Exxon Valdez Oil Spill – Lessons learned 30 years after the event

As reported in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, there are still lessons to be learned from the Exxon Valdez oil spill that occurred on March 24th, 1989.

A recent report issued by the United States Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) found that some organizations involved in environmental cleanup, restoration and research weren’t talking to each other during the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill or the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in 2010. In fact, some agencies weren’t even aware that the other existed.

The U.S. Congress, reacting to the Exxon Valdez spill, created the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research as part of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. The committee’s purpose is to “coordinate oil pollution research among federal agencies and with relevant external entities,” according to the GAO. The committee, which has representatives from 15 agencies, is expected to coordinate with federal-state trustee councils created to manage restoration funds obtained through legal settlements.

GAO investigators found, however, that “the committee does not coordinate with the trustee councils and some were not aware that the interagency committee existed.”

Although three decades have passed since oil soiled the surface of Prince William Sound and rolled onto its shores, evidence of the spill remains. GAO staff visited the spill site in May of last year “and observed the excavation of three pits that revealed lingering oil roughly 6 inches below the surface of the beach …” Restoration is largely complete in Prince William Sound, but some work continues and research will continue for decades, the GAO report notes.

Background: Exxon Valdez Spill and Clean-up

As reported in History.com, The Exxon Valdez oil spill was a man-made disaster that occurred when Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker owned by the Exxon Shipping Company, spilled 41 million litres of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989. It was the worst oil spill in U.S. history until the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The Exxon Valdez oil slick covered 2,000 kilometres of coastline and killed hundreds of thousands of seabirds, otters, seals and whales.

Exxon payed about $2 billion in cleanup costs and $1.8 billion for habitat restoration and personal damages related to the spill.

Cleanup workers skimmed oil from the water’s surface, sprayed oil dispersant chemicals in the water and on shore, washed oiled beaches with hot water and rescued and cleaned animals trapped in oil.

Environmental officials purposefully left some areas of shoreline untreated so they could study the effect of cleanup measures, some of which were unproven at the time. They later found that aggressive washing with high-pressure, hot water hoses was effective in removing oil, but did even more ecological damage by killing the remaining plants and animals in the process. Nearly 30 years later, pockets of crude oil remain in some locations.

Lessons Learned

A 2001 study found oil contamination remaining at more than half of the 91 beach sites tested in Prince William Sound.

The spill had killed an estimated 40 percent of all sea otters living in the Sound. The sea otter population didn’t recover to its pre-spill levels until 2014, twenty-five years after the spill.

Stocks of herring, once a lucrative source of income for Prince William Sound fisherman, have never fully rebounded.

In the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the U.S. Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 increased penalties for companies responsible for oil spills and required that all oil tankers in United States waters have a double hull. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), which was enacted after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, established the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Oil Pollution Research (interagency committee) to coordinate oil pollution research among federal agencies and with relevant external entities, among other things.

The U.S. GAO recommends, among other things, that the interagency committee coordinate with the trustee councils to support their work and research needs. 

Industrial Absorbents Market to Exceed $4.7 Billion by 2023

According to the new market research report, the industrial absorbents market is expected to grow from USD 3.7 billion in 2018 to USD 4.7 billion by 2023, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.1% during the forecast period.

The report, prepared by Research and Markets and entitled “Industrial Absorbents Market By Material Type (Natural Organic & Inorganic, Synthetic), Product (Pads, Rolls, Booms & Socks), Type (Universal, Oil-only, HAZMAT), End-use Industry (Oil & Gas, Chemical, Food Processing), and Region – Global Forecast to 2023“, states that the major factors driving the industrial absorbents market include growing environmental concerns and regulations regarding oil and chemical spills.

The synthetic segment is expected to be the fastest-growing material type segment in the industrial absorbents market. The industrial absorbents market by material type has been categorized into natural organic, natural inorganic, and synthetic. Synthetic industrial absorbents are capable of absorbing liquid up to 70 times of their weight, which makes them a highly adopted material for industrial applications. Synthetic absorbents have properties such as non-flammability and excellent water repellency, which makes them suitable for applications in oil-only and HAZMAT spill control products.

Booms and socks are ideal industrial absorbents products for spill control. Booms and socks are widely used for oil-based spill control in water environment. Booms have excellent water repelling properties and are best suited for water environments such as sea, lakes, and ponds, among others. Socks are flexible tubes which are used to control and contain spills on land environment and are ideal for quickly absorbing oil- or water-based liquid spills on land. In regions such as the Middle East & Africa and Europe, there are high occurrences of large spills in marine areas, which drives the growth of booms & socks segment in the industrial absorbents market.

Oil Absorbent Booms

Market Drivers

HAZMAT/chemical absorbent products are used to cleanup spills involving acids, bases, and other hazardous or unknown liquids as these spills can have harmful impacts on the environment and can be dangerous to the living beings present in the vicinity. HAZMAT/chemical absorbent products are designed to absorb the most aggressive acidic or caustic fluids and are majorly composed of synthetic absorbents. In addition, stringent regulations in regions such as North America and Europe on chemical discharge in to the environment have led to an increase in the demand for spill control products designed for chemicals. Therefore, this factor has fueled the adoption and application of HAZMAT/chemical absorbent products, which is driving the growth of the industrial absorbents market.

