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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)

 

New Technology for Mapping DNAPL Contamination

Laser-induced fluorescence (LIF)

As reported in Groundwater Monitoring and Remediation (38(3):28-42), DyeLIF™ is a new version of laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) for high-resolution 3D mapping of NAPLs in the subsurface.   DyeLIF eliminates the requirement that the NAPL contains native fluorophores (such as those that occur in compounds like PAHs) and therefore can be used to detect chlorinated solvents and other nonfluorescing compounds.

NAPLs were previously undetectable with conventional LIF tools. With DyeLIF, an aqueous solution of water and nontoxic hydrophobic dye is continuously injected ahead of the sapphire detection window while the LIF probe is being advanced in the subsurface.  If soil containing NAPL is penetrated, the injected dye solvates into the NAPL within a few milliseconds, creating strong fluorescence that is transmitted via fiber-optic filaments to aboveground optical sensors. This paper describes a detailed field evaluation of the novel DyeLIF technology performed at a contaminated industrial site in Lowell, Mass., where chlorinated solvent DNAPL persists below the water table in sandy sediments..

The DyeLIF system was field tested at a Formerly Used Defense (FUD) facility in Massachusetts in Fall 2013 (Geoprobe® delivery) and again in March 2014 (CPT delivery). The primary field demonstration completed in 2013 included two components: one week of DyeLIF probing and a second week of follow-on soil coring using research-quality direct push (DP) soil coring methods in order to compare DyeLIF results to colorimetric dye shake tests and laboratory analysis.

Several performance objectives were established in the project demonstration work plan and all were met or exceeded. The performance objective for chemical analysis was 70% consistency between positive DyeLIF responses and samples when DNAPL saturations were greater than 5%. The demonstration results showed 100% consistency between chemical analysis and DyeLIF for saturations greater than 1.9% (35 of 35 samples), and 95% consistency for estimated saturations greater than 0.5% (40 of 42 samples).

ESTCP funded Project ER-201121 to demonstrate the DyeLIF technology.  Additional details on the technology can be found at the U.S. Department of Defence Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and the U.S. Department of Defence Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) link at SERDP-ESTCP.

2D and 3D Conceptual Site Models of a Contaminated Property

Nova Scotia Announces Plan to Assess Contaminated Site in Halifax

The Nova Scotia government recently announced that it is taking the first steps to determine what’s needed to remediate a former construction and demolition site in Harrietsfield, Halifax Regional Municipality.

Homemade signs line the road to Harrietsfield, N.S., on May 14, 2018.

Signs of the water contamination issue in Harrietsfield, Nova Scotia. (Alexa MacLean/Global News)

Nova Scotia Lands Inc. will commission a site assessment this summer to determine the extent of contamination, how long it will take to remediate and how much it will cost.  It will also determine the condition of the existing infrastructure and evaluate what potential impacts the remediation might have. The cost of the assessment is about $250,000.

“This site has been a problem for the community for far too long. We’re taking an important and necessary action to address it,” said Environment Minister Iain Rankin.

Two ministerial orders were issued in 2016, ordering the companies to assess the contamination that was impacting residents’ wells and submit a plan to remediate it. Those orders have not been followed.

Mr. Rankin has invoked his authority under the Environment Act to ensure those orders are carried out.

Under the act, the minister also has the authority to hold the former operators of the site responsible for the costs of remediation.

“We will pursue all available options,” said Mr. Rankin.

In 2016, the province had water treatment facilities installed at eight area homes where there was evidence that well water was being impacted by contamination at this facility.

A court case is ongoing against two companies that operated the former RDM Recycling site between 2002 and 2013. The site assessment will not impact the court case. The last court date was in late June.

RDM Recycling Plant, Harrietsfield, Nova Scotia (Photo Credit: CBC)

Controlling cleanup costs for contaminated land

by Dr. Harm Gross, Western Investor

As reported by Dr. Harm Gross in the Western Investor, in British Columbia, the cost of contaminated site cleanup has grown steadily since the Contaminated Site Regulation became law on April 1, 1997. There are several reasons for this change, some of which are under the control of “persons responsible”, chiefly landowners.

