Ontario Court of Appeal Makes Significant Ruling on Damages for Property Contamination

Introduction

In a decision released January 11, 2017 – Crombie Property Holdings Limited v. McColl-Frontenac Inc. et. al – the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned a summary judgment decision of the Superior Court of Justice that dismissed a civil lawsuit seeking damages for property contamination based upon the running of a limitation period. Finding out about commercial contract law might be worth looking into if you are dealing with commercial property issues.
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The lower court decision may be found here.

The Court of Appeal decision will be carefully scrutinized by all environmental lawyers and other civil litigators who regularly handle such claims.

Background
The lawsuit sought damages for contamination to the “Crombie Property” from an adjacent commercial property formerly used as a gas station. From the Court of Appeal’s decision, the following chronology of events may be discerned:

Date Event
2003-2005 Prior owners of the Crombie Property commission Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessments (ESA) which find evidence of low level hydrocarbon contamination of groundwater, but indicated those levels were decreasing and recommended no further study.
2007 Testing confirms that soil and groundwater conditions at the defendant Dimtsis Property met the applicable Ministry of the Environment (“MOE”) standards.
2008 The MOE acknowledges a Record of Site Condition. Under applicable law, the acknowledgment confirmed that the Dimtsis Property complied with environmental regulations.
2012 Crombie enters into an agreement to purchase 22 properties, including the Crombie Property subject to the lawsuit. Presumably, under the agreement, Crombie was required to waive all conditions by March 8, 2012.

2012
February 20
Crombie’s consultant Stantec tells Crombie that a gas station and dry cleaner were formerly nearby the Crombie Property.

February 27
In initial scheduling discussions, Stantec and Crombie agree that Stantec will provide a draft Phase 2 ESA for the Crombie Property by April 9, 2012, with verbal results by March 23, 2012.

February 29
Five historical reports (2003-2008) concerning contamination at the Crombie Property are provided to Crombie.
First week of March Crombie asserts that it instructed Stantec that the Phase 2 ESA is not urgent because Crombie is waiving e-conditions and closing. Crombie claims it did not discuss or learn of Phase 2 ESA test results until draft Phase 2 delivered in May.

March 8
Crombie waives all conditions (including environmental conditions) on the purchase of the 22 properties.

March 14
Subsurface Phase 2 ESA work begins on the Crombie Property. Initially only with respect to VOC’s, but expanded to include hydrocarbons when Stantec’s sampling noted petroleum hydrocarbon odours.

March 20
Phase 1 ESA by Stantec provided to Crombie. Stantec summarizes five historical reports and recommends drilling. Stantec also notes that hydrocarbon levels reported in the most recent of the historical reports would not meet current site condition standards.

March 23
Lab results obtained by Stantec for groundwater show exceedances.

March 30
Lab results obtained by Stantec for soil show exceedances.

April 10
Crombie becomes owner of Crombie Property.

May 9
Draft Phase 2 ESA by Stantec provided to Crombie with March lab results. Shows hydrocarbon limits exceeded in groundwater and soil. Crombie attests only learned of actual contamination on this date.

September 17
Date the final Phase 2 ESA is provided to Crombie. Crombie initially pleads in Statement of Claim that it only became aware of contamination on this date.

Standard of Review
The Court confirmed that on a summary judgment motion, the determination of the lower court that there is no genuine issue for trial is a “question of mixed fact and law.” As a result, the standard of review on appeal is whether the trial judge committed a “palpable and overriding error.”

Issue on Appeal

The narrow issue on appeal was whether Crombie’s claim in respect of the environmental contamination of its property was “discovered” within the meaning of s. 5 of the Limitations Act, 2002 before April 28, 2012 (two years prior to the commencement date of the action).

That is, the Court clarified that on the appeal before it, only actual knowledge of contamination (injury, loss, or damage under s. 5(1)(a)(i) of the Limitations Act, 2002) was at issue. The Parties did not take issue that the requirements of s. 5(1)(a)(ii) – cause of the injury, s. 5(1)(a)(iii) – identity of defendants, and s. 5(1)(a)(iv) – action is appropriate means of seeking a remedy, had been met.