Chemicals are hazardous materials, and can cause severe harm to humans or environment if accidentally released or spilled in the environment. Chemical accidents usually occur during transportation of stored chemicals. Chemical manufacturers need to immediately respond to accidental spills that occur during manufacturing processes to minimize the impact of spills on the environment. Furthermore, regions such as North America and Europe have stringent norms with respect to chemicals and spill response. All these factors have fueled the growth of the industrial absorbents market in the chemical end-use industry.

Asian Pacific Market

Asia Pacific industrial absorbents market is expected to have the highest growth rate during the forecast period due to the rising awareness and pressure to reinforce strict environmental regulations for spill response & control and pollution caused by end-use industries. The industrial absorbents market in Asia Pacific is driven by the demand from countries such as China, Japan, India, and South Korea, owing to rapid industrialization and rising occurrences of small liquid spills across the end-use industries.

Key Market Players

The major manufacturers in the global industrial absorbents market are 3M Company (US), Brady Corporation (US), Decorus Europe Ltd. (UK), Johnson Matthey Plc (UK), Kimberly-Clark Professional (US), Meltblown Technologies Inc. (US), Monarch Green, Inc. (US), New Pig Corporation (US), and Oil-Dri Corporation of America (US).

Top Environmental Clean Up Projects throughout Canada

by David Nguyen, Staff Writer

1. The Randle Reef Contaminated Sediment Remediation Project – Hamilton, Ontario

Cost: $138.9 million

Contaminant: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals

Approximately 60 hectares in size and containing 695 000 cubic metres of sediment contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals, the Randle Reef restoration project is three decades in the making. The pollution stems from various industries in the area including coal gasification, petroleum refining, steel making, municipal waste, sewage and overland drainage.1

Slated to be completed in three stages, the first stage involved the completion of a double steel sheet-piled walled engineered containment facility (ECF) around the most contaminated sediments, with stage 2 consists of dredging of the contaminated sediments into the ECF. Stage 3 will involve dewatering of the sediments in the ECF and treating the wastewater to discharge back into the lake, and the sediments will be capped with 60 cm of sand and silt enriched with organic carbon. This cap will both the isolate the contaminated sediments from the environment and form a foundation or future port structures. The ECF will be capped with layers of several material, including various sizes of aggregate, geo-textile and geo-grid, wickdrains, and asphalt and or concrete. This isolates the contaminants and provides a foundation for future port structures.

The project is expected to be completed by 2022 and cost $138.9 million. The Hamilton Port Authority will take over monitoring, maintenance, and development responsibilities of the facility for its expected 200-year life span. It is expected to provide $151 in economic benefits between job creation, business development, and tourism.

The Canada–United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement listed Hamilton harbour (which contains Randle Reef) as one of 43 Areas of Concern on the Great Lakes. Only 7 have been removed, 3 of which were in Canada.

2. Port Hope Area Initiative – Port Hope, Ontario

Cost: $1.28 billion

Contaminant: low-level radioactive waste (LLRW), industrial waste

The town of Port Hope, Ontario has about 1.2 million cubic metres of historic LLRW across various sites in the area. The soils and materials contain radium-226, uranium, arsenic, and other contaminants resulting from the refining process of radium and uranium between 1933 and 1988. Additional industrial waste containing metals, hydrocarbons, and dried sewage and sludge with copper and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) will also be contained at the new facility.

The material was spread across town as the tailings were given away for free to be used as fill material for backyards and building foundations. An estimated 800 properties are affected, but the low-level radiation poses little risk to humans. The Port Hope Area Initiative will cost $1.28 billion and will include monitoring before, during, and after the construction of a long term management waste facility (LTMWF).

The LTWMF will be an aboveground engineered storage mound on the site of an existing LLRW management facility to safely store and isolate the contaminated soil and material, as well as other industrial waste from the surrounding area. The existing waste will also be excavated and relocated to the engineered mound. Leachate collection system, monitoring wells, and sensors in the cover and baseliner will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the storage mound, allowing for long term monitoring of the waste.

The facility also contains a wastewater treatment plant that will treat surface water and groundwater during construction of the facility, as well as the leachate after the completion of the storage mound. The plant utilizes a two stage process of chemical precipitation and clarification (stage 1) and reverse osmosis (stage 2) to treat the water to meet the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission requirements for water discharged to Lake Ontario.

3. Marwell Tar Pit – Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

Cost: $6.8 million

Contaminant: petroleum hydrocarbons (PHCs), heavy metals

This $6.8 million project funded by the governments of Canada and Yukon will remediate the Marwell Tar Pit in Whitehorse, which contain 27 000 cubic metres of soil and groundwater contaminated with hydrocarbons, such as benz[a]anthracene and heavy and light extractable petroleum hydrocarbons and naphthalene, and heavy metals such as manganese. Some of the tar has also migrated from the site.

Contamination began during the Second World War, when a crude oil refinery operated for less than one year before closing and being dismantled. The sludge from the bottom of dismantled storage tanks (the “tar”) was deposited in a tank berm, and over time other industries and businesses added other liquid waste to the tar pit. In the 1960s the pit was capped with gravel, and in 1998 declared a “Designated Contaminated Site.”

The project consists of three phases: preliminary activities, remedial activities, and post-remedial activities. The preliminary phase consisted of consolidating and reviewing existing information and completing addition site assessment.

