U.S. Mining Sites – Legacy of Contamination Needs to be Addressed

https://www.thechronicleherald.ca/news/world/us-mining-sites-dump-50m-gallons-of-fouled-wastewater-daily-285939/

Rimini, Montana – Every day many millions of gallons of water loaded with arsenic, lead and other toxic metals flow from some of the most contaminated mining sites in the U.S. and into surrounding streams and ponds without being treated, The Associated Press has found.

That torrent is poisoning aquatic life and tainting water supplies in Montana, California, Colorado, Oklahoma and at least five other states.

The pollution is a legacy of how the mining industry was allowed to operate in the U.S. for more than a century. Companies that built mines for silver, lead, gold and other “hardrock” minerals could move on once they were no longer profitable, leaving behind tainted water that still leaks out of the mines or is cleaned up at taxpayer expense.

Using data from public records requests and independent researchers, the AP examined 43 mining sites under federal oversight, some containing dozens or even hundreds of individual mines.

The records show that at average flows, more than 50 million gallons of contaminated wastewater streams daily from the sites. In many cases, it runs untreated into nearby groundwater, rivers and ponds — a roughly 20-million-gallon daily dose of pollution that could fill more than 2,000 tanker trucks.

The remainder of the waste is captured or treated in a costly effort that will need to carry on indefinitely, for perhaps thousands of years, often with little hope for reimbursement.

The volumes vastly exceed the release from Colorado’s Gold King Mine disaster in 2015, when a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleanup crew inadvertently triggered the release of 3 million gallons (11.4 million liters) of mustard-colored mine sludge, fouling rivers in three states.

At many mines, the pollution has continued decades after their enlistment in the federal Superfund cleanup program for the nation’s most hazardous sites, which faces sharp cuts under President Donald Trump.

Federal officials have raised fears that at least six of the sites examined by AP could have blowouts like the one at Gold King.


Mine waste mixes with runoff at the Gold King Mine. (Provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Some sites feature massive piles or impoundments of mine waste known as tailings. A tailings dam collapse in Brazil last month killed at least 169 people and left 140 missing. A similar 2014 accident in British Columbia swept millions of cubic yards of contaminated mud into a nearby lake, resulting in one of Canada’s worst environmental disasters.

But even short of a calamitous accident, many mines pose the chronic problem of relentless pollution.

AP also found mining sites where untreated water harms the environment or threatens drinking water supplies in North and South Carolina, Vermont, Missouri and Oregon.

Tainted wells

In mountains outside the Montana capital of Helena, about 30 households can’t drink their tap water because groundwater was polluted by about 150 abandoned gold, lead and copper mines that operated from the 1870s until 1953.

The community of Rimini was added to the Superfund list in 1999. Contaminated soil in residents’ yards was replaced, and the EPA has provided bottled water for a decade. But polluted water still pours from the mines and into Upper Tenmile Creek.

“The fact that bottled water is provided is great,” said 30-year Rimini resident Catherine Maynard, a natural resources analyst for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Where it falls short is it’s not piped into our home. Water that’s piped into our home is still contaminated water. Washing dishes and bathing — that metal-laden water is still running through our pipes.”

Estimates of the number of such abandoned mine sites range from 161,000 in 12 western states to as many as 500,000 nationwide. At least 33,000 have degraded the environment, according to the Government Accountability Office, and thousands more are discovered every year.

Officials have yet to complete work including basic risk analyses on about 80 percent of abandoned mining sites on federal lands. Most are controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, which under Trump is seeking to consolidate mine cleanups with another program and cut their combined 2019 spending from $35 million to $13 million.

