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).

Proposed Changes to Ontario’s Toxics Reduction Program

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation Parks (MOECP) recently issued a proposal that will change the regulation (O. Reg. 455/09) under the Toxics Reduction Act , 2009. Under the proposed regulatory amendments, the following changes would be implemented:

  • facilities with existing toxics reduction plans would no longer be required to conduct reviews of those plans;
  • certain facilities would be exempt from all future planning and reporting obligations for certain substances; and
  • facilities with existing plans would still be obligated to maintain annual reporting requirements.

The proposed exemptions would apply to the following facilities:

  • Facilities that have never planned or reported under the program, but now meet the reporting threshold for one or more toxic substances; or
  • Facilities that have been out of the program for three or more years for a toxic substance, but are coming back into the program because they meet a reporting threshold again; or
  • Facilities that are currently planning and reporting under the program, and now meet the reporting thresholds for a new toxic substance at the facility.

With respect to substances, the proposed exemptions would apply to the following obligations:

  • Creating a toxic reduction plan;
  • Tracking and quantifying toxic substances;
  • Annual Reporting on planned reductions; and
  • Reviewing the toxic reduction plan.

The rationale for the proposed changes to the regulation is that it overlaps with federal reporting requirements. The Ontario Toxics Reduction Program requires industry to report publicly on their use of toxic substances, and identify options to reduce those substances through toxic reduction plans. The Canadian federal Chemicals Management Plan requires industry to reduce the use and/or release of certain toxic substances. The federal approach is more comprehensive than the existing provincial program.

Another rationale for amending the regulation is that the MOECP claims that the Toxics Reduction Program has not achieved meaningful reductions. Preliminary results compiled by the MOECP indicate an overall reduction of 0.04% of substances used, created and released for all regulated facilities.

A costing analysis was carried out by the MOECP in conjunction with the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, and it was found that the annual average net savings of this proposal will far exceed the annual average administrative costs.

The MOECP cost analysis estimated that the regulatory proposal will cost current facilities an annual average administrative cost of $818,000 to learn about the changes to the regulations and to continue reporting on existing toxics substances until 2021. These costs are offset by the total annual average administrative net savings of approximately $4 million for all facilities to stop planning and for the program to end in 2021 (when the federal government has completed its chemical assessments and taken action on many toxic substances). All cost analysis was calculated as Average Annual Present Value costs discounted at 2.5% over 10 years.

Toxics Reduction Program Map

The Ontario government maintains a website that shows the locations of facilities subject to the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009, the number of facilities with plans to reduce toxics use, and information on the number of toxics reported. Users of the website can search for for and access information from Ontario facilities that use, create, release, dispose and recycle toxic substances. They can also learn more about these substances and how facilities are taking action to reduce their creation and use to protect the environment and human health. Finally, users of the website can search by location, facility, or public health unit and use the advanced search filters such as year, sector or substance to improve your search results.

Public Comment Period Ends January 20th

The MOECP is accepting public comments to the proposal until January 20th, 2019. Comments can be submitted online or to Michael Friesen of the MOECP (416-314-0131).

Clean-up of Potential CFL Stadium Site for Halifax Schooners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plan for Football Stadium at Shannon Park, Dartmouth

Englobe and DST Join Forces

Englobe Corp. (“Englobe”), a Canadian-based company specializing in Soils, Material and Environmental Engineering, with an established network of more than 55 offices and 30 laboratories across Canada, recently acquired DST Group Inc. (“DST”). DST is a consulting engineering firm founded over 60 years ago with more than 165 employees and nine offices across Ontario and Western Canada. By joining forces, Englobe and DST increase their footprints with 14 offices and 350 staff in Ontario and nearly 160 staff across six offices in Western Canada.

Both companies will be well positioned to offer complementary services and expertise to each other’s clients in both geographical areas, including municipalities, provincial and federal governments, and private sector clients.

“DST shares the same important values as Englobe – focusing on our employees, offering innovative solutions to our clients and emphasizing high-quality project management. We are very happy to have found a partner in Englobe with whom we can build upon our mutual strengths and provide exciting new opportunities to both employees and clients. Our enhanced service offering in the regions will benefit clients nationwide,” says Maurice Graveline, former CEO of DST and new Vice President Operations Ontario at Englobe.

Stephen Montminy, Englobe Co-President, says: “We are extremely pleased to welcome DST to the Englobe family. Its well-established reputation will contribute to consolidating our presence in Ontario and Western Canada and I look forward to seeing the beneficial impacts as we grow together. This is an exciting continuation of our pan-Canadian growth path and creates many new jobs and business opportunities.”