The second phase of remedial activities began in July 2018 and involves implementing a remedial action plan. Contaminated soil segregated and heated through thermal conduction, which vaporizes the contaminants, then the vapours are destroyed by burning. Regular testing is done to ensure air quality standards are met. The main emissions from the site are carbon dioxide and water vapour. Remediated soil is used to backfill the areas of excavation. This phase is expected to be completed in 2019-2020.

The final phase will involve the monitoring of the site to demonstrate the remediation work has met government standards. This phase is planned to last four years. The project began in 2011 and is expected to be completed in 2020-2021.

4. Boat Harbour – Nova Scotia

Cost: approx.$133 million

Contaminant: PHCs, PAHs, heavy metals, dioxins and furans

The provinces largest contaminated site, Boar Harbour, is the wastewater lagoon for the local pulp mill in Abercrombie Point, as well as the discharge point for a former chemical supplier in the area. Prior to 1967, Boat Harbour was a saltwater tidal estuary covering 142 hectares, but a dam built in 1972 separated Boat Harbour from the ocean, and it is now a freshwater lake due to the receiving treated wastewater from the mill since the 1967.

The wastewater effluent contains contaminants including dioxins and furans, PAHs, PHCs, and heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, and zinc. In 2015, the government of Nova Scotia passed The Boat Harbour Act, which ordered that Boat Harbour cease as the discharge point for the pulp mill’s treated wastewater in 2020, which allows time to build a new wastewater treatment facility and time to plan the remediation of Boat Harbour.

The estimated cost of the cleanup is $133 million, which does not include the cost of the new treatment facility. The goal is to return the harbour to its original state as a tidal estuary. The project is currently in the planning stages and updates can be found at https://novascotia.ca/boatharbour/.

5. Faro Mine – Faro, Yukon

Cost: projected$450 million

Contaminant: waste rock leachate and tailings

Faro Mine was once the largest open-pit lead-zinc mine in the world, and now contains about 70 million tonnes of tailings and 320 million tonnes of waste rock, which can potentially leach heavy metals and acids into the environment. The mine covers 25 square kilometres, and is located near the town of Faro in south-central Yukon, on the traditional territory of three Kasha First Nations – the Ross River Dena Council, Liard First Nation and Kaska Dena Council. Downstream of the mine are the Selkirk First Nation.

The Government of Canada funds the project, as well as leads the maintenance, site monitoring, consultation, and remediation planning process. The Government of Yukon, First Nations, the Town of Faro, and other stakeholders are also responsible for the project and are consulted regularly to provide input.

The entire project is expected to take about 40 years, with main construction activities to be completed by 2022, followed by about 25 years of remediation. The remediation project includes upgrading dams to ensure tailings stay in place, re-sloping waste rock piles, installing engineered soil covers over the tailings and waste rock, upgrading stream diversions, upgrading contaminant water collection and treatment systems.

6. Sylvia Grinnell River Dump – Iqaluit, Nunavut

Cost: $5.4 million

Contaminant: PHCs, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides

Transport Canada awarded a contract of over $5.4 million in 2017 for a cleanup of a historic dump along the mouth of Sylvia Grinnell River in Iqaluit, Nunavut. The dump contains metal debris from old vehicles and appliances, fuel barrels, and other toxic waste from a U.S. air base, and is a site for modern day rogue dumping for items like car batteries. This has resulted in petroleum hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, and other hazardous substances being identified in the area.

The Iqaluit airfield was founded in Frobisher Bay by the U.S. military during World War 2 as a rest point for planes flying to Europe. During the Cold War, the bay was used as part of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line stations across the north to detect bombers from the Soviet Union. When the DEW was replaces by the North Warning System in the 1980s, these stations were abandoned and the contaminants and toxic waste left behind. Twenty-one of these stations were remediated by the U.S. Department of National Defence at a cost of about $575 in 2014.

The Sylvia Grinnell River remediation project is part of the Federal government’s responsibility to remediate land around the airfield that was transferred to the Government of Nunavut in the 1990s.The contract was awarded in August 2017 and was completed in October. The remaining nontoxic is sealed in a new landfill and will be monitored until 2020.

7. Greenwich-Mohawk Brownfield – Brantford, Ontario

Cost: $40.78 million

Contaminant: PHC, PAC, heavy metals, vinyl chloride

The City of Brantford have completed a cleanup project of 148 000 cubic metres of contaminated soil at the Greenwich-Mohawk brownfield site. The area was historically the location of various farming manufacturing industries that shut down, leaving behind contaminants like PHC, PAC, heavy metals like lead, xylene, and vinyl chloride.

Cleanup began in 2015, and consisted coarse grain screening, skimming, air sparging, and recycling of 120 000 litres of oil from the groundwater, using biopiles to treat contaminated soil onsite with 73% of it being reused and the rest requiring off site disposal.

Barriers were also installed to prevent future contamination from an adjacent rail line property, as well as to contain heavy-end hydrocarbons discovered during the cleanup that could not be removed due to the release odorous vapours throughout the neighbourhood. The 20 hectare site took two years to clean and costed only $40.78 million of the allocated $42.8 million between the all levels of government, as well as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Green Municipal Fund.

8. Rock Bay Remediation Project – Victoria, British Columbia

Cost: $60 million

Contaminant: PAHs, hydrocarbons, metals

Located near downtown Victoria and within the traditional territories of the Esquimalt Nation and Songhees Nation, the project entailed remediating 1.73 hectares of contaminated upland soils and 2.02 hectares of contaminated harbour sediments. The site was the location of a former coal gasification facility from the 1860s to the 1950s, producing waste products like coal tar (containing PAHs), metals, and other hydrocarbons, which have impacted both the sediments and groundwater at the site.

