Brownfields Road Map (U.S. EPA, 2018)

Prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Office of Land and Emergency Management, The Brownfields Road Map 6th Edition breaks down Brownfields site investigation and cleanup into an easy to understand, step-by-step process that provides valuable and up-to-date information to a wide range of Brownfields stakeholders involved in or affected by the redevelopment of Brownfields sites. It introduces readers to a range of considerations and activities, and provides links to online technical resources and tools.

The first edition of the Road Map, published in 1997, provided a broad overview of the U.S. EPA Brownfields Program and an outline of the steps involved in the cleanup of a Brownfields site. Designed primarily for stakeholders who were unfamiliar with the elements of cleaning up a Brownfields site, the Road Map built awareness of the advantages offered by innovative technologies. As the EPA Brownfields Program
matured, the second (1999), third (2001), and fourth (2005) editions were published to update information and resources associated with the program, innovative technologies, and emerging best practices. The fifth edition, published in 2012, streamlined the publication to make it more accessible to users, providing additional resources covering new technology applications and methods.

This edition builds off the streamlined approach of the fifth edition, providing updated content and guidance on the Brownfields remediation process. New features include an updated list of “Spotlights,” highlighting and describing key issues. This edition provides updated information on Brownfields funding and best management practices (BMPs), with guidance on how to incorporate greener cleanups and new standards into the cleanup process.

This edition of the Road Map will help:

  • New and less experienced stakeholders. The Road Map will help these users learn about the technical aspects of Brownfields by introducing general concepts and methods for site investigation and cleanup.
  • Decision-makers who are familiar with the EPA Brownfields Program but are also interested in obtaining more detailed information. The Road Map provides these users with up-to-date information about the applicability of technologies and access to the latest resources that can assist them in making technology decisions. In addition, it highlights BMPs that have emerged in recent years.
  • Community members. The Road Map helps to encourage community members to participate in the decision making process by providing information about the general site cleanup process and tools and alternatives to site cleanup, as well as guidelines and mechanisms to promote community involvement.
  • Tribal leaders. The Road Map offers information on technical and financial assistance specific to tribes for implementing cleanup and restoration activities on tribal lands, as well as successful remediation examples highlighting the potential community restoration opportunities associated with Section 128(a) Response Program funding.
  • Stakeholders who hire or oversee site cleanup professionals. The Road Map includes information to help stakeholders coordinate with many different cleanup practitioners, such as environmental professionals, cleanup service providers, technology vendors or staff of analytical laboratories. The Road Map provides these stakeholders with a detailed understanding of each phase in a typical Brownfields site cleanup and presents information about the roles that environmental practitioners play in the process.
  • Regulators. The Road Map will increase the understanding by regulatory personnel of site characterization and cleanup technologies and approaches. The Road Map also serves as a resource that regulators can use to provide site owners, service providers and other stakeholders with useful information about the EPA Brownfields Program. The Road Map also provides links and pointers to additional information on specific technologies, approaches, and issues.
  • Other potential Brownfields stakeholders. The Road Map helps other stakeholders, such as financial institutions and insurance agencies, by providing information for their use in assessing and minimizing financial risks associated with Brownfields redevelopment.

The Road Map draws on the EPA’s experiences with Brownfields sites, as well as Superfund sites, corrective action sites under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and underground storage tank (UST) sites to provide technical information useful to Brownfield stakeholders. Specific conditions—such as the nature and extent of contamination, the proposed reuses of the property, the financial resources available, and the level of support from neighboring communities—vary from site to site. Readers of the Road Map are encouraged to explore opportunities to use the BMPs described in the following pages in accordance with applicable regulatory program requirements. The use of BMPs and site characterization and cleanup technologies may require site specific decisions to be made with input from state, tribal, and/or local regulators and other oversight bodies.

 

First ship launched of Trans Mountain spill response fleet

As reported by jwnenergy.com, the first of 43 new spill response vessels being built to support the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion was launched recently in Prince Rupert, B.C.

The 26-foot Sentinel 30 workboat and landing craft was built for Western Canada Marine Response Corp. (WCMRC).  WCMRC is the Transport Canada-certified marine spill response organization for Canada’s West Coast. Its mandate under the Canada Shipping Act is to be prepared to respond to marine oil spills along all 27,000 km of British Columbia’s coastline, and to mitigate the impact when a spill occurs. This includes the protection of wildlife, economic and environmental sensitivities, and the safety of both the responders and the public.