An abandoned mining site in Clear Creek County. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Perpetual pollution

Problems at some sites are intractable. Among them:

  • In eastern Oklahoma’s Tar Creek mining district, waterways are devoid of life and elevated lead levels persist in the blood of children despite a two-decade effort to clean up lead and zinc mines. More than $300 million has been committed since 1983, but only a small fraction of the impacted land has been reclaimed and contaminated water continues to flow.
  • At northern California’s Iron Mountain Mine, cleanup teams battle to contain highly acidic water that percolates through a former copper and zinc mine and drains into a Sacramento River tributary. The mine discharged six tons of toxic sludge daily before an EPA cleanup. Authorities now spend $5 million a year to remove poisonous sludge that had caused massive fish kills, and they expect to keep at it forever.
  • In Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, site of the Gold King blowout, some 400 abandoned or inactive mine sites contribute an estimated 15 million gallons (57 million liters) of acid mine drainage per day.

AP also found mining sites where untreated water harms the environment or threatens drinking water supplies in North and South Carolina, Vermont, Missouri and Oregon.

This landscape of polluted sites occurred under mining industry rules largely unchanged since the 1872 Mining Act.

State and federal laws in recent decades have held companies more accountable than in the past, but critics say huge loopholes all but ensure that some of today’s mines will foul waterways or require perpetual cleanups.

To avoid a catastrophe like Gold King, EPA officials now require advance approval for work on many mining sites. But they acknowledge they’re only dealing with a small portion of the problem.

“We have been trying to play a very careful game of prioritization,” said Dana Stalcup, deputy director of the Superfund program. “We know the Superfund program is not the answer to the hundreds of thousands of mines out there, but the mines we are working on we want to do them the best we can.”

The 43 sites examined by AP are mining locations for which officials and researchers have reliable estimates of polluted water releases. Officials said flow rates at the sites vary.

Average flows were unavailable for nine sites that only had high and low estimates of how much polluted water flowed out. For those sites, the AP used the lower estimates for its analysis.

Questions over who should pay

To date, the EPA has spent an estimated $4 billion on mining cleanups. Under Trump, the agency has identified a small number of Superfund sites for heightened attention after cleanup efforts stalled or dragged on for years. They include five mining sites examined by AP.

Former EPA assistant administrator Mathy Stanislaus said more money is needed to address mining pollution on a systematic basis, rather than jumping from one emergency response to another.

“The piecemeal approach is just not working,” said Stanislaus, who oversaw the Superfund program for almost eight years ending in 2017.

Democrats have sought unsuccessfully to create a special cleanup fund for old hardrock mine sites, with fees paid by the mining industry. Such a fund has been in place for coal mines since 1977, with more than $11 billion in fees collected and hundreds of sites reclaimed.

The mining industry has resisted doing the same for hardrock mines, and Republicans in Congress have blocked the Democratic proposals.

Montana Mining Association director Tammy Johnson acknowledged abandoned mines have left a legacy of pollution, but added that companies still in operation should not be forced to pay for those problems.

“Back in the day there really wasn’t a lot known about acid mine drainage,” she said. “I just don’t think that today’s companies bear the responsibility.”

In 2017, the EPA proposed requiring companies still operating mines to post cleanup bonds or offer other financial assurances so taxpayers don’t end up footing cleanup bills. The Trump administration halted the rule , but environmental groups are scheduled to appear in federal court next month in a lawsuit that seeks to revive it.

“When something gets on a Superfund site, that doesn’t mean it instantly and magically gets cleaned up,” said Earthjustice attorney Amanda Goodin. “Having money immediately available from a responsible party would be a game changer.”

City of Brantford gets loan for completed brownfield project

As reported by Susan Gamble in the Brantford Expositor, The City of Brantford, Ontario is securing a $4.6 million load to cover the expenses related to the remediation of the Sydenham Pearl Brownfield Site.

The site has already been remediated. City Councillors recently voted in favour of the $4.6 million debenture from the Ontario Infrastructure and Lands Corporation with a 20-year interest rate of 3.4 per cent. The agreement will mean the city repays the loan at a rate of $322,878 a year.

The debenture was approved, along with the project, in 2012 and the remediation at the site is complete, but the money has to be returned to the city’s capital project fund, which has been fronting the money.

Joelle Daniels, the city’s director of finance, explained to the Brantford Expositor that the city had been able to finance the costs of the project over the last six years from working capital since the cash flow was available.

