Bioremediation of long-term PCB-contaminated Soil

Researchers at the Academy of Sciences in the Czech Republic along with collaborators from other Universities in Europe recently released a paper that describes how white rot fungi was effective at reducing the level of PCB contamination in soil.

In addition to the efficiency in PCB removal, attention was given to other important parameters, such as changes in the toxicity and formation of PCB transformation products.  Moreover, structural shifts and dynamics of both bacterial and fungal communities were monitored using next-generation sequencing and phospholipid fatty acid analysis.

The best results were obtained with the fungus P. ostreatus, which resulted in PCB removals of 18.5, 41.3 and 50.5% from the bulk, top (surface) and rhizosphere, respectively, of dumpsite soils after 12 weeks of treatment.  Numerous transformation products were detected (hydoxylated and methoxylated PCBs, chlorobenzoates and chlorobenzyl alcohols), which indicates that both fungi were able to oxidize and decompose the aromatic moiety of PCBs in the soils.  Microbial community analysis revealed that P. ostreatus efficiently colonized the soil samples and suppressed other fungal genera.  However, the same fungus substantially stimulated bacterial taxa that encompass putative PCB degraders.

The researchers concluded that the results of their study finally demonstrated the feasibility of using this fungus for possible scaled-up bioremediation applications.

 

U.S. Company to pay $1.4M Penalty for improper hazardous waste disposal

The U.S. EPA recently issued a news release in that states that Innophos Holdings Inc.a phosphate plant in Louisiana, will pay a $1.4 million penalty for sending hazardous waste to a neighbouring plant that does not have a permit to store, treat, or dispose of hazardous waste.

The company, which is headquartered in New Jersey, issued a statement about the settlement with U.S. EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) which said that it deals with “a small number of manufacturing processes” at its Louisiana plant in the Community of Geismar.

As part of the Settlement, Innophos will pursue implementation of “Deep Well Injection” to manage its waste, a process approved by the U.S. EPA and the Louisiana DEQ by which Innophos would handle a separated co-product (referred to as “Raffinate”).  This solution allows the Company to continue its current phosphate production operation in Geismar, while satisfying the outstanding environmental concerns raised in 2008 by the U.S. EPA and the Louisiana DEQ.  The Settlement also confirms several proactive and voluntary improvements previously made to the Geismar facility to address these environmental concerns, further demonstrating the Company’s commitment to environmental stewardship at its facilities.

Kim Ann Mink, Chief Executive Officer of Innophos, commented, “We are committed to supporting our Phosphoric Acid customers’ needs and believe that the terms of this settlement position us to be able to do so by securing the long-term viability of our Geismar PPA plant.  We believe that the agreed upon solution addresses all environmental concerns with minimal effect on our business and operations.”

Innophos recently received a permit from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (“LDNR”) to begin construction of its Deep Well Injection System, which began in late 2016 and is expected to be completed by early 2018.  The Company estimates that the capital expenditure for the Deep Well Injection System will be $16 million.

Innophos is a producer of specialty ingredient solutions for the food, health, nutrition and industrial markets. Innophos has manufacturing operations across the United States, in Canada, Mexico and China.

New U.S. Requirements to Impact Hazardous Waste Generators in 2017

According to an Special Alert from the U.S. based law firm Manko, Gold, Katcher, Fox LLP (“MGKF”), the rules of the road applicable to facilities generating hazardous waste will change significantly in 2017 due to promulgation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“U.S. EPA”) of the final Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule, which was published in the Federal Register on November 28, 2016 (81 Fed. Reg. 85372).

The Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule represents the first major overhaul of the generator regulatory program, which has evolved piecemeal since the 1980s.  The U.S. EPA has reorganized the regulations to make them easier to navigate.

This rule finalizes a much-needed update to the hazardous waste generator regulations to make the rules easier to understand, facilitate better compliance, provide greater flexibility in how hazardous waste is managed, and close important gaps in the regulations.

Two key provisions where EPA is finalizing flexibility are:

  • Allowing a hazardous waste generator to avoid increased burden of a higher generator status when generating episodic waste provided the episodic waste is properly managed; and
  • Allowing very small quantity generator (VSQG) and small quantity generators to maintain their existing generator category subject to certain conditions despite an unusual “episodic” event that would otherwise bump the facility to a higher category.