In November, Englobe Corp eacquired McIntosh Lalani Engineering Ltd, a Calgary-based consulting engineering business specializing in geotechnical engineering and materials testing services.  McIntosh Lalani, established in 1997, will continue to operate under its existing name.

Englobe is backed by ONCAP, the mid-market investment arm of Canadian private equity firm Onex Corp. ONCAP invested in 2006 and later partnered in Englobe’s acquisitions and go-private deal in 2011.

Englobe Soil Treatment Facility

About Englobe Corp. and DST, a division of Englobe Corp.

Englobe offers a full range of services and solutions in soils, material and environmental engineering ranging from project design and environmental impact surveys, to technical know-how and consulting to, ultimately, regenerating the earth. The firm provides integrated, sustainable and innovative solutions designed to exceed the expectations of its clients, in both private and public sectors, who are looking for reliable technical expertise, know-how and capabilities customized to each of their projects. Englobe is proud to leverage more than 50 years of achievements in Canada, France and UK to go beyond expertise by empowering its dedicated people to share their work and passion for the benefit of our partners, communities and the environment. englobecorp.com

DST Group Inc. is a consulting engineering firm specializing in Environmental Engineering/Science, Hazardous Materials Consulting, Geotechnical Engineering, Construction Materials Testing, and collectively, Facilities Blasting/Demolition Engineering/Acoustics & Vibration Monitoring. The firm provides services in Ontario and Western Canada. DST was established in 1956 and is an employee-owned firm. dstgroup.com

Environmental Convictions & Contaminated Property: Ontario Summary for 2018

The Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MOECP) publishes publishes an annual report on environmental penalties issued in the previous calendar year for certain land or water violations for companies subject to the Municipal Industrial Strategy for Abatement (MISA) Regulations.  Companies subject to the MISA Regulations belong to one of the nine industrial sectors found in the Effluent Monitoring and Effluent Limits (EMEL) regulations.  The summary report for 2017 was published in the Spring of 2018.

Under the MISA Regulations, environmental penalties can range from $1,000 per day for less serious violations such as failure to submit a quarterly report under the MISA Regulations  to $100,000 per day for the most serious violations, including a spill with a significant impact.

For serious offences under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act and Ontario Water Resources Act, the maximum and minimum corporate fines for each day on which the offence occurs is as follows:

  1. not less than $25,000 and not more than $6,000,000 on a first conviction;
  2. not less than $50,000 and not more than $10,000,000 on a second conviction; and
  3. not less than $100,000 and not more than $10,000,000 on each subsequent conviction.

In the past, Ontario Environment Ministry would publish a more comprehensive environmental enforcement report that covered all penalties, fines and convictions.

In a 2011 blog, Diane Saxe, Ontario’s former Environmental Commissioner and former partner at Siskinds Law Firm, wrote that  a typical year, the Ontario Environment launches about 150 to 175 prosecutions. About 75% of them are resolved by guilty pleas; about 5% are acquitted at trial; about 10% are convicted of something at trial; about 10% are withdrawn.

As the end of the calendar year approaches, the staff at Hazmat Management Magazine thought it would be useful to review some of the more significant environmental convictions related to contaminated property.  That summary can be found below.

Environmental Consultant and an Individual fined $50,000 for False RSC Incidents

In the Spring, an Ontario-based consulting firm that provides environmental, geotechnical, and hydrogeological consulting services was convicted when an employee falsified  Environment Ministry Letters of Acknowledgement to Records of Site Conditions (RSCs) for two properties.

An RSC is a statement on the environmental condition of a property and is typically a requirement by a municipality if a contaminated property is remediated and a redevelopment is proposed that involves a more sensitive land use (i.e., from industrial to residential).  The environmental consultant that performed the environmental site investigation at the site (a Phase I ESA and possibly a Phase II ESA) submits an RSC to the Environment Ministry.  The Environment Ministry issues an acknowledgement of the RSC.

The offences occurred in the Spring of 2014 and winter of 2015.  When the Consulting firm realized one of its employees had issued falsified documents related to the RSCs it immediately informed the affected owners of the related properties.  In the Fall of 2015, an owner/developer of another construction project in the Greater Toronto Area notified the ministry of concerns relating to their RSC submissions of which the consulting firm in question was involved.  At that time, the Environment Ministry commenced an audit and investigations.

The consulting firm was found guilty of one violation under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), was fined $35,000 plus a Victim Fine Surcharge (VFS) of $8,750, and was given 30 days to pay. On the same date, former employee was found guilty of two violations under the EPA, was fined $15,000 plus a VFS of $3,750, and was given 18 months to pay.