The Sentinel 30 Spill Response Vessel built by WCMRC

The spill response vessels are part of an investment of $150 million committed after Kinder Morgan made its final investment decision on the pipeline in June 2017, British Columbia’s largest-ever expansion of spill response personnel and equipment.

“Workboats are the backbone of a response. These support vessels deliver equipment and personnel to a response, tow boom as part of a sweep system, deploy skimmers and can assist with waste removal,” WCMRC said in a statement.

“To perform these tasks, the new Sentinel 30 is powered by twin 150 HP counter-rotating Yamaha outboards and can travel at up to 35 knots.”

The Sentinel 30 will undergo spill response trials in Prince Rupert and ultimately be transitioned to the new 24/7 response base in Saanich on Vancouver Island.

In total, WCMRC is building 40 new vessels as part of the Trans Mountain pipeline spill response fleet. Other new vessel builds underway at WCMRC shipyard include purpose-built skimming vesselsCoastal Response Vesselslanding craft and response barges.

The Trans Mountain spill response enhancements also include six new response bases and about 135 new personnel. These new resources will be located along shipping lanes in the Salish Sea, with about 70 of the new WCMRC employees and most new vessels located at bases on Vancouver Island, according to Kinder Morgan.  Following the enhancements, there will be over 80 vessels in the fleet.

All new personnel, facilities and equipment will be in place several months before the first oil tankers associated with the expansion begin calling at Burnaby’s Westridge Marine Terminal in Burrard Inlet, the company said when the enhancements were announced last June.

Canadian DND searching possible contaminated sites for buried Agent Orange stocks

As reported by the CBC, the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) has identified up to six known contamination sites at a New Brunswick military base as it works to determine whether the cancer-causing defoliant Agent Orange was buried surreptitiously there decades ago.

Agent Orange is an herbicide and defoliant chemical. It is widely known for its use by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. It is a mixture of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. In addition to its damaging environmental effects, the chemical has caused major health problems for many individuals who were exposed.

Officials at the department’s Directorate of Contaminated Sites presented a map showing the various locations to a former military police officer and a retired civilian employee of Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, N.B. — both of whom say they witnessed chemical drums being buried on the base in separate incidents over 30 years ago.

Past Use of Agent Orange at CFB Gagetown

Agent Orange had been used on the base in the past.  In 2010, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, the Canadian Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture) at the time, announced that the Government of Canada was extending the one-time, tax-free ex gratia payment of $20,000 related to the testing of unregistered U.S. military herbicides, including Agent Orange, at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Gagetown in 1966 and 1967.

For three days in June 1966 and four days in June 1967, Agent Orange, Agent Purple and other unregistered herbicides were tested at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Gagetown in cooperation with the U.S. military to evaluate their effectiveness. These are the only known instances that these military test chemicals were used at CFB Gagetown. Agent Orange, Agent Purple and other unregistered herbicides are not used at the base today. The base uses only federally regulated herbicides for brush control during its annual vegetation management program.

Claims 

The claims by retired sergeant Al White and Robert Wilcox, who worked at the training base in the 1970s and 1980s, were first reported by CBC News last month.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan promised an investigation and officials are now trying to cross-reference the eyewitness accounts with existing records. The maps are meant to jog the memories of the two men, and to find out whether their claims involve existing dumps or unreported ones.

A massive asbestos dump

The list of contaminated sites is extraordinary. It shows, among other things, more than 3,900 barrels of asbestos waste buried in the same area as the suspected chemical dump.

Officials have offered to escort White onto the base so he can point out the area where he believes Agent Orange was buried. They and White have yet to agree on a date for the visit.

“Pointing on a map isn’t going to work … obviously it has to be a face-to-face opportunity,” White said in an interview.

A spokesman for the defence department confirmed an invitation had been extended but downplayed the significance, saying officials were “simply conducting discussions … in order to gain further insight into their claims.”

The visit would be closed to the media, said department spokesman Dan Lebouthillier in an email.

White said none of the locations pointed out thus far by defence officials match his recollection of the location.

“I say that with clarity,” he said.