Remediation occurred in three stages. From 2004 to 2006, the first two stages involving the remediation of 50 300 tonnes of hazardous waste soils, 74 100 tonnes of non-hazardous waste soils, and 78 500 tonnes of contaminated soils above commercial land use levels. In 2009, 250 tonnes of hazardous waste were dredged from two sediment hotspots at the head of Rock Bay. About 7 million litres of hydrocarbon and metal impacted groundwater have been treated or disposed of, and an onsite wastewater treatment plant was used to return treated wastewater to the harbour.

Construction for the final stage occurred between 2014 to 2016 and involved:

  • installing shoring along the property boundaries to remove up to 8 metres deep of contaminated soils,
  • installing a temporary coffer dams
  • draining the bay to remove the sediments in dry conditions, and
  • temporary diverting two storm water outfalls around the work area.

Stage three removed 78 000 tonnes of contaminated and 15 000 tonnes of non-contaminated sediment that were disposed of/ destroyed at offsite facilities.

Final post-remediation monitoring was completed in January 2017, with post-construction monitoring for 5 years required as part of the habitat restoration plan to ensure the marine habitat is functioning properly and a portion of the site will be sold to the Esquimalt Nation and Songhees Nation.

9. Bushell Public Port Facility Remediation Project – Black Bay (Lake Athabasca), Saskatchewan

Cost: $2 million

Contaminant: Bunker C fuel oil

 Built in 1951 and operated until the mid-1980s, the Bushell Public Port Facility consist of two lots covering 3.1 hectares with both upland and water lots. The facility supplied goods and services to the local mines, and petroleum products to the local communities of Bushell and Uranium City. Historical activities like unloading, storing, and loading fuel oil, as well as a large spill in the 1980s resulted in the contaminated soil, blast rock, and bedrock in Black Bay that have also extended beyond the waterlot boundaries.

The remediation work occurred between 2005 to 2007, and involved excavation of soil and blast rock, as well as blasting and removing bedrock where oil had entered through cracks and fissures.

Initial remediation plans were to crush and treat the contaminated material by low temperature thermal desorption, which incinerates the materials to burn off the oil residue. However, opportunities for sustainable reuse of the contaminated material came in the use of the contaminated crush rock for resurfacing of the Uranium City Airport. This costed $1.75 million less than the incineration plan, and saved the airport project nearly 1 million litres of diesel fuel. The crush was also used by the Saskatchewan Research Council in the reclamation of the Cold War Legacy Uranium Mine and Mill Sites. A long term monitoring event is planned for 2018.

10. Thunder Bay North Harbour – Thunder Bay, Ontario

Cost: estimated at upwards to $50 million

Contaminant: Paper sludge containing mercury and other contaminants

 While all of the projects discussed so far have either been completed or are currently in progress, in Thunder Bay, the plans to clean up the 400 000 cubic metres of mercury contaminated pulp and fibre have been stalled since 2014 due to no organization or government designated to spearhead the cleanup.

While the water lot is owned by Transport Canada, administration of the site is the responsibility of the Thunder Bay Port Authority, and while Transport Canada has told CBC that leading the cleanup is up to the port, the port authority was informed by Transport Canada that the authority should only act in an advisory role. Environmental Canada has participated in efforts to advance the planning of the remediation work, but is also not taking the lead in the project either. Further complications are that the industries responsible for the pollution no longer exist.

Industrial activities over 90 years have resulted in the mercury contamination, which range in concentrations between 2 to 11 ppm on surface sediments to 21 ppm at depth. The thickness ranges from 40 to 380 centimetres and is about 22 hectares in size. Suggested solutions in 2014 include dredging the sediment and transferring it to the Mission Bay Confined Disposal Facility, capping it, or building a new containment structure. As of October 2018, a steering committee lead by Environment Canada, Transport Canada, Ontario’s environmental ministry and the Thunder Bay Port Authority, along with local government, Indigenous groups, and other stakeholders met to evaluate the remediation options, as well as work out who will lead the remediation.

TPH Risk Evaluation at Petroleum-Contaminated Sites

The United States Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) Risk Evaluation team has developed this guidance to assist state regulators and practitioners with evaluating risk and establishing cleanup requirements at petroleum release sites. This guidance focuses on factors that are unique to petroleum hydrocarbon releases and builds on other available documents published by the TPH Criteria Working Group (TPHCWG) (1997a1997b1997c1998a1998b1999), ITRC Risk-3 (2015), Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) (2014), California State Water Board–San Francisco Bay Region (CASWB-SFBR) (2016a), and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) (2017b).

Risk evaluations for petroleum release sites present complex and unique challenges to site managers, risk assessors, regulators, and other stakeholders. Mischaracterizing risks associated with petroleum contamination can lead to unnecessary cleanups, inappropriate property use limitations, or, most importantly, inadequate protection of human health and ecological receptors. Once released to the environment, petroleum contamination changes over time and space due to natural and anthropogenic weathering processes. Although traditional indicator compounds (e.g., benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and naphthalene [BTEXN]) may be present below levels of concern in impacted media, unidentified petroleum fractions or degradation products (metabolite compounds) could potentially still pose a risk to human health and ecological receptors. Summarizing approaches to evaluate this topic in more detail is one of the primary objectives of this document and it is hoped that this document will assist in further research regarding this subject.

