U.S. EPA Approves Use of Updated ASTM Phase I Standard for Specific Properties

ASTM International recently updated its Phase I environmental site assessment standard for assessing large rural and forestland properties.  This Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process for Forestland or Rural Property, E 2247-16 (2016 rural property standard), replaces a 2008 version, numbered E2247-08. Purchasers of real property who intend to use the rural property standard for a closing on or after March 14, 2018, must use the 2016 standard.

Proposed purchasers seeking to establish the innocent purchaser, bona fide prospective purchaser or contiguous property owner defenses under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act must comply with the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (U.S. EPA’s) All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI) standard at 40 C.F.R. pt. 312 prior to the purchase of the property.  While purchasers may follow the AAI criteria set forth in the regulations, most purchasers follow either the E1527-13 Phase I standard (defined below) or the 2008 rural property standard when performing pre-purchase Phase I environmental site assessments, as both standards are specifically identified in the regulation as satisfying AAI.

Effective March 14, 2018, the 2016 rural property standard replaces the 2008 standard for use in meeting AAI under EPA’s regulation. (Purchasers of real property who intend to use the rural property standard for a closing before March 14, 2018, however, may still use the 2008 standard.)  This change is of particular importance to solar and wind projects proposed for large tracts of rural and farmland property, as it allows for less rigorous onsite assessment than the site visit requirements used for assessing commercial and industrial properties, Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process, E 1527-13 standard.

Since Phase I environmental site assessments originated in 1986, the review of large rural and forestland properties has been difficult and time-consuming due to the site reconnaissance requirements alone.  The 2008 rural property standard alleviated some of the difficulties in the site reconnaissance requirements for assessing large rural tracts of property, as more particularly described in an earlier summary.

The 2016 rural property standard adds updated terminology that is used in the companion E1527-13 standard, but more importantly, changes some language that limited the more widespread use of the 2008 version.  First and foremost, the 2016 rural property standard eliminates the somewhat arbitrary 120-acres-or-more size requirement for use of the standard and simply requires the property to be “forestland” or “rural property.”  The standard includes a much broader definition of rural property, allows some alternative sourcing for agency records, and designates a specific time limit of 20 calendar days for receipt of materials requested by the consultant for review in completing Phase I.  The 20 calendar days requirement offers the benefit of an outside time limit, but also ensures that a Phase I environmental site assessment will take at least 20 days to complete if requested documentation is not received earlier. The 2016 rural property standard also relaxes some of the site visit criteria.

US officials consider robots to prevent mine spills

As reported by the Associated Press, Crumbling mine tunnels awash with polluted waters perforate the Colorado mountains and scientists may one day send robots creeping through the pitch-black passages to study the mysterious currents that sometimes burst to the surface with devastating effects.

One such disaster happened at the inactive Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado in 2015, when the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) accidentally triggered the release of 3 million gallons of mustard-colored water laden with arsenic, lead and other toxins. The spill tainted rivers in three states.

a man in a hard hat sprinkling lime (white power) into a pool of muddy water next to a culvert. Here, lime is added to a settling pond to assist in the pH adjustment of the water (Credit: Eric Vance/U.S. EPA)

Now the U.S. EPA is considering using robots and other sophisticated technology to help prevent these types of “blowouts” or clean them up if they happen. But first, the agency has to find out what’s inside the mines, some of which date to Colorado’s gold rush in the 1860s.

Wastewater laden with toxic heavy metals has been spewing from hundreds of inactive mines nationwide for decades, the product of complicated and sometimes poorly understood subterranean flows.

Mining creates tainted water in steps: Blasting out tunnels and processing ore exposes long-buried, sulfur-bearing rocks to oxygen. The sulfur and oxygen mix with natural underground water flows to create sulfuric acid. The acidic water then leaches heavy metals out of the rocks.

To manage and treat the wastewater, the U.S. EPA needs a clear idea of what’s inside the mines, some of which penetrate thousands of feet into the mountains. But many old mines are poorly documented.

Investigating with robots would be cheaper, faster and safer than humans.

