Harnessing the power of reachback in radiological exercises

Written by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

The use of accurate spectroscopy equipment is an essential factor in enabling emergency response teams, border control and law enforcement to quickly and efficiently screen, detect (and where possible identify) an unknown source of radiation.

Radiation-emitting materials can be broadly divided into several categories – encompassing what are known as naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM); Special Nuclear Materials (SNM); medical radioactive isotopes (radiological materials used for the purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment) and industrial radioisotopes (used in a wide variety of industry applications from construction to mining).

Additionally too, there are illicit radioactive materials that exist outside of regulatory controls and that represent a major global threat.

While personnel will have a basic level of understanding in the use of their radiation detector systems, there can be situations in which they may require the assistance of more in-depth analysis in order to verify a threat, make sense of the data or decide on the best course of action.

The power of reachback for in-depth analysis

As modern-day radiological operations become more localised, more dynamic and less predictable in their nature, there is a growing demand for access to remote collaborative support such as that provided by reachback.

The primary purpose of any reachback programme is to provide expert off-site technical advice and adjudication that helps to strengthen and support the detection mission.

Simulator detector training systems are already highly regarded for the important role that they can play in ensuring that personnel are confident in the operation of their equipment, in interpreting the readings they obtain and in being able to relay vital information up the chain of command.

Until now however, the option of being able to exercise reachback in a training setting is something that has been unachievable using any existing form of simulated radiation technology.

These limitations have been addresses however, with the development and imminent commercialization of the Radiation Field Training Simulator (RaFTS).

Harnessing reachback capability with RaFTS

RaFTS is the culmination of an extensive collaboration between premier US research and development institution the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and UK simulator detector manufacturer Argon Electronics.

The RaFTS hardware comprises an externally mounted device that can be attached directly to any suitably adapted radiological detection system.

With the addition of a simple modification to the actual detector, it is then possible for that equipment to be safely used in a radiological training context by responding to totally safe simulated radiation sources.

The RaFTS technology is applicable to all types of handheld and mobile spectroscopic detection systems, as well as portal monitors and backpack detection equipment.

Realistic spectrometry-based radiation training

With the recent announcement of an exclusive commercialization and distribution agreement between LLNL and Argon Electronics, RaFTS is poised to provide substantial and unprecedented advancement in the delivery of realistic spectrometry-based radiation training.

From a radiation training perspective, there have always been inherent challenges in replicating the process of reachback in an exercise environment.

The game-changing nature of RaFTS’ architecture means it is now possible for organizations to apply their own sensitive scenario spectrum images during training exercises, and without the need to defer to any other party.

But perhaps most significant of all, the RaFTS technology is able to trigger the adapted detector to generate a high-fidelity spectra file that can be transferred in real time to an organization’s reachback centre, enabling that data to be analysed and fully integrated within a radiation training exercise.

Reachback has a crucial role to play in strengthening radiological detection capability, in informing technical and analytical decision-making and in aiding the integration of law enforcement, technical and scientific communities.

By harnessing the capability of RaFTS technology, radiological instructors now have the opportunity to integrate the power of reachback within their training scenarios, to provide even more more compelling and engaging learning experiences for their trainees.


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.

Analysis of the Emergency Spill Response Market to 2026

According to a recent Emergency Spill Response Market research report prepared by Data Bridge Market Research, the global emergency spill response market is set to witness a substantial CAGR of 6.6% in the forecast period of 2019 to 2026. The report contains data of the base year 2018 and historic year 2017. This rise in the market can be attributed due to increasing environmental regulations across the world as well as increase in the global trade.

The Emergency Spill Response Market report comprises of detailed market segmentation, systematic analysis of major market players, trends in consumer and supply chain dynamics, and insights about new geographical markets.

Few of the major competitors currently working in global emergency spill response market are Adler & Allen, Clean Harbors Inc., Desmi A/S, Elastec, Marine Well Containment Company, Oil Spill Response Limited, Polyeco Group, US Ecology Inc., Veolia, Vikoma International Ltd, NRC Group, Briggs Marine & Environmental Services, AM Environmental, Lamor Corporation Ab., Blue Ocean Tackle, SkimOil, Fender & Spill Response Service LLC, American Green Ventures (US) Inc., Expandi Systems, Darcy Spillcare Manufacturer, Tomlinson Group, First Call Environmental and others.

Market Definition: Global Emergency Spill Response Market

Emergency spill response is the occurrence and release of the hazardous chemicals or waste that needs intercession of spill cleanup expert to contain and to eliminate the spilled material securely. Every spill should be estimate to detect whether it has crossed that threshold further which any cleanup is required by trained professional. The potential for chemical spills exists anywhere as these materials are used as well as transported through which the chemical spill may harm the employees, customers and general public.

