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Environmental Realty of Mercury Contamination in Grassy Narrows

Written by Abimbolo Badejo, Staff Reporter

Grassy Narrows, a First Nation
community of 1,600 residents, landed on the world radar due to a tragic mercury
poisoning accident, made possible by lax laws regarding environmental pollution
in the 1960s. Affected policies have been amended to prevent further
occurrences but solutions to the poisoning effects are yet to be addressed
effectively.

Government officials
discovered Mercury contamination in the English-Wabigoon River in the 1970s, caused
by a chemical plant at the Reed Paper Mill in Dryden Ontario. The river flows
beside two First Nations communities (Grassy Narrows and Whitedog), which
depend on this river as their source of livelihood. The contaminated river
poisoned the fish, and this caused a shutdown of the associated fishing
industry, resulting in mass unemployment for the residents. In addition,
various health defects ranging from neurological disorders  to digestive disorders have been observed
among the residents (spanning three generations) with no encouraging end to the
defects in sight.

Studies and Plans

Since the discovery of mercury contamination in the river in the 1970s, no major action has been taken besides the establishment of a Disability Board  in 1986, which was saddled with the duty of compensating affected residents; many of whose claims for compensation were denied. After decades of delay, pressures from concerned groups (First Nations and environmental Groups) finally elicited a somewhat response from the Ontario provincial government and the Federal government. The government of Ontario stated in June 2017 that it has secured  $85 million to  clean up the contaminated water and land, while the Federal Government has agreed to put a trust fund in place to ensure the establishment of a treatment center focused on ailments related to the mercury poisoning (you can read more about mercury at quicksilver mercury). The treatment facility is expected to cost about 88.7 million dollars, as estimated after a feasibility study. 1,2

Dryden Paper Mill

Mercury in the Environment

Mercury exists in nature in
either the elemental, inorganic or organic forms. The organic form of mercury
(Methyl mercury) is of greatest concern in the health industry.  Elemental mercury is transformed into the
organic form in the aquatic environment by microbial activity, which is in turn
bioaccumulated in the flesh of aquatic organisms  along the aquatic food chain. Biomagnified
toxic methyl mercury in the aquatic apex predators is transferred to consumers
via efficient absorption from the digestive tracts into the blood stream and
eventually through  the blood-brain
barrier. Excess concentrations of methyl mercury in the human body, with
concentrations above 0.47 µg/day (per kg in adult body weight) and  0.2 µg/day (per kg in a child’s or pregnant
mother’s body weight), results in deleterious neurologic effects in humans of
any age. Additional health defects such as impaired vision, blindness and
digestive disorders have been reported.3,4

Similar tragic occurrences of
environmental mercuric contamination have been reported in some parts of the
world. Between 1932 and 1968, a chemical plant in Minamata, Japan released
mercury into a lake which resulted in the death of over 100 people. This
occurrence was highly significant, coining the name “Minamata Disease” for syndromes
associated with mercury poisoning, such as brain damage, paralysis, incoherent
speech and delirium. Another memorable tragedy was reported in Iraq in the
early 1970s, where methylmercury compounds were use in seed treatment in
agriculture. Wheat grains that were treated with this toxic compound were
planted, harvested and made into flour for human consumption. Bread made from
the poisoned flour resulted in high mortality rate among the consumers.
Occupational exposure is not left out of the list as reported in Ghana in the
1960s. Elemental mercury is used in artisanal gold mining,  where gold ores from near-surface deposits were
mixed with the elemental mercury before heating to release the toxic mercury
vapour into the environment, leaving the gold behind. Breathing in the mercuric
vapour can lead to severe pneumonitis in humans. 5

Clean-up of Mercury Contamination

Clean-up of mercury contaminated sites, such as Carson River Mercury site and Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine in Clearlake California, have been reported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) . The technology used include ex-situ and in-situ treatment methods. The most common method reported is the excavation and disposal of mercury contaminated soil or sediment, as hazardous waste meant for landfill or treated at an approved thermal treatment facility.  The excavated land is backfilled with clean soil and ecologically restored. An in-situ treatment method can be the stabilization / solidification of the toxic substance by sealing in the contaminant with a mixture of cement and Sulphur containing compounds. This method is made possible using an auger-system to mix the soil and cement to immobilize the contaminant. Contaminated sediments can be sealed by a method called “capping”, where a layer of sand and gravel  is poured over the sediments to prevent contact further with the contaminant. These methods and technologies have been used effectively at various mercury contaminated sites in the United States. More information can be found here: https://www.epa.gov/mercury/what-epa-doing-reduce-mercury-pollution-and-exposures-mercury