Muskoka Cottage Owner fined $30,000 for Discharging Fuel Oil into Water Well

In the winter, a Muskoka homeowner was convicted for discharging fuel and other petroleum hydrocarbon into a water well which can impair the quality of the water. He was fined $30,000 plus a victim surcharge with 6 months to pay .

The conviction stems from an incident that occurred in the spring of 2016.  On May 16, 2016, the homeowner of a cottage on Lake of Bays poured heating fuel oil down a neighbor’s well, damaging the quality of the water in the well. The incident was referred to the Environment Ministry’s investigations and Enforcement branch, resulted in charges and one conviction through a guilty plea.

Residential Property Owner fined $3,000 for Falsely Claiming Property was Remediated

In the winter, a homeowner in Guelph was convicted of failing to apply with two provincial officers orders issued under the environmental protection act (EPA) . The homeowner was fined $3,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $750 and was given 15 days to pay the fine .

The violation occurred in 2013 when the homeowner bought a residential property in Guelph , which earlier had been contaminated with oil fuel from a historic spill at the property . In the December of 2014, the homeowner put the residence up for sale.  The Environment Ministry subsequently received a complaint that the house was up for sale but had not been adequately remediated.

During the course of its investigations, the Environment Ministry found the previous owner had claimed the property had been remediated but discovered that no remediation had been conducted.  An Order was issued by the Environment Ministry for all documentation related to any remediation at the property to be submitted.  Despite providing an extension on a submission date, the not information was provided to the Environment Ministry.

The incident was referred to the ministry’s Investigations and Enforcement Branch, resulting in charges and the conviction against the property owner.

Fine of $30,000 for Discharging Contaminants and Illegal Operation of Waste Disposal Site

In the winter, a business located in the County of Essex and its owner was convicted of three offences under the Environmental Protection Act( EPA) and was also fined $30,000 for discharging dust that cause and was likely to cause an adverse effect, and being deposited at a property that is not allowed nor an approved waste disposal site.

A business owner in Essex County accepted 189 truckloads of  construction waste in 2014 despite the fact that property was not approved as a waste disposal site.

In 2015, the business owner was operating a farm tractor to turn soil at the site. The operation resulted in the release of plumes of dust which adversely affected nearby residents and their properties . The incident was referred to the Environment Ministry’s Investigations Branch.

 

When Oil and Water Mix: Understanding the Environmental Impacts of Fracking

Dan Soeder, director of the Energy Resources Initiative  at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, has co-authored the cover article titled “When oil and water mix: Understanding the environmental impacts of shale development,” in the recent issue of GSA Today, a magazine published by the Geological Society of America.

The article explores what is known and not known about the environmental risks of fracking with the intent of fostering informed discussions within the geoscience community on the topic of hydraulic fracturing, says Soeder. Soeder’s co-author is Douglas B. Kent of the United States Geological Survey.

In this paper, Soeder and Kent bridge the gap in consensus regarding fracking, providing current information about the environmental impacts of shale development. The article is open access and adheres to science and policy, presenting a complicated and controversial topic in a manner more easily understood by the lay person.

“Geoscientists from dinosaur experts to the people studying the surface of Mars are often asked by the public to weigh-in with their opinions on fracking. We wanted the broader geoscience community to be aware of what is known and not known about the impacts of this technology on air, water, ecosystems and human health.  A great deal has been learned in the past decade, but there are still critical unknowns where we don’t yet have answers,” Soeder says.

Development of shale gas and tight oil, or unconventional oil and gas (UOG), has dramatically increased domestic energy production in the United States and Canada.  UOG resources are typically developed through the use of hydraulic fracturing, which creates high-permeability flow paths into large volumes of tight rocks to provide a means for hydrocarbons to move to a wellbore. This process uses significant volumes of water, sand, and chemicals, raising concerns about risks to the environment and to human health.

In the article, Soeder and Kent address the various potential impacts of fracking and how those impacts are being addressed.  Risks to air include releases of methane, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter. Water-resource risks include excessive withdrawals, stray gas in drinking-water aquifers, and surface spills of fluids or chemicals. Landscapes can be significantly altered by the infrastructure installed to support large drilling platforms and associated equipment. Exposure routes, fate and transport, and toxicology of chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process are poorly understood, as are the potential effects on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and human health.

