What are the key innovations transforming CBRNe simulator training?

Written by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

The use of simulators and simulations to deliver CBRNe training is recognised as being a highly effective way to immerse trainees in environments that are as close as possible to those that they will experience in real life.

Simulator training provides a safe way for CBRNe personnel to test their knowledge and skills in the context of real-world examples.

Crucially too, trainees are able to make mistakes, and to learn from those mistakes, without risk to their own personal health, the environment or infrastructure.

As the threat posed by CBRNe materials continues to expand and evolve, the demand for hyper-realistic live-training capability is ever-growing.

The technology that underpins the provision of simulator training is also constantly expanding, as CBRNe instructors demand an even deeper level of authenticity.

In this blog post we explore some of the newest capabilities that are transforming the CBRNe training landscape.

Live-training capability

The highly practical nature of live-training offers benefits across a wide array of CBRNe disciplines – from Special Forces and border security to civilian emergency preparedness, the provision of medical services and law enforcement.

Gaining familiarity with CBRNe materials and their respective properties – and understanding the measures that must be taken to protect oneself and others – are core elements of CBRNe general awareness.

Building confidence in the handling of detection technologies is also crucial – whether it be to better understand the capabilities or limitations of currently available detection equipment, to explore newly emerging detector technologies or to put that equipment to the test in realistic, hands-on detection exercises.

Live-training provides the opportunity to develop and apply a broad range of CBRNe incident response practices under the most realistically challenging conditions possible.

Till recently, however, the practicalities of offering live-training have been limited by the need to comply with a host of essential safety, environmental, regulatory and administrative considerations.

One new training system that has taken on the live-training challenge is the Saab Gamer CBRN interface which integrates Saab’s Gamer live firing capability with Argon’s PlumeSIM technology.

The newly enhanced PlumeSIM system supports the simulation of chemical and radiological agents and enables the use of simulated portable survey meters such as the Mirion / CanberraAN/VDR-2,AN/PDR-77/RDS100 and simulated personal dosimeters such as the Mirion / Canberra UDR13 and UDR14.

For trainees there is the advantage of being able to experience the full functionality of their equipment and their PPE in highly realistic environments. While for trainers, there is the benefit of retaining full control of every aspect of the exercise from set-up to After Action Review (AAR.)

Integration with actual detector equipment

Working with real detector equipment can be invaluable in helping trainees gain greater confidence in the operation of their devices, and a deeper level of trust in the reliability of the measurements that they obtain.

At the same time though, it is important that any training that includes the use of actual equipment can be done without compromising operational readiness. Avoiding costly and time-consuming routine maintenance, calibration, running repairs or replacement of damaged items is key.

Recently however there have been developments in the technology that underpins radiological training which makes it possible for CBRNe instructors to deliver highly realistic radiation exercises that use actual detector equipment but with zero risk to the functionality or the integrity of those devices.

One such example is the Radiation Field Training Simulator (RaFTS).

At the heart of the RaFTS patented technology is an intelligent external device that is mounted directly onto a trainee’s own radiological detection system and that interacts directly with the detector’s internal circuitry.

The highly-realistic output, the quality of the data and the level statistical randomness is as life-like as it gets – enabling trainees to test their knowledge and skills in identifying a radioactive source, measuring its intensity and determining its location.

Crucially too, RaFTS universal capability can be applied across a diverse range of hazards and instrument types – including chemical warfare agents (CWAs) and explosives – making it possible for instructors to deliver an all-in-one CBRNe training solution for multiple devices.


About the Author

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators. He is interested in liaising with CBRN professionals and detector manufacturers to develop training simulators as well as CBRN trainers and exercise planners to enhance their capability and improve the quality of CBRN and Hazmat training.

Effective Communication: Environmental Site Assessments

Written by Bill Leedham, P. Geo., CESA

I recently spent time dealing with the frustration of really poor communication from a variety of service providers.  In contrast I also recently attended a post-report meeting with a new client, whose first comment was how pleased they were with the level of communication.  From my viewpoint, I was also quite happy with the speedy and effective responses I received from this client throughout the project.  These vastly different experiences led me to consider some suggestions for improving and maintaining good communication between clients and consultants.

 You can’t tell the players without a program ….