The burial, he claimed, involved over 40 barrels stacked on a flatbed truck. It took place early in the morning in the late spring of 1985 and happened in what he described as a disturbing, clandestine manner that has troubled him ever since.

Map showing the Use of Herbicides at CFB Gagetown from 1952 to Present Day

White said he didn’t believe it was his place to come forward until he lost three friends — all former Gagetown soldiers — to cancer.

Wayne Dwernychuk, an expert who spent over 15 years studying Agent Orange contamination and its effects on combatants during the war in Vietnam, said it’s good the federal government is trying to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Once White points out the area, he said, ground scanning technology can quickly and accurately assess what might be underground.

“They should initiate some sort of ground penetrating radar,” he said. “If something turns up, I believe they should follow through with some deep core sampling to determine the extent of the contamination.”

One of the sites listed by National Defence was a chemical dump that has since been excavated — something Wilcox, the second witness, claims to have seen.

Another location is where the military claims to have disposed of rinsed, empty chemical drums.

The main refuse site — known as the Shirley Road dump — “may also [have] accepted drums,” according to a department statement. There was a separate place for dumping ash from burning coal.

During the investigation 14 years ago into the spraying of Agent Orange at the base in the 1960s, officials looked at a fifth location near a tank firing range, but claimed nothing was buried at that spot.

The sixth possible location involves the dumping of asbestos. Federal environment officials have acknowledged in the past that the fire-resistant insulation, ripped out of 15 nearby federal buildings in 1980s, was present at the base, but have never acknowledged the enormous quantity of it.

The waste asbestos was all wrapped and stuffed into metal barrels.

Five years ago, the federal government’s annual report on contaminated sites pointed to the same locations on the base and said assessment on further remediation was under consideration.

The risks of remediation

The same report noted the unique challenges such a clean-up would involve.

“The waste materials might contain ordnance, presenting an unacceptable safety risk to a remediation team,” said the 2013 review.

The report said tests of the wetland adjacent to the contaminated sites did not show chemical concentrations that would be of concern.

Lebouthillier said the locations are “capped” — meaning there’s a barrier between contaminated and uncontaminated soil — managed and monitored “according to federal environmental regulations and guidelines.”

Agent Orange used during the Vietnam war has left that country’s the soil contaminated and compromised.  Many Vietnamese have life-long health problems as a result to exposure to Agent Orange.  The United States has provided almost $42 million since 2007 toward the effort to clean up the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Past Investigations in Canada

In 2006, Golder Associates Ltd. (Golder) was retained by Public Works and Government Services Canada on a series of contracts on behalf of the Department of National Defence (DND) to research, organise and analyse all available information concerning the herbicides used at each Canadian Forces (CF) site across Canada. An objective of this undertaking was to confirm whether tactical herbicides such as Agent Orange and Agent Purple tested in 1966 and 1967 at CFB Gagetown were ever tested at other current and former CF Bases, Stations or Wings.

Golder’s review of the information has found no evidence of spray applications of the tactical herbicides Agent Orange or Agent Purple at any Bases, Stations or Wings aside from CFB Gagetown. Records do indicate that the non-tactical and commercially available herbicides 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D were potentially concurrently used, stored or disposed at each of Carp (Ontario), CFB Chatham and CFB Gagetown (New Brunswick), CFB Borden (Ontario) and another unidentified site.

As such, evidence to-date is to the effect that Agent Orange and Agent Purple were only applied at CFB Gagetown.

Soldiers detect Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and defoliant Agent Orange in Vietnam’s central Da Nang City.

Canada makes a significant coastal restoration fund investment

The Government of Canada recently announced funding for projects under its Ocean Protection Plan.  The financial contribution by the government is $7 million over 5 years for projects to help restore coastal habitats in Nova Scotia and the Arctic.

Four organizations will receive together over $7 million over 5 years for projects to help restore coastal habitats in Nova Scotia and in the Arctic.

The Clean Foundation is receiving $2,408,947 in project funding towards restoring tidal wetlands in the Northumberland Strait area of Nova Scotia and building community capacity to identify, protect, and rehabilitate this habitat. To do this, the Clean Foundation will: 1) identify, restore and monitor tidal wetland sites in the various areas of the Northumberland Strait, and; 2) work wit

Bay of Fundy

h multi-sectoral partners, including Indigenous organizations and communities to engage, educate and build capacity to protect and restore this important habitat.