A common assumption at petroleum release sites is that the carcinogenic indicator compounds (e.g., benzene, naphthalene, and, for some regulatory agencies, ethylbenzene and additives such as methyl tertiary-butyl ether [MTBE]) typically drive risk-based decision making rather than other petroleum compounds that may be present. However, very few field-based studies comparing risks posed by individual compounds found in TPH (such as benzene) to risks posed by the broader spectrum of TPH-related compounds have been published (Brewer et al. 2013). Additionally, concentrations of carcinogenic compounds might be reduced to low concentrations relative to other hydrocarbons due to natural attenuation processes. At such sites, the remaining petroleum hydrocarbons and petroleum-related degradation products (e.g., petroleum-related metabolites) can be expected to contribute to the potential human health noncarcinogenic risk at petroleum release sites.

This guidance will improve regulators’ and project managers’ understanding of the unique properties of TPH and provide the tools, techniques, and lessons learned to improve risk characterization and to make better-informed risk management decisions at petroleum-contaminated sites.

To access the guidance document, visit the ITRC website.

Update on the Thunder Bay Harbour Clean-up

As reported in TB News Watch, a recommendation on the best method of cleaning up 400,000 cubic metres of contamination sediment in Thunder Bay Harbour is not expected until the end of 2019. There’s enough industrial sediment (mainly pulp and paper sludge), containing mercury and other contaminants, on the bottom of the north harbour to fill 150 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Thunder Bay is located at the northwest corner of Lake Superior and has a population of approximately 110,000. As the largest city in Northwestern Ontario, Thunder Bay is the region’s commercial, administrative and medical centre. It had been known in that past for it pulp and paper mills and as a key shipping port for grain.

Approximate Area of Contaminated Sediment in Thunder Bay Harbour

A new working group that’s revived efforts to manage 400,000 cubic meters of contaminated sediment in Thunder Bay’s north harbour has targeted the end of 2019 for a recommended solution.

Two federal departments, Transport Canada and Environment Canada, co-chair the group which also includes the Ontario environment ministry, the Thunder Bay Port Authority and numerous other local stakeholders.

A new steering committee has been formed to examine three options for remediation presented to the public in 2014. A previous committee formed to look at those options went dormant, necessitating the refresh.

“At this point, we want to further evaluate those [three existing] options and to look at additional options over the next 14 months,” said Roger Santiago, the head of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s sediment remediation group in November of 2018. The group primarily works on cleaning up contaminated patches in the Great Lakes.

A previous steering committee was established 10 years ago, and remediation options were developed, but momentum toward a cleanup or remediation of the contaminated site slowed after that.

That was despite the fact a 2013 risk assessment identified “unacceptable risks” to human health and to plant and animal life in the harbour area:

  • potential risk to people consuming fish (fish consumption advisory in place to mitigate the risk)
  • potential risk to people coming in direct contact with contaminated sediment
  • potential risk to kingfishers from mercury
  • potential risk to sediment-dwelling organisms from total resin acids

Impetus for a cleanup occurred earlier this year after Patty Hajdu, the MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North, raised the issue with her cabinet colleagues, the transport and environment ministers.

There’s enough industrial sediment, containing mercury and other contaminants, on the bottom of the north harbour to fill 150 Olympic-size swimming pools.

The area was classified by a consultant and by federal experts as a Class 1 polluted site using the Federal Aquatic Sites Classification System. Class 1 sites indicate high priority for action.

A Transport Canada spokesperson told Tbnewswatch the working group will spend the next 12 months on technical and environmental studies, and will consult with the general public and with Indigenous groups as it evaluates a short list of management options.

The source of the contamination is historical dumping of pulp and paper mill pollution that resulted in mercury-contaminated paper sludge up to 4 metres thick lying at the bottom of the harbour. The sediment is contaminated with mercury in concentrations that range from 2 to 11 ppm at the surface of the sediment to 21 ppm at depth and ranging in thickness from 40 to 380 centimeters and covering an area of about 22 hectares (54 acres).


Greyish, digested pulp sludge up to 4 metres thick lies across the north harbour bottom (Transport Canada)


Clean-up Options

A 2017 Consultants report stated that the preferred option was to dredge the sediment and transfer it to the Mission Bay Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) at the harbour’s south end.  The dredging and transfer option was estimated to cost $40 million to $50 million, and was considered the best choice based on factors such as environmental effectiveness and budget.  The consultants also looked at other options, including capping and excavation/isolation.

The capping option would consist of placing clean material on top of the contaminated material to contain and isolate the contaminants. A geotextile (a strong fabric barrier) will support the cap material. The budget for this option was estimated at $30-$40 million.

The proposed excavation option would involve building a dam to isolate the contaminated material from the water prior to removal. Once the dam was built, the area would be dewatered so that earth-moving equipment like excavators, loaders and bulldozers can be used to remove the material. It would then be disposed of in a secure landfill. A new on-site Confined Disposal Facility has been recommended or the use of the the existing Confined Disposal Facility at Mission Bay. The excavation option is estimated to cost $80-$90 million.

No matter what is decided upon, the 2017 consultant’s report estimated it would take seven years to complete the clean up. 