“You can send a robot into an area that doesn’t have good air quality. You can send a robot into an area that doesn’t have much space,” said Rebecca Thomas, project manager for the U.S. EPA’s newly created Gold King Superfund site, officially known as the Bonita Peak Mining District.

Instruments on the robots could map the mines and analyze pollutants in the water.

They would look more like golf carts than the personable robots from “Star Wars” movies. Hao Zhang, an assistant professor of computer science at the Colorado School of Mines, envisions a battery-powered robot about 5 feet long with wheels or tracks to get through collapsing, rubble-strewn tunnels.

Zhang and a team of students demonstrated a smaller robot in a mine west of Denver recently. It purred smoothly along flat tunnel floors but toppled over trying to negotiate a cluttered passage.

“The terrain is pretty rough,” Zhang said. “It’s hard for even humans to navigate in that environment.”

A commercial robot modified to explore abandoned mines — including those swamped with acidic wastewater — could cost about $90,000 and take three to four years to develop, Zhang said.

Robot in underground mine (Photo Credit: Tatlana Flower/AP File)

Significant obstacles remain, including finding a way to operate remotely while deep inside a mine, beyond the reach of radio signals. One option is dropping signal-relay devices along the way so the robot stays in touch with operators. Another is designing an autonomous robot that could find its own way.

Researchers are also developing sophisticated computerized maps showing mines in three dimensions. The maps illustrate where the shafts intersect with natural faults and provide clues about how water courses through the mountains.

“It really helps us understand where we have certainty and where we have a lot of uncertainty about what we think is happening in the subsurface,” said Ian Bowen, a U.S. EPA hydrologist. “So it’s a wonderful, wonderful tool.”

The U.S. EPA also plans to drill into mines from the surface and lower instruments into the bore holes, measuring the depth, pressure and direction of underground water currents.

Tracing the currents is a challenge because they flow through multiple mines and surface debris. Many tunnels and faults are connected, so blocking one might send water out another.

“You put your finger in the dike here, where’s the water going to come out?” Thomas said.

Once the U.S. EPA finishes investigating, it will look at technologies for cleansing the wastewater.

Options range from traditional lime neutralization — which causes the heavy metals dissolved in the water to form particles and drop out — to more unusual techniques that involve introducing microbes.

The choice has consequences for taxpayers.  If no company is found financially responsible, the EPA pays the bill for about 10 years and then turns it over to the state.  Colorado currently pays about $1 million a year to operate a treatment plant at one Superfund mine. By 2028, it will pay about $5.7 million annually to operate plants at three mines, not including anything at the Bonita Peak site.

The U.S. EPA views the Colorado project as a chance for the government and entrepreneurs to take risks and try technology that might be useful elsewhere.

But the agency — already dealing with a distrustful public and critical politicians after triggering the Gold King spill — said any technology deployed in Colorado will be tested first and the public will have a chance to comment before decisions are made.

“We’re certainly not going to be in the position of making things worse,” Thomas said. “So when I say we want to take risks, we do, but we want to take calculated, educated risks and not worsen water quality.”

Key Developments in Environmental Law in Canada from 2017

A book on the developments in environmental law in Canada during 2017 was recently published by Thomson Reuters.  Edited by Stanley D. Berger of Fogler Rubinoff LLP, the book includes a number of interesting chapters related to contaminated sites and the issues raised in the Midwest Properties Ltd. v. Thordarson (“Midwest”) court case.  The Midwest case is part of a possible trend in Canada toward awarding damages based on restoration costs rather than diminution in value.  If nothing, else the Midwest Case has introduced uncertainty to the law of damages in contaminated sites cases.