Saint Mary’s University, Department of Geography & Environmental Studies is receiving $1,830,594 in project funding towards restoring tidal wetland habitat through the realignment of dyke infrastructure at several sites bordering the Bay of Fundy. It will include building regional capacity for effective scientific, technical and procedural components of managed realignment and marshland restoration projects that can be applied to future sites throughout Atlantic region.

The Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council is receiving $1,259,304 in project funding towards identifying areas for rehabilitation and developing a restoration plan focused on addressing habitat restoration and impediments to fish passage, such as improving the efficiency of tidal-gate or aboiteaux structures. Four of the five watersheds within the project scope are identified as critical habitat for the endangered inner Bay of Fundy (IBoF) Atlantic Salmon.

Dalhousie University will receive $1,985,500 to determine coastal restoration priorities across Nunavut, and restore three priority sites, including a low flow barrier to fish passage located on the Nilaqtarvik River near the community of Clyde River. The study will address data deficiencies in coastal habitat health, habitat fragmentation, fish health, traditional knowledge and science through community consultation and feasibility studies. Researchers will also work in partnership with the Government of Nunavut, hamlets and Hunter and Trapper organizations in all 25 Nunavut communities to develop coastal restoration plans on a case-by-case basis.

Community of Clyde River, Nunavut

The Coast Restoration Fund, started in 2017, is a $75 commitment by the Canadian to help rehabilitate vulnerable coastlines and protect marine life and ecosystems. The Coastal Restoration Fund, under the responsibility of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, supports projects that contribute to coastal restoration on all of Canada’s coasts, with preference given to projects that are multiyear and involve a broad number of partners, including Indigenous groups.  The Coast Restoration Fund is part of a larger  Oceans Protection Plan.  Under the Oceans Protection Plan, the Canadian Government has committed $1.5 billion to coastal restoration.

 

Are you ready for Ontario’s Excess Soil Management Regulation Changes?

by David Ngugan, Staff Writer

A breakfast and seminar session organized by ECOH Management Inc. was held on June 20th in Mississauga, Ontario.  The seminar included a presentation by Vice President Jeff Muir titled “Digging Deep – Are you ready for Ontario’s Excess Soil Management Regulation Changes?” about the upcoming changes to the Excess Soil Management Regulations. He spoke about the implications of the new regulations, including cost, the depletion of sites with capacity to accept waste soils, illegal dumping and lack of tracking, and inconsistent oversight and criteria for the management of excess soils.

Jeff Muir, VP Environmental, EHOS

Jeff spoke about the current 2014 guidelines – “Management of Excess Soil – A Guide for Best Management Practices” that gives options for the management of excess soils both onsite and offsite,  as well as best management practices for project leaders. These include having an excess soil management plan to indicate where the soil will go and a sampling and analysis plan, including soil characterization and characterization of the receiving site.

He also pointed out some issues with the guidelines, particularly in the lack of clarity regarding who is responsible for the excess soil, as the term “project leader” is loosely defined. In addition, the requirements for proper characterization of soils are not clearly defined, such as a minimum number of samples required for a specific volume of soil. Jeff added that currently, many receiving sites are usually managed by municipalities that issue permits for the receiving of excess soil, and this presents opportunities for inconsistencies between various sites.

The proposed regulations enhance the responsibility and accountability of the generators of excess soil, as well as requiring an Excess Soil Management Plan (ESMP) for high risk or high volumes of soil. Under the proposed regulations, a ESMP should consist of a description of the project area and description and ownership, the names of qualified persons and contractors, excess soil sampling plan and characterizations, a list of receiving sites, a soil tracking system, and a record of the cumulative amount of soil moved.  The new regulations will also establish a registry where ESMPs will be submitted.

Jeff concluded his presentation by stressing the importance of preplanning – have all the costs, receiving sites, and estimated volumes of soil prepared ahead of time, as well as to focus on working with ESMPs well ahead of the promulgation of the regulations.  It is anticipated that the regulations will be promulgated this calendar year.

