Challenges to Environmental Investigations and Cleanups During the COVID-19 Crisis

Written by John McGahren, Stephanie R. Feingold, Ariel Kapoano, and Jenna Ferraro, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

Business closures and remote work requirements, work stoppages, travel restrictions, state and federal government slowdowns, and supply-chain disruptions are impacting parties’ abilities to satisfy obligations pursuant to environmental settlements, including administrative consent orders or judicial consent decrees with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and administrative orders with various state environmental agencies as well as compliance obligations under federal environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

State Guidance

Although the CDC has released guidelines recommending work from home and social distancing, there are currently no federal mandates or executive orders requiring business shutdowns or mandatory quarantine. Instead, many states, counties, and municipalities are releasing executive orders as well as nonbinding policies ranging from shelter-in-place to closing nonessential businesses and limiting gatherings of people.

These state and local mandates uniformly exempt “essential businesses” from such directives. The “essential business” exemption includes services and sectors that promote public safety, health, and welfare, although exactly what constitutes an “essential business” can vary. For example:

New York: Executive Order 202.6 exempts “essential businesses” to include healthcare operations (including research and laboratory services); essential infrastructure (including utilities); telecommunication; airports and transportation infrastructure; essential manufacturing (including food processing and pharmaceuticals); essential retail (including grocery stores and pharmacies); essential services (including trash collection, mail, and shipping services; news media; banks and related financial institutions); providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations; construction; vendors of essential services to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences or other essential businesses; and vendors that provide essential services or products (including logistics and technology support, child care, and services needed to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies and provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the public).

New Jersey: Executive Order No. 104 exempts “essential businesses,” defined to include “grocery/food stores, pharmacies, medical supply stores, gas stations, healthcare facilities and ancillary stores within healthcare facilities.” All gatherings within the state are limited to 50 persons or fewer, except for “normal operations at airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, office environments, factories, assemblages for the purpose of industrial or manufacturing work, construction sites, mass transit, or the purchase of groceries or consumer goods.”

It is less clear, however, whether environmental cleanups and investigations would constitute “essential businesses” subject to these exemptions. Furthermore, some states have expanded their initial executive orders, and others may follow suit. For example, while Pennsylvania initially recommended the closure of nonessential businesses, on March 19 Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order forcing the closure of all but “life-sustaining” businesses. The state will begin enforcement actions against noncompliant businesses on March 21 under the terms of this order. Construction activities, for example, are no longer permitted to operate in Pennsylvania.  Additionally, on March 19, Governor Gavin Newsom of California signed an executive order requiring all residents to stay home, except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of the 16 “federal critical infrastructure sectors” including critical manufacturing, chemical, emergency services, energy, healthcare and public health, financial services, food and agriculture, and water and wastewater. And on March 20, just one day after having directed 75% of all nonessential employees to stay home, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he would be putting out an executive order mandating that 100% of employees in “nonessential” businesses in the state stay home.

Many state environmental agencies have not yet released guidance on the impacts of COVID-19. Moreover, even if environmental cleanups are permitted to proceed, maintaining the recommended “social distancing” in site investigation or remediation activities presents a challenge. Further challenges to ongoing site investigations and cleanups may also arise due to workforce absenteeism due to illness or caring for an ill family member.

EPA Guidance

EPA has not yet released guidance on the impact to agency operations due to COVID-19. Moreover, each site is differently situated, so there may be no one-size-fits-all solution. Parties currently remediating sites pursuant to settlements with EPA should carefully scrutinize their respective agreements and orders, including the force majeure clauses, to determine whether current circumstances may constitute such an event, and how and when to notify the agency. Most such provisions require notification within days, or even hours, of the discovery of the force majeure event, prompting yet more uncertainty as to whether there has been a trigger based on the novel pandemic response gripping the nation.

