agrees to foot the bill, actual remediation activities are expected to begin in 2024 and take about 40 years to complete.

Image source: Beste Forbrukslån

Site of New Ottawa Hospital on Contaminated Land

Recent documents released by Public Services and Procurement Canada shows that the site proposed for a new hospital in Ottawa has groundwater contamination.

In 2014, the Sir John Carling Building was demolished in Ottawa to pave way for a new hospital.  Reports recently made public show that the groundwater at the site is contaminated and the cost of clean-up could be substantial.

Phenol contamination in the groundwater found at the site in 2014, shortly after the Sir John Carling Building was demolished, is suspected to be from the explosives used demolishing the building.

Management and control of the contamination at the site is currently the responsibility of Public Works Canada.  An environmental protection compliance order (EPCO) issued by Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC) requires that Public Works Canada monitor the groundwater and ensure no contamination migrates off-site.

An EPCO is one of the tools under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999” (CEPA 1999) that allows enforcement officers from ECCC to handle offences without using the court system.  Its purpose is to restore an offender to compliance with the CEPA 1999 as quickly as possible.  EPCOs may be issued to prevent a violation from occurring; stop or correct a violation that is occurring or continues to occur; and correct an omission where conduct is required by CEPA 1999 or one of its regulations, but is not occurring.

One of the concerns expressed with respect to the need to clean-up the site is that the monies used will take away design, construction, and operating costs associated with the hospital.

 

Grandfather of In-Situ Bioremediation Passes

Mr. Richard Raymond, acknowledged by the US EPA as the “grandfather of in-situ bioremediation” in the United States recently passed away.

During the early 1970’s, while employed by the Sun Oil Company, he developed the microbial and field techniques that are now universally known as the “Raymond Process” for the cleanup of groundwater contaminated with petroleum and petroleum products, a great alternative to the endless and extensive process of “pump and treat.”  His 1974 patent for “Reclamation of Hydrocarbon Contaminated Groundwater” provided the basis for the development of the groundwater bioremediation industry that is now a worldwide business.  His 1984 patent, “Stimulation of Bio-oxidation Processes in Subterranean Formations,” developed the use of hydrogen peroxide to overcome limitations in the existing methods for mass transfer of oxygen to groundwater.

Countless books and research articles acknowledge Raymond’s seminal contributions as the inventor of process technology for the in-situ bioremediation of contaminated groundwater.  While at Sun Oil Co., Mr. Raymond directed a group of microbiology specialists, and early research activities greatly expanded the scope of biological hydrocarbon oxidations.

Mr. Raymond has received numerous awards for his research over the years including the Society of Industrial Microbiologists Charles Porter Award.  He also served on numerous committees including the API Groundwater Task Force, peer review panel of the Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Laboratory, and the USEPA Valdez Oil Spill Panel.

He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Microbiology from the University of Illinois-Champaign in 1947 and 1951, respectively.  His college studies were interrupted by World War II, when he served as a B-17 navigator in the European theater.  After graduation, he worked for Socony Mobil Oil Co. and Sun Oil Co. as a Research Microbiologist.  After retiring from Sun Oil Co. in 1982, he founded the first in-situ bioremediation company (Biosystems, Inc.) in the US. The company was later purchased by the DuPont Company and became DuPont Environmental Remediation Services (DERS).

May this legend in our bioremediation industry, “Rest In Peace”.  Our thoughts and prayers are extended to his family.

Supreme Court Decision on British Columbia Landfill

As reported by CTV, a British Columbia Supreme Court judge has ordered the contaminate soil landfill above Shawnigan Lake to stop accepting any contaminated soil.

In the recent decision, the British Columbia (B.C.) Supreme Court justice set aside an earlier decision by the B.C. Environmental Appeal Board, reinstating the stay of the permit that allows Cobble Hill Holdings to accept contaminated soil.

In his judgement, Justice Robert Sewell found that the engineering company, Active Earth, hired to independently access the project, acted improperly.  The judge found that the financial relationship between Active Earth Engineering, the company that did the environmental assessment of the site, and Cobble Hill Holdings, the owner, was concealed from the appeal board.  

He also found that the conflict of interest inherent in that relationship was also concealed.  Active Earth Engineering, in fact, was interested in partnering with Cobble Hill Holdings on the landfill project.

In his ruling, the judge stated, “I am satisfied that the Environmental Appeal Board was misled on this point.  Cobble Hill Holdings filed misleading evidence in this court.  The Technical Assessment Report was prepared by persons who were biased in favour of approving the project.”

The B.C. The Ministry of Environment stated that no contaminated will be received at the landfill until further notice and there’s no decision on the permit.

Cobble Hill Holdings’ and South Island Aggregates’, the owners and operators of the landfill, issued a statement that they look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate the environment remains protected.