Market Drivers:

  • Stringent environmental regulations across world to reduce the environmental pollution from spill will drive this market
  • With increase in the global trades around the world is driving the market growth
  • Growing awareness due to the effects of the spills on environment will drive the market
  • Increasing demand for mechanical recovery methods for spill recovery will propel the growth of the market

Market Restraints:

  • Decline in the large spills across the world will hinder the growth of the market
  • Strict compliance and regulations by the government for the companies is hampering the market growth

4 ways simulator technology can aid CBRN training

Written by Bryan W Sommers – SGM U.S. Army, Ret., Argon Electronics

A commitment to ongoing education and training is a vital factor in ensuring that military personnel are prepared and equipped for the full spectrum of combat operations that they may encounter.

The U.S. Marine Corps’ individual training standards focus on marines’ competence in recognizing chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN)-related incidents and in taking the required protective measures to achieve their mission objectives.

Key training goals include: being able to recognise CBRN hazards or attack indicators; the checking, donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE); recognizing CBRN alarms, markers and signals; employing detection equipment and relaying CBRN signals, alarms and reports.

Typically this training will comprise a combination of classroom, teaching, practical application and/or field training as appropriate.

The challenging nature of many CBRN environments however can often difficult, or in many cases impossible, to successfully replicate using traditional training methods.

Over the past decade there has been increasing recognition of the potential of live simulations and simulator training in being able to plug this crucial training gap.

While the laptop based Deployable Virtual Training Environment (DVTE) simulator has been a staple of the Marine Corps’ training programme for more than a decade, the integration of CBRN-specific simulator training is still a relatively new area.

But it is one that offers many opportunities.

In this article we examine four of the primary benefits of integrating an element of simulator-based training into an existing CBRN programme of instruction.

1. Enhanced realism

A key benefit of utilising simulator detector technology is the enhanced degree of realism and authenticity that it provides.

With the help of simulators, it is possible to place Marines in life-like scenarios that mirror the hazards of real events – but where there is zero risk of harm.

The use of simulator detectors also enables trainees to experience for themselves those extreme incidents that never occur outside of normal use.

Recreating the presence of a blood agent for example, is something that is otherwise impossible to achieve using traditional training methods.

With the use of a simulator however, trainees are able to see and hear for themselves exactly how their actual detectors will react in response to a real blood agent.

2. Increased trainee empowerment

A secondary benefit is the extent to which greater responsibility for training and learning can be handed over to the trainees.

Simulator detectors enable more of the decision-making to be placed in the hands of the students, removing the necessity for the instructor to have to drip-feed information to his or her students.

In shifting the onus onto the trainee there is more opportunity for them to make sense of the information they receive and to formulate appropriate responses based on that information.

3. Trust in the functionality of equipment

Simulators can also be invaluable in enabling trainees to receive realistic feedback and establish greater trust in their real-world systems.

In training with a simulator that mirrors every aspect of their real device – from the weight of the detector, to the position of the buttons, to the sound of the alarms – students are able to better rely on themselves and on the functionality of their equipment.

3. A better learning experience

Simulator-based training provides trainers with the capability to have eyes on all aspects of the training process, and for all errors to recorded even if they may not spot those errors themselves.

This information can then provide a valuable learning point when it comes to post-exercise evaluation.

Crucially too, the use of simulator detector equipment provides CBRN trainees with the freedom to not only be able to safely make mistakes, but to recognise when they make those mistakes and to adapt their actions accordingly.

The growing interest in CBRN technologies

The U.S. Marine Corps is committed to “innovation, education enhancement and investment in the resources, and technologies that facilitate learning.”

Those investments, it says, include the continued modernisation of its “training ranges, training devices, and infrastructure,” as well as the leveraging of “advanced technologies and simulation systems to create realistic, fully immersive training environments.”

The ability to achieve objectives and maintain freedom of action in a CBRN environment are vital factors in achieving mission success.

As the diversity, complexity and unpredictability of CBRN incidents continues to grow, the interest and investment in simulator technologies is only likely to increase as more organisations recognise their value in improving safety, heightening realism and enhancing learning outcomes.


About the Author

Sergeant Major Bryan W Sommers has forged a distinguished career in the fields of CBRNe and HazMat training. He recently retired after twenty-two years service in the US Army, with fourteen years spent operating specifically in Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) environments. In 2020 he was appointed as Argon Electronics’ North American business development manager.