“Typically we have an interim balance and that allows us to not issue the debenture until we know the final cost of the project. We wouldn’t have wanted to borrow the money up front and then carry the interest longer.”

The city has about a dozen outstanding debentures, most of them with the Ontario Infrastructure Lands Corporation but others through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities or regular lending institutions.

The Sydenham-Pearl Brownfield Site is a 6 acre property that had most recently owned by two industrial companies, namely Domtar and Crown Electric, which is surrounded by residential properties, a public playground, a vacant school property, and a rail line.


Crown Electric Manufacturing 17 Sydenham Street
Image Source: (City of Brantford Records Department)

Prior to remediation, soil testing and groundwater testing had shown high levels of industrial chemicals, including but not limited to trichloroethylene and its breakdown products, ethylbenzene and vinyl chloride. 

As is the case with many brownfields, the Sydenham-Pearl Brownfield site has its history rooted in industrial purposes.  The properties have changed hands many times over the course of several decades, and have survived many changes in environmental policies.  Policies including the disposal of hazardous waste and even what chemicals are considered to be hazardous in the first place.

The remediation took 8 weeks to complete and included: the removal of underground storage tanks; excavation and offsite disposal of petroleum hydrocarbons in soil; and in situ soil mixing to break down volatile organic compounds in soil and groundwater.

With remediation activities complete, Phase 3 soil capping and berm construction began. Installation of the soil cap was a requirement of the Ontario Environment Ministry in accordance with the Risk Assessment completed for these properties. Milestone Environmental Contracting completed soil capping and berm construction.

Work at the Sydenham Pearl Brownfield Remediation project was completed in 2017 with required certificates received from the province last spring. The city is currently finishing off sampling and monitoring of the site as required by the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks.

The project, which took in 17 and 22 Sydenham, involved removing more than 3,000 cubic metres of contaminated soil to a provincial landfill.

Formerly the site of Crown Electric and Domtar, which made roofing materials, the site was an eyesore, inhabited by squatters and an invitation for fires.

Large fires in 2001 and 2004 meant the city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to level buildings and clear the area. The properties were seized for tax sales and a remediation plan was created.

Milestone Environmental Contracting spent $2.4 million of the budget on the remediation and another $2.2 million was set aside for the greening process and contingency funding.

Bioremediation: Global Markets and Technologies to 2023

A report issued by BCC Research provides an overview of the global markets and technologies of the bioremediation industry. The report predicts that the global bioremediation market should grow from $91.0 billion in 2018 to $186.3 billion by 2023, increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.4% from 2018 through 2023.

One of the finding of the report is that the application of bioremediation technology in the water bodies sector held the largest market share in 2017, and it is expected to remain the market leader throughout the forecast period.

The report predicts an ever-increasing use of bioremediation techniques for treating sewage, lakes, rivers and streams, ponds and aqua culture is anticipated to create huge growth opportunities for the market in the coming years. In recent years, however, the rise in the agriculture industries has augmented the growth of hazardous pollutants in the environment, and thus the application of bioremediation methods in the agricultural sector is expected to be the fastest-growing segment.


Redox zones of a typical contaminant plume (Source: Parsons 2004)

The report breaks down and analyzes the bioremediation market into three categories:

  • By type: In situ and ex situ bioremediation.
  • By application: Water bodies, mining, oil and gas, agriculture, automotive and other industries.
  • By region: North America is segmented into the U.S., Canada and Mexico; Europe is segmented into the U.K., Germany, France, Russia and Rest of Europe; the Asia-Pacific region is segmented into Japan, India, China and Rest of Asia-Pacific; and the Rest of the World (ROW) covers Latin America, Middle East and Africa.

The report provides estimated values used are based on manufacturers’ total revenues. Projected and forecast revenue values are in constant U.S. dollars unadjusted for inflation.

This report also includes a patent analysis and a listing of company profiles for key players in the bioremediation market.