The Court stressed that the test under s. 5(1) of the Limitations Act is actual knowledge, not mere possibility:

The limitation period runs from when the plaintiff is actually aware of the matters referred to in s. 5(1)(a)(i) to (iv) or when a reasonable person with the abilities and in the circumstances of the plaintiff first ought to have known of all of those matters…

It is “reasonable discoverability” and not “the mere possibility of discovery” that triggers a limitation period.[1] [emphasis added]

Equating Suspicion of Contamination with Actual Knowledge of Contamination

Under this heading, the Court ruled that the motion judge made a palpable and overriding error in concluding that mere suspicions of possible contamination were enough to trigger the running of s. 5(a)(i).

It was not sufficient for the defendants to prove that by February 29, 2012, Stantec and Crombie had Phase 2 reports for the Crombie property which showed historical contamination on the subject property six years earlier:

…At its highest, in relation to hydrocarbon contamination, the Pinchin Report revealed the presence of hydrocarbons in groundwater in 2005 that were marginally above potable water standards and appeared to be decreasing, leading Pinchin to recommend no further investigation. It was not evidence of contamination of the property over six years later, nor was it interpreted as such by Stantec, Crombie’s environmental consultant. Indeed, the purpose of the Phase II drilling and sampling program recommended and undertaken by Stantec, was to determine whether or not the soil or groundwater at the Crombie Property was contaminated.[2]

And further:

It was not sufficient that Crombie had suspicions or that there was possible contamination. The issue under s. 5(1)(a) of the Limitations Act, 2002 for when a claim is discovered, is the plaintiff’s “actual” knowledge. The suspicion of certain facts or knowledge of a potential claim may be enough to put a plaintiff on inquiry and trigger a due diligence obligation, in which case the issue is whether a reasonable person with the abilities and in the circumstances of the plaintiff ought reasonably to have discovered the claim, under s. 5(1)(b). Here, while the suspicion of contamination was sufficient to give rise to a duty of inquiry, it was not sufficient to meet the requirement for actual knowledge. The subsurface testing, while confirmatory of the appellant’s suspicions, was the mechanism by which the appellant acquired actual knowledge of the contamination. [emphasis added]

In addition, the finding by the motion judge that the contamination was in the soil and therefore “available and discoverable,” set too low a threshold for discoverability under s. 5(1)(a)(i):

The fact that contamination was there to be discovered was of course not sufficient to start the limitations clock.[3]

Failure to Consider Relevant Circumstances: the Transactional Context

Under this heading, the court found the motion judge made palpable and overriding errors on two counts. First, the lower court wrongly imputed actual knowledge of contamination to Crombie in March 2012 (when the laboratory results were sent to Stantec), contrary to the contextual evidence. Second, the court wrongly imputed reasonable discoverability of actual contamination to Crombie before April 28, 2012, again contrary to the contextual evidence.

Concerning actual knowledge, the court stated:

The fact that Crombie was directing and paying Stantec [to complete both a Phase 1 and 2 ESA] … was not sufficient to ground the [motion judge’s] conclusion that Crombie knew about the test results as soon as they were reported by the laboratory to Stantec.[4]

According to the Court, the motion judge also erred by inferring that because Stantec had verbally reported the Phase 1 findings to Crombie, that it must have also verbally reported the March 2012 laboratory results to Crombie. According to the Court, this reasoning “…ignores completely the circumstances of the multi-property transaction Crombie was involved in, the due diligence process and the waiver of conditions” and “she did not factor Crombie’s [March 8, 2012] waiver of conditions into her assessment of its conduct.” Most important, the Court accepted the plaintiff’s argument that:

Once the conditions were waived, there was no urgency to confirming whether the Crombie Property was contaminated, as Crombie was required to close the purchase. It was unreasonable for the motion judge to draw an inference about Crombie’s knowledge of the test results without considering such circumstances.[5]

The same mistake, says the Court, also caused the motion judge to err by inferring that the contamination was reasonably discoverable under s. 5(1)(b), prior to April 28, 2012:

Determining “whether the plaintiff has acted reasonably will include an analysis of not only the nature of the potential claim, but also the particular circumstances of the plaintiff.”[6]

In short, the Court of Appeal accepted that under the particular circumstances of the multi-property transaction and the waiver of all conditions (including environmental), it was reasonable for the plaintiff to not treat the Phase 2 investigation as urgent and to postpone communications around the contamination of the Crombie property until whenever it was communicated by the environmental consultant on a non-urgent basis (in this case, by May 9, 2012):

…in arriving at her conclusion that Crombie’s claim was reasonably discoverable, the motion judge did not consider the relevant and important circumstances of the multi-property transaction and its waiver of conditions. What the motion judge ought to have considered, was whether, a reasonable person in Crombie’s position, after the waiver of conditions, would have sought out and obtained the laboratory results before April 28, 2012.[7]

Continuing Tort

Regarding the continuing tort argument made by the appellant, the Court found it unnecessary to address this issue and declined to do so.