Mesothelioma Awareness Day: How Asbestos Continues to Impact Our Health

This year is the 17th anniversary of Mesothelioma Awareness Day. Recognized on September 26th, awareness is brought to this rare cancer that is diagnosed in roughly 3,000 new patients in the United States annually. What many do not know is that the only known cause of mesothelioma cancer is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used in a variety of different industries, but most commonly in construction. Unfortunately, asbestos continues to wreak havoc on homeowners and those who work in professions with heightened exposure. Part of spreading awareness is understanding the dangers of this carcinogen, how to prevent exposure, and ultimately, how we can make mesothelioma a disease of the past.

Asbestos Usage In Buildings And Homes

The height of asbestos usage in the United States was between the 1920s and 1980s. Not only was this mineral cheap, but it was unmatched when it came to sound absorption and heat resistance. This made it one of the best additives for building materials, as it would slow the progression of a fire if it were to occur. Insulation, vinyl floors, roofing tiles, heating ducts, plaster and permaboard are just some of the many materials asbestos was incorporated into. If you live in a home or building built prior to the 1980s, there is a high likelihood that it harbors some form of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).

The real danger occurs when these ACMs begin to degrade and become brittle. When ACMs become damaged, they can release microscopic asbestos fibers into the air, where they can then enter your body and cause damage to internal organs. To avoid this, ACMs should be removed and replaced with a green alternative by EPA-certified professionals. In order to know if your residence contains asbestos, you will need to get suspected materials tested first. Once it is known how widespread the issue is throughout your home, the cost will be assessed for the abatement. Removing ACMs can range anywhere from $500 to $5,000 on average, which can be daunting. However, having the peace of mind that you and your family are safer because of it is worth every penny.

Mesothelioma Cancer

When asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they can cling to the linings of our internal organs, such as the lungs, heart or stomach. Once embedded into our organs, these fibers cause scarring and damage, leading to the development of tumors over the next 10 to 50 years. Symptoms do not arise until a later stage of life, with the target demographic being 65 years of age and older. Some of the most common symptoms are coughing, chest pain, night sweats, trouble breathing and weight loss. Mesothelioma is most commonly diagnosed in the lungs, accounting for 80 to 90% of all cases. It is important to note that mesothelioma is one of the only non-genetic cancers to exist, meaning that it can almost wholly be avoided if we are vigilant about limiting exposure.

Known as the “third wave,” we are now seeing exposure occur in people outside of those who worked with this carcinogen or dealt with it on a daily basis, such as in a factory setting. People renovating homes or in fields such as construction or engineering are unknowingly exposing themselves. Employers and employees alike need to not only become educated about this dangerous carcinogen, but should also be supplied with the best personal protective equipment (PPE), as to limit the chances of being exposed on the job. This means protection such as protective disposable clothing, face masks with filters and eye protection. We can greatly reduce instances of exposure if we are aware of the threats of asbestos and use safety protocol to our advantage.

Spreading Awareness

If you have loved ones that work in a high-risk occupation, share this information with them and be sure they are utilizing PPE. If you plan on renovating an older home, have certain materials tested before you start breaking down walls and ripping out insulation. With the right measures in place, we will begin to see mesothelioma diagnosed less and less, but we must continue to spread awareness about asbestos in order for this to occur.

 

Update On Site Rehabilitation Programs In Alberta, British Columbia And Saskatchewan

Written by Anna Fitz and JoAnn Jamieson, McLennan Ross LLP

On April 17, 2020, the federal government announced $1.7 billion in funding to clean up oil and gas sites in Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan. The goal of the federal funding was to create immediate jobs in the three provinces while helping companies avoid bankruptcy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All three provinces were quick to announce programs in the hopes of creating jobs and getting people back to work. This article provides an update on the programs in each province.

Alberta

Alberta received $1.2 billion, the bulk of the federal funding. On April 24, 2020, the Government of Alberta announced its “Site Rehabilitation Program,” which provides up to $1 billion in grants to oil field service contractors to perform well, pipeline, and oil and gas site closure and reclamation work.

The goals of the program are to:

  • immediately get Alberta’s specialized oil field workforce back to work,
  • accelerate site abandonment and closure efforts, and
  • quickly complete a high volume of environmentally-significant work.

Inactive oil and gas sites may be nominated by landowners and Indigenous communities. Landowners can nominate inactive sites by emailing the required information (including the legal description of the land, landowners on the land title, and contact information) to the government. Indigenous communities can also nominate inactive sites by email; required information includes the name of the First Nation or Métis settlement, the legal description of the site, and the licensee information sign at the site. A detailed overview of the nomination process can be found here.

In order to be eligible for funding to do the work, service contractors must be located in Alberta and must offer jobs to Albertans. Eligible work includes closure on inactive wells and pipelines, Phases 1 and 2 environmental Site Assessments, remediation, and reclamation. Interested parties can apply on the Site Rehabilitation Program website.