New Year, New Environmental Rules: Alberta’s Revised Remediation Rules Take Effect in 2019

by Dufferin Harper and Lindsey Mosher, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

On January 1, 2019, significant amendments to Alberta’s Remediation Certificate Regulation came into force. These include:

  • Renaming the regulation the Remediation Regulation
  • Creating a site-based remediation certificate
  • Creating a new reporting requirement for impacts
  • Defaulting to the application of Tier 1 rather than Tier 2 Guidelines
  • Issuing a Tier 2 compliance letter
  • Establishing a new mandatory remedial measures timeline

As discussed in more detail below, many of the amendments address long-standing concerns within the existing remediation certification process. However, in several instances they also introduce new areas of regulatory uncertainty.

SITE-BASED REMEDIATION CERTIFICATE

One of the primary concerns with the existing regime is that it is too limited in scope. Although it provides for remediation certificates to be issued for specific areas of land impacted by a contaminant release, it does not enable a property owner to obtain regulatory signoff for a complete site as opposed to only an area of a site.

In response to that concern, the Remediation Regulation introduces a new type of remediation certificate applicable to a complete site, which is referred to as a “site-based remediation certificate”. A site-based remediation certificate confirms that all contaminants and areas of potential concern both on and off site have been addressed and necessarily involves the submission of more extensive documentation than what is required for a limited remediation certificate.  To assist in the application process, the Alberta government is expected to develop and release a new application form and guide for a site-based remediation certificate application prior to January 2019.

NEW REPORTING REQUIREMENT

A person responsible for a release currently has a statutory obligation to report the release. In addition to this existing obligation, the Remediation Regulation imposes an additional obligation to report any new information about the “impact” of a released substance. Neither of the terms “new information”, nor “impact”, are defined in the Remediation Regulation, and it remains to be seen what additional guidance, if any, will be provided to clarify the scope of the additional obligation. Until that occurs, or until the courts clarify the scope of the obligation, uncertainty will likely prevail.

APPLICATION OF TIER 1 VERSUS TIER 2 GUIDELINES

Under the current Remediation Certificate Regulation, a person applying for a remediation certificate may elect to apply either generic Tier 1 Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guidelines (Tier 1 Guidelines) or site -specific Tier 2 Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guidelines (Tier 2 Guidelines).

The Remediation Regulation removes this discretionary election. Instead, the Tier 1 Guidelines will always be the default remediation standard. Regulatory approval will be required to remediate to Tier 2 Guidelines.

TIER 2 COMPLIANCE LETTER

Another major concern (and criticism) of the existing regime involves the situation where contaminant levels exceed Tier 1 Guidelines but not Tier 2 Guidelines. In such a situation, if the Tier 2 Guidelines are applied, the affected area will not require remediation. Notwithstanding the levels exceed Tier 1 Guidelines and would otherwise require remediation but for the application of the Tier 2 Guidelines, the regulator’s position is that, since there has been no “remediation”, it is unable to issue a “remediation certificate”.  The Remediation Regulation addresses this situation, albeit indirectly.  Rather than amending the scenarios under which a remediation certificate can be issued to account for the above situation, the Remediation Regulation introduces a hybrid type of approval, described as a “Tier 2 compliance letter”. Such a letter will be issued by the regulator when it is satisfied the area or the site meets Tier 2 Guidelines and therefore does not need to be remediated. The difficulty with such a hybrid approach is that it is unclear what type of legal protection a “Tier 2 compliance letter” provides. For example, a remediation certificate currently provides protection against a subsequent environmental protection order being issued for the same contaminant and area. A Tier 2 compliance letter provides no similar protection.  Furthermore, no reference to a Tier 2 compliance letter is set out in Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and its legal significance is therefore unknown.

NEW REMEDIAL MEASURES TIMELINE

The Remediation Regulation introduces a mandatory timeline for remedial measures for all releases reported after January 1, 2019. If remediation cannot be completed to the satisfaction of the regulator within the following two years, a remedial action plan acceptable to the regulator must be submitted in accordance with the requirements of the Remediation Regulation.

The timeline is not mandatory for the complete remediation of a release. Rather, it is a timeline for the submission of a remedial action plan that will describe what further remedial activities will occur in the future. As such, it appears to be nothing more than an administrative requirement as opposed to an actual remedial efficiency requirement.

NEXT STEPS

The Remediation Regulation came into force as of January 1, 2019, and all releases now must comply with its provisions. Releases reported before January 1, 2019 continue to be regulated in accordance with the old regime under the Remediation Certificate Regulation.

This article was first published on the Blakes Business Class website. It is republished with the permission of the authors and Blakes. Copyright of this article remains with Blakes.


About the Authors

Dufferin (Duff) Harper practices in the areas of environmental law, commercial litigation and regulatory law. He routinely acts for clients on environmental due diligence and liability issues, especially as they pertain to brownfield redevelopment and transportation of dangerous goods. On the corporate side, he specializes in crafting complicated environmental agreements that allocate environmental risks and address remediation requirements. He also advises clients on greenhouse gas matters including the purchase and sale of greenhouse gas emissions credits, offset credits and other environmental attributes.

Duff has acted as lead counsel in several litigation cases involving contaminated sites, both on behalf of contaminated property owners and parties who were allegedly responsible for the contamination. On the regulatory front, he has appeared before numerous levels of courts and assessment tribunals, including tribunals constituted pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) ), the National Energy Board (NEB) and numerous provincial regulators.