Schematic diagram illustrating unconventional oil and gas (UOG) development activities relevant to research on human-health and environmental impacts (not to scale): well-pad construction (1); drilling (2); completion/stimulation (3, 4); production of natural gas (5) and oil (6) with well casings designed to protect drinking-water aquifers; ultimate closure (plug and abandon), illustrating legacy well with leaking casing (7); wastewater disposal (8); induced seismicity (9); landscape disturbance (10); and potential for transport pathways from deep to shallow formations (11). Also represented are water supply wells in shallow and deep aquifers (12). Photographs by Dan Soeder.

 

Did the City of Hamilton overpay for a Brownfield Site

As reported by the CBC, the City of Hamilton recently paid $1.75 million for a brownfield site that once sold for $2.  The property, located at 350 Wenworth Street North, sold for $2 a decade ago and then for $266,000 two years ago.

In the property was purchased in 2013 for $266,000, hundreds of barrels of toxic waste were discovered behind a fake wall.  The barrels contained coal tar byproducts and industrial solvents, and roof tar.  The new owner arranged for the proper disposal of the barrels.  The Ontario Environment Ministry confirmed  in  an e-mail to CBC that the waste had been from the building and it was decontaminated by the fall of 2017.  It also confirmed that the clean-up included the removal of approximately 200,000 litres of liquid waste.

The cleanup of the toxic property has been going on intermittently since 2010 (Photo Credit: Hamilton Spectator) photo

It is not known how much the clean-up of the 800 barrels of toxic waste cost, but the Hamilton Spectator quoted the owner  in 2017 that the clean-up would cost $650,000.

Property records for the building stretch all the way back to 1988, when Currie Products Limited spent a million dollars for 350 Wentworth. Currie ran a tar facility that went out of business there in the late 1990s, and was considered by many to be the company that originally polluted the site. Owner John Currie died in 2013.

Through the years, the building has changed hands multiple times for a wide swath of prices, ranging from that original million dollars, to $610,000 in 2007, to $2 in 2008, to the tax sale in 2016 and now, for $1.75 million. Over that time, building owners fought with each other and the province over who was actually responsible for cleaning up the site, in some cases heading to court in search of a resolution. For each sale, the price of the property reflected what buyers knew about the site at the time.

The city’s purchase of the property is all part of a reshuffling of buildings in the area to create a transit hub for the lower city like the Mountain Transit Centre at 2200 Upper James.

While it appears the city could have saved money by taking over the property when it was up for tax sale, that’s not really the case, officials say. The city does sometimes take carriage of properties after a failed tax sale, but woudn’t do so on a property like this one with environmental issues, Hamilton City Councillor Matthew Green told the CBC.  He added, “The city won’t take on the liability by policy.  The liability is way too big, because you don’t know what you’re buying … you have no idea what could be found or buried.”

The city bought 350 Wentworth St. N., which has required much cleanup over the years. Most recently, 200,000 litres of liquid waste was removed from the site in 2017 (Credit: The Hamilton Spectator)

 

 

 

Can a Saskatoon brownfield be transformed into fertile green space?

The City of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is in the process of implementing a Brownfield Renewal Strategy that it deems essential to growth in its main corridors. The initiative aims to assess and prioritize redevelopment potential of abandoned, vacant, derelict, or underutilized properties along the City’s major corridors that may have or do have perceptions of contamination.

The results of the brownfields evaluation will lead to the formulation of an incentive program that will help overcome financial and environmental barriers for redevelopment, as well as provide contamination management plans for future development.

One recent brownfield development in Saskatoon was initiated by a not-for-profit organization called CHEP Good Food.  CHEP has been promoting food security in Saskatoon for nearly 30 years. The organization is currently working toward restoring a plot of contaminated land to an agricultural plot of land.

The non-profit group, which works to promote food security, has already won a grant from CN Rail that will help them plant native trees and bushes at another brownfield site in Saskatoon and to restore the soil.   The project received the CN EcoConnexions grant through Tree Canada / Arbres Canada and Canadian National Railway Company to plant native trees and shrubs on the site.

The Askîy Project grows crops on brownfield land in Saskatoon using re-purposed containers. (CBC)

A previous fruit and vegetable garden project by CHEP began in 2014 under a different name as rooftop gardens at the University of Saskatchewan. The project relocated to the brownfield site  in 2015 and was renamed the Askîy Project — which means “Earth” in Cree.

The latest CHEP project is more ambitious than the existing Askîy Project.  It involves growing trees and bushes directly in the soil as well as remediation the site.  A professor from the University of Saskatchewan, Susan Kaminskyj, will oversee experimental bio-remediation at the site.

The bio-remediation will consist of utilizing native a fungi that will assist the plants in growing but will also biodegrade the petroleum hydrocarbon contamination at the brownfield site.