Similar Reports

In 2014, a team of United Kingdom researchers at University of Nottingham and Heriot-Watt University issued the results of a global survey on the use of bioremediation technologies for addressing environmental pollution problems. The findings of the survey were quite interesting.

Preferred vs. Actual Treatment Method

One of the findings of the UK survey was the difference between the preferred vs. actual treatment method. More than half of respondents (51%) stated that they would prefer to use environmentally friendly approaches including microbial remediation (35%) and phytoremediation (16%). However, historical information suggests the opposite has actually been the case. Considering the relative low cost and low energy requirements of bioremediation technologies, the gulf between aspiration and practice might be due to various factors involving the risk-averse nature of the contaminated-land industry, or difficulties in project design. The latter include identifying appropriate organisms for removing specified contaminants, optimizing environmental conditions for their action, ascertaining extents of eventual clean-up, and the incomplete understanding of all the mechanisms and processes involved. These lead to difficulties in modeling, simulating and/or controlling these processes for improved outcomes.

Application of Bioremediation Techniques

The Figure below compares the broad bioremediation methods being employed within industry according to the 2014 survey, namely monitored natural attenuation (MNA), bio-augmentation and bio-stimulation. The use of low-cost in situ technologies (like MNA) featured quite prominently, particularly in North America and Europe, where it accounts for over 60% of the bioremediation methods being used. This finding points to a strong concern within the developed countries for better maintenance of ecological balance and preventing a disruption of naturally occurring populations.

MNA has been shown to require 1) elaborate modeling, 2) evaluation of contaminant degradation rates and pathways, and 3) a prediction of contaminant concentrations at migration distances and time points downstream of exposure points. This is to determine which natural processes will reduce contaminant concentrations below risk levels before potential courses of exposure are completed, and to confirm that degradation is proceeding at rates consistent with clean-up objectives. These results appear to suggest that regions which employ computational and modeling resources are better able to use low-cost bioremediation technologies like MNA, whereas the others tend to use the more traditional and less cost-effective technologies. In all the continents, researchers were found to favor the use of bio-stimulation methods. Less disruption of ecological balance is apparently a global concern.

Background on Bioremediation

Bioremediation is a method that uses naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and yeast to degrade or break down hazardous substances into non-toxic or less-toxic substances.Microorganisms eat and digest organic substances for energy and nutrients.

There are certain microorganisms that can dissolve organic substances such as solvents or fuels that are hazardous to the environment.These microorganisms degrade the organic contaminants into less-toxic products, mainly water and carbon dioxide.

The microorganisms must be healthy and active for this to occur.

Bioremediation technology helps microorganisms grow and boosts microbial population by generating optimum environmental conditions. The particular bioremediation technology utilized is determined by various factors, including the site conditions, the presence of type of microorganisms, and the toxicity and quantity of contaminant chemicals.

Bioremediation takes place under anaerobic and aerobic conditions.In the case of aerobic conditions, microorganisms utilize the amount of oxygen present in atmosphere to function.

With a sufficient amount of oxygen, microorganisms transform organic contaminants into water and carbon dioxide. Anaerobic conditions help biological activity in which oxygen is not present so that the microorganisms degrade chemical compounds present in the soil to release the required amount of energy.

Factors of influence in bioremediation processes

Bioremediation technology is used to clean up contaminated water and soil.There are two main types of bioremediation: in situ and ex situ.

The in situ bioremediation process treats the contaminated groundwater or soil in the location where it is found. The ex situ process requires the pumping of groundwater or the excavation of contaminated soil before it can be treated.

In situ bioremediation type is typically segmented as phytoremediation, bioventing, bioleaching, bioslurping, biostimulation and bioaugmentation. The ex situ bioremediation type is typically segmented as composting, controlled solid-phase treatment and slurry-phase biological treatment.

Biodegradation is a cost-effective natural process that is useful for the treatment of organic wastes.The extent of biodegradation is greatly dependent upon the initial concentrations and toxicity of the contaminants, the properties of the contaminated soil, their biodegradability and the specific treatmentsystem selected.