An uncontrollable cost factor is the proliferation of regulations, which ballooned to an estimated 10,000 double-sided pages in British Columbia. On November 1, 2017, Stage 10 omnibus amendments to the CSR came into effect, changing concentrations deemed harmful for a broad range of contaminants and adding a significant number of new ones. This meant that work before that date would become non-compliant overnight, causing environmental consulting companies to rush over 100 submissions for a Certificate of Compliance before this deadline to grandfather their work and avoid additional costs for their clients.

Regulations pertaining to contaminated sites are not just evolving in British Columbia, but have seen substantial updates across Canada in recent years.

Saskatchewan’s updated Environmental Management and Protection Act came into effect in June 2015. This legislation thoroughly overhauled the old Act by introducing a new impacted sites registry and by providing the regulator with more power to order persons responsible to conduct site assessments.

New guidelines were also introduced in Alberta, where the regulator released a new Environmental Site Assessment Standard in March 2016.

Manitoba enacted amendments to the Province’s Contaminated Sites Remediation Regulation in April 2014. While the intended aim of these new regulations and guidelines is to move the focus towards results-based frameworks, any change and expansion of rules inevitably leads to uncertainty for stakeholders. Uncertainty particularly stems from the need of establishing precedent with the regulator when the new rules are applied in the real world. It is up to the consultant to successfully navigate their clients through the new reality and reduce uncertainty. The consultant’s knowledge of the regulations, and proficiency in correctly interpreting and applying new rules, can have significant impacts on the accuracy of cost estimates and actual costs for site assessments and remedial work.

Former bulk fuel storage leak, North Vancouver, BC

With regulations in flux and frequent changes in rules, the potential for lowering and accurately predicting costs for site remediation projects is thus of great interest to responsible persons. The potential savings by inviting an experienced review of proposed remediation plans can be significant. At one site the savings for a client was $15 million; more commonly, savings are in the 6-figure or low 7-figure range. Incorrect investigative work is the most frequent source of error. This ranges from faulty field techniques when sampling groundwater wells, through unfamiliarity with laboratory methods for distinguishing man-made from naturally occurring substances, to inadequate comprehension of the myriad environmental regulations. Investigating contaminants requires great care when the difference between contamination and no contamination is measured at the extremely low concentrations of parts per million in soil, or the even lower concentrations of parts per billion in water. We have seen numerous examples where mistakes have tarred a site.

The public sector is no less prone to erroneous estimations of remediation cost. In April 2014, the parliamentary budget officer reported that the federal government has underestimated the cost of cleaning up contaminated sites under its jurisdiction by at least $2 billion, putting the total liability for contaminated sites to almost $7 billion. This was due to the fact that many sites in the inventory had yet to be assessed. While it seems relatively self-evident that proper site investigations are a prerequisite and absolute must for cost estimates to be accurate, such oversights are unfortunately abundant in the private sector. All too often consultants provide flimsy cost estimates based on incomplete or deficient investigative data.

Businesspeople frequently complain about the irritation of unreliable cost estimates, and rightfully so – nowhere is this more prevalent than in the environmental consulting industry.

Technical experts are often loathe to accept responsibility for cost estimates for fear of finding undiscovered contamination, running into regulatory snafus or overlooking issues which later prove substantial.

Next Environmental has taken the unprecedented step of providing fixed price quotes for a comprehensive scope of work at each step of investigation or remediation, thus entirely eliminating the cost uncertainties for clients. This service, unique in the contaminated sites business, is possible due to the skillful application of regulatory proficiency to address the business needs of clients. Time will tell whether this cost control measure spreads to other firms.

This article was originally published in Western Investor.

____________________

About the Author

Dr. Harm Gross is the owner and President NEXT Environmental Inc.  He is currently a Registered Professional Biologist (R.P.Bio) and an Approved Professional of the Contaminated Sites Approved Professionals Society (CSAP Society), and has a wealth of experience obtaining Ministry Instruments and other environmental certifications for NEXT’s Clients. NEXT provides environmental consulting services including investigation, remediation and risk assessment of contaminated property for clients throughout BC and Alberta.

 

Activated Carbon-Based Technology for In Situ Subsurface Remediation

The U.S. EPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation recently published a fact sheet about an emerging remedial technology that applies a combination of activated carbon (AC) and chemical and/or biological amendments for in situ remediation of soil and groundwater contaminated by organic contaminants, primarily petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents.  The technology typically is designed to carry out two contaminant removal processes: adsorption by AC and destruction by chemical and/or biological amendments.