Ideally, post remediation
monitoring  should include restriction of
the sealed-off area to public access, absolute cessation in the consumption of
food sourced from the contaminated areas and an active reduction in all
processes that release mercury into the environment. In situations where the
mercury is an unavoidable  component of
an industrial waste such as dental amalgam production wastes or battery chemical
wastes, a preventive-control suggestion will be to discharge the liquid waste
into a holding reservoir to allow mercury-settling into sludge, which can be
collected and treated or appropriately disposed.

Since there is an immense need
for more research in sustainable and environmental-friendly extensive mercury
spill clean-up, more attention should be focused on proactively preventing
further occurrences  by adhering strictly
to the controls that have been put in place to manage all operations pertaining
to the use of mercury.

References

  1. https://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/children-of-the-poisoned-river-mercury-poisoning-grassy-narrows-first-nation/
  2. https://globalnews.ca/news/5189817/grassy-narrows-liberals-mercury-treatment-facility/
  3. Pirkle, C.M., Muckle, G.,
    Lemire, M. (2016) Managing Mercury Exposure in Northern Canadian Communities.
    CMAJ, 188 (14) 1015-1023
  4. Bernhoft R. A. (2011) Mercury
    toxicity and treatment: a review of the literature. Journal of environmental
    and public health, 2012, 460508. doi:10.1155/2012/460508
  5. Bonzongo JC.J., Donkor A.K.,
    Nartey V.K., Lacerda L.D. (2004) Mercury Pollution in Ghana: A Case Study of
    Environmental Impacts of Artisanal Gold Mining in Sub-Saharan Africa. In: Drude
    de Lacerda L., Santelli R.E., Duursma E.K., Abrão J.J. (eds) Environmental
    Geochemistry in Tropical and Subtropical Environments. Environmental Science.
    Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

U.S. Business Opportunity: Site Clean-up

The United State Department of Labor seeks the services of a qualified service-disabled veteran-owned small business to perform soil remediation services at the Gainesville Job Corps Center’s facilities in Florida.

Interest in this pre-solicitation announcement is open to all service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) businesses relative to the primary NAICS code 562910 with a Small Business Standard of $20.5 million and/or 750 employees.  The magnitude of this procurement is between $100,000 and $250,000.

Execution of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Remedial Action Plan includes site demolition, placement of clean soil, soils compaction, site restoration, and notifications and reporting to the FDEP.

The work involves construction services to address the impacts of metals, PCBs, and PAHs that exceed FDEP Soil Cleanup Target Levels. Oversight of the work and reporting will be provided by a Florida Licensed Professional Engineer. Offers are due by 2:00 PM ET on June 5, 2019.

For more information, visit:https://www.fbo.gov/spg/DOL/ETA/OJC/1630DC-19-Q-00028/listing.html

U.S. EPA Releases Annual Superfund Program Report for 2018

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently released a summary report of its accomplishments the 2018 fiscal year. The U.S. EPA has made Superfund a priority of the Agency.

Under the Superfund Program, the U.S. EPA is responsible for cleaning up some of the most contaminated sites in the U.S. and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters. To protect public health and the environment, the Superfund program focuses on making a visible and lasting difference in communities.

For the 2018 Fiscal Year, the U.S. EPA reported that all or part of 22 sites from the National Priorities List (NPL) were were remediated and deleted from the NPL list.

Regional milestones in the Superfund Program for fiscal year 2018 include:

  • Furthering partnerships with state counterparts and local governments in identifying sites for expedited cleanup activities. (Mississippi Phosphates Corporation Pascagoula, Miss. and Fairfax St. Wood Treaters Jacksonville, Fla.)
  • Stepping up efforts to return sites to productive use and deleting sites from the National Priorities List (NPL). (Davis Timber Company (Hattiesburg, Miss.) Reasor Chemical Company (Castle Hayne, NC) Whitehouse Oil Pits (Whitehouse, Fla.)
  • Enhancing emergency response and preparedness efforts using innovative tools, comprehensive training sessions and rigorous exercises to respond to natural disasters such as Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael.