For example, EPA’s Model Consent Decree Language and Model Administrative Consent Order Language both define force majeure events as any event arising from “causes beyond the control” of respondents that “delays or prevents the performance of any obligation” under the order despite respondents’ “best efforts to fulfill the obligation.”

Each ongoing cleanup faces unique challenges depending on locality and nature of the cleanup. Responsible parties should consider outreach to EPA requesting the following actions:

  • Recognize the rapidly changing circumstances at the local, state, and federal level caused by COVID-19
  • Temporarily suspend notice deadlines for force majeure events caused by the COVID-19 crisis, as well as waive penalties for failure to timely notice or meet a deadline where the implications of COVID-19 have made it impracticable or impossible
  • Work with responsible parties on an individualized basis to determine whether ongoing work can continue and the extent to which deadlines should be extended, and follow a dispute process in the event of disagreement
  • Acknowledge that there may not be a one-size-fits-all approach for sites that are at different stages of remedial progress and subject to varying state restrictions

Until state and federal environmental authorities take affirmative action, responsible parties should consider proactive outreach to their EPA and state agency contacts for their specific cleanup sites for further guidance in this unprecedented situation, and stay tuned for further announcements on the status of environmental cleanups in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Copyright 2020.  Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.  All Rights Reserved. 

 This article is provided as a general informational service and it should not be construed as imparting legal advice on any specific matter.


About the Authors

John McGahren is the Princeton litigation practice leader and deputy chair of the firm’s global environmental practice. John counsels clients on litigation, enforcement, and transactional matters. He prosecutes and defends citizen suits, Superfund and RCRA disputes, Clean Water and Air Act litigation, state law actions, and natural resource damage claims.

Stephanie R. Feingold represents clients in litigation and dispute resolution and provides environmental and regulatory counseling. Her work spans investigations, cost recovery and contribution actions, and enforcement actions brought by and against environmental agencies and government authorities, as well as private party actions.

Ariel Kapoano represents clients in complex environmental, toxic tort, contract, and consumer fraud litigation matters. She has experience in all aspects of litigation including factual investigation, discovery management, motions practice, and trial.

Jenna C. Ferraro is a part of the firm’s litigation team, which counsels clients and provides legal services in a wide range of areas, including general civil and commercial litigation, environmental law and toxic torts. Jenna’s experience includes many aspects of litigation, including discovery matters and motion practice.

How Virtual Reality and real-world tech can aid CBRNe training

Written by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

Hands-on training in realistic environments is a cornerstone of CBRNe disaster preparedness, whether for the purpose of military exercises, first response or civilian operations.

The quality, frequency and consistency of CBRNe training has a substantial part to play in how easily personnel are able to acquire both the theory and the practice – and in how effectively they are able to continue to apply that knowledge in the long-term.

The impact and the authenticity of CBRNe training relies on three fundamental principles.

First is the importance of providing trainees with the opportunity to use actual equipment.

Second is enabling those personnel to apply their understanding of this equipment through exposure to realistic scenarios.

And thirdly is ensuring that the scenarios that are provided are conducted in relevant environments or locations.

Time restrictions, cost implications and safety considerations however, can all too often limit the opportunities for responders to practice, test and hone their crucial skills.

Training for radiation incidents

When an incident involves the presence of a high-radiation source or radioactive contamination, it can present some additional challenges.

At the same time, the equipment that radiological responders are required to use is also becoming increasingly sophisticated – and in particular when it comes to effective search and radionuclide identification (spectrometry.)

Many traditional radiation safety training methods can struggle to credibly recreate the complexities of real-life radiological events.

Field exercises can offer the promise of a high fidelity training experience, but sometimes fall short due to the minimal quantity of radiation source that can be safely used.

In the process, an understanding of essential physics can all too easily be diluted, misinterpreted or omitted altogether.

To ensure best preparedness, it is vital that emergency responders are provided with the opportunity to train against robust scenarios that take place in their home locations, that utilise their actual operating equipment and that enable them to put their protocols to the test.

