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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.

Former B.C. Environment Minister Sued for Shutting Contaminated Soil Landfill

As reported in the Vancouver Sun, The owner of a Shawnigan Lake quarry that was used as a landfill for contaminated soil is suing the provincial government and the former minister who ordered it shut down.

Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd. recently filed suit in B.C. Supreme Court against the Province of British Columbia and Mary Polak, who was the B.C. Liberal environment minister and is still the MLA for Langley.

(Image: Shawnigan Lake, Canada. 6 Dec 2015. The containment system currently employed at the
SIA/SIRM Contaminated-Soil dumpsite, designed to prevent contaminants from travelling
into the Shawnigan Lake watershed. c Laura Colpitts)

The company said it is seeking general damages, special damages, aggravated damages, punitive damages, special costs and any other relief as the court “may deem fit to grant.” No amounts were specified other than “to be assessed.”

No statement of defence has been filed, either by Polak or the province.

In February 2017, while still environment minister, Polak cancelled the permit that allowed Cobble Hill Holdings to receive and store contaminated soil at its former rock quarry upstream of Shawnigan Lake.

Polak said the company had failed to meet a government deadline for an irrevocable letter of credit that would serve as a financial security.

In its suit, Cobble Hill Holdings says the government had not specified any form or amount for that credit, and had not approved the plans that would have been the basis of the financial guarantee.

The company’s operating permit, issued in 2013, had been suspended in January when the Environment Ministry asked for the financial security as well as a closure plan, including a cost estimate, and water management review reports.

Cobble Hill Holdings said it submitted updated plans to the ministry for approval on Feb. 20. Three days later, its permit was cancelled.

As a result, the suit says, the land is contaminated and Cobble Hill Holdings has suffered financial damages.

Cobble Hill Holdings had decided to lease the lands to South Island Resource Management and notified the ministry that that company would be the primary operator of the permit, the suit says.

Cancellation of the permit resulted in the termination of the lease, which had required South Island Resource Management to pay Cobble Hill Holdings $50,000 a month.

The permit issued in 2013 allowed Cobble Hill Holdings to receive and store up to 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil a year at its quarry.

It was upheld by the Environmental Appeal Board in 2015, but faced multiple court challenges before it was cancelled in February.

Much of the contaminated soil was from construction sites in Greater Victoria.

Shawnigan Lake residents expressed concern about contaminants leaching into their water supply, and packed open houses to voice opposition.

Demonstrators at the landfill were arrested for blocking trucks delivering the soil. They also went to the legislature to complain to the government.

Polak said repeatedly that the issue was a matter between the company, Environment Ministry technicians and the courts.

When the permit was cancelled in February, the government stressed the decision had nothing to do with any pollution detected or any legal issue being contended.

“To be clear, the permit was not cancelled due to pollution occurring, nor was it directly related to anything before the courts,” the Environment Ministry said in a statement.

“The decision was made on the principle of escalating enforcement and repeated failure by the company to meet deadlines and comply with permit requirements.”