$1 billion Lawsuit for Contamination from Love Canal

The Town of Wheatfield, New York, just east of Niagara Falls, is being sued by current and former residents who claim that contaminants from the old Niagara Sanitation landfill impact their adjacent properties.

There are 16 notices of claim that make up the lawsuit and more are expected.  Each notice is for $60 million in damages.  According to the filing notice, the plaintiffs have 15 months to file a formal lawsuit.

The claim made by the plaintiffs, all current or former residents of Forbes Street in North Tonawanda, claim that their poor health is a result of chemicals migrating from the old Niagara Sanitation Landfill in the Town of Wheatfield.  The residents claim that they are experiencing headaches, nausea, respiratory issues and nervous system disorders

The site has been reclassified in recent years by the NYDEC to a Class 2 site on the New York State Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Sites.  The reclassification of the site by the NYDEC was due to recently characterized elevated surface soil concentrations identified in several locations and the presence of hazardous waste in the subsurface.

In a December 21st 2015 Public Notice, the NYDEC stated “The landfill does not have a Part 360 cap or access restrictions.  Both conditions indicate a concern for potential exposures to people who enter the site.  This exposure concern has been documented as people are using the landfill as a jogging and play area.  Dirt bike trails are evident throughout the site and use of such has resulted in landfill materials to become exposed at the surface.  Therefore, the site represents a significant threat to the environment and public health.”

According to a March 2016 Information Update by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC), there is not off-site migration of contaminants.  The March 2016 Information Update states “Surface water is confined to the landfill in ponded areas and does not run off the site.  No significant off-site contamination is anticipated due to a naturally existing clay layer beneath and around the landfill which limits the migration of contaminants from the landfill.”

The old Niagara Sanitation Landfill is a former municipal and industrial landfill that accepted waste from multiple sites, including Niagara Falls Air Force Base, Bell Aerospace, Carborundum, Frontier Chemical, Graphite Specialties, Continental Can, and Grief Brothers.  Contaminants at the landfill site include metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides, caustics, and plating tank sludge.

The old Niagara Sanitation Landfill operated from the 1950’s to 1968.  The former owner of the site, Niagara Sanitation, accepted chemical and industrial waste including material from the infamous Love Canal which is only 10 km (6 miles) west.

Love Canal is characterized on the US EPA website as one of the most appalling environmental tragedies in American history.  An abandoned canal was used as a hazardous waste disposal site starting in the 1920’s until the early 1950’s by the Hooker Chemical Company.  In 1978 the dump literally exploded.

The Love Canal waste that had been deposited in the old Niagara Sanitation Landfill was removed in 2014 and 2015.  It was to be transported to the hazardous waste incinerator in Sarnia, Ontario for destruction but political outcry in Canada resulted in it being transported by rail to the hazardous waste incinerator in Kimball, Nebraska.

According to a news article in the Buffalo News, the residents along Forbes Street that are suing the Town of Wheatfield paid for their own private environmental investigation and found that contamination from the landfill had migrated onto their properties.

The Town of Wheatfield is currently in the process of fencing off the 20.8-acres landfill site and the NYDEC is in the process of continuing its investigation on the extent of contamination at the landfill and preparing a clean-up plan for the site to be completed in 2019.

Environmental Health and Safety Market Analysis

According to a market analysis report prepared by Grand View Research Inc., the global environmental health and safety market is expected to reach $96.18 billion (USD) by 2025.  The increasing number of regulations imposed by environmental protection and governmental agencies worldwide is expected to be one of the major factors driving demand during the forecast period.

The market analysis report breaks down the environmental health and safety market down by product (Software, Services), by Application (Medical & Pharmaceutical Waste Management, Industrial Waste Management, Waste Water Management), by end use, and segment forecasts.

Economic slowdown in several parts of the globe has led to significant corporate restructuring, plant closures, and mothballing.  These business decisions are, however, made taking into consideration the various environmental challenges posed by these decisions.  There is an increasing need for minimizing environmental liabilities and eliminating long-term risks.

These factors have led several agencies and governmental organizations to impose stringent compliance requirements across industries, with regards to ecological conservation, and safety and health of personnel.  This trend is mainly being witnessed in the North American region, followed by Asia Pacific.

There are various safety hazards in core industries such as energy & mining, construction, etc., which pose several challenges in the form of ecological contamination, injuries to personnel, and personnel deaths.  For instance, the oil & gas industry globally is faced with hazards such as explosions, fires, vehicle accidents, and caught-in or caught-between accidents caused by moving equipment, high-pressure lines, and falling equipment.