In the chapter written by Natalie Mullins, a litigation partner in the Advocacy and Environmental groups in the Toronto office of Gowling WLG, on the evolution and current state of law on damages in contaminated sites, she states that despite being explicit about awarding compensatory damages only under section 99 of the Alberta Environmental Protection Act (“EPA”) and not at common law, the Alberta Court of Appeal may have implied that restoration costs are the default measure of damages in contaminated sites cases.  She also explores some other critical issues that have arisen post-Midwest, such as:

  • Whether diminution in value is still relevant to the measure of damages;
  • What it means to “restore” a real property;
  • How the court can take a proactive role to ensure that awards made to benefit the environment actually meet that objective; and
  • How defence counsel might prevent similar awards in the future, and how plaintiff’s counsel might use the case to obtain significant damages for their clients.

An interesting point raised by Ms. Mullins in her contaminated sites chapter is that in recent court cases, highlighted with Midwest, court decisions may be paving the way for plaintiffs to recover very significant damage awards for the contaminated of their sites that grossly exceed their actual loss and, in certain circumstances, may be completely unwarranted.

Ms. Mullins questions if the Midwest decision has created the potential for litigants to profit off purchasing contaminated sites and for defendants to face double jeopardy following judgment at trial.

The book is available at online for $144 (Cdn.).

 

Avoiding Common Phase Two ESA Errors – Part 1

By: Bill Leedham, P.Geo, QP, CESA.

Previously I have written about common errors I have encountered in reviewing Phase One Environmental Site Assessment reports, now it’s time to focus on some of the commonplace mistakes I have seen in planning and conducting Phase Two ESAs.

A properly scoped Phase Two needs to be based on accurate site data, which should entail completing a thorough Phase One ESA to identify actual and potential environmental concerns. An incomplete or deficient Phase One ESA (or absence of any prior site assessment) can lead to un-investigated areas, unidentified contaminants, missed contamination, and costly oversights when it comes to completion of the Phase Two work. With the high costs of drilling, sampling and lab analyses – and the even higher costs of remediation; it is vital that the consultant knows where to look and what to look for, in any intrusive site investigation; which requires a diligent and comprehensive Phase One ESA to get it right.

Photo by Azad K. (Geo Forward Inc.)

A Phase Two ESA can be required for a variety of reasons; including transactional due diligence, litigation, remedial planning, and obtaining regulatory approvals. The consultant must know and understand all client and stakeholder objectives, as well as the local regulatory requirements.  Conducting a CSA-compliant Phase Two ESA when the Client is expecting ASTM protocols and the regulator requires a different legislation-specific format to support regulatory approval will lead to problems, delays, possible costs over-runs – and a very dissatisfied client.  Two-way communication and full understanding of the project before, during and after the Phase Two plays an important role in successful and timely project completion.

Once the project requirements are defined, a Sampling Plan must be developed to meet these requirements.  Too often, mistakes are made when the number and location of sampling points is underestimated, or improperly selected. The consultant must consider all the potentially impacted media to be sampled. This could include not just soil; but often groundwater, sediment, and surface water; and sometimes soil vapour, indoor air quality, and building materials.  Consideration of the frequency and extent of sampling is necessary to investigate all relevant media and to fully characterize the environmental condition of the Site.  Utilizing a Conceptual Site Model to consider the contaminant sources, migration pathways and potential receptors unique to the Phase Two property is a useful and too often under-used method of developing a suitable Sampling Plan.

Site specific conditions, access, logistics, safety and (unavoidable) budgetary considerations also play a huge part in properly scoping and conducting any successful Phase Two ESA, but these are all wide ranging topics to cover another day.  Next month I will discuss other methods to recognize and avoid common errors in field sampling.

 

About the Author

Bill is the Head Instructor and Course Developer for the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada (AESAC); and the founder and President of Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc. You can contact Bill at info@down2earthenvironmental.ca

Transport Canada amends TDGR – Marine Requirements and other miscellaneous changes

As reported by the Compliance Center, the December 13, 2017 edition of the Canada Gazette II contains the expected rewrite of Part 11 “Marine” requirements of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations (TDGR). In addition, there are related changes in other parts, as well as some unrelated miscellaneous changes in other areas.

