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Insight into the Hazardous Waste Management Industry – A Profile of Clean Harbors Facilities

by David Nguyen – Staff Writer

Clean Harbors is a hazardous waste management company operating across North America. Their location in Mississauga is a hazardous waste terminal and transfer station, receiving, handling, and transporting flammable solids destined to the U.S. for incineration.  Non-flammable solids and liquid hazardous waste is sent to their facility in Lambton, Ontario.  The Lambton facility includes a hazardous waste landfill and a liquid hazardous waste incinerator.

Clean Harbors coordinates hazardous waste management solutions across the Canada-U.S. border.  It is makes business sense for the company to transport flammable solids that are hazardous to its U.S. incinerator instead of having a facility in Canada.  “Liquid injection incinerators are a lot cheaper,” says Mike Parker, Vice President, Canadian Environmental Compliance. “There really isn’t a strong enough market to support [hazardous solid incineration] in Canada.”

Mississauga Site Activities

Carriers bring the hazardous waste to the transfer station, where the manifests and documentation are reviewed to ensure that the facility is permitted to receive the material. Receiving times are typically planned ahead of time to prevent surges of shipments on site. Once off loaded, the waste is sampled to confirm the material profile noted in the manifest and then staged for further processing. The entire staging area is built over sealed drains leading to a blind sump to prevent any spills from leaving the site. “All the liquids from our sumps, even if it’s just rain water… get put into tanks and go down for incineration,” says Parker.

Every drum the facility receives has its contents verified, sampled, and tested. Samples are analyzed for PCBs, pH, ignitability/ flashpoint, sulfide, chloride, oxidation, cyanide, and water reactivity in order to get a profile for the waste, after which a code is attached to the drum to indicate its destination and disposal.

Staging Area (photo by David Nguyen)

This information is stored in their management system that tracks the inventory at their various facilities, including the shipping information and profiles of all items. The information is removed for approval to be received on site. The system also tracks the manifests for the generator, carrier, receiver, and the ministry, internal inspections, and monthly reports to be sent to the ministry.

After sorting and sampling, the waste is safely sorted into various streams for consolidation, bulking, or blending.

“It has to be in the same waste class to mix and match. We can’t mix something flammable with something non-flammable,” says Parker.

“Even if they are in the same waste class, we take samples from each drum, mix it together, and if nothing happens, we can do it” says Erica Carabott, Facility Compliance Manager.

Liquid waste is bulked in tank farms until there is enough to fill a taker truck to be sent to Lambton for incineration. Solid waste is loaded into pits where the material is shredded up, bulked, and mixed with a solidifying agent to take up any free liquids in the solid waste streams.

Lambton Facility Activities 

Many of the materials received at the Mississauga Transfer station are transported to the Clean Harbors Lambton facility offers services including waste neutralization, incineration of hazardous waste, inorganic pre-treatment of hazardous waste, thermal desorption of solid and sludge, and landfill disposal of hazardous waste.

Liquid waste is blended in a controlled neutralization process at the acid and alkali plant before being fed to the incinerator. The liquid waste injection incinerator operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, consisting of a fix unit incinerator, a semi-dry spray dryer absorber, and a four-compartment baghouse. The site capacity is about 100 000 tonnes per year and can process pumpable material that does not contain PCBs, pathogens, radioactives, and cylinders.

Lambton Incinerator (Photo Credit: Clean Harbors)

The landfill is situated in natural clay, and accepts a variety of hazardous waste excluding explosives, PCBs, radioactive, pathological wastes, or compressed gasses. Due to the Land Disposal Restriction prohibiting the disposal of untreated hazardous waste on land, Clean Harbors has an inorganic solid pre-treatment processing plant which mixes inorganic waste (primarily metal bearing solids) with reagents to prevent the metals from becoming leachable.

Furthermore, a thermal desorption unit is used to condense and recover water and organics from organic solid waste. The waste is fed into a kiln that heats the waste to 400-450 degrees Celsius to strip the organics from the waste. The vapours are condensed to remove liquid organics during the process, with the remaining emissions vented to the incinerator. The residual solids are then tested for any remaining organics or metals, and then disposed of in the hazardous landfill on site.

“You can understand why it takes a lot of money to treat the stuff in the landfill. It cooks it for about a half hour – that’s a lot of heat and a lot of money” says Parker. “With testing at the front and testing at the end,” adds Carabott .

Clean Harbor’s Lambton Hazardous Waste Landfill (Courtesy: Clean Harbors)

These facilities and processes allow Clean Harbors to work with their clients to develop cost effective solutions to handling and disposing of hazardous waste materials throughout the Great Lakes Basin in both Canada and the United States. In addition, Clean Harbors conducts regular outreach programs with the local community regarding the safe operations and reporting conducted at the Lambton facility.

Special thanks to Mike Parker and Erica Carabott for taking the time to speak with me and show me around the Mississauga Transfer station.