In transactional due diligence work, there can be many stakeholders from vendors, buyers and agents, to lawyers, banks and regulators.  Each stakeholder may have their own unique objectives which can sometimes oppose those of other players in the transaction; often leaving the consultant in the middle.  This can be counterproductive and lead to potentially serious misunderstanding and miscommunication.  Consultants owe a legal and ethical duty of care to their client, and must know who their client is (individual, company, consortium), what their objectives and timeframe are, and whether other stakeholders are involved. If second or third parties are to be involved, this must be clearly defined at the start of the project, to ensure the necessary information can be shared where appropriate, and a letter of reliance can be prepared if necessary.  Establishing a clear channel of communication between client, consultant and other parties is also important.  Any requirements for confidentiality or legal privilege should also be set out in advance.  Repetitive ‘reply all’ e-mail chains and getting caught in a lengthy multi-party decision making process should be avoided.

Timely communication is key

On any project timely communication is paramount, and even more so when due diligence deadlines are present.  Information presented by a consultant after the closing of a real estate transaction may be important, but if received too late it may be un-useable.  If the consultant was aware of the data, but failed to deliver in time, they could be negligent or in breach of contract and subject to litigation.  Similarly, delays in responses or project approval from client to consultant can result in cost over-runs, duplication of work, and failure to meet established deadlines.  Both parties need to set clear timelines for project milestones and to prepare contingency plans for unforeseen obstacles. Some unplanned events can be accounted for (such as delays in utility locates), others come out of left field and we have to adjust as best we can (such as a pandemic lock-down). It’s equally important to state at the time of proposal/award a clearly defined scope of work, budget and contingency allowances, a mutually-agreed approval procedure for project extras, and all payment terms.

Say what you mean, and mean what you say!

Environmental reporting can be complex and full of scientific data and technical jargon. As a consultant, ensure you are speaking plainly so that your target audience can understand.  Some stakeholders are interested primarily in the ‘big picture’, while others are very detail-oriented. I have some clients who had never heard the term Environmental Site Assessment until they purchased a commercial property; and others that could fully describe all the required protocols to complete a Modified Generic Risk Assessment. Know your audience and tailor your approach to their level of technical comprehension.  Clients must also clearly communicate their goals, objectives, timeframes and required comfort level to their consultant.  Both sides should ask questions when needed, and request a detailed explanation when things are unclear.  It helps to have everything in writing to avoid future discrepancies, especially for project changes or extra work items. For any client, if your service provider isn’t giving you answers, or doesn’t explain things to your satisfaction; perhaps it’s time to find one that does.


About the Author

Bill Leedham is the Head Instructor and Course Developer for the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada (www.aesac.ca); and the founder and President of Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc. You can contact Bill at [email protected]

Sunlight and marine spills

A recent article in EOS Magazine from researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Louisiana State University have shed new light on the role sunlight in substantially altering petroleum floating at the sea surface.

The article describes the findings of research following the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people and caused hundreds of millions of gallons of oil to spill into the Gulf of Mexico.

When crude oil is spilled into the ocean, it undergoes a series of weathering processes, including dissolution, evaporation, emulsification, biodegradation, and photooxidation. Some of these processes relocate oil, whereas some transform it.  These oil weathering processes have wide-ranging implications for ecosystem and human health, as well as for spill response operations.

One finding from the study the DWH oil spill is that the photooxidation of oil floating on the sea surface is far greater than what had previously been considered.  Before the spill, the consensus perspective across many subdisciplines of oil spill science was that evaporation, emulsification, and biodegradation were the most important weathering processes influencing the fate of oil spilled at sea.  But several studies have have documented the rapid and extensive photooxidation of oil floating on the sea surface during the DWH spill.

The second major finding from the study of the DWH was how sunlight oxidized so much oil floating on the sea surface. There are two ways that oil photooxidation can occur: directly and indirectly.  Numerous field and laboratory studies have now documented the governing role that indirect photooxidation pathways play in cleaning up oil spills.

U.S.: Aligning Affordable Housing and Brownfields Projects for Success

Written by Nicholas Targ, Partner and Co-chair of Holland & Knight’s National Environmental Team and Chelsea Maclean, Partner, Holland & Knight

Affordable housing and infill developers can benefit from recently enacted housing laws and Brownfields law and policies. These new laws along with national-caliber land use and environmental help can deliver affordable housing and infill projects faster and can substantially simplify the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and development process.