The Commodification of Phase I ESA’s and the Need for Innovation

Introduction

Individuals who read environmental site assessments (“ESAs”) in the early 1990’s as part of their job will likely remember the unevenness of recommendations and conclusions and the wide range in the quality of reporting.  During that time, as an in-house environmental engineer at a major law firm, I likely read more ESA reports from more environmental consulting firms than I care to remember.  To this day I still read my fair share of ESA reports from various consultants as part of my job.

Standardization

In the 1990’s there was a growing demand from users of ESA reports for some form of standardization.  Back then, and to this day, a potential buyer of a property and the associated lender used an ESA report to aide in determining the monetary risk associated with any environmental liabilities linked to a property.  The wide variety of styles, coverage, disclaimers, recommendations, and conclusions in ESA reports back in the early 1990’s made that task very hard.

More than one consultant in the 1990’s would try to absolve themselves of liability by merely stating the findings of the investigation and avoiding any recommendation or conclusions.  Others would include disclaimers that would essentially hold them blameless for all errors and or omissions.

The first standardized ESA reports that came across my desk conformed with the United States ASTM E1527 standard published in 1993.  The first Canadian ESA standard (Z768) was issued in 1994 by the Standard Council of Canada.

In Canada, the latest version of the CSA Z768 standard is what is used as starting point for conducting Phase I ESA’s.  A vast majority of ESA reports that I read begin quoting the CSA standard but with the added qualifying statement that the report is in “substantial conformance” with the standard.

Commodity

Currently, many of the major lenders in Canada have lists of approved consultants for ESA’s.  Any borrower can choose freely from the list and arrange for an ESA on a property.  Other organizations have similar lists.

The CSA Z768 standard combined with the lists of qualified consultants typically supplied by lending institutions has created, in my opinion, a commodification of Phase I ESA’s.  An unsophisticated and occasional user of environmental services would most likely choose a consultant to conduct a Phase I ESA based on price.

Sophisticated buyers of environmental services have their own favourite consultants.  To earn the trust of a regular user of ESA services, a consultant needs to be able provide a clear explanation of environmental liabilities and a strong justification for the need further investigation (i.e., Phase II ESA).  The exemplary consultant has the ability to uncover the less than obvious environmental liabilities.  All trusted consultants provide timely report in a cost-effective manner.

The advantage of the sophisticated buyers of ESA services is the experience gained from reading reports from dozens of different firms and knowledge of the revelations and oversights of each.  Even amongst sophisticated buyers, there is a level of commodification that exists as they would likely have anywhere from 4 to 5 firms (any maybe more) that they trust to do good work.

Differentiation

When being sold environmental services from consultants, I typically ask a consultant what differentiates them from their competitors with respect tot the conduct of a Phase I ESA.  In essence, I want them to articulate to me how their ESA work is superior to the competition.  The typical list of replies can be found in the table below.  Based on the majority of responses I receive, it is my conclusion that the consultants themselves are unknowingly conceding that they are selling a commodity service.  The differentiators they describe can apply to almost any firm that provides the service.

Table 1: Common Reasons Cited by Environmental Consultants for Choosing Them

“Cost effective”

“better”
“Fast turn-around time” “more effective”
“Use only experienced assessors” “more thorough”
“Experienced reviewers and supervising Staff”

“quality controls”

Innovation

So how can a consulting firm give clients what they want – more certainty on risk associated with a property – and differentiate the ESA service they provide?

I have found one consultant that I now work with has risen above the commodity Phase I ESA.  This consulting firm, through innovation, has gone beyond the bare minimum of a Phase I ESA that would conform to the CSA Standard and utilized technology to enhance the Phase I ESA.

A standard Phase I ESA requires only observation as part of the site visit portion of the ESA.  The use of intrusive testing is saved for a Phase II.  However, with the utilization of field instrumentation that is non-intrusive, an enhanced Phase I can provide much more information that a standard Phase I ESA.

The environmental consulting firm, Altech Consulting Group, uses magnetic surveys as a standard part of the its Phase I ESAs.  A magnetometer measures the magnetic potential underground through non-obtrusive means.  It can identify the presence of underground steel tanks or drums, and other ferrous buried objects (i.e. pipes).

Enhanced Phase I ESA – Seeing underground with the magnetic survey

By including a magnetic survey as a standard part of a Phase I ESA, Altech has more information from which to base its conclusions and recommendations.  It can utilize the information found from the magnetic survey along with historical data and interviews with persons knowledgeable of the property to have a stronger argument for the need for a Phase II ESA or not.