In biodegradation treatment, the targeted contaminants are semi-volatile and nonhalogenated volatile organics and fuels. The benefits of bioremediation, however, are limited at sites with highly chlorinated organics and high concentrations of metals, as they may be harmful to the microorganisms.

https://www.researchandmarkets.com/publication/mkvz6uj/4752244

Using Biosolids to Revegetate Inactive Mine Tailings

Vale Canada (a global mining company with an integrated mine, mill, smelter, and refinery complex in operations Sudbury, Ontario) has been working with Terrapure Environmental (an industrial waste management company) to utilize biosolids on its main tailings area.

For over 100 years, tailings from the milling operation have been deposited in the Copper Cliff Central Tailings impoundment. The facility is still active, but approximately 1,300 hectares are inactive and need reclamation work.


The Big Nickel in Sudbury (Photo Credit: pizzodisevo)

Over the decades, Vale has had some success in revegetation of its tailings area, but there are still large areas of bare or sparsely vegetated tailings, which have led to wind-erosion-management challenges. To control dust, Vale uses agricultural equipment to cover the tailings with straw or hay, as well as a chemical dust suppressant. These practices are costly, and they have to be done continuously to maintain an appropriate cover at all times. In 2012, Vale decided its tailings needed a permanent vegetative cover—not just to suppress dust and reduce erosion, but to improve overall biodiversity. They entered into discussions with Terrapure Organics Solutions (formerly Terratec Environmental) to collaborate on a trial project to apply biosolids on the mine tailings.

In 2012, Vale decided its tailings needed a permanent vegetative cover—not just to suppress dust and reduce erosion, but to improve overall biodiversity. They entered into discussions with Terrapure Organics Solutions (formerly Terratec Environmental) to collaborate on a trial project to apply biosolids on the mine tailings.

The Challenge

The biggest challenge was forging a new path for this type of work. Applying biosolids to mine tailings had never been done before in Ontario. Just to get the right permits and approvals took about two years. Vale Canada and Terrapure worked closely with the Ontario Environment Ministry to ensure standards compliance. Some of this work included helping to determine what those standards should be. Terrapure was able to contribute to these discussions, leveraging decades of expertise in safe biosolids application to agricultural land. Once the Environmental Compliance Approval came in April 2014, the team had to figure out the best application method and proper amount to encourage vegetation, which meant a lot of testing and optimizing.

The Solution

At first, Terrapure mixed biosolids into the surface layer of the tailings. Over time, however, the team learned that applying biosolids to the surface, without mixing, allowed for greater rates of application and coverage at a lower cost.

Terrapure also had to experiment with the right tonnage per hectare. After seeding four trial plots with different amounts of biosolids coverage—20, 40, 60 and 80 dry tonnes/hectare—it was determined that 80 dry tonnes was best for seed germination. At the time, it was the maximum allowable application rate. By the end of 2014, approximately 25 hectares of tailings were amended. Where the biosolids were applied, there were impressive results. Wildlife that had not been seen feeding in the area in years started to return. In 2015, the Ontario Environment Ministry approved an increase in the biosolids application rate to a maximum of 150 dry tonnes/hectare, which was necessary for providing higher organic matter and nutrient levels, and for stabilizing the tailings’ pH levels. This approval also increased the cap on the amount of biosolids that could be delivered to the maximum application rate per hectare. To enhance the program even more, Terrapure and Vale partnered with the City of Greater Sudbury to blend leaf and yard waste with biosolids. By blending these materials, the mixture becomes virtually odourless, its nutrients are more balanced and it allows for a more diverse application.