Duff also provides strategic regulatory compliance and environmental impact assessment advice to industrial clients, such as conventional oil and gas companies, mining companies, companies operating in the oil sands, and liquefied natural gas proponents.

Lindsey Mosher’s practice focuses on energy regulation, as well as environmental and administrative law. She has experience in a broad range of regulatory matters, including regulatory compliance issues, regulatory approvals and hearings, and corporate matters.

Prior to joining Blakes, Lindsey obtained industry experience working in the legal department of a large Canadian oil and gas company, Alberta’s utilities regulator and a large Canadian telecommunications company.

Lindsey has appeared before Alberta’s utilities regulator, the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Court of Appeal of Alberta.

Ontario Government’s Plans on the Environment: Impact on Brownfield Development

The Ontario Government released a Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan in late 2018 in partially in response to criticism that it had no plan for addressing climate change after it cancelled the greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade program of the previous government. The plan includes several proposals that should be on interest to persons involved in brownfield development.

The Ontario government 52-page document (entitled (“Preserving and Protecting or Environment for Future Generations: A Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan”) commits to protecting air, lakes and rivers; addressing climate change; reducing litter and waste; and conserving land and greenspace. Many of the measures establish a direction but the details will have to be further developed.

With respect to contaminated sites and brownfields, the document talks about the “polluter pay”, and engaging environment business and entrepreneurs. However, it is lacking in details.

Generating GHG from Brownfield Projects

The Ontario government’s proposed replaced to the scraped GHG trading regulation is the Creating the Ontario Carbon Fund. While details are to be worked out, the plan proposes to use $400M of government funding with the aim of leveraging additional private funds on a 4:1 basis to support “investment in clean technologies that are commercially viable.” The fund will also support a “reverse auction” model whereby emitters will “bid” for funding to support their GHG reduction projects.

There is a possibility that developers involved in brownfield redevelopment could be eligible for government funding depending on if clean technologies are employed in the clean-up and GHG reductions are realized versus the traditional dig-and-dump approach to site clean-up.

2010 Photo of the former Kitchener Frame Building (Photo Credit: Philip Walker/Record staff)

Streamlined environmental approvals

The Made-in-Ontario Plan notes that environmental approvals should be prioritized for businesses that want to implement low GHG technology or approaches. This is the latest promise from the Ontario government to speed up the approval process.

Seasoned veterans in the environmental sector remember similar promises made the government on fast-tracked approvals. There are still those who remember the Environmental Leaders Program in which speedy approval was promised to companies that committed to above-compliance environmental activities and targets.

With respect to this latest promise on speedy approvals, the document is silent on if “speed” will be applied to the Environment Ministry review of site specific risk assessments (SSRA’s) that are submitted to the Ontario Environment Ministry for approval instead of following the generic clean-up standards.

Measures to promote healthy, clean soils

The Made-in-Ontario Plan plan commits to “revise the brownfield regulation and record of site condition guide” as part of a basket of measures to promote clean soils. Again, the document is lacking in details.

The previous Ontario government had proposed reasonable changes to the Record of Site Condition Regulations (O. Reg. 153/04). One important aspect of the proposed change is related to road-salt impacts on a property. As the regulations currently stands, road salt-related impacts can only be exempted from clean-up if it can be proven they are related to the application of de-icing salts on a public highway. Under the proposed changes to the regulations, the exemption will include road salt applied to a property ‘for the purpose of traffic and pedestrian safety under conditions of snow/ice’. This one change, if implemented, would save thousands of dollars in clean-up costs at many sites undergoing redevelopment in Ontario.

The previous Ontario government had also proposed a much-need excess soil regulation. There has been extensive consultation on the proposed regulation over a five-year period. If implemented, the regulation would address the gaps surrounding the ability for enforcement on mismanagement of excess soils in Ontario. It would also open up the opportunity for beneficial reuse of excess soil.

Clean-up of Potential CFL Stadium Site for Halifax Schooners

Shannon Park is located in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, across the bay from Halifax. It is the the site of a former military housing complex. Environmental studies show that the site is contaminated with approximately 24,000 tonnes of soil containing arsenic and hydrocarbons.

The site has been empty since 2003. In 2014, it was purchased by Canada Lands Company, a federal crown corporation. In 2017, all buildings on the site were demolished.

In November 2018, the federal government issued tender documents for remediation of the site with the goal of it being cleaned up by the spring of 2019.

In December, it was announced that Dexter Construction Company Ltd. was recently awarded a contract to excavate, transport, and dispose of the contaminated soil from the Shannon Park site. They are also required to backfill the excavated area with clean fill as part of the contract. The value of contract is $900,933.

Dexter Construction, located in nearby Bedford, is the largest civil contractor in Nova Scotia with over 40 years of experience in infrastructure, mining, and the environment. Dexter Construction Company Limited is a subsidiary of Municipal Enterprises Limited and is the construction arm of the Municipal Group of Companies.

Previous environmental projects that Dexter Construction has been involved with include the Halifax Regional Municipality landfill development and the Halifax Harbour sewage treatment system construction.

With respect to the site being the home to a new stadium for the Halifax Schooners of the Canadian Football League, there is much to be done including the football team purchasing the land, raising $200 million to build the stadium, and getting approval for construction.