In addition to finalizing key flexibilities, the rule enhances the safety of facilities, employees, and the general public by improving hazardous waste risk communication and ensuring that emergency management requirements meet today’s needs.  These changes impact areas such as making hazardous waste determinations, managing waste in satellite and central accumulation areas, labeling containers and tanks, and developing emergency planning and preparedness procedures.

In the enforcement context, the rule distinguishes between violations of “independent requirements” applicable to facilities simply by virtue of being generators, and failures to satisfy “conditions for exemption” that allow a facility to avoid obtaining a hazardous waste permit.  Facilities found to have neglected exemption conditions – many of which (like labeling a drum) appear relatively minor on their face – could experience significant consequences if deemed to be operating without a permit.

Further, the EPA is finalizing a number of clarifications without increasing burden including a reorganization of the hazardous waste generator regulations so that all of the generator regulations are in one place.

The rule becomes effective on May 30, 2017.  States authorized to implement the hazardous waste program will be required to adopt changes in the rule that are more stringent than the current federal program, and will have the option of adopting less stringent changes.

MGKF recommends facilities take time over the next few months to become familiar with the rule and be prepared to make any necessary adjustments before regulatory agencies begin enforcing the new requirements.

Canadian Government’s proposed Asbestos Regulations

The Canadian federal government recently introduced proposed Asbestos Regulations.  It also issued a Notice to manufacturers, importers, exporters, and users of asbestos and asbestos-containing products.

Under the proposed asbestos regulations, a prohibition would be placed on all future activities respecting asbestos and asbestos-containing products, including the manufacture, use, sale, offer for sale, import and export.

The Canadian federal Government Notice required industry to submit information on the manufacture, import, export, and use of asbestos and products that contain asbestos.  The information gathered will be used to inform the development of the proposed regulations and will ensure that future decision making is based on the best available information.

As a first step in the consultation process, interested parties were given the opportunity to submit comments on the approach set out.  Subsequently, interested parties will also be consulted in the spring of 2017, and additional information will be available on an asbestos information web page: Interested parties will have another opportunity to make written comments specific to the regulatory proposal during the mandatory consultation period that will follow the publication of the proposed regulations in December 2017.

Asbestos (Chemical Abstract Service Registry Number (CAS RN) 1332-21-4) is a commercial term given to six naturally occurring minerals that are incombustible and separable into filaments.

Historically, asbestos was mainly used for insulating buildings and homes against cold weather and noise. It was also used for fireproofing. While many uses have been phased out and alternatives are available, asbestos may still be found in products like:

  • cement and plaster
  • industrial furnaces and heating systems
  • building insulation
  • floor and ceiling tiles
  • house siding
  • car and truck brake pads
  • vehicle transmission components, such as clutches

The Government of Canada recognizes that breathing in asbestos fibres can cause cancer and other diseases, such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.

More information about the health impacts of asbestos can be found at Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center web site.

 

U.S. pipeline regulator issues rule to speed up notification time

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) recently issued a rule to improve pipeline operational safety, including a requirement for faster notification following a spill.

The rule says the operator must electronically or telephonically report notice of an accident or incident within one hour of confirmation, PHMSA said in a statement.

There have been growing concerns regarding the safety of pipelines transporting hazardous liquids, after activists spent months protesting plans to route the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, saying the project poses a threat to water resources and sacred Native American sites.

PHMSA’s rule also includes provisions for operator qualification, cost recovery and other pipeline safety changes and will become effective 60 days from the date of its publication in the Federal Register. It is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 23, 2017.

PHMSA said the rule also amends drug and alcohol testing requirements.  It now requires drug testing of employees after an accident and will allow exemption only when there is sufficient information that establishes the employees had no role in the accident.

The proposed changes come after incidents such as in 2010 when an Enbridge Energy Partners pipeline spill near Michigan’s Kalamazoo River leaked crude oil for about 17 hours before it was confirmed by control room operators.

Pipeline leak detection systems typically relay information to a control room, where trained operators are often required to distinguish between false alarms and real leaks.