Marine Amendment

The most wide-reaching change, although perhaps of relatively minor significance to the general regulated community, is the replacement of the term “ship” with “vessel”. This, among other changes, is to update the TDGR to current Canada Shipping Act (CSA, and related regulations) terminology. Many aspects of Part 11 related to the CSA had not been updated since 2008.

Note: Interestingly, the referenced definition of “vessel” in the CSA includes all “means of propulsion”:
http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-10.15/page-1.html#h-2

This differs from the TDGR definitions for road and rail vehicles which expressly exclude “muscle power” as a means of propulsion. 

Other definition changes include elimination of the reference to “short run ferry”, previously defined in TDGR Part 1.3 as operating between points “not more than 3 km apart”. TDGR 1.30 special case exemption now refers only to “Ferry,” but describes within the exemption that it’s applicable to operating between two points “not more than 5 km apart.

The definition of an “inland voyage” now cites the CSA Cargo, Fumigation and Tackle regulations (CFTR):
http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2007-128/index.html

; which, in turn, defer to the Vessel Certificate regulations (VCR):
http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2007-31/

Other aspects of dangerous goods vessel shipment are also found in these CSA regulations.

One more definition that’s been changed to a citation is the one for a roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ship. The vessel is still referred to as a “ship”- since the definition cites the IMDG Code. For those without ready access to the IMDG, the current Ed. 38-16 version reads, in Chapter 1.2 (s. 1.2.1 Definitions):

“…Ro-ro ship (roll-on/roll-off ship) means a ship which has one or more decks, either closed or open, not normally subdivided in any way and generally running the entire length of the ship, carrying goods which are normally loaded and unloaded in a horizontal direction.”

Additional requirements now apply also to ferries regarding passenger vessel limitations, location of shipping documents and incident reporting.

Vessel Restrictions & Exemptions

Schedule 1 Column 8 restrictions regarding carrying DG on passenger vessels is further clarified by TDGR Part 1 sections 1.6 and new special case 1.10.

Gasoline and propane now have a Part 1 special case exemption 1.30.1 to facilitate fuel deliveries and reduce the need for equivalency certificates.

UN3156 is also now permitted in 25 L quantities on passenger vessels.

Mercurous chloride (calomel) is no longer included in the s. 1.46 special case exemption list.

The requirement to mark the flash point on packages with Class 3 contents (s. 4.13) has been removed as it was never an IMDG requirement.

IMDG v. TDGR

Additionally, the often-confusing reference to “Home Trade Voyages” in determining the applicability of the IMDG Code, versus the “standard” TDGR extension of ground requirements, has been replaced by a direct, simplified explanation. Voyages where the vessel (oops – I almost said ship!) is within 120 nautical miles – i.e. 222 km- from shore are considered non-IMDG unless the vessel travels south of the ports of New York or Portland, Oregon, or to another foreign destination. Thus, vessel transport of dangerous goods to St. Pierre and Miquelon (territories of France), despite being within 20 km or so from Newfoundland, require compliance with IMDG.

Inland (mostly “fresh water”) voyages between Canada and other countries – e.g. Great Lakes or rivers to the US – remain excluded from mandatory IMDG compliance. Conversely, vessels registered in Canada but transporting between two foreign destinations, remain under IMDG requirements.

Other Amendments

Changes not directly related to Part 11 topics include correction of some typographical and miscellaneous errors in the TDGR or website html information.

Examples include re-entering the PG II information for UN1790, UN2734 on the website; editing SP 159 to clarify that the new Class 9 Lithium Battery label illustration is only used for labels and not used for placarding purposes – standard Class 9 placards are used (as is the case in air, ocean and US 49 CFR); and updating ICAO references in Part 12.

The Table in 5.16 has been repealed due to the updates in the referenced CSA standards.

Transition:

The changes are effective as of the December 13th CG II publication date and have a transition period of 6 months for mandatory implementation. The CGII document which includes a discussion of the changes in the RIAS (Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement) is found at:

http://canadagazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2017/2017-12-13/html/sor-dors253-eng.html

 

Growing Interest in Brownfield Redevelopment in Windsor

As reported in the Windsor Star, it has taken almost seven years for a municipal brownfields development incentive program to take hold in the City of Windsor, immediately across the Detroit River from the City of Detroit.