Glen Watson, Vale’s superintendent of environment, decommissioning and reclamation, surrounded by lush vegetation covering part of the company’s Central Tailings Facility in Sudbury

The Results

As of 2018, Terrapure has successfully covered over 150 hectares of Vale’s tailings with municipal biosolids. Vegetative growth and wildlife are well established on all areas where the team applied organics. Just as importantly, this project has diverted more than 25,000 dry tonnes of valuable biosolids from becoming waste in the landfill. Following the success of the initial trial, the Environment Ministry widened the approval to include all areas of the inactive tailings and a portion of the active tailings. At the current application rate of 150 dry tonnes/hectare, Vale’s central tailings facility could potentially require another 195,000 dry tonnes of biosolids. That’s more than 30 years of biosolids utilization, at an annual rate of 6,000 dry tonnes of material. Needless to say, Vale is very pleased with the results, and the relationship is ongoing. In fact, the Vale team is evaluating other sites in the Sudbury area for this type of remediation, ensuring a long-term, environmentally sustainable rehabilitation program.

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.

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. 


Canadian Federal Government Proposing New Regulations on Cross-border movement of Hazardous Waste

Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC), which is the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recently released draft regulations to control the cross-border movement of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material. The regulations, if eventually promulgated, would repeal and replace the Export and Import Regulations, the Interprovincial Movement Regulations, and the PCB Waste Export Regulations. Although the proposed Regulations would maintain the core permitting and movement tracking requirements of the former regulations, the regulatory provisions would be amended to ensure greater clarity and consistency of the regulatory requirements.

Electronic Tracking System

The proposed Regulations would provide flexibility for the electronic movement tracking system by no longer prescribing the specific form required for tracking shipments of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material. Instead, the proposed Regulations would require specific information to be included in a movement document (that can be generated electronically) and would allow movement document information to be passed on to different parties in parallel to facilitate the tracking rather than prescribing the handover of copies from one party to another.

Furthermore, given that movement documents would be able to be managed electronically, the proposed Regulations would no longer require that the movement document and permit physically accompany the shipment. The proposed Regulations would instead require parties to immediately produce the movement document and the permit upon request. Similar simplifications would be included in the provisions related to the movement document for interprovincial movements of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material.

The proposed Regulations would clarify the responsibility of a receiving (importing) facility to pass on information regarding the origin of the hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material being transferred to a subsequent authorized facility for final disposal or recycling. Clarifications would also be made to the provisions for the return and rerouting of shipments to better align those requirements with current practice and ensure that confirmation of disposal from the alternative facility is also required in order to properly complete the tracking of those shipments.

Definitions of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material

With respect to interprovincial movements, under the proposed regulations, the definitions of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material would be aligned with those of international movements. In addition, proposed changes to those definitions would ensure a more consistent application of regulatory provisions for all types of transboundary movements and would better align definitions with other jurisdictions and international agreements. Some of these proposed changes are listed below.

Toxicity characteristic leaching procedure

The proposed Regulations would reference the toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP), in its entirety. This procedure is a standard test method used to evaluate the mobility of a number of contaminants that may be found in waste and recyclable material and, therefore, their potential for release. While making reference to the TCLP, the Export and Import Regulations exclude a step requiring that the size of particles in a sample be reduced to fit into the testing apparatus. In order to ensure that the method is used consistently, hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material undergoing testing would need to be shredded to meet the TCLP’s specific particle size requirement.

Electrical and electronic equipment

Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) is not currently listed as hazardous under the Export and Import Regulations and must meet other criteria to fall under the definitions of hazardous waste or hazardous recyclable material, which can be difficult to ascertain. The proposed Regulations would clearly designate “circuit boards and display devices and any equipment that contains them” as hazardous waste or hazardous recyclable material to be controlled when destined for specific disposal or recycling operations. The proposed Regulations would maintain the exclusion currently under the Export and Import Regulations for this type of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material moving within OECD countries (including moving between provinces and territories in Canada).

Mercury

The proposed Regulations would remove the small quantity exclusion for hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material containing mercury. Any waste or material containing any amount of mercury that meets the definitions of hazardous waste or hazardous recyclable material would be subject to the regulatory provisions for both international and interprovincial movements.