Ontario Government to handle contaminated land at Stelco

As recently reported in the Hamilton Spectator, the Ontario Government stated it will assume the environmental legacy issues associated with contamination at the Stelco property in the north end of Hamilton.  The reason for the decision by the Ontario Government is to make it easier for the sale of the company and keep steelworker jobs.

U.S. Steel Canada (Stelco) is the current owner of the steelworks and is in negotiations to sell the company to Bedrock Industries, an American investment fund.  As part of the sale-purchase agreement, Bedrock Industries was reportedly willing to put forward $80 million in a one-time payment that would partially fund the clean-up.

The environmental clean-up costs at the Stelco property is unknown but could be astronomical.  As a point of reference, the Canadian and Nova Scotia governments committed $400 million in 2007 to clean-up contamination from the steel plant in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

The commitment by the Province of Ontario to backstop the future environmental clean-up costs in order to aid in the sale of a company is a first in the Province.  The reasoning behind the decision is that it makes the Stelco and the lands it sits on a potentially valuable investment.  Any costs bore by the Province in clean-up would be balanced by the taxes and other benefits accrued with the infusion of new ownership in Stelco and redevelopment of unused lands at the property.

As reported in the Hamilton Spectator, the land deal would work like this:

  • All 325 hectares of Stelco property off Wilcox Street would be turned into a land trust administered by the province, union representatives and probably other parties such as the city and the Hamilton Port Authority.
  • The land trust then would lease 120 hectares back to Stelco. The company would then be able to operate without fear of costs associated with the contaminated ground it is operating on.
  • The remaining 200 hectares or so would then be remediated to an industrial use standard with the contribution from Bedrock and potentially other funds. That land would then be sold or leased.
  • Profits from the sale or lease would then be used to assist in shoring up pension funds for Stelco workers as well as to help finance benefits to pensioners.

The land proposal is part of a larger deal that as part of U.S. Steel’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) proceedings that have been continuing for two years.  CCAA has been compared proceedings under “Chapter 11” of the “Bankruptsy Code” in the United States.  If successful, Stelco will emerge from creditors’ protection under Bedrock ownership with a new lease on life.

Training Requirements in Ontario – Waste Transport Vehicles

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) recently updated the Guideline for Training Requirements for Drivers of Waste Transportation Vehicles (Guideline C-12, PIBS 7914e01).  The driver training guidelines are applicable for drivers who transport municipal waste, liquid industrial waste or hazardous waste.

Ontario’s General – Waste Regulation (Ontario Regulation 347) under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act ensures that wastes are effectively managed from the point of their generation to where they are ultimately processed or disposed of.  To provide this necessary control, the regulation includes definitions for different waste types and detailed requirements for a range of waste management activities.  The updated guideline deals with one of the major responsibilities for the transportation of municipal waste, liquid industrial waste or hazardous waste: driver training.

The Guidelines outline the major areas that drivers of vehicles used for the transportation of municipal waste, liquid industrial waste or hazardous waste need to be trained on which includes:

  • The operation of the vehicle and waste management equipment,
  • Relevant waste management legislation, regulations and guidelines,
  • Major environmental concerns for the waste to be handled,
  • Occupational health and safety concerns for the waste to be handled, and
  • Emergency management procedures.

For more information on driver training requirements, contact the John Nicholson, the editor of Hazmat Management Magazine.

Major Fine for Oil Spill in Alberta

As reported in the Edmonton Sun, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) recently fined Murphy Oil Company, based in Calgary, with environmental fine as a result of an incident in which oil spilled from an oil pipeline in 2015 near the Peace River.

AER issued a $172,500 administrative penalty to Murphy Oil Company after in concluded that an undetected spill about 490 km northwest of Edmonton released 1,429 cubic metres, or 1,429,000 litres, of condensate into the environment from approximately January 15 to March 1, 2015.

An AER investigation found that Murphy Oil failed to take reasonable action to ensure the leak detection system on the pipeline was capable of detecting early leaks, failed to evaluate operating or discontinued pipelines, failed to report the release of condensate, and failed to clean the spill, which caused damage to public lands, including soil, and a water body.

The company has been found in breach of a number of provincial legislation’s, including the Public Lands Act and the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.

The pipeline has since been repaired as Murphy Oil continues to clean the impacted area.