Highlights of EPA’s 2018 accomplishments include:

  • Improving human health for people living near Superfund sites by controlling potential or actual human exposure risk at 32 additional Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) sites and controlling the migration of contaminated groundwater at 29 sites.
  • Deleting 18 full and four partial sites from the NPL – the largest number of deletions in one year since 2005 – signaling to the surrounding communities that U.S. EPA has completed the job of transforming these once highly contaminated areas.
  • Returning sites to communities for redevelopment by identifying 51 additional sites as having all long-term protections in place and meeting our “sitewide ready for anticipated use” designation, the highest annual result since 2013.
  • Completing or providing oversight of 242 Superfund removal actions at sites where contamination posed an imminent and substantial threat to human health and the environment.
  • Quickly and effectively responding to large scale emergencies brought on by hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters in California, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and elsewhere.
  • Moving many sites closer to completion by making decisions that have been delayed, including West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo.; USS Lead in East Chicago, Ind.; and San Jacinto Waste Pits in Channelview, Texas.

The U.S. EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler has recused himself from working on 45 Superfund sites as a result of his history of lobbying for International Paper Co. and Xcel Energy Inc., among other companies.

In addition, in July 2018, on the one-year anniversary of the agency’s Superfund Task Force Recommendations, the U.S. EPA issued a report covering Task Force accomplishments to date and laying out its plan for completing the remaining recommendations in 2019.

Click here to read the full report.

Cost of Nuclear Waste Clean-up in the U.S. estimated at $377 Billion

A new report by the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) estimates the total cleanup cost for the radioactive contamination incurred by developing and producing nuclear weapons in the United States at a staggering $377 billion (USD), a number that jumped by more than $100 billion in just one year.

The United States Department of Energy (DoE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) is responsible for cleaning up radioactive and hazardous waste left over from nuclear weapons production and energy research at DoE facilities. The $377 billion estimate largely reflects estimates of future costs to clean up legacy radioactive tank waste and contaminated facilities and soil. 

The U.S. GAO found that EM’s liability will likely continue to grow, in part because the costs of some future work are not yet included in the estimated liability. For example, EM’s liability does not include more than $2.3 billion in costs associated with 45 contaminated facilities that will likely be transferred to EM from other DOE programs in the future.

In 1967 at the height of the U.S.–Soviet nuclear arms race, the U.S. nuclear stockpile totaled 31,255 weapons of all types. Today, that number stands at just 6,550. Although the U.S. has deactivated and destroyed 25,000 nuclear weapons, their legacy is still very much alive.

Nuclear weapons were developed and produced at more than one hundred sites during the Cold War. Cleanup began in 1989, and EM has completed cleanup at 91 of 107 nuclear sites, Still, according to the GAO, “but 16 remain, some of which are the most challenging to address.” 

EM relies primarily on individual sites to locally negotiate cleanup activities and establish priorities. GAO’s analysis of DOE documents identified instances of decisions involving billions of dollars where such an approach did not always balance overall risks and costs. For example, two EM sites had plans to treat similar radioactive tank waste differently, and the costs at one site—Hanford—may be tens of billions more than those at the other site. 

Each of the 16 cleanup sites sets its own priorities, which makes it hard to ensure that the greatest health and environmental risks are addressed first.
This is not consistent with recommendations by GAO and others over the last two decades that EM develop national priorities to balance risks and costs across and within its sites. 

By far the most expensive site to clean up is the Hanford site, which manufactured nuclear material for use in nuclear weapons during the Cold War. In 2017, the DoE estimated site cleanup costs at $141 billion.

Environmental liabilities are high risk because they have been growing for the past 20 years and will likely keep increasing.

EM has not developed a program-wide strategy that determines priority sites. Instead, it continues to prioritize and fund cleanup activities by individual site. Without a strategy that sets national priorities, EM lacks assurance that it is making the most cost-effective cleanup decisions across its sites.

The GAO is made three recommendations to DOE: (1) develop a program-wide strategy that outlines how it will balance risks and costs across sites; (2) submit its mandated annual cleanup report that meets all requirements; and (3) disclose the funding needed to meet all scheduled milestones called for in compliance agreements, either in required annual reports or other supplemental budget materials.

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. 

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.