Is virtual reality immersion the key?

Over the couple of decades there has been an increased interest in the potential applications of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in the enhancement of CBRN disaster preparedness.

In contrast to traditional user desktop interfaces, such as viewing a scenario on a computer screen, VR harnesses the power of computer technology to create a simulated environment that aims to recreate as many of the senses as possible.

Virtual reality enables the user to be placed directly “inside” the training experience, and once they are immersed in this artificial world, to be able to interact with a hyper realistic 3D environment.

Immersive multi-user VR training systems can be used to enhance situational awareness, to aid in the operation of equipment or to improve reaction times.

Some systems are designed to provide a pre-defined scenario (or scenarios) in order to train multiple users – for example when a large number of simulators are used in order to train military personnel for specific land, air or naval operations. Others allow the creation of self-defined scenarios that can be applied in multi-user training exercises.

Whilst VR creates an artificial environment in which the user can “inhabit”, augmented reality can be used to enhance live exercises in a real environment by superimposing computer-generated images over the user’s view of the real world.

But while virtual reality or augmented reality immersion exercises can offer many advantages, it is still extremely difficult to replicate the logistical, physiological and sensory realities of a taking part in a live incident.

In many cases too, virtual reality training must be restricted to specialised facilities. And perhaps most crucially, trainees miss the opportunity to practice with the actual detector equipment that they will be required to use in real incidents.

Maintaining operational readiness is vital, however it can often be difficult to provide personnel with access to the hands-on radiological training that they need.

Emergency training requires the mastery of a variety of skills and abilities – but placing trainees in real emergency situations, especially during the initial stages of training, is something that is best avoided.

What is of greater benefit is being able to provide personnel with expert guidance that takes place in a setting that mimics, as closely as possible, the challenges of real-life events.

What is required is a paradigm shift in the approach to radiological preparedness training.

If, for example, the potential applications of virtual technology can be merged with the hands-on application of real-world capabilities, then the possibilities could well be limitless.

With this goal in mind, Argon Electronics is excited to have joined forces with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to explore the potential of the LLNL’s Radiation Field Training Simulator (RaFTS).


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.

The Five Things you need to know about Incident Management and Reporting

Intelex, a company specializing in the development of EHS and quality software, recently published an insight report entitled “The Five Things you Need to Know about Incident Management and Reporting“.  The report provides information on the legal obligations to report serious injuries and fatalities, best practices for incident reporting and management, and how incident reporting and management can be linked to operational excellence.

In the introduction of the report, the cause of the Titanic disaster is discussed.  It report states that the average person would cite an iceberg as the cause of the ship’s sinking.  In contrast, a risk or safety manager would respond that the tragedy was caused by a series of events – management failures, poor-quality construction, employee errors/lack of training, poor planning, and either the failure to track incidents or the inability to analyze incident data in a meaningful way – that ended with the sinking of the ship.

EHS incidents can be painful for injured employees, the environment, and an organization’s bottom line, but incident management and reporting doesn’t have to be a pain point if done correctly.

Ontario: Waste Processing Company Fines Increased to $170,000 for Environmental Protection Act Violations

The Ontario Environment Ministry recently announced that an appeal court varied the sentence of an Ontario waste processing company and increased the fine from $140,000 to $170,000. The $30,000 fine increase reflected the anticipated cost of an embedded audit. The victim fine surcharge also increased from $35,000 to $42,500. The sentencing court also vacated the Order requirement that the company conduct the embedded audit.

The appeal court ruling stems from two separate matters in which an Ontario waste processing company, Quantex, was convicted of violations related to permitting waste to pass from its control without accurately completing a manifest, for transferring waste subject to land disposal restrictions without giving notice to the receiver, and for permitting the emission of an air contaminant to an extent that it may cause personal discomfort.  The offences occurred in 2016.