Analysis

The Court of Appeal’s decision is noteworthy, and also problematic, in a number of respects:

  1. It confirms existing authority that summary judgment decisions make rulings of “mixed fact and law”, and are only appealable if there is a “palpable and overriding error.”
  2. It affirms that a Phase 1 ESA is generally not enough to prove knowledge of actual contamination, only “suspicions” or the “possibility” of such contamination. However, if the Phase 1 ESA provides knowledge of a potential claim, this may “trigger a due diligence obligation”, a “duty of inquiry”, to undertake a Phase 2 ESA.
  3. More controversially, however, the Court’s decision suggests that even where there exists a due diligence obligation or duty of inquiry to undertake a Phase 2 ESA, the party contracting for that work, or its consultant, may unilaterally decide when to discharge the duty.

In this case, a significant number of historic records were disclosed to a prospective purchaser and its environmental consultant, showing that the property in question was definitely contaminated, six years earlier, at levels that would not meet current standards (but perhaps were getting better). However, simply because the plaintiff’s consultant opined that the historic records did not prove current contamination and recommended further drilling and testing (a full Phase 2 ESA), this effectively prevented a court from finding “actual knowledge” of damage, and stopped the running of the limitation period.

This raises the important question of how much knowledge equals actual “discovery” of damage under s. 5(1) of the Limitations Act, 2002? The statute states that “A claim is discovered on the earlier of, (a) the day on which the person with the claim first knew, (i) that the injury, loss or damage had occurred; and (b) the day on which a reasonable person with the abilities and in the circumstances of the person with the claim first ought to have known.” But surely, interpreted purposively, the statute is only requiring a level of knowledge sufficient to sustain a civil action, i.e. on balance of probabilities? Why, under this statute, must damage be confirmed 100% by current testing, as required by the Court of Appeal? It must be noted that s. 5(1) does not use the term “actual.”

Moreover, by setting the standard for discovery so high, query whether the Court of Appeal’s decision effectively makes s. 5(1)(b) meaningless? That is, even in the face of historical evidence of contamination, does the court not permit plaintiffs to arbitrarily delay the triggering the start of the limitation period, by unilaterally requesting confirmatory evidence of injury, loss or damage, and requesting that the delivery of such confirmatory evidence be delayed?

Also, given consultants – who are generally paid by the hour (like lawyers) – will invariably recommend that they should be retained to conduct more (and more current) testing, and this is often an approach favoured by the Ministry, one may ask what amount of historic evidence of contamination of a subject property will ever be enough to trigger the running of a limitation period? It must be noted that the plaintiffs in this case were willing to commence this action on April 28, 2014, based on evidence of contamination that was more than two years old. If six year old evidence is too old to prove damage, why is two year old evidence acceptable?

  1. Also raising as many questions as it answers, is the Court of Appeal’s ruling on “reasonable discoverability”. According to the Court, even where both a Phase 1 and 2 ESA have been recommended and commissioned, due to a well-known risk of historic contamination from adjacent properties, and clear and current test results are going to be obtained by the purchaser’s consultant before closing, a purchaser is entitled to defer and delay not only the completion of the Phase 2 ESA but more problematically, also the transmission of the test results from its own consultant to purchaser, and may still be found to have acted “reasonably” or with “reasonable diligence.” According to the Court, for a purchaser to do so it need only announce to its consultant that it intends to “waive” environmental conditions and, as a result, it no longer needs those test results urgently.

Query whether the Court of Appeal has assumed that the standard of urgency for “reasonable discoverability” is whether damage information is needed to close a real estate deal? By accepting, without further analysis, that a purchaser may delay (indefinitely?) receipt of damage information because it is not needed for closing, that seems to be what the Court has done.