As a result of the aforementioned factors, companies across core industries such as chemicals, petrochemicals, energy & mining, construction, manufacturing, healthcare, and telecommunications are being increasingly pressurized to comply with the various regulations put forth by governmental agencies to ensure environmental and worker health and safety.

 Further key findings from the report suggest

·       The industrial application segment accounted for over 55% of the overall market revenue in 2015, owing to the growing compliance requirements in key industries such as oil & gas, construction, manufacturing, and chemicals;

·       The demand for the service in energy & mining is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 8% from 2016 to 2025, owing to high regulatory compliance pertaining to work place safety in the industry;

·       The U.S. is the largest market for EHS as of 2015, and is expected to continue its dominance through the forecast period, projected to grow at a CAGR of over 8.5% from 2016 to 2025;

·       The growth of the oil & gas industry in the country, along with the rapid recovery of the construction and manufacturing industries, is expected to increase the demand for EHS solutions in the U.S. during the forecast period; and

·       Key participants in the industry, such as HS&E Group, AECOM, EHS Data Ltd., and RPS Group are focusing on satisfying stakeholder expectations, preservation on brand value, and efficient EHS compliance, thereby moving towards centralized EHS management models

MPs Vote to Continue Marathon Talkfest as “Strategy” for Disposal of Mercury in CFLs

March 12, 2017 by Kathleen Cooper, Canadian Environmental Law Association

When I was about seven years old I recall my mother getting very upset upon breaking a thermometer.  On her knees and chasing shiny globules of mercury across the kitchen floor, she told me it was poison.  Suitably impressed I did not forget.  But, she put it in the trash unknowingly allowing the release of mercury vapour into our home until garbage day.

Over fifty years later, most Canadians do the same when a compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL) gets broken, or doesn’t work anymore.  The amount of mercury is a lot less than in the old thermometers but the health risk is the same.  Even for people who know CFLs contain mercury, many throw them in the trash unaware of the need for very careful disposal.

Health Canada, like many other public agencies, has long issued warnings and disposal advice about broken CFLs (remove people and pets, open windows and close all doors, leave the room and air it out for 10 to 15 minutes, turn off the forced air heat, don’t vacuum or sweep, wear rubber gloves, use sticky tape for small particles of glass and powder, wipe surfaces with damp paper or cloth and dispose of the cloth, seal all broken pieces in a glass jar and dispose of as hazardous waste).

The reaction to such advice can be stunned silence.  Likewise, people are often surprised that mercury is in these bulbs and creates a health risk when they are broken.  Despite more than ten years of educational work on this issue, it has largely failed to get the necessary attention.

Over the same time period a marathon talkfest has occurred among federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, and other affected stakeholders such as CFL retailers.  Reports, progress reports, and public outreach materials have documented the problem and urged a careful response.  Likewise, guidance documents have spelled out waste management strategies.  Retailers, with varying degrees of success and consistency have provided CFL take-back programs. Enterprising companies have established CFL recycling facilities.

What has not occurred is an effective or comprehensive strategy to recover the millions of CFLs sold in Canada.  Such sales are due in part to the action of Parliament in 2012 to mandate the elimination of incandescent bulbs.  Now being overtaken by newer and even more efficient LED technology, these millions of CFLs are nearing the end of their, albeit long lifespans.

Despite nearly ten years of talk and report writing there is an inconsistent and incomplete patchwork of slow and inadequate responses across Canada to the problem of CFL disposal.

Enter Canadian Federal Bill C-238, MP Daren Fisher’s proposal to establish a national strategy for CFL disposal.  Introduced during 2016 CELA was very supportive.  While private member’s bills rarely get passed this one did.  Unfortunately, it likely passed because it won’t do more than was already planned, that is, to keep the talkfest going.

During a single day of review last November, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development removed from the bill its most important aspect.

The bill had intended to establish national standards for the safe disposal of CFLs.  This provision was replaced with “the identification of practices for facilities involved in the safe disposal of such lamps….”  In other words more talking, probably more reports, needless delay, and no requirement to act.

Such CFL disposal practices are already well-studied.  Environment Canada described them in a guidance document published in 2015.  The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) has published similar guidance.  Nine years after the CCME committed to addressing this problem, the lack of action on such guidance results from a lack of political will or legal mandate to do so.

Measurable and effective action to protect the public, especially fetuses and children, from exposure to a very common source of mercury is long overdue.  There is only a small window of time to get this right – likely over the next five to ten years as these bulbs are phased out.  There is no room for further delay and inaction.

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About the Author

Kathleen Cooper is a Senior Researcher at the Canadian Environmental Law Association.  She has done environmental, health, and policy research for thirty years and joined the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) in 1987.  As Senior Researcher at CELA she provides casework support to environmental litigation files and has directed several law reform campaigns.

 

This article was first published on CELA’s website.