Canadian NCC Awards Contracts for Environmental Site Assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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)

 

 

 

Brantford Showcases its Brownfield Projects

Known as the Telephone City, Brantford may also become famous as one of the first municipalities in Canada to proudly showcase its brownfield projects.

Instead of hiding from its industrial past, the city is showcasing several brownfield projects and is encouraging residents and visitors to take the self-guided tour.  Eight projects in various stages of remediation or redevelopment are highlighted in the  tour.

Highlights of the the tour are the Greenwich Mohawk Site, Sydenham-Pear Site and Edward Gould Park.  The Greenwich Mohawk Site alone is over 50 acres and was remediated over the course of two years, starting in 2014.

 

 

 

The City is investing $5,000 per year to promote the tour and hopes to attract interested individuals, school groups, and others.  The tour itself provides participants with access to historical photos, newspaper articles and other project details through the tour website.

Users can access the Brownfields Discovery Tour online at Brantford.ca/BrownfieldsTour where they can follow along digitally or print a hard copy of the tour.

“The City of Brantford has become widely recognized as a leader for remediation, redevelopment and public education of brownfields,” said Amy Meloch, chair of the brownfields community advisory committee in an interview with the Brantford Expositor. “The tour is an exciting continuation of the work of the committee to raise awareness to both residents and visitors of the extensive work already accomplished in the city.”

The sites on the tour include those that are municipally and privately owned.  They are:

  • 186 Pearl St. – a 0.38-hectare site located in a residential area, this site was home to Brantford Emery Wheel Co. (1910-1920) and the Brantford Grinding Wheel Co. (1920-1939). Bay State Abrasives was involved in similar manufacturing operations there. The city removed an underground storage tank, removed the existing structures, cleaned the contaminated soil and planted sod at a cost of about $175,000. The property has been converted into a park.
  • 347 Greenwich St. and 22 and 66 Mohawk St. – Referred to collectively as the Greenwich Mohawk Brownfield Site, the companies and industry formerly housed on these properties are a significant part of the city’s history. The 27.9-acre 347 Greenwich property is the former site of Massey-Harris Co., established in 1891. It employed thousands of Brantford employees over the years. A 2005 fire destroyed most of the buildings and the city acquired the property in 2007.
  • 22 Mohawk St. – This 7.25-acre property has been home to Adam’s Wagon Co. and Brantford Coach and Body, later Canada Coach and Body, where military vehicles were manufactured during the Second World War. Later, Sternson Group was there.
  • 66 Mohawk St – The Brantford Plow Works, later Cockshutt Plow Co., was established here in 1877, making high-quality farm implements. The farm division was sold to White Farm Equipment in 1962. That company went bankrupt in 1985. The city acquired all three properties by 2007 and a two-year remediation started in 2014 at a cost of $40.5 million.
  • Sydenham Pearl site – Consists of two properties: 17 Sydenham St., the former Crown Electric, and 22 Sydenham, the former Domtar (Northern Globe) site. The sites served as the main locations for mass industry for almost a century. The city took over the properties 2004 and 2006. Remediation was done in 2015 and 2016 and a soil cap was installed. The site will be green space until next steps are explored by the city.
  • 85 Morrell St. – The city sold the property, once occupied by Harding Carpets Limited, to King and Benton Development Corporation, which cleaned and renovated the 10-acre property to include warehouses and offices for industrial use.
  • 168 Colborne St. West – This 11.5-acre property was the site of the former Stelco Fastners manufacturing plant. In 1999, it was purchased by King and Benton. Work is underway to redevelop the site for mixed uses, including multi-storey residential buildings.
  • 111 Sherwood St. – Home to Brantford Cordage Co. during the early 1900s. At its peak, the twine producer employed 700. It has remained active with a variety of commercial and industrial uses, including a brewery and fitness studio.
  • 232-254 Grand River Ave. – In 1891, this 4.87-acre site was developed as a cotton mill by Craven Cotton Mills Co. It then became Dominion Textiles Co. and then Penman’s Manufacturing Co. Textile manufacturing continued on the site for almost 100 years until it was sold to a land developer in 1984. It is now being remediated for a mix of affordable housing and market-rate townhouses.
  • 180 Dalhousie St. – The 0.52-acre site is a consolidation of four properties, which, over the years, housed various residential and commercial operations, including Castelli Bakery, which closed in 2011. Today, a four-storey student apartment building is there.

Greenwich-Mohawk Brownfield Site circa 2013

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