A strong argument may be made that the Limitations Act, 2002, interpreted purposively, is not concerned with what is reasonably discoverable in order to close a real estate deal; rather, it is concerned with protecting defendants from unreasonable delay by forcing plaintiffs to commence their civil actions within two years after they are “actually” damaged, or alternatively (under s. 5(1)(b)), after they first ought to have known that they were actually damaged. In this case, arguably, the date on which the plaintiff was actually damaged was the date of closing – April 10, 2012 – when it became the owner of a contaminated property. Although the plaintiff takes the position that it did not “actually know” that the Crombie Property was contaminated on this date, it certainly knew that there was a very significant risk it had acquired a contaminated property on this date. Shouldn’t a reasonably diligent purchaser have asked its consultant to provide all available test results as soon after the closing date as possible?

In other words, it may be argued that the date upon which a purchaser comes into ownership of a property and faces a real risk that it has just acquired a contaminated property and has suffered injury, damage or loss, should be the date on which that reasonably diligent purchaser insists upon receiving all available laboratory test results.

However, the Court does not consider the above issue. Instead, it appears to assume that because the purchaser decided (in early March) that it did not need this information for the purposes of completing the real estate closing, it also did not need this information for the purposes of satisfying its reasonable discoverability obligations under the Limitations Act, 2002. Had the Court broadened its consideration of “context” to one that was relevant to the purpose of the Act, it may have come to a very different result.

Put differently, this author would respectfully submit that when a court is considering the “context” of a real estate transaction for determining when damage was “reasonably discoverable” by a plaintiff/purchaser under the Limitations Act, 2002, it ought not to arbitrarily stop its analysis at the point at which a purchaser chooses to close its eyes to environmental test results in order to waive environmental conditions to complete a transaction. The court should also consider whether the decision of a plaintiff/purchaser to close its eyes to actual, available test results, is itself reasonable and reasonably diligent within the meaning of the Limitations Act, 2002, in light of when the plaintiff/purchaser knows it will be closing (will become owner) and could suffer damages, given all known risks. Unfortunately, the Court of Appeal did not undertake this broader analysis.

Since the parties have until Monday, March 13, 2017 to serve and file an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, it is too early to say whether the Court of Appeal’s ruling will be the last word on these issues.

About the Author

Jack Coop is a Partner with the Litigation Department of Fogler, Rubinoff LLP, and a Certified Specialist in Environmental Law.

This article is re-published with the permission of Fogler, Rubinoff LLP.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice.

© FOGLER, RUBINOFF LLP. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, 2017.

[1] Court of Appeal Decision, para. 35.

[2] Ibid., para. 41.

[3] Ibid., para. 47.

[4] Ibid., para. 43.

[5] Ibid., para. 50.

[6] Ibid., para. 51.

[7] Ibid., para. 52.

CSA Group opens new HazMat lab in Edmonton

CSA Group says the new facility will also offer testing for windows and doors

CSA Group has opened a new testing and certification laboratory in Edmonton, Alta.

The new facility specializes in testing and certification for hazardous locations, such as equipment used in oil, gas, mining, marine and fertilizer production. The expansion doubles the testing capacity of the previous lab to provide enhanced service for the increasing needs of explosive atmosphere testing and certification, not only in Alberta, but across North America.

“CSA Group is a world leader in explosive atmosphere testing, and our services for hazardous location testing and certification are growing to meet the needs of our oil and gas clients in Alberta and throughout Canada,” says Nashir Jiwani, VP of CSA Group in Canada. “We are also committed to developing leading standards and building world-class facilities to meet the needs of our clients around the world.”
. There will now be 37 different tests offered for windows and doors, including environmental factors, durability and energy efficiency.

“CSA Group’s state-of-the art windows and doors lab specializes in testing new windows and doors to North American fenestration requirements,” says Jiwani. “Manufacturers will be required to have their products tested to these standards under the updated National Building Code.”

U.S. chemical safety bill passes committee vote

If the bill passes a full Senate vote, it would mark the first substantial update to the Toxic Substances Control Act since the law was adopted in 1976.

Safety standards for thousands of unregulated chemicals could be on the way, following a bipartisan bill’s approval at the committee level Tuesday.

If the bill passes a full Senate vote, it would mark the first substantial update to the Toxic Substances Control Act since the law was adopted in 1976.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act requires all new and existing chemicals be reviewed for safety, establishes new funding for EPA through user fees, and gives EPA new authority to require testing.