The Alberta government will provide funding for the Site Rehabilitation Program in multiple increments. The first increment, which has now ended, reportedly received significant interest. The second increment is currently on-going, and will close for applications on June 18, 2020. Third and later increments will also become available.

In addition to the Site Rehabilitation Program, the government of Canada has extended a $200 million repayable loan to the existing Orphan Well Association (“OWA”). Under the OWA, an orphan site is “a well, pipeline, facility or associated site that does not have a legally responsible and/or financially viable party to deal with its decommissioning and reclamation responsibilities.”

The OWA has a procurement process through which it selects from a list of prime contractors, who are then normally responsible for choosing their own subcontractors. However, with the new federal funding, the OWA is planning to collaborate with its prime contractors to select subcontractors (interested parties will be able to apply) for the additional work. The OWA anticipates allocating the new funding through a “staged process.” After further planning, OWA will be providing information about the process on its website.

British Columbia

On May 13, 2020, the Government of British Columbia (“BC”) announced its “Dormant Sites Reclamation Program” with which it is channeling its $100 million in federal funding toward cleaning up dormant sites. In BC, well sites are deemed “dormant” if they do not reach a threshold of activity for five years consecutively, or if they have failed to produce for at least 720 hours yearly.

The program is specifically for B.C. companies and contractors with experience in environmental contracting and/or oil and gas infrastructure abandonment. Applicants must have a valid contract with a BC-based oil and gas activity permit holder for a dormant site.

Eligible applicants can apply online, where the information they will need to provide includes the company details, permit holder name, well authorization number, and estimated cost of each work component.

The B.C. government will provide its funding in two increments, the first from May 25, 2020 to October 31, 2020. Funding for this first increment is up to $50 million. The second increment will commence on November 1, 2020 and run to May 31, 2021.

In both funding increments, the B.C. government will provide financial contribution up to 50% of the total estimated or actual costs (whichever is less), up to a total of $100,000 per application and per closure activity. The program has already received significant interest; in a news release, the province noted it received over 1,100 applications on the first day, which means the program was nearly fully subscribed.

B.C. landowners, local governments, and Indigenous communities can nominate dormant oil or gas sites on their land through an online process beginning June 15, 2020. The BC government noted that such nominations will be a priority in the second increment of funding.

Saskatchewan

On May 22, 2020, the Government of Saskatchewan initiated the “Accelerated Site Closure Program” (“ASCP”). Through this program, the Ministry of Energy and Resources will manage $400 million from the federal government for the abandonment and reclamation of inactive oil and gas wells and facilities.

The ASCP involves multiple phases, the first for up to $100 million (the future funding and applicable phases have not yet been announced). In order to be eligible, licensees must be in good standing regarding debts owed to the Crown as of March 1, 2020 (e.g. the Oil and Gas Administrative Levy, the Orphan Well Levy, etc.). Eligible licensees will receive a minimum of $50,000 toward their abandonment and reclamation projects.

The program provides that licensees nominate their wells and facilities through the IRIS system (Integrated Resource Information System). Service companies, interested in performing the work, must apply through SaskTenders beginning in the first week of June 2020. Further details on the application process, and who to contact with questions, can be found in the following bulletin.

The Saskatchewan government anticipates that up to 8,000 wells and facilities will be abandoned and reclaimed through the ASCP, which in turn will support approximately 2,100 full-time jobs. Saskatchewan plans to develop an Indigenous procurement strategy further into the program.

The first phase of the ASCP is now complete, and eligible licensees have received notice of their allocation.

Moving Forward

The federal funding is a welcome boost to cleaning up inactive oil and gas sites in Western Canada. This is a significant step to subsidize old, inactive sites and lower the associated environmental risks. As the three programs also create jobs and contracting opportunities for local parties, the federal funding appears to be a big win for both the energy industry and the environment in all three provinces during these difficult times.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.


About the Authors

JoAnn P. Jamieson’s practice is dedicated to environmental, regulatory and Aboriginal law matters. With over 20 years of experience, she has worked on major resource development throughout western and northern Canada including oil sands, oil and gas, coalbed methane, pipelines, co-generation, hydro, petrochemical, diamond and uranium mining, in situ coal gasification, power, renewables and clean energy technology. JoAnn has extensive experience in environmental impact assessment, land and water regulation, municipal planning, climate change, species at risk, corporate social responsibility and regulatory compliance issues.

Anna Fitz is a student-at-law in the Edmonton office of McLennan Ross LLP.  Anna completed her Juris Doctor at the University of Ottawa, where she graduated cum laude. She also received her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature at McGill University and graduated with distinction.