The company was originally convicted in 2018.  The Ontario Court of Justice granted the Crown’s appeal of the sentence that had been imposed on June 26, 2018 after a guilty plea, and increased the fine from $140,000 to $170,000, plus victim fine surcharge.

On June 26, 2018, Quantex was convicted of three violations and was fined a total of $140,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $35,000 with 2 years to pay. The court also issued a probation order requiring the company to retain an independent auditor to conduct an embedded audit of some of the company’s waste management practices.

In December 2018, when the embedded audit was to begin, Quantex advised the Crown that it had sold the facility. It subsequently became apparent that the company had sold the facility prior to being sentenced in June 2018 and that Quantex had provided inaccurate information to the sentencing court. Therefore, the earlier sentencing had been conducted on the basis of inaccurate information.

At the time of the violations, Quantex Technologies Inc. operated a hazardous and liquid industrial waste transferring/processing site in Kitchener under ministry approval.  In the first matter, between November 2015 and January 2016, Quantex accepted hazardous wastes which were bulked together and shipped to another waste processing/transfer facility. Ministry inspection indicated that the waste manifest did not accurately reflect the waste classifications and that Quantex had not notified the receiver that some of the waste was subject to land disposal restrictions. As a consequence, the receiving facility was not aware that some of the waste had classifications that were not approved under the company’s ministry approval.

In the second matter, in August 2016, Quantex employees were transferring liquid industrial and/or hazardous wastes from storage totes into a tanker trailer on-site, and the truck’s vacuum pump and exhaust was being discharged into the air. During the transfer period, neighbours experienced burning and irritated eyes, a chlorine-like odour and difficulty breathing. The occurrence was reported to Quantex, which ceased the operation immediately.

The Environment ministry’s Investigations and Enforcement Branch investigated and laid charges resulting in three convictions.

Incident and Emergency Management Market – Growth, Trends and Forecast (2020 – 2025)

According to the findings in a recent market research report, the incident and emergency management market was valued at USD 97.73 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 137.84 billion by 2025, with a CAGR of 6.03% during the forecast period (2020-2025). Emergency situations are highly unpredictable; it takes intense planning, time, and human resources to recover from crisis situations.

Emergency response systems are a vital component in speeding up the recovery process. Governments are increasingly trying to develop intelligent mitigation plans to minimize the response time and damage caused by both natural and man-made disasters.

Climate change is leading to increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events across regions. Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters reported that the amount of flood and storm catastrophes have risen by 7.4 % annually, in recent times.

Among end-users, a few, like educational institutions and hospitality firms, have a lower level of awareness and deployment of such software solutions and are mostly into recovery post-incident. Such low adoption rates are likely to affect the market revenues over and during the forecast period.

Scope of the Report

Incident and emergency management refer to a standardized approach, which prevents & manage incidents or humanitarian emergencies that have severe outcomes. It is involved in the integration and deployment of emergency systems and solutions at all government and non-government platforms.

Key Market Trends

Increase in Natural Disasters

As natural disasters increase in frequency and severity, their recovery costs are also significantly increasing year-by-year. Moreover, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in 2017, the United States had the costliest year ever, when it comes to natural disasters.

The country experienced 16 different events, that resulted in more than a billion dollars in damage each, with a total price tag of USD 306.2 billion. Thus, it is vital that organizations work to save lives, protect property, and build communities back stronger after disaster strikes.

In disaster recovery solutions, it is of paramount importance to have a fast, reliable, and secure form of communication. Communication requirements in a disaster recovery can benefit from the flexibility, versatility, and quick deployment of satellite networks, enabling responders to coordinate first response activities and command, control and communicate urgent information, quickly and efficiently.

Asia-Pacific is the Fastest Growing Region

Asia-Pacific is the fastest growing region, due to the growing disaster management, terrorist and cyber attacks in the region. With enhanced geographical zones and a high client base, the region is expected to exhibit strong growth in the studied market.

The region is the world’s most disaster-prone region, so disaster management is a significant priority. Over the years, most countries in the region have established national disaster management authorities and systems that are increasingly adopting the latest technologies and solutions.