Since 1994 alone, more than 10,000 chemicals have come onto the market

EPA eyes Superfund removal of New Jersey landfill site

Contaminants originally found in the 10-acre site’s surface soil included sediments like fly ash and fine particles of ash from a solid fuel caused by waste gases from manufacturing

After a decade on the U.S. Superfund list, the EPA says it’s time to remove the Crown Vantage Landfill Site in Alexandria Township, N.J., once an industrial landfill that served a nearby paper mill.

Contaminants originally found in the 10-acre site’s surface soil included  sediments like fly ash and fine particles of ash from a solid fuel caused by waste gases from manufacturing.

In April 2007, EPA developed a Work Plan to address specific activities, including stabilizing the entire face of the landfill to prevent erosion; securing the site against unauthorized access; and identifying, retrieving, and removing any containers and their contents above ground to prevent direct contact with these materials. These activities were completed by September 2007.

Ont. concrete company gets fine plus creative sentencing

Rainbow Concrete has agreed to offer stream and bank remediation around the Junction Creek area, as well as implement a training program for its staff

Ontario-based Rainbow Concrete Industries Ltd. has been fined $40,000 for discharging wastewater from ready-mix cement trucks into a wetland near a creek, but in the spirit of creative sentencing the Sudbury company will also perform on-site rehabilitation worth nearly $110,000.

Rainbow Concrete has agreed to offer stream and bank remediation around the Junction Creek area, as well as implement a training program for its staff.

In response to a public complaint, two environmental officers attended the property and observed company trucks entering the property for the purpose of discharging concrete wastewater. Environmental officers returned to the site and noted that more concrete wastewater had been discharged.

Rainbow Concrete has also agreed to make a $10,000 donation to the Vale Centre’s Living with Lakes program at Laurentien University for water quality research.

Ohio Haz waste incinerator fined $34K for 2013 malfunction

The levels of lead on a backyard slide were more than twice the EPA’s soil standard

An Ohio hazardous waste incinerator company will pay the EPA $34,000 for 761 pounds of ash that spewed arsenic and lead into the area in 2013 following a malfunction.

The levels of lead on a backyard slide were more than twice the EPA’s soil standard.

is required to make changes to prevent future problems at the facility.

The settlement comes as the U.S. EPA is conducting its own investigation into the incinerator.

The incinerator burns about 60,000 tons of waste too toxic for landfills. Heritage drew wide attention in the 1990s when residents and environmental groups protested its construction.

Ontario seeking to double HazMat waste fees

Ontario is accepting comments on the HWIN proposal until Sept. 19 under EBR Registry number 012-3915

To achieve full program cost recovery, Ontario is proposing to raise fees for its Hazardous Waste Information Network (HWIN), where fees have been frozen since their inception in 2002.

The Ministry of Environment & Climate Change posted the proposal to Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights registry on Aug. 5, as an amendment to O. Reg 347 under the Environmental Protection Act.

The proposal would raise the tonnage component of Hazardous Waste Fees from $10 per tonne to $20 per tonne for hazardous waste transferred or disposed of between Jan. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2016.

The tonnage component of the Hazardous Waste Fees would be further increased to $30 per tonne as of January 1, 2017. The ministry proposes to phase the fee change in over a two-year period to give hazardous waste generators time to adapt processes before the full impact of the fee change is in place.

Subject waste includes liquid industrial waste, hazardous waste or specific treated characteristic waste. The regulatory activities include tracking the movement of such waste from generation or point of last transfer before import (for waste from out-of-province) to final destination.

Ontario is accepting comments on the HWIN proposal until Sept. 19 under EBR Registry number 012-3915.

Now You’re Cooking: First responders defend against ‘Kitchen Menace’

This handheld device for chemical detection and identification is a downrange tool for situational understanding. It expands the survey mission with a focused objective, sniffing out priority chemical warfare agents, toxic industrial materials, and precursors.

 

As of June, there were 100 million registered chemicals in the American Chemical Society database. Some are naturally occurring, while others have been manmade. Combinations of these chemicals can produce useful, interesting, or sometimes … deadly reactions. While many chemicals are used for industrial purposes, some perform double-duty as useful household cleaning agents and – when introduced to the perfect mate – explosives, poisons or intoxicants.