Nominations for the 2020 Canadian Brownie Awards Are Now Open

The Canadian Brownfields Network (CBN) Brownie Awards are given to recognize excellence in brownfield remediation and reuse. They are presented in six categories for projects/programs and one category for individual achievement. All project/program nominations are eligible for consideration as Best Overall Project and, depending on their size/scope, for either Best Large or Best Small Project. Information on the award categories is available at https://canadianbrownfieldsnetwork.ca/brownfield-awards/brownies.

 

There is no charge to submit a nomination, and there is no requirement that anyone involved with the project be a CBN member. Additional information on the nomination and judging process is available on the FAQ page at https://canadianbrownfieldsnetwork.ca/brownfield-awards/brownies/brownies-faq.

Starting with last year’s Brownies, CBN introduced a two-stage nomination process. The first stage involves submission of a simplified nomination form. These will be reviewed by our judging panel and finalists in each category will be invited to submit a more detailed nomination. Key dates are:

Nominations open Now
Short-form nominations due September 18
Finalists selected September 25
Detailed nominations due October 14
Awards Gala November 24

For ideas on what makes a winning project, please see:

For questions with regards to the awards process, please contact CBN Past President Grant Walsom by email at [email protected] or by phone at 519-741-5774 ext. 7246.

Dragonflies Reveal Mercury Pollution Levels Across U.S. National Parks

A citizen science program that began over a decade ago has confirmed the use of dragonflies to measure mercury pollution, according to a study in Environmental Science & Technology.

The national research effort, which grew from a regional project to collect dragonfly larvae, found that the young form of the insect predator can be used as a “biosentinel” to indicate the amount of mercury that is present in fish, amphibians and birds.

The finding will make it easier to conduct mercury research and could lead to a national registry of pollution data on the toxic metal.

“Researchers needed a proxy for fish since that is what people and animals eat,” said Celia Chen, director of Dartmouth’s Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program and a co-author of the study. “Fish can be hard to work with for a national-level research program, so it’s helpful to be able to focus our research on dragonfly larvae.”

Dragonflies occupy diverse freshwater habitats across six continents and have tissues that take up mercury in its toxic form. As predators, dragonflies operate in the food web in a manner that is similar to fish, birds and amphibians that also accumulate mercury in their body tissues.

The study includes data from thousands of larval dragonfly specimens collected from nearly 500 locations across 100 sites within the U.S. National Park System. The survey was collected from 2009 through 2018 as part of the national Dragonfly Mercury Project.

“The support of citizen scientists around the country created the opportunity for this study to have such significance. This is a terrific example of how public outreach around science can bring results that help the entire country,” said Chen.

Methylmercury, the organic form of the toxic metal mercury, poses risks to humans and wildlife through the consumption of fish. Mercury pollution comes from power plants, mining and other industrial sites. It is transported in the atmosphere and then deposited in the natural environment, where wildlife can be exposed to it.

Fish and aquatic birds are commonly used to monitor mercury levels but are difficult to work with in a large-scale project because of their size, migratory patterns, and the diversity of species. Dragonfly larvae are easy to collect and make the citizen science research project possible.

“It is extremely rewarding to assist teachers and their students to engage in data-driven, real-world research impacting their communities,” said Kate Buckman, a research scientist who serves as Dartmouth’s coordinator for the citizen science program. “I see a lot of enthusiasm from students eager to take part in ‘real’ science.”

Young citizen scientists look for dragonfly larvae to submit for mercury analysis at Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in Minnesota.
NPS Photo

As part of the decade-long study, researchers came up with the first-ever survey of mercury pollution in the U.S. National Park System. The research found that about two-thirds of the aquatic sites studied within the national parks are polluted with moderate-to-extreme levels of mercury.

The finding of mercury within park sites is not an indicator that the source of pollution is in the parks themselves. Mercury is distributed widely within the atmosphere and is deposited in the protected areas as it is in other water bodies across the country.

Given that the parks studied stretch across the entire U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii, the findings reflect levels of mercury throughout the country.

“To date, we have not conducted such a broad scale survey on mercury in the U.S. The beauty of the dragonfly data set is that it is national, covers a huge area with different systems, and has the potential to create a national baseline of mercury pollution information,” said Chen.

The study also found that faster moving bodies of water, such as rivers and streams, featured more mercury pollution than slower moving systems including lakes, ponds, and wetlands.

According to the paper: “Collectively, this continental-scale study demonstrates the utility of dragonfly larvae for estimating the potential mercury risk to fish and wildlife in aquatic ecosystems and provides a framework for engaging citizen science as a component of landscape [mercury] monitoring programs.”

