The City of North Bay, Ont., and the Department of National Defence (DND) are set to begin a $20-million project in late spring/early summer to remediate a site contaminated with perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at Jack Garland Airport. The federal government will fund the majority of the costs associated with this cleanup initiative.

Remediation Plan

The City engaged Jacobs Consultancy Canada Inc. (Jacobs), an environmental consulting firm, to assist in the environmental remediation process for the airport lands. The scope of work includes conducting environmental assessments, site-specific risk assessments, developing remediation objectives, conducting treatability studies, and designing the remediation plan. The remediation design phase is complete.

Jacobs has been involved in environmental assessment activities, development of a remedial design, and engineering consulting services related to per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) cleanup at the North Bay Jack Garland Airport since 2022. Since that time, Jacobs has been involved in a site-specific risk assessment; horizontal and vertical sampling in the targeted site remediation areas; development of a risk management/remedial action plan.

Jacobs has developed a remediation plan for the Site. The first phase, which focuses on preventing PFAS from leaving the Site, includes soil, groundwater and surface water remediation in the most contaminated areas, also known as “hot spots”.

The first phase of remediation includes the following:

  • Removal and treatment of the most contaminated soil
  • Adsorptive material injected at the Site boundary in hot spots to treat groundwater prior to leaving the Site.
  • Adsorptive material at the surface water exit locations from the Site to prevent surface water contaminated with PFAS from moving downstream.

The activities above will be subject to further procurement processes to engage the required proponents to complete the construction phase of the remediation plan.

Actual clean-up activities are scheduled for June 2024. Jacobs received an $8 million contract from the City to provide engineering consulting services for the remediation of the airport.

Funding

The Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) will contribute $19.4 million (Cdn) over a period of six years to the clean-up. The City of North Bay will contribute $600,00. This funding will cover various activities such as studies, removal, and remediation related to PFAS at the airport. Under funding agreement between the City of North Bay and DND, the City to submit a second proposal for additional costs if required in the future.

Collaborative Efforts and Monitoring

Since 2013, Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) has been measuring levels of 11 different PFAS chemicals in Trout Lake, where thousands of people in North Bay get their drinking water.

Since 2017, the City has been working closely with DND, the MECP, and the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit (NBPSDHU) to support ongoing testing and monitoring of PFAS in Trout Lake, Lees Creek, and nearby residential wells. To expedite the remediation process, the City conducted its own environmental investigations to assess PFAS contamination in soil and groundwater at the airport site.

History of the Site

From the early 1970s to mid-1990s, the DND conducted fire-fighting training exercises at the city’s Jack Garland Airport with foams that contain PFAS. The foams seeped into the groundwater and contaminated wells and Trout Lake, the source of the municipality’s drinking water.

PFAS are a family of some 14,000 different substances that are characterized by a stable carbon-fluorine bond. That strong bond means it takes a long time for them to break down in the environment. Because they don’t degrade easily, PFAS are used in everything from paper packaging for food, to dental floss, glass cleaner, carpeting, guitar strings and a wide variety of other products.

Clean-up Standards

As PFAS are substances which are being studied extensively, guidelines and objectives are continuously developing based on new information. As the science evolves so do our drinking water standards. Recently, Health Canada initiated public consultation on a draft objective of 30 nanograms per liter (ng/L) for PFAS substances in Canadian drinking water supplies. This proposed objective is lower than the interim advice value of 70ng/L set by the MECP. (A nanogram is one billionth of a gram.)

It is important to note that guidelines and objectives for PFAS are continuously developing as more information becomes available. In Ontario, drinking water requirements are ultimately established by the provincial government.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently announced the final National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for six PFAS. The Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water was set at 4.0 parts per trillion (ppt) (also expressed as ng/L). The limit for the other four PFAS chemicals were set at 10 ppt.