New Housing Laws Benefit Affordable Housing and Other Infill Developers

The following three examples demonstrate the power of the new housing laws:

  • SB 375 Sustainable Communities Environmental Assessment (SCEA): A litigation-tested CEQA streamlining tool, SCEA helped an affordable housing developer client meet tight funding deadlines for a large affordable housing project and reduce litigation risk. The SCEA document is similar in scope to a typical Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration, but includes the more protective “substantial evidence standard” of review of an Environmental Impact Report.
  • SB 35 Ministerial Processing Combined with AB 1764 Unlimited Density Bonus: The powerful SB 35 statute, which provides for ministerial/CEQA exempt approval, was layered with AB 1763, which provides for unlimited density under the State Density Bonus Law, for a client’s 125-unit infill project. After reviewing the use of the new housing laws with the city attorney’s office and Planning Department, the affordable housing provider gained approval for its housing project.
  • AB 1804 County Infill Exemption: This 2018 CEQA exemption for infill projects in unincorporated counties provided an affordable housing provider client with an accelerated entitlement pathway for its mixed-use affordable housing/community serving medical clinic project.

Attention to Brownfields Issues, and Alignment of Environmental and Housing/CEQA Laws is the Winning Combination

The new housing and CEQA streamlining laws frequently include special requirements for a project to be built on environmentally impacted land (e.g., SB 35, CEQA Class 32 Categorical Exemption for Urban Infill Housing). Moreover, given the recent ratcheting-down of vapor intrusion environmental screening levels, careful attention to Brownfields issues can mean the difference between success, delay and/or cost overruns.

The use of key Brownfields tools such as insurance, streamlined regulatory processes and avoidance of legal and environmental “land mines” (e.g., Cortese List, late discovered contamination) can make all of the difference. Successful infill projects – especially affordable housing projects, which carry higher regulatory and public scrutiny – are those that evaluate Brownfields issues early in the decision-making process.

Recent successful use of Brownfields tools to advance affordable and infill housing and associated projects include:

  • Preliminary Endangerment Assessment (PEA) Decision Document: The PEA assessment process allowed the state environmental agency to conclude at an early stage in the development process that no further action was required at a client’s affordable housing site, and to establish a workable and environmentally protective set of construction requirements.
  • California Land Reuse and Revitalization Act (CLRRA): Reauthorized in 2016, CLRRA was used to streamline the regulatory cleanup path for a client’s project and to provide qualified environmental immunities. Integrating the cleanup plan into the CEQA document, as a mitigation measure, litigation risk was reduced and regulatory certainty increased.
  • Comfort Letter: A state environmental agency’s “comfort letter” established that a release of the emerging chemical of concern – per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS – was not sourced from a client’s affordable housing site based on environmental assessment. The letter further stated that the health of residents and construction crews would be protected, provided appropriate steps were followed. The comfort letter was critical to securing a broadly protective environmental insurance policy and allowing the affordable housing developer’s project to move forward.

Conclusion

It is recommended that housing developers consider careful alignment of the new housing laws, CEQA/National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance processes and Brownfields issues. Misalignment, especially for affordable housing projects, can result in avoidable problems ranging from those related to financing and making key milestones to conveyance/take down terms and selection of regulatory pathway for entitlement and environmental compliance.

Working with both nonprofit affordable housing providers and market developers, who produce workforce housing and infill projects, Holland & Knight’s West Coast Land Use and Environmental Group has helped guide the regulatory pathway for numerous affordable and mixed-income projects over the years across California. Holland & Knight has built a housing litigation practice with a strong record of success, and has particular strength in assisting municipalities in the appropriate use of these new housing laws to accelerate project implementation. Combining deep land use and environmental knowledge, and a highly developed housing/CEQA litigation practice, Holland & Knight lawyers have decades of experience helping nonprofit and other affordable housing and infill developers achieve success from initial diligence to opening day.

Information contained in this alert is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not designed to be, and should not be used as, the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal problem. Moreover, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and are constantly changing. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult competent legal counsel.


For additional information or assistance, contact the authors or a member of Holland & Knight’s West Coast Land Use and Environmental Group.

About the West Coast Land Use and Environmental Group: Holland & Knight’s Chambers-ranked West Coast Land Use and Environmental Group includes more than 25 attorneys and professionals in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., who are dedicated to producing results for their clients. Our environmental, land use, real estate, finance and litigation attorneys and policy professionals work as one team, ensuring that the person with the right experience is addressing the issue. Our attorneys are consistently nationally ranked in publications such as U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” guide and Chambers. In addition to deep private sector experience, many of our attorneys have agency and legislative backgrounds, including working at the White House, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of the Interior, Congress, and state and local government.

 

 

 

U of Guelph Researcher Wins International Water Award for Groundwater Contamination R&D

Drawing attention to Earth’s crisis of groundwater contamination and exploitation is the goal of a University of Guelph engineering professor whose prestigious international water award was recently announced.