In the last several months, applications to the Brownfield Redevelopment Community Improvement (CIP) Plan have been steadily streaming in — seeking grants to help fund feasibility and soil studies, and then even more money to help pay for the pricey cleanup.

If they become realities, these developments could add up to hundreds of new residences on: the former GM Trim site on Lauzon Road; a collection of former industrial properties between Walkerville and Ford City; and most recently a large property near Tecumseh Road and Howard Avenue that for 50 years was the home of Auto Specialties, a manufacturer of malleable castings and automotive jacks for the auto industry.

Greg Atkinson, a senior planner with the city who co-ordinates the Brownfields CIP program, said it’s “awesome news” that investors are finally taking advantage of this “great incentive package.”  The reason they’re jumping aboard now, he said, is that Windsor’s land prices have risen and residential vacancy rates have declined to the point where developing these cheaper brownfield properties now make financial sense.

“But without the incentives I don’t think they would be redeveloped,” Atkinson said. “With them, they’re pushed into that realm of viability, and that’s what we’re starting to see.”

Almost 140 sites across the city have been identified as brownfield properties, covering 559 acres.

“Historically, there has been little interest in redeveloping brownfield sites due to the uncertainty surrounding the extent of contamination and the potential cost of cleanup,” says a city report that goes to the city’s planning, heritage and economic development standing committee Monday. It says one redeveloped brownfield acre saves 4.5 acres of farmland on a city’s outskirts from being developed, and that for every dollar invested in brownfield redevelopment, $3.80 is invested in the community.

An illustration cut out from an unknown trade publication/manual, circa 1940, shows the Auto Specialties Manufacturing Company (Canada) located near the northeast corner of Tecumseh Road and Howard Avenue. The plant made malleable castings for the automotive industry and also automotive jacks. Photo courtesy of the University of Windsor, Leddy Library. UNIVERSITY OF WINDSOR / WINDSOR STAR

“It’s great to see owners and developers coming forward and saying ‘We’d like to tap into this fund because we’re interested in redeveloping this site,” Mayor Drew Dilkens said of the recent flow of applications. “The more of these 140 properties we can activate, the better it will be for all of us in the City of Windsor because it provides more taxes and lowers everyone’s share.”

The most recent application is from THMC Windsor, for a $7,000 grant to pay half the cost of a feasibility study on the viability of redeveloping part of the massive parking lot behind the medical buildings at Howard and Tecumseh into a residential project. Auto Specialties operated on the 12.5-acre site from the 1920s to the 1970s.

The next grant THMC could apply for provides up to $15,000 to cover half the cost of soil and groundwater testing for possible contamination. Then if the owner decides to go ahead with cleanup, the Brownfield Rehabilitation Program compensates for the cleanup costs by effectively freezing taxes where they are (versus what they would rise to when the site’s redeveloped) for the first 10 years. There’s even a big break on development fees.

“It really does cover a lot of costs,” Atkinson said of the program.

Of the 15 applications to the program since 2010, 13 have come in the last 22 months. Grants have totalled $1.9 million, leveraging $16.9 million in private sector investment, according to the city.

The earliest and most prominent success happened at a former gas station property at Dougall Avenue and West Grand Boulevard, which was turned into a small commercial development with the help of $67,000 in city grants. The former Wickes bumper plant — now run as a big UHaul operation, also was rejuvenated thanks to $1.5 million worth of grants. A former gas station at Riverside Drive and Marentette Avenue has been cleaned up and readied for redevelopment. And earlier this year, the Sood family received study grants to redevelop the former Seagrave fire truck plant property on Walker Road into about 12 townhouses and turn 17 acres of largely vacant industrial land south of Edna Street, west of St. Luke Road and north of Richmond Street into between 200 and 250 residential units.