Also due to an increase in the government expenditure on emergency and disaster management systems to safeguard people from disasters, the region has been witnessing a rise in the studied market software.

In April 2018, the Emergency Operations (EMO) unit at WHE/SEARO organized the WHO South-East Asia Regional and Country Offices Emergency Readiness training in India.

Competitive Landscape

The existing players in the market, like IBM, NEC Corporation, and Honeywell among others are well penetrated and possess successful strategies to come up with new and differentiated products that would increase opportunities for them. Additionally, brand identity has a major influence in this market, as strong brands are considered to be synonymous with good performance.

However, with new companies supported and funded, like governments and others(for instance, TMC Technologies), the competition is expected to grow, overall, the competitive rivalry in the market is moderate and increasing. Some of the key players in Incident and Emergency Management Market are Hexagon AB, NEC Corporation.

Some of the key recent development in Incident and Emergency Management Market are as follows:

The Isle of Wight NHS Trust’s Ambulance Service (IoW Ambulance Service) has implemented Hexagon’s intergraph computer-aided dispatch (I/CAD) system. This industry-leading incident management solution will support the island’s emergency and non-emergency call handling and dispatch needs, enhance collaboration with neighboring services, and reduce costs.

NEC Corporation announced the supply of wide-area disaster prevention system to the Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysical Agency of the Republic of Indonesia (Indonesia). This wide-area disaster prevention system will collect seismic intensity and waveform information obtained from seismometers newly installed at 93 sites across Indonesia.

How hands-on scenarios can enhance radiological survey training

Written by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

Radiological surveying is an integral task in maintaining safety wherever quantities of ionizing radiation are in use, or where they are suspected to be present.

Whether it is in the context of a military operation, emergency first response or an industrial setting, radiation safety personnel need to be equipped with the right tools to ensure they can accurately assess their environment and determine the best course of action.

Most radiological survey instruments have been designed to be easy to deploy, but it is important to be competent not just in the hands-on operation of the equipment but in being able to interpret the readings that are obtained and decide upon the appropriate recommendations to ensure safety is not compromised.

Once it has been established that the radiation hazard originates from a sealed source – meaning that there is no contamination risk – the principles of time, distance and shielding are vital.

Whenever possible, trainees should be provided with the opportunity to explore and test these principles in hands-on training scenarios that replicate real-life situations.

By adding the use of simulator detector equipment, there is also an opportunity for trainees to fully experience the characteristics, the behaviour and the risks of ionizing radiation – and to do so in a learning environment that is safe, immersive and highly realistic.

The flexible and high-fidelity nature of well-designed simulator detectors makes it possible for trainers to create a virtually unlimited range of realistic training scenarios for their students.

In this blog post we explore how the key principles of radiation safety can be put to the test in a range of hands-on scenarios.

1. Time

Radiation safety hinges on the understanding of the correlation between dose (or exposure) and dose rate (or the radiation present in the atmosphere) is directly related to time.

When the time (or the duration of exposure) is reduced by half, for example, the dose received will also be halved.

Once the trainee has been able to assess the dose rate present in the atmosphere, this information can be used to calculate their incident stay time in the hot zone (calculated as Exposure Limit divided by Dose Rate), which will allow them to carry out their activities as quickly and as safely as possible.

2. Distance

Distance – or how close an individual is to a radiological point source – is a key factor in enabling trainees to control exposure.

When the distance between the individual and the point source is doubled, this will reduce personal exposure by 75%, according to the rules of the Inverse Square Law.

How close it will be possible to get to a source of radiation without high exposure will depend on the energy of the radiation and the activity of the source.

Distance is a prime concern with gamma rays as they travel at the speed of light. Alpha particles, meanwhile, travel just a few inches in air, while beta particles can travel several feet – meaning that once an operator backs out of the affected area (and assuming that the material is not being spread by wind, rain or other forces) the trainee is no longer at risk.