In recent years, there’s been a change in the type of chemicals encountered by first responders and law enforcement at a response scene. As the Internet now allows for anyone to explore various options for combining common household items, threats are becoming more diverse, and therefore, harder to anticipate and prepare for.

 

Stepping Onto The Scene

There are already several go-to systems that are part of the first responder toolkit, including ion-mobility spectrometry (IMS) detectors, and handheld devices based on Raman and FTIR spectroscopy. Being armed with these instruments is increasingly considered a safety best practice, along with ensuring proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn.

Often, the initial step first responders take in analyzing their surroundings is to utilize a training protocol developed by HazMat IQ and executed with their “Stay Alive Five” equipment. This kit, sold as the SAFe Kit, includes a radiation detector, pH paper, fluorine paper, a temperature gun and a lower explosive limit (LEL) meter. Each piece of equipment allows responders to be more prepared, decrease their incident response time, and ensure responder safety in situations when hazards may not be visible.

Another tool that responders will utilize during their evaluation is their IMS device, which analyzes airborne chemicals. IMS technology is incredibly sensitive and handheld IMS products have been successfully used to give responders early warning of the presence of particularly harmful chemicals. Unfortunately, these devices have a high rate of false alarms, which means they frequently alert for serious threats such as chemical weapons that are not actually present. Due to their lack of selectivity, common substances such as diesel fumes and household cleaning products will trigger the device.

Most recently, the first responder toolkit has been expanded with the addition of M908 (watch video), a new device that utilizes high-pressure mass spectrometry (HPMS), effectively bringing the power of mass spectrometry right to where responders need it. This handheld device for chemical detection and identification is a downrange tool for situational understanding. It expands the survey mission with a focused objective, sniffing out priority chemical warfare agents, toxic industrial materials, and precursors. The dramatically increased selectivity of HPMS over IMS allows identification of a much broader list of target materials without false alarms, even when background or interferent compounds are present. When utilized together, as first responders make their way through the hotzone and the IMS is going off, they can look to M908 for a fast confirmation and identification of immediate danger.

Once the site is rendered safe by ruling out the presence of priority threats, first responders can continue and further interrogate samples to put together the puzzle pieces at the scene. Raman and FTIR (Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy) tools allow responders to analyze the solid and liquid compounds surrounding them using light scattering techniques. These tools are instrumental in identifying ambiguous chemicals – for example, is that powder on the floor of a bedroom an explosive (terrorist activity), cocaine (drug activity), or baby powder (hastily changed diaper?)

These tools are primarily used as bulk solid and liquid identification techniques and have the capability to identify thousands of material types. As such, these tools are often utilized at the end of an evaluation to determine the identity of all visible materials at the scene. With near-trace to bulk solid and liquid identification capabilities, M908 can also be utilized in conjunction with these tools, swabbing for residues on surfaces and performing a first pass at solid and liquid materials present to assist in rendering the site safe before Raman and FTIR are used to complete the mission.

Cleaning Up the Kitchen Menace

With the addition of M908 the new responder tool kit now has the tools necessary to protect first responders from evolving threats. As clandestine and household labs become more and more common in crime and disaster scenes, first responders must be equipped with tools downrange that are sensitive and selective enough to alarm them to priority threats. While the current toolkit contains a robust selection of analytical tools and meters, each has both benefits and limitations. It is the combination of these impressive detectors that will add real benefit to first responders’ activities. M908 allows for responders to more accurately confirm the presence of priority threats and quickly determine mission objectives in real time.

About Dr. Kevin Knopp

Knopp is co-founder & CEO of 908 Devices Inc. As an experienced high-tech entrepreneur, Kevin co-founded Ahura Scientific in 2002, and was Senior Vice President overseeing Operations, R&D and Safety and Security Sales through Ahura’s acquisition by Thermo Fisher Scientific in 2010, where he continued as Vice-President and Site Leader of the Portable Optical Analysis division. Kevin served as an independent board member for Crystal IS until its acquisition by Asahi-Kasei. He earned B.S.E.E from Boston University, M.S.E.E, and Ph.D. degrees in Optics from the University of Colorado. Kevin is an inventor on more than 20 US patents, is an author on more than a dozen refereed publications, and his products have received R&D 100, Business Week IDEA, GSN, CPhI Gold, Cygnus, and Frost & Sullivan awards.