On Monday night, council approved grants totalling $32,000 to help pay for three feasibility and environmental studies costing $97,000 for the 60-acre former GM Trim site. The current owner Farhi Holdings has plans to redevelop the site into a commercial-residential project with about 240 residential units. 

Dilkens said there’s clearly a demand for residential development in the east side of the city where Farhi’s land is located, and replacing the derelict site with a new housing project would benefit the entire area.

But Atkinson cautioned that not all these projects end up being developed. “Sometimes, they’ll determine it’s not feasible, there’s no demand for what they’re thinking of, or they might do the sampling and find out it costs too much to clean up.”

The Walker Power Building in Windsor, Ont., summer 2015

Spill Response Questioned for Pipeline underneath the Great Lakes

As reported in the Maritime Executive, Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge is engaged in a debate with environmental groups over the operation of an underwater pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac, the narrow waterway between upper and lower Michigan.

Last month, Enbridge reached an agreement with Michigan state government that allows it to continue operating the line, except during weather conditions that would interfere with a spill response.  The agreement defined poor weather as wave heights over eight feet.  In return, Enbridge promised to study the possibility of replacing the line – which sits above the surface of the lakebed – with a pipe buried in a tunnel.  The firm said that it would also look at measures to reduce the risk of damage to the current pipeline from boat anchors.

Red lines show where Line 5 crosses Straits of Mackinac (Source: Enbridge)

Recently, Michigan’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board called for the Governor of Michigan to shut down the line until repairs are made to areas where the exterior protective coating is missing.  It also requested that State Government’s deal with Enbridge be revised to allow pipeline operations only when waves are three feet high or under.

Local environmental advocates contend that these measures do not go far enough.  These ativists say that the board and the governor did not take into account a prominent feature of wintertime navigation on the Straits of Mackinac: ice.  The Coast Guard is the only entity in the region with icebreakers, and its vessels are usually busy ensuring the safety of navigation during the wintertime.  In the event of a spill, the service says, the nearest icebreaker could be up to two days away.

In congressional testimony last month, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said bluntly that his service is not prepared to handle the worst-case scenario for pipelines like Line Five. “I will go on the record and say that the Coast Guard is not Semper Paratus [always ready] for a major pipeline oil spill in the Lakes,” he said.

Enbridge says that Line Five’s dual 20-inch pipelines remain in excellent condition and have never experienced a leak in their 60 years of operation. The line is used to transport natural gas liquids, light crude oil and light synthetic crude, and it supplies most of Michigan’s propane.

“We’re committed to the letter and spirit of this important agreement [with the governor], and to the options outlined in the agreement that move us to a longer-term set of decisions about the future of Line Five,” said Enbridge spokesman Guy Jarvis, speaking to Michigan Public Radio.

 

Nearly $3 million awarded for R&D of Marine Oil Spill Response Technology by Canadian Federal Government

The Canadian federal government recently announced investments of $2.89 million for four projects to enhance marine incident prevention and responsiveness along Canada’s ocean coastlines.

Centre for Cold Ocean Resources Engineering (C-CORE)

Through its Oil Spill Response Science (OSRS) program, the federal government provided $991,500 to C-CORE, a St. John’s-based research and development company, to increase the efficiency of existing mechanical oil recovery systems for heavy oil products in harsh, cold environments.  The government of Newfoundland and Labrador will also provide $428,500 to the project.

“This project leverages C-CORE’s expertise in analytical modelling, computer simulation and large-scale physical tests to assess and optimize technology performance in harsh environments,” Mark MacLeod, C-CORE president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Lab-scale test apparatus for oil recovery

The main intermediate outcome of this project consists of an improved oil spill collection and separation system that can be integrated in an efficient response technique including a specially designed vessel.  The system will be based on the established concepts and proven technologies for recovery of heavy oil spills from sea water in cold and ice prone ocean environments.

The long-term outcome of the project will include specialized vessels with the required detection, storage, and spill removal systems, tested and proven in the real life conditions.

Project partners with C-CORE include Elastec, Eastern Canada Response Corporation Ltd. (ECRC), and InnovatechNL.