Prof. John Cherry, an adjunct professor in U of G’s School of Engineering, was recently named the 2020 winner of the Stockholm Water Prize on UN World Water Day.

He’s the first hydrogeologist and the second Canadian to win the international award, which has gone to academics and organizations worldwide, including the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka and Great Britain’s Water Aid.

Awarded annually since 1991, the prize honours individuals and organizations whose work helps to conserve and protect water resources. Cherry will receive the award from Princess Victoria of Sweden in late August and will address the opening session of this year’s World Water Week conference to be held by the Stockholm International Water Institute.

“John has made incredible contributions to groundwater research that have had profoundly important global impacts, aligning perfectly with our institutional commitment to improve life,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research), at U of G.

“John’s achievements are spectacular and provide inspiration for the University of Guelph research enterprise, and we offer him our heartfelt congratulations and praise. John is most deserving of this award.”

Cherry plans to use the award to highlight what he calls “the global groundwater crisis.”

Worldwide, groundwater quality is imperiled by pollutants, especially contaminants from agriculture such as fertilizer and other sources such as road salting, septic systems and industrial chemicals, said Cherry.

A 2016 United Nations report projected that rising global temperatures, expanding urbanization and continued population growth will result in a 40-per-cent global water deficit by 2030.

Nearly all of Earth’s liquid freshwater is groundwater, including reserves that provide drinking water for about one in three Canadians. Almost half of the world population depends on groundwater for domestic use and many rely on it for irrigation.

“Groundwater as an issue gets ignored in Canada and in many other countries,” said Cherry, who studied groundwater contamination for decades as a professor at the University of Waterloo. “It’s going on underground, so you can’t see it, but it’s the backbone of the freshwater cycle.”

This summer, he will launch the Groundwater Project, a series of e-books and other educational resources to be made available free online in several languages for users from water experts to university students to schoolchildren. Cherry has solicited chapters from hundreds of water experts worldwide, including U of G engineering professors Beth Parker and Ed McBean, and Prof. Aaron Berg, Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics.

The project will be based at U of G, where Cherry is principal investigator with the G360 Institute for Groundwater Research. Led by Parker, the institute studies groundwater quality and interactions between groundwater and surface water. It specializes in developing and applying sophisticated groundwater monitoring technologies, including systems monitoring the bedrock aquifer in Guelph and Wellington County.

“What’s most notable to me about Professor Cherry is his extraordinary capacity for collaboration, likely due to his broad interest in people and their ideas and his passion for seeking solutions to real-world problems,” said Parker. Referring to her colleague’s longtime teamwork in hydrogeology research and education, she said, “He is still pursuing advances with groundwater science and practice with his vision and with the largest-ever team working on the groundwater e-book project, which will undoubtedly have global impact.”

The project grew out of a definitive textbook called Groundwater, co-authored by Cherry in 1979.

Called a “pioneer of contaminant hydrogeology,” he joined the University of Manitoba in 1967 as Canada’s first groundwater professor.

Moving to the University of Waterloo in 1971, he led a groundwater research group for decades. His research criteria for choosing safe disposal sites for radioactive wastes have been adopted in worldwide regulations. The nomination for this award was submitted by the University of Waterloo’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Water Institute.

Cherry has been named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Foreign Fellow of the American Academy of Engineering. In 2016, he received the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize from Singapore for outstanding contributions to global water research.

He traces his longtime interest in water resources to the work of his parents, Lawrence Cherry and Evelyn Spice Cherry, who experienced drought while growing up in Canada’s West. Both worked for the National Film Board and later ran a Saskatchewan documentary film company specializing in social and environmental issues.

Canadian Report on Environmental Fines and Penalties in 2019

The Environmental Insurance Group at Berkley Canada recently released there latest report on Environmental Fines and Penalties: 2019 Update Report which covers all of Canada.  The report summarizes the use of fines and penalties by regulators across Canada and explains how environmental insurance may respond to the risk.

The report acknowledges that Canada has historically used fines and penalties sparingly compared to Europe or the United States. Between 1991 and 2009, the average total value of fines and penalties levied in Canada was $1.4 million per year.  In late 2014, this changed dramatically.  That year, Environment and Climate Change Canada (the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. EPA), issued a penalty of $7.5 million against Bloom Lake General Partners (a subsidiary of Cliffs Natural Resources).  The penalty arose out of breaches to the Canadian Fisheries Act and Metal Mining Effluent Regulations.

While fines and penalties are designed to encourage compliance with environmental legislation, they are generally enacted under a strict liability framework.  This results in them often being imposed in response to an accident or unintended event.