In the citizen science project, students and park visitors conduct field studies and collect the dragonfly specimens. National Park rangers help guide the citizen scientists through the protected sites.

The original project was launched by Dr. Sarah Nelson at the University of Maine and the Schoodic Institute in 2007. Dartmouth’s Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program developed a regional effort in New Hampshire and Vermont in 2010. The project was expanded nationally by the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The citizen science project in the Upper Valley region of New England typically runs in the fall with participation from high school students in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Researchers from the USGS, National Park Service, University of Maine, Appalachian Mountain Club and Dartmouth participated in this study. Collin Eagles-Smith from the USGS served as the paper’s lead author. Sarah Nelson who launched the original project is now director of research at the Appalachian Mountain Club.

For more information on the Dartmouth Superfund Dragonfly research project: https://sites.dartmouth.edu/toxmetal/research-projects/aquatic-methylmercury/dragonfly-mercury-monitoring/

For more information on the National Park Service Dragonfly Mercury Project:
https://www.nps.gov/articles/dragonfly-mercury-project.htm

Source: Dartmouth College

A guide to the four levels of Hazardous Materials (HazMat) response

Written by Bryan W Sommers – SGM U.S. Army, Ret. , Argon Electronics

Hazardous materials that are mishandled, incorrectly transported or used with malicious intent, can pose a substantial risk to human health and the environment.

How effectively hazardous materials (HazMat) incidents are managed and resolved hinges on the knowledge, training and skill of those charged with response.

In this article we examine the roles and responsibilities of the four HazMat response levels and we discuss how simulator detector technology can be used to enhance HazMat training outcomes.

Awareness Level

For responders working in awareness level roles, the chance of encountering the presence of a hazardous material in the course of their normal daily duties is relatively small.

In many cases though, it is awareness level personnel who will be “first on the scene” of a HazMat incident – and it is they who will be responsible for taking charge of the initial protective actions (isolating or evacuating the area, calling for specialist assistance etc) that will minimize the impact on people and the environment.

Among the expected competencies of an awareness level responder are:

  • An understanding of what hazardous materials are and the situations and locations in which they are most likely to be present
  • The ability to recognize markings, placards or labels that indicate the presence of hazardous materials
  • Familiarity with the documentation / resources used to identify hazardous materials (such as the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) or its equivalent)

Operations Level

Responders working at the operations level play a hands-on and defensive role in initial HazMat response.

It is expected however that they will do as much as is possible to mitigate the incident without having to set foot inside the Hot Zone.

The mission-specific responsibilities of operations level responders include:

  • Assisting in controlling, and minimizing the spread, of the HazMat release
  • Knowledge of defensive HazMat techniques such as absorption, damming, diverting, vapour dispersion and suppression
  • Experience in basic air monitoring
  • Technical and mass decontamination
  • Assisting with evacuation and victim rescue
  • The establishing of hazard zones
  • The preserving of evidence

Technician Level

Responders operating at technician level are highly specialized HazMat personnel who take an offensive-action role when responding to known or suspected releases of hazardous materials.

While HazMat technicians may not be expected to be experts in science, it is assumed that they will have a robust understanding of chemistry, biology and/or nuclear physics. Many also have a substantial CBRN training background.

A HazMat Technician’s primary responsibilities include:

  • The performing of advanced risk-based hazard assessments in order to analyse the scope of HazMat incidents
  • Experience in the selection and operation of advanced detection, monitoring and testing equipment
  • The ability to select and use specialized Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Selection of decontamination procedures and control equipment

Depending on their level of training and the scope of the incident, HazMat Technicians may also be required respond to specialized incidents involving flammable gases or flammable liquids and/or to have knowledge of radiological dosimetry and recording procedures.

Specialist Level

The Specialist responder is the highest level of responder for HazMat incidents, with an in-depth and highly advanced level of scientific knowledge.

In many cases they may be required to provide a more observational, trouble-shooting role – observing Technicians and watching out for potential complications. In other cases they may take a more hands-on approach, working alongside HazMat Technicians within the Hot Zone.

Specialist level responders may also be expected to work with the Incident Commander (IC) from within a command post.

Importance of Training

The real-world demands of a responder’s day-to-day role, together with the ongoing challenges of limited time and resources, means it is crucial that the HazMat training they receive is relevant to their work and tailored to their expected duties and tasks.

Equally too, it is important that they are provided with the opportunity to demonstrate their HazMat response skills and knowledge in both a classroom setting and in the context of a real-life environment.

The provision of realistic and engaging hands-on training can have a vital role to play in ensuring responders are equipped for the challenges of managing live HazMat incidents.

Integrating the use of simulator detector equipment into training scenarios can also be beneficial in enabling trainees to experience hands-on training that is rigorous, compelling and repeatable, but where there is no health and safety or environmental risk.