Plan for Football Stadium at Shannon Park, Dartmouth

Canadian NCC Awards Contracts for Environmental Site Assessment

The Canadian National Capital Commission recently award contracts to a number of environmental consulting firms to conduct environmental assessment of contaminated sites in Ottawa.  A number of firms were awarded contracts of $833,333 for providing contaminated site assessment services.  The firms were DST Consulting Engineers Inc., Geofirma Engineering Ltd., GHD Ltd., Golder Associates Ltd., SNC-Lavelin Inc., and Terrapex Environmental Ltd.

Under the contracts, the NCC may request as part of the purchase order process, but is not necessarily limited to the following consultant services under the resulting Agreements:

  • Provide environmental reports (either English or French);
  • Contaminated Site Identification and characterization associated with various sources of contamination;
  • Historical review of site activities, including consultation with municipal, provincial and federal regulatory agencies;
  • Field surveys;
  • Site investigations (sampling of contaminated or potentially contaminated media);
  • All parameters analyzed should be compared to both the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Federal Guidelines as well as the applicable provincial criteria;
  • Interpretation of laboratory analyses;
  • Contaminated area delineation for soil and groundwater, which includes coloured maps that clearly identify and illustrate the testing locations, the contaminants found, the dimensions of the contaminated volumes and the affected area;
  • Recommendations of further investigations, if required, with all the associated costs;
  • Provide guidance and expertise with Federal Regulation compliance;
  • Provide maintenance and repair services for existing monitoring infrastructure;
  • Evaluation of remediation technologies, which includes, identifying the different remediation options and the costs associated;
  • Evaluation of strategies to optimize recycling of material during remediation projects;
  • Completion of risk assessments (human health and ecological) under federal and provincial guidelines;
  • Provide Engineering Plans and Specification documents for remediation and construction projects (French & English);
  • Provide site surveillance during remediation and construction activities;
  • Provide project management and construction management services;
  • Provide landfill engineering and management services; and,
  • Provide long-term management strategies for complex contaminated sites.

The NCC has a number of development and rehabilitation projects underway in Ottawa including the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats, a property just west of Parliament Hill in Ottawa.  The property is contaminated from historical industrial activity and must be remediated before it can be redeveloped into a commercial and residential community.

In the past, the NCC spent $6.7 million to decontaminate the soil on a 5.7-hectare site. The process involved removing and remediating 110,000 cubic metres of soil.

With the current area awaiting remediation being just over three times that size at 21 hectares, RendezVous LeBreton, the development company that is partnering with the NCC to develop the site, has a considerably larger and undoubtedly more expensive amount of soil to remediate.

As of the Spring of 2018, the total cost of the soil decontamination at LeBreton Flats is undetermined at this time, but is estimated to be around $170 million, according to RendezVous LeBreton Group.

The empty land in LeBreton Flats awaits its redevelopment, but the soil that lies beneath its surface is in need of a cleanup, as well. Photo By: Meaghan Richens, Centretown News

 

Financing Soil Remediation: Exploring the use of financing instruments to blend public and private capital

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) recently released a report entitled Financing Soil Remediation: Exploring the use of financing instruments to blend public and private capital.

The report makes the statement that governments around the world are looking at opportunities to attract private capital participation in both land remediation and its productive use and redevelopment thereafter. The business case is intrinsically the value capture in the increase in retail price of land and related business opportunities once the remediation is complete. However, where land value capture is lower and related revenue streams remain uncertain, the case for private capital participation is much less compelling. Governments, in this case, have to fund the remediation through public budgets and thereafter seek opportunities to partner with private counter-parties to use the land as “fit for purpose.”

The IISD report presents 17 case studies on a variety of financing instruments that blend public and private capital. Each case study includes a short discussion on the extent to which each instrument could be used to finance the remediation of contaminated soil.  The case studies in thereport demonstrate a variety of financing strategies, from index-linked bonds to savings accounts and from peer-to-peer lending platforms to debt-for-nature swaps.

This report is a part of a series of outputs of a four-year project, Financing Models for Soil Remediation. The overall objective of the project is to harness the full range of green finance approaches and vehicles to manage the associated risk and fund the remediation of contaminated soils.

The series of reports focuses on the financial vehicles available to attract investment to environmental rehabilitation of degraded land and the financial reforms needed to make these vehicles a viable and desirable means of investing in land rehabilitation. The IISD draws on best practices worldwide in funding environmental rehabilitation, with a special focus on the design and use of financial mechanisms to attract private investors, share the risk and offer a clear benefit for the rehabilitated land.

Several lessons emerge from these case studies described in the report in the context of financing the remediation of contaminated land, including the following:

  1. As with all financial arrangements, the risk appetite of different investors has to match the risk profile of
    the investment. It is difficult to crowd in private and institutional investors when projects remain below
    investment grade.
  2. Money follows a good deal. When legal, technological, revenue and other risks are understood and are
    transparent, feasible ways to reduce these uncertainties can be planned and financing strategies can be
    worked upon.
  3. When there is reasonable certainty that the value of the land will increase after remediation and will
    subsequently generate stable and predictable revenues, there is a strong case for blending public and
    private financing.
  4. When, on the other hand, projects have less attractive revenue potential, governments have to step in to
    finance the remediation, or at least a larger part of it.

About the IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is an independent think tank championing sustainable solutions to 21st–century problems. The mission of the IISD is to promote human development and environmental sustainability. IISD focuses on research, analysis, and knowledge products that support sound policy making.