University of Toronto

A further $400,000 will go to a University of Toronto project that will develop a sorbent-based direct oil collector (called In-Situ Foam Filtration System or ISFFS) for use in oil spills.  This system will be capable of directly reclaiming the dissolved, emulsified, dispersed, and free oil from marine spill sites.  To meet this objective, the development of advanced functional foams (sorbents), implementing a bench-top system, and design and optimization of in-situ filtration process as a proof-of-concept will be undertaken.

The ISFF will directly collect the oil from the spill site by pumping through oil sorbent bed, which serves as the filtration media.  For this type of foam, there is no need for high oil-sorption capacity thus, functionalizing the foam with toxic and expensive elements can be avoided along with minimizing material costs.  Moreover, the in-situ filtration will make the oil sorption process continuous, simplifies oil collection, making oil spill response quicker and more cost effective.

Project partners include Tetra Tech, Polaris Applied Sciences Inc., Dr. Foam Canada, Gracious Living Innovations Inc., and ShawCor Ltd.

University of Alberta’s Advanced Water Research Lab

The OSRS program will be contributing $600,000 towards a $1.65 million project be undertaken at the University of Alberta.  The project involves the development of an on-board membrane based hybrid oil/water separation system.  If successfully developed, the system will significantly increase the capacity of recovery vessels that physically collect oil spilled at sea, thereby reducing the cost and spill response time for cleanup.  The technology can be directly and easily incorporated into existing rapid deployment spill clean-up systems mounted on ships or barges.  It would be ready to commercialize for manufacturers of existing oil spill clean-up tankers, making the research easy to implement for large or small-scale spills and for potential use in future high-risk areas of development.

BC Research Inc.

Finally, the federal OSRS program committed $925,000 to BC Research Inc., a company with a broad experience in chemical product development, to further develop a hybrid spill-treating agent (STA) that will help slow or prevent the spread of an oil slick on water.

If the R&D project is successful, a hybrid STA will be commercially available that can be used to combat marine oil spills at large scale.  The hybrid STA would have both gelling and herding properties, to prevent or slow down the spreading of an oil slick by rendering it into a thickened (gelled) state, as well as to use it as a herding agent, to facilitate either controlled burn or skimming operations.

Current oil recovery rates for spills on water are estimated to be in the range of 10-20%.  With current STAs, there are few options to prevent or slow down weathering processes, including spreading and dispersion. Delaying the spreading and weathering process would potentially facilitate cleanup and improve the degree/rate of oil removed.

Project partners include NORAM Engineers and Constructors and the University of British Columbia.

Volunteers cleaning Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver, 1973. (Source: John Denniston)

Brownfield Redevelopment in Western New York

As reported in the Buffalo Law Journal/Buffalo Business First, Gov. Andrew Cuomo designated four Brownfield Opportunity Areas in Buffalo last month, providing another tool for area stakeholders to have the areas developed.

He designated areas in South Buffalo, the Buffalo Harbor, the Buffalo river corridor and the Tonawanda Street corridor.

“These designations will equip Buffalo officials with tools and resources needed to carry out their vision of community revitalization and help turn these blighted properties back into economic engines,” he said. “This is one more reason why Buffalo remains a city on the move.”

Before the designation, the city had to submit plans for the areas, said Michael Hecker, senior associate at Hodgson Russ. “The goal is to find these areas and figure out a way for the state to work with them to help them with long-term planning on how to redevelop the sites.”

It’s a three-step grant process to determine how to revitalize a brownfield area, Hecker said.

“The first step is a pre-nomination study,” he said. “The second is step is nomination and the third is implementation strategy.”

South Buffalo Brownfield Opportunity Area (Credit: Buffalo Urban Development Corporation)

In the pre-nomination phase, a municipality and associated groups look at an area that may have an issue and explore ways to revitalize the area. In the nomination process, funding sources are considered, as well as market trends. And in the third step, implementation of the plan is identified and there’s a thorough accounting of funding sources.

“It’s a wholesome package that the state has developed as a basis to spur economic development,” Hecker said.