Batteries

Batteries are not currently listed as hazardous under the Export and Import Regulations and must meet other criteria to fall under the definitions of hazardous waste or hazardous recyclable material. Some types of batteries are clearly covered by the definitions; however, for some other types it is not clear. The proposed Regulations would clarify that all types of batteries (i.e. rechargeable and non-rechargeable) being shipped internationally or interprovincially for disposal or recycling are included in the definitions of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material.

Terrapure Battery Recycling Facility

Waste and recyclable material generated on ships

The proposed Regulations would add a new exclusion to clarify that waste or recyclable material generated from the normal operations of a ship is not captured by the definitions of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material. This exclusion would further harmonize the proposed Regulations with the Basel Convention (which excludes this waste) and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 where this waste is already covered.

Residual quantities

The proposed Regulations would add a new exclusion for waste or recyclable material that is to be transported in a container after the contents of that container have been removed to the maximum extent feasible and before the container is either refilled or cleaned of its residual content. This exclusion would clarify that such waste or recyclable material is not captured by the definitions of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material.

Recycling operation R14

Over the years, ECCC has received numerous questions regarding recycling operation R14 found in Schedule 2 of the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations. Section 2 R14 reads as follows : “Recovery or regeneration of a substance or use or re-use of a recyclable material, other than by any of operations R1 to R10”. This recycling operation is not included in the Basel Convention or the OECD Decision.  ECCC is proposing to delete this part of operation R14 to remove uncertainty about its application.  This change may result in some recyclable material no longer being captured and defined as hazardous.  For example, a used material that is to be used directly in another process that is not listed as a recycling operation would no longer be captured. 
This change would further align regulatory provisions with international guidelines under the Basel Convention.


Exports, Imports and Transits of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material 2003-2012

Proposed changes regarding waste containing PCBs

The regulatory provisions for the export of waste containing PCBs would be streamlined and integrated into those for hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material. This would include removing the partial prohibition on exports of waste containing PCBs in a concentration equal to or greater than 50 mg/kg to allow controlled exports beyond the United States. Therefore, waste and recyclable material containing PCBs in a concentration equal to or greater than 50 mg/kg would be able to be exported provided a permit is obtained and all of the conditions of the proposed Regulations are met.

Proposed changes to improve the permitting process

The proposed Regulations would no longer require the name of the insurance company and the policy number for the exporter, the importer and carriers with the notification (i.e. permit application). In addition, copies of the contracts would no longer need to be provided with the notification. In both cases, the applicant would be required to provide a statement to the effect that valid insurance policies and contracts are in place and to keep proof of insurance coverage and copies of contracts at their place of business in Canada for five years.

The proposed Regulations would require a new notification for any changes in information, other than correcting clerical errors, on a permit.

The proposed Regulations would increase the maximum duration of a permit from 12 months to 3 years, consistent with international agreements, for the movement of hazardous recyclable material directed to pre-consented facilities within OECD countries.

The proposed Regulations would set out conditions under which a permit may be refused, suspended or revoked.

Impacts on Business – Costs and Operations

According to the consultation documents prepared by ECCC, the proposed Regulations, if promulgated, would affect 295 companies, 281 of which would be considered small businesses. For these small businesses, the proposed Regulations are expected to result in incremental compliance and administrative costs of $296,000 in average annualized costs, that is, $1,070 per small business.

If the proposed Regulations are implemented, it would result in an clarifications to the definitions of hazardous waste and would ensure a more consistent application of regulatory provisions. In addition, the proposed Regulations would help minimize environmental impacts outside Canada by ensuring that exported hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material reach the intended disposal or recycling facilities. The present value of compliance and administrative costs of the proposed Regulations would be $2.5 million in 2017 Canadian dollars, discounted at 3% to 2018 over a 10-year period between 2021 and 2030.

The proposed Regulations would impose incremental administrative costs on industry attributable to the completion of additional movement documents for interprovincial movements of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material. Provincial and territorial authorities that are using a tracking system would achieve small savings if they decided not to request movement document information. The present value of administrative costs of the proposed Regulations are expected to be $460,000 in 2017 Canadian dollars, discounted at 3% to 2018, over a 10-year period between 2021 and 2030.