With the development of several commercially available AC-based products, this remedial technology has been applied with increasing frequency at contaminated sites across the country, including numerous leaking underground storage tank (LUST) and dry cleaner sites (Simon 2015).  It also has been recently applied at several Superfund sites, and federal facility sites that are not on the National Priorities List.

The fact sheet provides information to practitioners and regulators for a better understanding of the science and current practice of AC-based remedial technologies for in situ applications. The uncertainties associated with the applications and performance of the technology also are discussed.

AC-based technology applies a composite or mixture of AC and chemical and/or biological amendments that commonly are used in a range of in situ treatment technologies.  Presently, five commercial AC-based products have been applied for in situ subsurface remediation in the U.S.: BOS-100® & 200® (RPI), COGAC® (Remington Technologies), and PlumeStop® (Regenesis) are the four most commonly used commercial products.  CAT-100® from RPI is the most recent product, developed based on BOS-100®.  One research group in Germany also developed a product called Carbo-Iron®.  The AC components of these products typically are acquired from specialized AC manufacturers.  These types of AC have desired adsorption properties for chlorinated solvents and petroleum hydrocarbons.  Different products also have different AC particle sizes, which determine the suitable injection approach and the applicable range of geological settings.

Example of powdered activated carbon “fracked” into the subsurface under high-pressure, causing preferential pathways into existing monitoring wells (Photo Credit: Regenesis)

 

Clean-up of Radioactive Material in Port Hope Finally Underway

After decades of study and planning, the clean-up or radioactive contamination in the community of Port Hope, Ontario is finally underway.  The Town of Port Hope, located approximately 100 km (60 miles) east on Toronto on Lake Ontario, has an estimated 1.2 million cubic metres (1.5 million cubic yards) of historic low-level radioactive waste scattered at various sites throughout the town.

The contaminated soil and material will be excavated to moved to the LongTerm Waste Management Facility, which is essentially an engineered aboveground landfill where the waste will be safely contained, and the long-term monitoring and maintenance of the new waste management facility.

Other historic low-level radioactive waste – primarily soil contaminated with residue ore from the former radium and uranium refining activities of Eldorado Nuclear — and specified industrial waste from various sites in urban Port Hope will be removed and safely transported to the new facility.

The historic low-level radioactive waste and contaminated soil, located at various sites in the Municipality of
Port Hope, are a consequence of past practices involving the refining of radium and uranium by a former federal Crown Corporation, Eldorado Nuclear Limited, and its private-sector predecessors. These waste materials contain radium-226, uranium, arsenic and other contaminants resulting from the refining process.

The historic waste and surrounding environment are monitored and inspected regularly to ensure the waste does not pose a risk to health or the environment. As part of the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI) construction and clean-up phase, the waste will be excavated and relocated to the new Port Hope long-term waste management facility.

In an interview with CBC, Scott Parnell is the General Manager of the Port Hope Area Initiative, which is in charge of the cleanup. He says that after decades of planning, the first loads of an estimated 1.2 million cubic metres of historic low-level radioactive waste will be on the move.

Scott Parnell, general manager of the Port Hope Area Initiative, stands near the town’s harbour.

“There’s been a lot of planning a lot of studies a lot of determination into how to approach the work safely, but this will be the first time we will be removing waste from the community,” said Parnell, who has overseen similar operations in Washington state and Alaska.

The $1.28-billion cleanup operation is a recognition by the federal government that the waste is its “environmental liability.” The radioactive tailings were the byproduct of uranium and radium refining operations run by Eldorado, a former Crown corporation, between 1933 and 1988.

Parnell says that the tailings were given away for free, which helps explain how the contamination was spread through the town.

“So, basically they offered it up and it was used for fill material to level up people’s backyards, for building foundations, for those kinds of things. So, that’s how the material got spread around the community,” Parnell said.

Parnell says an estimated 800 properties may be affected, but says there’s no indication the low levels of radiation are dangerous.

“There’s little human risk associated with the waste that’s identified here in Port Hope,” he said.

The first wastes to be remediated are currently stored under tarps at three locations including the Centre Pier, the Pine Street North Extension in the Highland Drive Landfill area and at the municipal sewage treatment plant. The Centre Pier is the first site to be remediated.