Chad Stewart, the head of the environmental investigation group at Altech stated “one of the biggest sources of environmental liability at the majority of sites is leaks from underground storage tanks or pipelines.  By including a magnetic survey as part of our Phase I ESA, we are in a much better position to state if further intrusive investigation is required.  Our approach saves the client time and money.”

As I said earlier, I have seen my share of ESA reports from numerous consultants.  Their a some that are very quick to recommend a Phase II ESA based on the limited information that only hints that a UST may have been present.  A vast majority of the subsequent Phase II findings reveal that there is no contamination.

Any means of bringing non-intrusive testing and measurement techniques into use for a standard Phase I ESA is a good thing in my opinion.  The more information that can be obtained during the Phase I ESA, the better the decision making on the need for a Phase II.

By not having to perform an unnecessary Phase II ESA, a client could save tens of thousands of dollars.  By performing a Phase II ESA based on information obtained from a magnetic survey that is a standard part of a Phase I ESA, a client could potentially save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Tracking brownfield redevelopment outcomes using Ontario’s RSCs

By David Nguyen, staff writer, Hazmat Management Magazine

GeoEnviroPro’s latest webinar event featured Dr. Christopher De Sousa, a professor and director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University.  He spoke about his research using record of site conditions (RSCs) to track brownfield developments in Ontario.

Christopher De Sousa.BA, MScPL, PhD (Associate Professor, Ryerson University)

A RSC is typically filed on the Environmental Site Registry with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) after property has undergone a Phase I, and often a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) and the property is undergoing a zoning change to a more sensitive land use (i.e., industrial to residential).  A record of site condition summarizes the environmental condition of a property, based on the completion of ESAs.

De Sousa’s research focussed on the effects of the RCS legislation since its introduction in 2004, focussing on the scale and value of projects using RSCs from 2004 to 2015 (noting the revisions to the RSC legislation in 2011).  Property Assessments and Tax information was used to determine the nature of the developments that have occurred on brownfields.  Private sector stakeholders were interviewed to determine the factors that influence private sectors to develop on brownfields.

The research showed that from 2004 – 2015, 31% of RSCs were filed for Toronto properties.  However, the cities with the greatest total area redeveloped (based on RSC filings) were Brampton and Vaughn, with Toronto having the third largest total area redeveloped. With the exception of Ottawa, projects requiring RSCs occurred primarily in the greater Toronto and Hamilton area.

Of the RSCs filed from 2004 – 2015, 24% consisted of only Phase I environmental site assessments (ESA), 69% consisted of a generic Phase I and II ESAs, and 7% used a Phase I and II ESA combined with a site specific risk assessment.

With land use changes, the most common previous land use was commercial (36.8%) followed by industrial (22.3%) and the most common intended land use was residential (67.5%) followed by commercial (14.9%).

Toronto’s development focussed on residential projects located near major transit and roadways (85.6% of which being condos).  Smaller municipalities like Waterloo and Kingston also primarily developed residential properties (31% and 58%, respectively).  De Sousa notes that provincial growth plans and community improvement plans can help municipalities be more proactive in housing and economic development goals.

From a private sector perspective, the main motivations for brownfield developments are based on real estate factors (profit, market, locations), with barriers being costs, liabilities, and time (in project reviews and approvals).

Facilitation strategies that governments can utilize involve financial and regulatory changes, particularly in more effective and efficient processes and tools in high priority areas, with perhaps more government intervening regulations in secondary/ weaker markets to encourage development of brownfields vs. greenfields.

Toronto’s Port Lands feature numerous brownfields sites, image by Marcus Mitanis

Oil deliberately spilled in lake to study ecosystem response

As reported by Lesley Evans Ogden of the Canadian Press, researchers were in northwestern Ontario recently spilled diluted oil sands bitumen and crude oil into a lake to study how the ecosystem, from microbes to fish, responds.

The pilot project, known as Freshwater Oil Spill Remediation Study, is being done at the International Institute for Sustainable Development Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA) southeast of Kenora, Ont.

The reasoning behind the study is that there are currently gaps scientists knowledge regarding the impacts of oil spills on freshwater ecosystems.  North America has the largest network of energy pipelines in the world, and periodic oil spills from pipelines do occur.