If you are interested to explore how the use of simulator detectors can enhance your HazMat training outcomes then please get in touch with one of our experts today.


About the Author

Sergeant Major Bryan W Sommers has forged a distinguished career in the fields of CBRNe and HazMat training. He recently retired after twenty-two years service in the US Army, with fourteen years spent operating specifically in Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) environments. In 2020 he was appointed as Argon Electronics’ North American business development manager.

How to ensure optimum response to nuclear and radiological incidents

Written by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

Whenever there is the need to respond to an incident that involves the release of an uncontrolled source of radiation, a critical objective will be to minimise the risk of unnecessary exposure.

Radiological incidents where there is the potential for a significant release of radionuclides are many and varied – whether it be a transportation accident, a fire within a nuclear fuel manufacturing plant, or a terrorist act that involves the use of a radiological dispersal device (RDD) or improvised nuclear device (IND).

Assessing the radiological risk

The danger that any specific radiological incident will pose to human and environmental safety will depend on a variety of factors:

  • The type of radionuclides that are involved
  • The size, scope and complexity of the incident
  • The feasibility of proposed protective actions
  • The timing of notification and response
  • The efficiency with which protective actions are implemented

A guide to initial protective actions

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Protection Action Guide (PAG) for Radiological Incidents 2017 provides an invaluable framework to aid public officials in their planning for emergency response to radiological incidents.

The PAG defines a radiological incident as an event or series of events – whether deliberate or accidental – that leads to the release of radioactive materials into the environment in sufficient levels to warrant protective actions.

Additionally, the Radiological/Nuclear Incident Annex to the Response and Recovery Federal Interagency Operations Plans 2016 provides a useful frame of reference by setting out the three key operational phases that can guide radiological response and recovery.

Phase 1 of the plan is termed Primarily Pre-Incident and comprises three categories; 1a – during which where there are normal operations; 1b – where there is an increased likelihood or elevated risk of threat and 1c – where there is evidence of a near certain or credible threat.

The second phase pertains to either when a radiological or nuclear incident first occurs or when notification of that incident is received.

Once again, there are three distinct stages within this phase: 2a – which is concerned with activation, situational assessment and movement; 2b – which relates to the employment of resources and the stabilisation of the incident and 3b – which begins with the commencement of intermediate operations.

Phase 3 of the federal radiological plan focuses on the tasks that pertain to sustained, long-term recovery operations – beginning with the recovery actions that will be put in place to reduce radiation in the environment to acceptable levels and ending when all recovery actions have been completed.

The phases of the EPA’s Protection Action Guide take into account the fact that the priorities that are set – and the decisions that are made early in the response – can often have a cascading effect on future actions and on the nature and efficiency of recovery.

In addition, the guidelines also recognise that radiological/nuclear response activities can often be concurrent and interdependent.

Realistic training for radiological events

The locations in which radiation incidents may occur can often be difficult to predict – and particularly in the case of acts of radiological terrorism.

In the case of the detonation of an RDD for example, the incident could feasibly take place in any location, with the potential for radiological contaminants to disperse over a wide variety of terrain and surfaces.

Training for the unpredictable nature of radiological events can present some unique and complex challenges.

High-fidelity field training exercises can often be expensive and impractical to carry out with any degree of frequency.

In some cases too, essential hands-on learning opportunities such as the understanding of shielding or inverse square law can be diminished or overlooked altogether.

It is crucial that students have access to the most realistic learning experience possible – but at the same time it is also imperative that there is zero risk to personal safety, the safety of the wider community, the environment, equipment or infrastructure.

The use of intelligent simulator training systems provide CBRN and HazMat response personnel with the opportunity to train for actual radiological scenarios in real-life settings – and to gain practical hands-on experience using true-to-life equipment.

An even greater level of hands-on authenticity can now also be achieved through the use of innovative new training systems such as the Radiation Field Training Simulator (RaFTS) which enables trainees to safely train against a diverse variety of radiological hazards whilst using their own actual detector equipment.

The delivery of effective radiation training relies on a careful balance between authenticity and safety.

RaFTS’ merging of virtual and real-world capability makes it possible for instructors to replace the use of individual simulators with a singular, universal training solution that can be connected to a vast array of real detector equipment.


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.

Environmental Indemnity And The Costs Of Regulatory Compliance

Written by by Michael Chernos, Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer LLP

Resolute FP v Ontario, 2019 SCC 60

On December 6, 2019, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) held two forest products companies liable for the costs of remediating and maintaining a waste disposal site at the Dryden paper mill in northern Ontario. The decision reinforces that parties must use caution and diligence when drafting environmental indemnities.