The three steps are completed through the New York State Department of State. Once the governor designates a brownfield opportunity area, various programs can lead to more state benefits.

“If you do your redevelopment project through a BOA, there are additional tax credits available,” Hecker said.

“It’s basically the governor recognizing that these areas have spent the time and focus on an economic redevelopment strategy and they should qualify for additional credits to spur redevelopment in these areas.”

He said the designations fit in with the city’s Green Code under Mayor Byron Brown.

“(BOAs) are a central component of our city’s Green Code initiative and my administration’s place-based economic development strategy,” Brown said in a statement.

“The State’s approval of the BOAs, created by the city of Buffalo with significant public input, places Buffalo at the forefront of brownfield redevelopment nationally and will further enhance Buffalo’s ability to compete for investment, bringing new life to even more neighborhoods by making use of underutilized properties that create jobs for city residents.”

Some of the areas will need to go through remediation in order to be redeveloped, according to Hecker. For instance, the South Buffalo Brownfield Opportunity Area, which consists of approximately 1,968 acres in an area that was once heavily industrialized by the steel industry, has sites that will require remediation.

Plans for that site include a nine-hole golf course, indoor and outdoor recreation and expansion of the Tifft Nature Preserve.

The Buffalo River Corridor Brownfield Opportunity Area also has long-standing contamination issues. It’s made up of 1,050 acres in the Old First Ward, containing 58 possible brownfield sites.

“One of the main areas of that project is restoration and enhancement of the environmental quality of the river and enhancing waterfront access,” Hecker said.

“Buffalo is lucky in the fact that it has an unbelievable natural resource with water access. Over the last 10 to 15 years, you’ve definitely seen an enhanced focus on trying to leverage that natural resource to be an economic driver. I think the city, to its credit, has done a very good job of doing that. This is just another option for them to utilize that program to benefit it.”

The Buffalo Harbor Brownfield Opportunity Area is 1,045 acres, with six brownfield sites. The area includes waterfront space at both the Inner and Outer harbors.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan said BOA designation will help with future waterfront development.

“Investing in environmental remediation prepares our communities for revitalization and renewed economic activity,” Ryan said. “Contaminated sites along our waterfront have made progress difficult over the years.”

The Tonawanda Street Corridor Brownfield Opportunity Area is 650 acres containing 46 potential brownfield sites. Plans include reconstruction of the Scajaquada Expressway and restoration of Scajaquada Creek.

Hecker said the designated areas represent places where longtime residents can see the potential benefit to redevelopment.

“One of the interesting things to me about these projects is that they really are fully integrated community projects,” he said.

Brownfield funding is available at the federal level through the Environmental Protection Agency, as well, Hecker said.

While the Trump administration has pared back the EPA, Administrator Scott Pruitt has said that brownfields would remain a priority to the agency.

“There hasn’t been any change in that area,” Hecker said.

Pruitt is focused on shifting the responsibility for contaminated sites to states, Hecker said.

“(Pruitt) wants states to work together with the federal government in a limited capacity to manage these things on their own,” he said.

“From a standpoint of economic development, especially with President Trump’s focus on infrastructure, I don’t think this is going to be a major issue unless there are further cuts in the budget. That remains to be seen.”

Canadian Government to spend $80 million to Study Oil Spills

Building on the announcements of $3 million in funding for R&D on oil spill response technology, the federal government recently announced it is spending $80-million on oil spill research on preventing spills as well as their effect on the marine environment.

There will be $45.5-million set up for a research program that will foster collaboration among researchers in Canada and around the world, with $10-million a year to bring scientists together to study how oil spills behave, how to clean and contain them and how to minimize environmental damage. 

The Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research in Halifax will also get some of the $16.8-million in funding for new scientists and specialized equipment.  It will support oil spill research to better understand how oil degrades in different conditions.

Another $17.7-million will be used to fund research and development of enhanced ocean computer models of winds, waves and currents to allow responders to better track spills.

The funds are part of the $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan, which is aimed at developing a marine safety system.