Edmonton needs 25 new HazMat techs, says chief

Edmonton currently has 110 trained HazMat technicians, but dealing with 813 spill-dominated HazMat calls in 2014 put stress on the team
HazMat calls are on the rise in Edmonton, arguably a “petrochemical capital,” and the city’s Fire Chief wants to hire 25 HazMat technicians to bridge the gap, a move that could cost upwards of $2.4 million per year.

Edmonton currently has 110 trained HazMat technicians, but dealing with 813 spill-dominated HazMat calls in 2014 put stress on the team. The Chief, Ken Block, only expects HazMat calls to increase in the coming year.

The number of train cars carrying oil products in Alberta is expected to jump by 242 per cent from 2012 to 2024, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute.

Environmental Opportunities in HydroFracking

In November of 2014, President Obama stated in the press conference that he was skeptical of the claims by proponents that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would create jobs. In its review of the project, the U.S. State Department estimated that the project would create 3,900 jobs during the two years of construction and 50 permanent jobs during operation.

With the recent Presidential election results in the United States, there are many who think that the Keystone XL pipeline project may well be approved and other controversial activities, such has hydrofracking, will also get the go-ahead by a “jobs-first” administration.

Opponents of the hydrofracking claim the environmental harm from accessing oil and natural gas from shale is not worth the jobs and cheap energy. Those that struggle to heat their homes throughout the year and opt to look for light companies with no deposit and cheap monthly bills would definitely prefer the cheap energy and being able to keep warm through the winter months.

In Canada, fervent environmental activists have made up their minds that hydrofracking anywhere in the country is too dangerous and should not be pursued (there is natural gas trapped in shale rock deposits in various provinces including the Maritimes, Upper Canada, and Western Canada).

Opposition to hydrofracking has been so ardent that there are moratoriums on fracking in Nova Scoatia, New Brunswick and Quebec. A poll conducted by EKOS Research and released by the the Council of Canadians (a not-for-profit lobby group that is anti-fracking) claims 70% of Canadians support a national moratorium on fracking until is scientifically proven to be safe (the question asked during polling was prefaced with anti-fracking statements).

The Council of Canadians (CofC) wants no fracking in Canada because of, amongst other things, its high water use and the danger it poses to groundwater and local drinking water. It seems the CofC is of the opinion that no technology exists today that can treat the water used in fracking to acceptable levels despite the fact the wastewater generated from fracking is no more difficult to treat than industrial or municipal sewage.

Since fracking first began in 1950’s, there continues to be much research, development, and implementation of new technologies and methods for the safe extraction of oil and natural gas along with the proper treatment and reuse of water.

What is Fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as “hydrofracking or “fracking”, is a method of recovering natural gas and involves the injection of large quantities of water, sand, along with chemical additives (i.e., surfactants and gelling agents) at high pressure down a well into a rock formation. The pressurized mixture causes fractures in the rock which results in the release of natural gas or oil.

Fracking releases the petroleum products that had been embedded in the rock where they are captured at the surface along with a portion of the original fracking fluid (flowback water). The controversy around fracking is the concern of the contamination of local water supplies.

Fracking has been taking place in Canada for over 50 years. During that time, there have been over 175,000 wells drilled and not a single case of drinking water contamination has been recorded.

Environmental Issues

One of the major environmental concerns related to fracking of the water used in hydrofracking that flows back up the well (referred to as “flowback”). There are a number of options for treating the flowback including deep well injection (relatively inexpensive) to treatment prior to discharge to receiving waters (relatively expensive).

With available water be a limiting factor in the development of some natural gas resources, much focus has been placed on recycling the flowback so it can be reused in other fracture wells. Recycling flowback can offset water source requirements while avoiding the relatively high cost associated with flowback water disposal.

There is nothing special about fracking water that cannot be treated using today’s industrial water treatment technologies. According to Statistics Canada, there were 61, 572 jobs in the oil and gas industry in 2013. There were 99, 435 jobs in “Support activities for mining and oil and gas extraction” in 2013. Included in these figures are environmental jobs.

Moving Forward

The incredible natural resources in Canada have been a key to our prosperity. Tapping these resources does impact the environment. Managing and mitigating the environment impacts is important to our continued prosperity. Shutting down any development of oil and natural gas supplies is short sighted and ignores the continued advances in innovation water recycling and wastewater treatment technologies. It also destroys jobs in the oil and gas industry as well as the environment industry.