Public Consultation

Public comments to the proposed Regulations are being accepted by ECCC until up to mid-February. Any person may file with the Minister of the Environment comments with respect to the proposed Regulations or a notice of objection requesting that a board of review be established under section 333 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and stating the reasons for the objection. All comments and notices must cite the Canada Gazette, Part I, and the date of publication of this notice, and be sent by mail to Nathalie Perron, Director, Waste Reduction and Management Division, Environmental Protection Branch, Department of the Environment, 351 Saint-Joseph Blvd., Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0H3 (fax: 819-938-4553; email: ec.mt-tm.ec@canada.ca).

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.

Canada’s draft 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy: Impacts on Clean Technology and Brownfield Development

The Government of Canada recently released the Draft 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for public consultation and tabled the Government’s 2018 Progress Report of the 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

The draft Strategy sets out the Government of Canada’s environmental sustainability priorities, establishes goals and targets, and identifies actions that 42 departments and agencies across government will take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their operations and advance sustainable development across Canada.

Of interest to professionals in the environmental sector is some of the Government’s goals with respect to the greening of government. For example, the Government is aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from federal government facilities and fleets by 40% by 2030 (with an aspiration to achieve this target by 2025) and 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. It also has the goal to divert at least 75% (by weight) of all non-hazardous operational waste (including plastic waste) by 2030, and divert at least 90% (by weight) of all construction and demolition waste (striving to achieve 100% by 2030), where supported by local infrastructure. The administrative fleet will be comprised of at least 80% zero-emission vehicles by 2030 according to the draft report.

With respect to real property, the proposed actions of the Canadian federal government include the following: (1) All new buildings and major building retrofits will prioritize low-carbon investments based on integrated design principles, and life-cycle and total cost-of-ownership assessments which incorporate shadow carbon pricing; (2) Minimize embodied carbon and the use of harmful materials in construction and renovation; and (3) Departments will adopt and deploy clean technologies and implement procedures to manage building operations and take advantage of programs to improve the environmental performance of their buildings.

For professionals involved in clean technology, the draft report calls for the implement of the Government’s pledge to double federal government investments in clean energy research, development and demonstration from 2015 levels of $387 million to $775 million by 2020.

The 2018 Progress Report shows how the Government of Canada is implementing the 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, demonstrating that it is on track to meeting many of the commitments laid out in the Strategy. This includes highlighting the leadership role Canada has taken in working toward zero plastic waste and implementing measures to conserve marine areas, as well as actions on climate change.

With respect to clean technology, clean energy, and clean growth, the progress report touts the fact that through three consecutive federal budgets, the Government of Canada has made substantial investments in initiatives to support clean technology, clean energy and clean growth. These commitments include: (1) $2.3 billion in 2017 for clean technology and clean energy research, development, demonstration, adoption, commercialization and use; (2) $1.26 billion in Budget 2017 for the Strategic Innovation Fund; and (3) $4 billion in 2018 in Canada’s research and science infrastructure, much of which helps drive innovation towards a clean growth economy.

The draft Strategy updates the 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, largely maintaining its aspirational goals while adding targets that reflect new initiatives, updating milestones with new priorities, and strengthening links to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In all, 29 medium-term targets support the draft Strategy’s goals, along with 60 short-term milestones and clear action plans.

Among other results, the 2018 Progress Report shows that

  • from 2016 to 2017, greenhouse gas emissions from federal government operations were 28 per cent lower than in 2005 to 2006—more than halfway to the target to reduce emissions from federal buildings and fleets by 40 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030;
  • as of December 2017, close to 8 per cent of Canada’s coastal and marine areas were conserved; and
  • from 2017 to 2018, visits to national parks and marine conservation areas increased by 34 per cent above the 2010 to 2011 baseline levels.

Canadians have the opportunity to provide comments on the draft Strategy until early Spring 2019. For further information: Caroline Thériault, Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, 613-462-5473.

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.