3. Shielding

Radiation shielding is another vital skill that be put to the test during radiation training exercises.

Shielding is based on the principle of attenuation – or the extent to which a barrier can be used to block or bounce a radio wave.

Which radioactive shielding material will be best suited to the task, will depend on the penetration of the dose.

Alpha particles, for example, can be stopped by shielding that is as thin as a sheet of paper – while beta radiation requires something much heavier, such as an inch of wood or a thick piece of aluminum.

The highly penetrating nature of gamma radiation requires far denser shielding – ideally several inches of concrete or lead.

4. Establishing hazard perimeters

The readings obtained from portable survey meters provide essential information to enable personnel to establish operational control zones or hazard perimeters.

The ability to control (and operate within) a hazard perimeter will rely on a trainee’s proficiency in the following skills:

  • Understanding the physical considerations of the scene – for example, being able to assess the nature and severity of the radiation incident, identifying the presence of other co-existing threats, and protecting critical infrastructure.
  • Using existing topography (roads, structures etc) to enforce the perimeter and to aid in the protection and gathering of forensic evidence

 

Portable radiological survey meters provide radiation protection officers, first responders and CBRNe teams with the vital information they need to detect and measure external ionizing radiation fields.

Understanding the principles of time, distance and shielding, and having the opportunity to put this knowledge to the test in realistic training scenarios, will be vital in ensuring that radiation safety personnel are able to carry out their duties safely, efficiently and effectively.


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.

 

Forecast for U.S. Federal and International Chemical Regulatory Policy 2020

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and its consulting affiliate, The Acta Group (Acta®), recently released their Forecast for U.S. Federal and International Chemical Regulatory Policy 2020. In this detailed and comprehensive document, the legal, scientific, and regulatory professionals of B&C and Acta distill key trends in U.S. and global chemical law and policy, and provide our best informed judgment as to the shape of key developments we are likely to see in the New Year.

The forecast was prepared by the global team of professionals from the two firms. The core business of the firms are the law, science, regulation, and policy of chemicals of all varieties — industrial, agricultural, intermediate, specialty, and biocidal, whether manufactured at the bulk or nano scale, or using conventional or innovative technologies, including biotechnology, synthetic biology, or biobased.

The team that put together the forecast was comprised of scientists (seven Ph.D.s), including toxicologists, chemists, exposure experts, and geneticists; regulatory and policy experts; and lawyers is deeply versed in chemical law, science, and policy and our unique business platform seamlessly leverages and ensures the integration of law and science to achieve success at every level, and in all parts of the globe.

The table of contents for the forecast can be found below.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. UNITED STATES: CHEMICAL FORECAST

  1. INTRODUCTION
  2. TSCA
  3. FIFRA
  4. U.S. NANOTECHNOLOGY
  5. BIOTECHNOLOGY
  6. BRAG
  7. HAZARDOUS MATERIALS TRANSPORTATION
  8. TRADE
  9. PROP 65
  10. INGREDIENT DISCLOSURE
  11. FDA FOOD AND COSMETICS REGULATION
  12. OSHA, WHMIS, AND GHS

II. KEY GLOBAL CHEMICAL MANAGEMENT PREDICTIONS

  1. OECD
  2. SAICM
  3. EU
  4. UK/BREXIT
  5. BIOCIDES
  6. ASIA
  7. MIDDLE EAST
  8. UN GHS

APPENDIX A: B&C SPEECHES AND WRITINGS

APPENDIX B: B&C WEBINARS AND PODCASTS AVAILABLE ON DEMAND

APPENDIX C: GLOSSARY

 

How new technology is improving first responder safety

Written by Steve Pike, Argon Electronics

When the pressure is on to make quick decisions in emergency response situations, the value of practical personal experience is something that can never be underestimated.

But while the “human factor” remains an inestimable force, it is also essential that first responders have access to the appropriate technological support to enable them to work safely and effectively in the field.