Professor Kaminskyj explained in an interview with CBC, that the microbe is a common fungus, but one with “unique abilities.”  A property in the fungus allowed plants to grow and thrive on coarse Oil Sands tailings.  In early field trials, Professor Kaminskyj’s team found more than 90 per cent of dandelion seeds treated with the fungus sprouted on coarse tailings while no untreated seeds sprouted. The researchers also found the fungus was able to grow with diesel, crude oil and similar materials as its only nutrient source.

 

 

 

Former Contaminated Mine Site in NWT Declared Clean

The Government of Canada recently announced that the former Tundra Gold Mine, located in the Northwest Territories, has been successfully remediated.  The cost of clean-up was $110 million and was paid for by the government.

Tundra Mine was briefly operational in the 1960’s and was used as a dumping ground in the 1980’s.  It’s former owner, Royal Oak Mines went bankrupt in 1999.

Remediation of the site included revegetating soil, sealing mine openings, consolidating and isolating tailings and waste rock, treating petroleum hydrocarbon impacted soils, erecting barriers for erosion control, and removing buildings.  The clean-up project lasted more than a decade.

Though some re-vegetation has begun, the land – around 240 km north-east of Yellowknife – will remain recognizably an old industrial site for decades to come.

Tundra Mine Site post clean-up (Photo Credit: Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

Dominic LeBlanc, Canada’s newly installed minister for northern affairs, called Tundra’s remediation “a great example of the hard work of northerners and the importance of partnerships with local Indigenous communities.”  Northern residents represented 76 percent of the project’s suppliers and 61 percent of its employees.  The Minister stated that the restoration will help local Dene and Métis peoples once again use the land for traditional practices.

The Canadian government will continue to oversea that monitoring of the site to ensure it remains stable.  Monitoring, using a combination of on-site equipment and drones, will cost an unspecified further sum each year.

More work to be done remediating the North

According to an article in Cabin Radio, Tundra’s successful clean-up remains a drop in the larger ocean of contaminated sites within the NWT.  Tundra is the 24th site under federal supervision to have reached this stage, a spokesperson for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada said by email to on Cabin Radio.

federal webpage last updated in 2013 suggests Canada is responsible for more than 50 significant contaminated sites in the territory, including those 24.

separate federal website lists 1,634 contaminated sites within the Northwest Territories, where a contaminated site is defined by the Federal Goverment as “one at which substances occur at concentrations (1) above background (normally occurring) levels and pose or are likely to pose an immediate or long term hazard to human health or the environment, or (2) exceeding levels specified in policies and regulations.”

Some entries on the latter list are considered remediated and their files closed. Some are smaller sites not felt worthy of their own, separate clean-up projects.  Several dozen of them, for example, are grouped under one project to clean up the Canol Trail, a World War Two initiative which left contaminated soil, asbestos, and a range of hazardous materials strewn across 355 km of the Sahtu.

In the 2017-18 financial year, public records show federal agencies were obliged to spend money on some 275 separate contaminated sites in the Northwest Territories.  $157,000 was spent assessing a range of those sites, while a little over $103 million was spent on remediation work.

Of that figure, around $23.6 million was spent remediating the Tundra site in that financial year.

Unsurprisingly, Yellowknife’s Giant Mine – considered among the most toxic sites in Canada, harbouring 237,000 tonnes of poisonous arsenic trioxide in underground chambers – was the only site receiving more remediation money.

In the same period Canada spent just over $36 million on Giant, where full remediation work does not even begin until 2020.

Giant, like Tundra, was owned by Royal Oak when the company collapsed and the site became an unwanted federal problem. The full bill for Giant’s clean-up and maintenance – a program of indefinite, certainly decades-long duration – is expected to reach $1 billion in today’s money.

Tundra Mine 1963 (Photo Credit: Gerry Riemann)

 

Mine fined $100,000 for not Monitoring Effluent

On August 20, 2018, Lupin Mines Incorporated was ordered in the Nunavut Court of Justice to pay $100,000 after pleading guilty to a violation under the Fisheries Act related to the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations. Of the total penalty, $80,000 will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund.

An investigation launched by Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers revealed that Lupin Mines Incorporated did not carry out an environmental effects monitoring study within the prescribed period, contrary to the requirements of the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations. Lupin Mines Incorporated has since completed the required study.

Owners and operators of mining companies are required by law to conduct environmental effects monitoring studies that examine the potential effects of their effluent (discharge) on fish populations and aquatic invertebrates.

As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act, which prohibit the deposit of deleterious substances into water frequented by fish. The Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations authorize the deposit of effluent, provided that conditions prescribed in the Regulations are observed.

Lupin Gold Mine, Nunavut