Background: the Dryden paper mill

In the 1960’s, the Dryden pulp and paper mill operators dumped waste product from the paper bleaching process into nearby rivers. The harmful discharges caused mercury poisoning in residents of the Grassy Narrows and Islington First Nations living downstream. In response to the harmful pollution, the Government of Ontario required the owner of the mill to construct a Waste Disposal Site (WDS) to contain toxic waste from the plant to prevent future release into the environment.

The Grassy Narrows and Islington First Nations sued the owner of the plant, Reed Ltd. (Reed), for mercury contamination and associated injuries. The future of the plant was in question. Great Lakes Forest Products Limited (Great Lakes) expressed interest in buying the pulp and paper mill but was concerned about assuming any liabilities relating to the prior mercury discharges. To incentivise a sale, the Crown agreed to indemnify Reed and Great Lakes against pollution claims against the mill. In exchange, Great Lakes agreed to purchase the mill and spend roughly $200 million on upgrades.

The First Nations’ lawsuit settled in 1985, and as part of the settlement, the government granted Great Lakes and Reed a new indemnity that covered all claims relating to previous pollution damage. The indemnity applied to any subsequent mill owners.

The scope of the indemnity was broad, providing relief “against any obligation… costs or expenses incurred… as a result of any claim, action or proceeding, whether statutory or otherwise… because of the discharge or presence of any pollutant”.

The parties

In 1998, Weyerhaeuser purchased some of the Dryden paper mill assets from Bowater Canadian Forest Products Inc. (Bowater), a corporate successor of Great Lakes. Weyerhaeuser was concerned about environmental liabilities tied to the WDS, but couldn’t sever the WDS from title before the transaction closed. In 2000, Weyerhaeuser transferred title to the WDS back to Bowater.

Resolute FP Canada Inc. (Resolute) is the current corporate successor to Great Lakes.

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment Director’s Order

The WDS was eventually abandoned through bankruptcy proceedings and in August 2011 the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (the MOE) issued a Director’s Order (the MOE order) to several parties, including the last owners of the WDS, Weyerhaeuser, and Resolute. The order imposed three main obligations on the parties:

  1. repair site erosion and perform certain groundwater testing;
  2. deliver financial assurance $273,063 to cover future costs of maintaining the WDS; and
  3. take reasonable measures to prevent a future discharge of contaminant.

Challenge to the MOE order

Weyerhaeuser and Resolute challenged the MOE order, arguing that they were protected by the government indemnity, and were successful at trial. The Crown appealed, and the trial decision was reversed in part. The majority at the Ontario Court of Appeal found that although the indemnity applied to the MOE order only one party could benefit at a time, and Resolute had assigned the benefit of the indemnity to Weyerhaeuser.

An important distinction – the cost of regulatory compliance vs environmental liability

The SCC overturned the lower court decisions, largely adopting the reasons of the dissenting Justice Laskin from the Ontario Court of Appeal. The Court’s reasoning hinges on an important distinction. The indemnity applies to “pollution claims” relating to the release of harmful waste into the environment, while the MOE order is properly characterized as a cost of regulatory compliance.

In arriving at this distinction, the SCC emphasized that the trial judge made a critical error in finding that the WDS continued to discharge waste into the surrounding ecosystem. The WDS was actually designed to contain waste from the Dryden paper mill and prevent pollution. The obligations in the MOE order relate to maintaining the WDS rather than compensating for the harmful discharge of pollutants. Therefore, Weyerhaeuser and Resolute could not benefit from the indemnity.

As a secondary issue, the Court considered whether the original indemnity could apply to first parties (i.e. the Crown), or whether it applied strictly to third party claims. Despite language in the indemnity referring to “statutory claims”, the SCC found that the nature of the indemnity was against third party claims, and did not apply to claims made by the indemnitor (the Ontario Government), and specifically, did not apply to regulatory compliance orders from the Ontario Government.

Caution when drafting

This case provides a caution for parties that enter into environmental indemnities. The indemnity granted by the Crown to Great Lakes was broadly worded, and yet the courts construed it in a way as to carve out the costs of environmental and regulatory compliance. This result reinforces the need to use explicit and clear language when drafting indemnities and provides an example of the principle “polluter pays”.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.


About the Author

Michael Chernos is a Student-at-Law at Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer LLP, a leading, independent Canadian law firm of over 115 lawyers with a reputation for providing premier legal service in all areas of business law.  He earned his law degree at the University of Calgary. Whttps://www.bdplaw.com/about-us/hile at law school, Michael took on a leadership role with the Environmental Law Society, organizing events for the club that included career development opportunities for students,  and speaker series.