Researchers will also explore the effectiveness of oil-spills remediation (clean-up) techniques in a study conducted on the shoreline of an IISD-ELA lake.

Given the significant knowledge gaps, it is hoped that the groundbreaking project undertaken by  IISD-ELA that will answer the questions about what happens when oil enters freshwater systems.

Vince Palace, the scientist who is leading the experiment, said the area is typically known for experiments involving a whole lake, but this work is different.

“We’re using small enclosures to contain that oil,” he said.

The oil was spilled inside four yellow floating boomed rectangles, each along 2.5 metres of shrub and sphagnum moss shoreline.

The enclosures stretch 10 metres into the lake and contain 20,000 litres of water. Curtain-like sides extend down and are carefully affixed to the lake bottom with lines of sandbags filled at the local gravel pit and placed by a small army of students in waders and wetsuits.

The spills were 1.25 litres each and were to be left for 72 hours then cleaned up by professional oil-spill responders.

With any oil spill, even after clean up, there is residual contamination.

“We’re interested in looking at the impact of residuals,” Palace said in an interview before the experiments were conducted.

Palace’s team will study impacts on microbes, algae, zooplankton, insects, wood frogs, and fathead minnows by sampling soil, water, and sediment before and after the spill and clean up.

They’ll look for direct impacts from fouling and poisoning, but also indirect effects on fish survival and reproduction.

Palace notes that when oil spills, social pressure and regulatory commitments create a huge drive to clean it up.

“The problem is, in the shoreline environment, when you spill oil, often times the removal of it can be just as damaging as the impact of the oil on the shoreline environment itself,” he said.

Soil removal, compaction, and moving heavy equipment into remote areas are ecologically destructive.

“In marine environments, there are microbes present that will respond to the presence of oil to degrade it.  So it may be that there is a benefit to leaving the oil in place to degrade,” Palace said.  Diluted bitumen’s behaviour in freshwater has been studied extensively in laboratories.

Project collaborator Heather Dettman, senior scientist with Natural Resources Canada in Alberta, has simulated spills in laboratory wave tanks using North Saskatchewan River water.

Her studies have manipulated variables such as wave action and temperature, but not things like wind, rain and sun.

So, when it comes to understanding how oil behaves in a lake “maybe we’re missing something,” she said.

This is “the next step up” from the lab.

The researchers hope to find out if such oil-eating microbes exist in the freshwater environment of oil-naive Boreal shield lakes.

Researchers deliberately add a very small and controlled amount of crude into the equally strictly controlled sections of an actual lake in order to study the effects on the ecosystem in the second phase of the study. (IISD-ELA / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Largest Clean-up Grant in Canadian History

As reported by Laura Osman of the CBC, Councillors on Ottawa’s finance committee unanimously approved a $60-million grant to clean up contaminants to make way for a massive new development on Chaudière and Albert islands.

Windmill Development Group applied for the grant for its mixed-use Zibi project.

Windmill will clear the contaminated soil on the site, which has historically been used as an industrial site, and demolish a number of buildings.

An artist’s rendering of the Zibi development, which could receive a substantial grant from the city for soil and building cleanup. (City of Ottawa)

“These are contaminated lands on a derelict site in the city’s urban core,” said Lee Ann Snedden, director of Ottawa’s planning services.

“This truly is a poster child for a brownfield grant.

The city’s brownfields redevelopment program awards funds to developers for cleaning up contaminated sites and deteriorating buildings, which helps encourage developers to build in the core rather than the suburbs.

The grant would pay for half of the total projected cost of the cleanup.

Windmill has promised to create a $1.2 billion environmentally friendly community with condos, shops, offices, waterfront parks and pathways on the 15-hectare site, which spans both the Quebec and Ontario sides of the Ottawa River.

The city will only pay for the actual costs of cleanup after the invoices have been verified, Mayor Jim Watson said.

The developer promised to only do the work if they find contamination is present.

“It would be fantastic news for us as the proponent if there’s less contaminants there,” said Jeff Westeinde with Windmill Development Group.

The developer hopes to have the Ottawa part of the development completed in seven or eight years.

Snedden pointed out the city will not  pay to clean up the nearby LeBreton land to allow development because the land is controlled by the federal government.