In the US, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) works in close collaboration with the nation’s emergency response community.

Their recent projects have included the development of body-worn cameras that activate without responder manipulation, thermal sensors for firefighters that provide early detection of infrared radiation (IR), and wearable smart chemical sensors that warn responders of toxic exposure.

The International Forum to Advance First Responder Innovation (IFAFRI) brings together global industry and academia to identify common capability gaps within first response – in particular the ability to rapidly identify hazardous agents, and to detect, monitor and analyse hazards in real time.

More recently, an exciting array of new technologies have been put to use within the emergency services sector – including an eCall vehicle alarm system that delivers automated messages to emergency services following an accident, the deployment of drones for search and rescue, and the development of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for firefighters.

Advancements in radiation safety training

New innovations in simulator detector technology for radiation safety training are also playing an important role in supporting first response personnel.

Unlike other forms of hazardous materials where the threat may be clearly evident, ionising radiation is a formidable and invisible force.

So it is even more vital that first responders are equipped with the correct tools, that they are skilled in interpreting the readings they obtain and that they are confident to act on that information.

Enhanced simulator training systems

Incorporating the use of simulator detector equipment in radiation training exercises offers an opportunity to significantly enhance the quality of a trainee’s learning experience.

The effectiveness of the training, however, will depend on a number of key factors.

Firstly there is the realism of the simulator’s user interface components (the visual display, indicators, switch panel, vibrator, sounder etc) which should be designed to match as closely as possible the look, feel and functionality of the actual device.

As trainees approach or move away from the simulation source, the response speed and characteristics of the simulation will also be important in providing an accurate depiction of the behaviour of the actual detector.

Also key, is the extent to which trainees are able to experience the practical applications of inverse square law, time, distance and shielding. Different shielding effects will need to be realistically represented, for example, as will the effects of user body shielding for source location.

The consistency and repeatability of the simulation will be vital in ensuring that trainees are able to repeat the same scenario, in the same location, and receive the same result – and that the readings obtained on different types of simulator are within the accepted tolerances of the actual detectors.

From the trainer’s perspective, the whole life cost of ownership of the device will undoubtedly be an important consideration.

It may be important, for example, that the simulator uses only the same batteries as the original detector, that it requires no regular calibration and that there is no need for costly and time-consuming preventative maintenance.

The development of innovative simulator detector technologies, such as Argon’s RadEye SIM, offers the opportunity for first responders to enhance the timeliness, precision and effectiveness of their response to radiological emergencies.

For radiation safety instructors there is also the benefit of being able to create highly realistic and compelling radiation training exercises that are free from regulatory, environmental and health and safety concerns.


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.

8 Dangerous Goods myths and misconceptions—busted!

Contributed by LabelMaster

Remember Mythbusters? A couple of former Hollywood effects pros created one of the top shows on cable TV by debunking popular myths and misconceptions. They proved—over and over—that just because “everyone knows” something doesn’t make it true.

If there were a supply chain TV network, Dangerous Goods professionals could probably run their own version of Mythbusters. We hear myths and misconceptions all the time!

Labelmaster consultants Jay JohnsonAlicia Saenz and Jim Shimko helped compile this list of hazmat shipping myths, along with the facts and regulatory knowledge that busts them.