Aerial image of the first locations to be remediated. (source: Canadian Nuclear Laboratories)

 

 

Avoiding Common Phase Two ESA Errors – Part 2

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

Last month I discussed some common mistakes I have encountered in reviewing Phase Two Environmental Site Assessment reports, specifically in the initial planning stage, now it’s time to turn our attention to recognizing and reducing errors during the Phase Two ESA field work.

Sometimes, deficiencies that occur in the planning stages of a Phase Two ESA transfer into errors in field procedures.  This can be caused by poor communication between the project manager and field staff (i.e. the PM neglects to inform field personnel of specific project requirements, and/or field staff forget to include important sampling media or potential contaminants of concern).  Full, two-way communication is vital to successful completion of any Phase Two ESA. It’s not enough for senior staff to just assume that less experienced team members understand all the complexities of the sampling plan; nor is it acceptable for a project manager to fail to provide adequate guidance and answers to questions from the field.  I have always thought it was important for junior staff to ‘know what they don’t know’ and encouraged them to ask questions at any time.  When project managers are ‘too busy’ to answer questions and simply tell their staff to ‘figure it out themselves’ everyone loses.

Photo Credit: All Phase Environmental

Despite good intentions and full communication, deficiencies can still occur.  Some are the result of inexperience compounded by poor judgement; some are due to budget limitations or staffing shortfalls; and some are caused through poor sampling protocols.  Some of the more common field sampling errors can include: failure to sample all relevant media at a Site (e.g. no sediment or surface water sampling is undertaken despite the presence of a potentially impacted water body); failure to consider all potential contaminants of concern (e.g. sampling only for petroleum hydrocarbons at a fuel storage site and not volatile parameters like BTEX); failure to sample in locations where contaminants are most likely to occur or be detected (e.g. sampling only surficial or near surface soils, and not at the invert of a buried fuel tank or oil interceptor, or failure to sample groundwater in a potable groundwater situation); and lack of field or lab filtering of groundwater samples for metals analysis (failure to remove sediment prior to sample preservation can skew the results for metals analysis).

Inadequate sampling and decontamination procedures can also bias lab results, leading to inaccurate or faulty conclusions.  When samples are disturbed (such as grab samples of soil collected directly from a drill augur that has travelled through an impacted zone) or collected improperly (e.g. compositing soil samples for analysis of volatile components); the test results can be biased and may not be representative of actual site conditions.  Similarly, failure to properly clean drilling and sampling equipment can result in apparent impacts that are actually the result of cross contamination between sampling points. Consider using dedicated or disposable sampling equipment to reduce this potential. A suitable quality control program should also be implemented, including sufficient duplicate samples, trip blanks, etc. for QA/QC purposes, and inclusion of equipment rinsate blanks to confirm adequate decontamination.

These are only a few of the more common field sampling errors I have come across. In an upcoming article I will discuss other practical methods to reduce errors in Phase Two data interpretation and reporting.

About the Author

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

 

This article first appeared in AESAC newsletter.

U.S. EPA Targets Superfund Sites for Immediate Clean-up

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently released a list of Superfund Sites targeted for immediate, intense action, as of December 8th 2017. The list is a response to July’s Superfund Task Force Recommendations. The U.S. EPA considers the sites listed to benefit from Administrator Scott Pruitt’s direct engagement, requiring timely resolve of specific issues to streamline cleanup and redevelopment and protect human health and the environment.

3D Image of NAPL contamination at the B.F. GOODRICH facility in Calvert City, KY

The list, spanning all ten EPA regions across the United States, with accompanying plans, issues, and categorizations associated with each site, can be found here.

As reported in the Washington Post, the push is part of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s promise to prioritize the decades-old cleanup program, even as the Trump administration shrinks the size and reach of the EPA. The 21 sites highlighted by the agency span the country, from a former tannery site in New Hampshire to a contaminated landfill from the World War II-era Manhattan Project in St. Louis to an abandoned copper mine in Nevada.

“By elevating these sites, we are sending a message that EPA is, in fact, restoring its Superfund program to its rightful place at the center of the agency’s mission,” Pruitt said in a statement. “Getting toxic land sites cleaned up and revitalized is of the utmost importance to the communities across the country that are affected by these sites.”

The U.S. EPA said that it developed the list using sites “where opportunities exist to act quickly and comprehensively.” Notably, the agency also acknowledged that “there is no commitment of additional funding associated with a site’s inclusion on the list.”

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