But the National Capital Commission technically owned about 20 per cent of the Zibi development lands as well said Coun. Catherine McKenney, who argued the federal government should contribute to the cleanup costs.

The NCC owned the lands and had a perpetual lease with Domtar, which operated a paper-mill on the site for nearly 100 years.

“So why are we paying the cost?” asked Peter Stockdale with the Fairlea Community Association.

Some councillors received letters from constituents concerned about the large amount of money going toward a money-making venture.

Capital ward Coun. David Chernushenko acknowledged the grant was “staggeringly” large, but said someone must be responsible for cleaning up contaminated sites.

“I don’t see this as some sort of corporate welfare,” he said.

The grant will still need to be approved by city council.

Chaudière and Victoria islands seen from the air above the Quebec side.

Ontario Graphite Ltd. Subject to Control Order Issued by Environment Ministry

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) recently issued an Emergency Director’s Order to Ontario Graphite Ltd. (OGL) related to its mining site in Butt Township, Kearney, Ontario.  An Emergency Director’s Order is issued when the MOECC is of the opinion that inaction of a situation can result in one or more of the following: danger to the health or safety of any person; harm or serious risk of harm to the environment; or injury or damage or serious risk of injury or damage to any property.

Under an Emergency Order, immediate actions and environmental actions must be taken to protect the natural environment and to prevent or reduce the discharge of a contaminant into the natural environment from the undertaking or property, or to prevent, decrease or eliminate an adverse effect.

Photo Credit: NorthBayNipissing.com

Kearney is a town and municipality in the Almaguin Highlands region of Parry Sound District of Ontario, Canada.  With a landmass of 531 square kilometres and a year-round population of 882 in the Canada 2016 Census, Kearney claims to be the “Biggest Little Town in Ontario.”  Butt Township was amalgamated with the Town of Kearney in 1979.

Since the issuance of Director’s Order Amendment No. 1 Ontario Graphite Limited (OGL) has reported to the MOECC multiple exceedances of discharge limits specified in the Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) issued for the Kearney Mine industrial sewage works and Ontario Regulation 561/94 (i.e. including exceedance of limits for acute toxicity to test organisms Rainbow Trout and Daphnia magna, iron, total suspended solids and pH).

As requested by the MOECC, OGL proposed a short term management action plan to address the effluent discharge limit exceedances from the polishing pond until such time that construction can be completed on the industrial sewage works to enhance treatment efficiency once approved by the MOECC through an ECA amendment. OGL further indicated to the MOECC that an application to amend the ECA for necessary modifications to the industrial sewage works is currently being prepared.
Following the MOECC’s review of the short term management action plan and monitoring data submitted by OGL, the MOECC is concerned that measures proposed by OGL will be insufficient in achieving adequate treatment until such time that construction and operation of the proposed modification to the industrial sewage works, subject to the planned application and subsequent approval by the MOECC, if issued, are completed.

Currently, the lime dosing system being used at the Kearney Mine as part of the existing industrial sewage works operation is operated on a batch basis over, typically, an eight hour period during daylight hours.  The enhanced pH monitoring and reporting required by the January 31, 2018 Director’s Order amendment has demonstrated that the pH of the discharge is not consistently meeting the required pH range over a 24 hour period.  Therefore, the MOECC is directing that the operation of the batched system be extended over a daily, 24-hour period to ensure compliance with pH at all times.

In addition to adjusting the lime dosing system the MOECC is ordering a contingency plan be developed to including the use of an approved mobile treatment unit to ensure adequate treatment is achieved if proposed measures are not sufficient in achieving compliance with all discharge water quality limits until such time that modifications, approved through an amendment to the ECA, are implemented.

In summary the Emergency Director’s Order requires OGL to do the following:

  • Conduct an enhanced monitoring program for pH.
  • Ensure that the operation of lime dosing system is supervised by a Qualified Person and that effluent is maintained within a pH range of 6.5 – 8.5 at all times.
  • Retain a Qualified Person to develop and submit a contingency plan to treat the Kearney Mine polishing pond waters.
  • Retain a Qualified Person to submit an amendment to the issued Industrial Sewage Works, Environmental Compliance approval.

The Order was served to the company as well as a number of a company director, the CFO & CAO, and the CEO.