  1. As long as the box is UN rated and/or marked you can put anything in it. Um, no. UN-certified packaging is highly specialized, with packagings designed specifically for lithium batteries, air bags, chemicals and other materials.
  2. If you’re only shipping Limited Quantities by ground, you don’t need any training. Please don’t fall for this one! Anyone who handles hazmat—any kind of hazmat—is required to have up-to-date training, and if your teams’ training is out of date there’s a very good chance you’ll be fined. Heck, we even offer training specifically for shipping Limited and Excepted Quantities.
  3. Packages marked Limited Quantity or ORM-D shipping via ground are “not really regulated.” Yes, it’s true that the Limited Quantity, Excepted Quantity and ORM-D designations were created to be less burdensome than Fully Regulated shipments, but there are still lots of regulations that do apply to such shipments. (By the way, the ORM-D designation is being phased out by the end of 2020. Stay tuned.)
  4. Regulatory agencies are in cahoots with manufacturers to sell more labels and packaging. Sure, that’s why ICAO has three days of 12-hour meetings every year! Contrary to this conspiracy theory, the truth is we’re not crazy about rules changes, either—but we recognize that each change represents hundreds of hours of work by incredibly dedicated professionals who only want to make the supply chain safer.
  5. “They shipped it to me that way so it must be compliant, and I can just ship it again.” Yikes. 71% of hazmat pros surveyed in our most recent Global DG Confidence Outlook say their supply chain partners are not as compliant as they are. In Dangerous Goods transport, you can never assume anything—please check the regulations for everything you ship.
  6. You can ship anything in 4GV packaging. Maybe, but why would you? As Johnson explains, “Don’t make the exception the rule! You might be able to use 4G packages for the 99% of your shipments and use more expensive  4GV packagings for the 1% odd primaries.”
  7. Button cell lithium batteries aren’t really regulated. People who say this may mean button cells aren’t Fully Regulated, but there’s no such thing as “not really regulated.” Please don’t make the mistake of believing that any kind of lithium batteries can be shipped without regard to relevant lithium battery regulations.
  8. If you light a match in a porta potty, it will explode. Oops, sorry, that’s actually Mythbusters episode. But in case you were wondering … you’d need to be in a tightly sealed porta-potty filled with thick methane gas for it to be flammable, so you can light up without fear.

Remember—just because “everyone knows” something doesn’t make it true! If you ever have any questions about how to compliantly package, label, placard or document a Dangerous Goods shipment, call Labelmaster at 800.621.5808 to separate the facts from the myths.

Make sure your shipments are safe and in complete compliance with a full line of solutions from Labelmaster—a full-service provider of goods and services for hazardous materials and Dangerous Goods professionals, shippers, transport operators and EH&S providers.

Hanna, Alberta interested in hosting Biomedical Waste Facility

The Town Council of Hanna, Alberta has expressed interest in the potential of a biomedical waste facility in the municipality.  As reported in the Hanna Herald, Council authorized Mayor Chris Warwick to provide a letter of support to GM Pearson regarding the Cactus Corridor Region interest in having the company establish a Biomedical Waste Incinerator Business in the region.

GM Pearson is an Alberta-based company that provides biomedical waste disposal services.  The company handles biomedical waste from its removal and transportation to its final, safe disposal. The company provides incineration and autoclaving at its Alberta Environmentally Approved facilities.

GM Pearson had proposed an 8,000 tonne per year biomedical waste incinerator in Beiseker, approximately 100-km west of Hanna, but it was met with fierce public opposition.  That plan fell through after the county denied the development permit, saying the site had insufficient infrastructure and water to service the proposed plant.

A human health study commissioned by the company and authored by Dr. Warren Kindzierski, an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Alberta, states that while older studies about older incineration facilities do suggest evidence of health impacts to people who live near waste incinerators, recent studies suggest modern facilities don’t pose the same risk.  “Public concern about health risks is not justified for potential exposure to dioxins and furans and other chemical substances that are emitted by modern, well-run incinerators equipped with modern pollution control technologies,” the analysis reads.

The town has approximately 2,500 residents and is located in east-central Alberta.  If built, the incinerator has the potential ti create 22 full-time jobs, as well as contractor work, and provide tax revenue to the town. The mayor of Hanna, Chris Warrick, noted in a letter to GM Pearson that there are two sites within Special Areas that would be a good fit with the biomedical waste incinerator, as they met the zoning requirement, are in close proximity to major transportation corridors, are near utility infrastructure and regional landfills, and have compatible neighbouring land use.