 

Emergency Response Training Exercises Conducted in Quebec

As reported by Canadian Underwriter, Transport Canada (TC) and Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) recently conducted a field exercise designed to improve Canada’s response capabilities in the event of an incident involving a train carrying flammable liquids, such as crude oil.

TC and DRDC, an agency of the Department of National Defence, conducted Exercise Athéna on Feb. 25 and 26 in Lévis, Que.  The exercise provided a “unique forum for petroleum and railway industry experts and the first response community to improve effectiveness when responding to incidents involving a train carrying flammable liquids,” a TC backgrounder explained.

On the first day, first responders attended in-class and field training where they learned about the Emergency Response Assistance Plan program and resources available from industry and TC.  They also received information on the appropriate practices, strategies and tools to use when responding to a train derailment, including how to conduct a comprehensive site assessment; how to identify railcars that can carry hazardous material and dangerous goods placards (i.e. labels that appear on the side of train tankers which identify the hazardous substance or flammable liquid that is being transported); and an overview of basic railway operations during an incident, and specialized industry response strategies and tactics.

On the second day, first responders were able to practice the skills and knowledge they received on the first day by participating in an exercise comprised of three rotations, with “industry instructors” providing guidance at each of the stations.  The stations involved either a virtual reality application or a real life scenario.

In particular, in the first scenario, participants faced a simulated train derailment.  Using tablets, they had to conduct a comprehensive site assessment, including the following aspects: identifying the type of railcar based on its physical features and using the markings to identify the contents; making a preliminary damage assessment from a safe distance; and developing a risk assessment that takes into account the risk to life, health, property and the environment.

In the second scenario, participants were faced with an actual fire using a replicated railcar prop. Participants were tested for the appropriate response strategies, techniques and procedures to use when dealing with this type of fire.

The third scenario consisted of a combination of three interactive activities related to the government’s Emergency Response Guidebook 2016, gas detection and air monitoring methods and exposing responders to the different types of industry response equipment.

The event will build on those from Exercise Vulcan in March in Maple Ridge, B.C.  The most recent exercise is one activity supported by the Government of Canada to improve response capabilities following the 2013 train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Que.

The project is led by Transport Canada and funded through the Canadian Safety and Security Program, a federally-funded program led by DRDC’s Centre for Security Science, in partnership with Public Safety Canada.

Partners in the exercise included: first responders from rural Quebec, Association des chefs en sécurité incendie du Québec, École nationale des pompiers du Québec, l’Institut maritime du Québec, International Safety Research, Suncor Energy, CN Rail, CP Rail, Railway Association of Canada, Genesee and Wyoming Canada Inc., Emergency Response Assistance Canada, MD-UN, GHD Canada, Williams Fire and Hazard Control, Inc.

Environmental Fine for Dry Cleaner in Mississauga, Ontario

The owner of a dry cleaning establishment in Mississauga, Ontario recently plead guilty in the Ontario Court of Justice to one count of contravening the Tetrachloroethylene (Use in Dry Cleaning and Reporting Requirements) Regulations made pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

 

 

An inspection of the dry-cleaning facility, conducted in January 2016 by enforcement officers from Environment Canada and Climate Change, revealed that a container, in which a residue containing tetrachloroethylene was found, did not have a secondary containment system, which is in contravention of the Tetrachloroethylene (Use in Dry Cleaning and Reporting Requirements) Regulations.

The owner, Mr. Samy Iskander, was fined $5,000, which will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund.

Tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene or PERC, is a chemical used in Canadian dry cleaning.  Tetrachloroethylene can enter the environment through the soil, where it can damage plants, and it can find its way into ground water.

On March 29, 2000, tetrachloroethylene was added to “Schedule 1: List of Toxic Substances” of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.  According to section 64 of the Act, a substance is classified as toxic if it may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or if it may constitute a danger, in Canada, to human life or health.

Environment Canada warns that human exposure to high concentrations of PERC can inflict a host of health issues, including eye irritation, memory loss and even liver and kidney damage.  The department says PERC primarily enters the environment through the atmosphere, where it can damage plants, but it can also find its way into water systems, putting aquatic creatures at risk.

Between 2005-06 and 2008-09, Environment Canada conducted more inspections for PERC than anything else. The substance remains legal in Canada, but users must follow regulations and keep machines in good condition.