Manitoba Government releases independent risk analysis report of lead in soil

In response to residents expressing concerns about lead in soil found in ten Winnipeg neighbourhoods, the province released a report prepared by an independent third party.  The 323-page report, prepared by Intrinsik Corp., reconfirms that there is a low heath risk for Manitobans when it comes to lead in soil.

Manitoba Health Seniors and Active Living (MHSAL) and Manitoba Conservation and Climate (MCC) commissioned a third-party review to determine if there are any potential risks to human health, and how best to identify and manage areas with elevated lead concentrations in soil.

The report was presented to government in December 2019, and the province has moved quickly to review its findings and prioritize the recommendations.

As recommended, the province will work towards making blood lead levels in excess of established guidelines reportable under The Public Health Act.  This move will assist the province to track and better understand where lead exposure may continue to pose a problem.  This new information will help focus future public health and environmental efforts where they are needed and will have the greatest impact.

MHSAL and MCC will also move forward with the recommendation to develop a communications and outreach plan that delivers a single, clear and effective message to the public and key stakeholders about how to mitigate potential risks.  This could include a public webpage or social media platform with regular updates for information sharing, and training for parents and caregivers of young children, as well as child care centres, community centres and preschools.

MHSAL and MCC will continue to work with Manitoba Education and school divisions to develop a plan to address recommendations for Weston School.

Given the primary source of lead emissions in Winnipeg are no longer present, the health risk of lead for Manitobans is low.  The report stressed that soil remediation was not recommended as a course of action.

To view the independent report’s findings and recommendations, visit

Lead Contamination of Soil in Winnipeg kept secret

As reported by the CBC in 2018, testing performed on soil in several other Winnipeg neighbourhoods more than 10 years ago showed potentially dangerous levels of lead — but residents were never told about the results because the government at the time withheld the information, according to documents obtained by CBC News.

Documents obtained by CBC through government sources reveal an extensive round of soil testing was conducted by the provincial government in 2007 and 2008 around Point Douglas, Wolseley, Minto and South Osborne.  Residential boulevards were targeted, as were playgrounds, schools and sports fields.

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.

Ontario: Asphalt Company Fined $175,000 for Environmental Violations

Ingram Asphalt Inc., located in Toronto, was recently convicted of five violations under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act and was fined $175,000 plus a victim surcharge of $43,750.  The company was given 24 months to pay the fine.

The convictions relate to permitting the discharge of Benzo(a)Pyrene, a contaminant that exceeded established standards, and for violating three ministry approval conditions, and for alteration of equipment without ministry approval.

Ingram Asphalt Inc. produces asphalt road pavement at a facility located on Ingram Drive in Toronto, within an industrial area shared with various businesses, and a commercial building with residential space.  Over the years there have been complaints regarding concerns about dust leaving the site and adversely impacting businesses and quality of life.

Breakdown on Fines

With respect to the prosecution on the discharge of Benzo(a)Pyrene into the air, the company was fined $100,000 for permitting the discharge for a specified averaging period and exceeding the acceptable levels under Section 20 (2) of Ontario Regulation 419/05 under the Environmental Protection Act, on December 11, 2017. The ministry was notified of the exceedance with reported levels in the air of 0.0000297 micrograms per cubic meter, compared to the allowable limits specified as 0.00001 micrograms per cubic meter, almost three times the allowed maximum.

Ingram Asphalt was fined $55,000 for three violations for non-compliance with a ministry approval for conditions outlined in the company’s December 2016 approval conditions specific to addressing concerns about air pollution. Despite efforts by the ministry to bring the company into compliance it was identified that the company was non-compliant in the following areas: (1) Condition No. 1 (5) restricts the height of storage piles to be less than the height of the associated barrier walls; (2) Condition No. 10 requires the installation of an opacity monitor in accordance with the requirements; and (3) Schedule “D” requires the company to submit a Source Testing Report in accordance with the requirements.

The company was fined $20,000 on one violation for altering the approved equipment by failing to connect pipe and duct work from the asphalt tanks to the batch dryer, which is part of the air pollution control equipment.

Benzo(a)Pyrene

 

Benzo(a)pyrene and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are widespread environmental contaminants formed during incomplete combustion or pyrolysis of organic material. These substances are found in air, water, soils and sediments, generally at trace levels except near their sources. PAHs are present in some foods and in a few pharmaceutical products based on coal tar that are applied to the skin. Tobacco smoke contains high concentrations of PAHs.

Major sources of PAHs in ambient air (both outdoors and indoors) include residential and commercial heating with wood, coal or other biomasses (oil and gas heating produce much lower quantities of PAH), other indoor sources such as cooking and tobacco smoke, and outdoor sources like motor-vehicle exhaust (especially from diesel engines), industrial emissions and forest fires.

 

U.S. OSHA Reveals Preliminary List of Top Ten Violations for 2019

Written by , GLE Associates, Inc.

Annually, around 5,000 workers die and millions are injured on the job in the United States. Many of these deaths and injuries are preventable, caused by United States Occupational Safety and Health Agency (U.S. OSHA) violations.

In September, U.S. OSHA revealed preliminary data about the top ten violations they’ve cited in 2019. The list is largely unchanged from 2018, with two violations trading ranks in the list (respiratory protection took the place of control of hazardous energy-lockout/tagout).

The data reveal the largest areas of concern for worker safety and opportunities for employers to improve.

Top Ten Violations

Rank Standard Number of Citations
1 Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501) 6,010
2 Hazard Communication (1910.1200) 3,671
3 Scaffolding (1926.451) 2,813
4 Control of Hazardous Energy – Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) 2,606
5 Respiratory Protection (1910.134) 2,450
6 Ladders (1926.1053) 2,345
7 Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) 2,093
8 Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503) 1,773
9 Machine Guarding (1910.212) 1,743
10 Personal Protective Equipment – Lifesaving Equipment and Eye and Face Protection (1926.102) 1,411

U.S. DOT Proposing Changes to Hazardous Materials Regulations

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is proposing a change to the Hazardous Materials Regulations to allow the transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) on railcars. The overture builds on an executive order by President Donald Trump issued earlier this year.

Currently, LNG can only be transported by rail using a portable tank with prior approval from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), although the Hazardous Materials Regulations allow DOT 113 specification tank cars to be used for hauling other flammable liquids. Under a notice of proposed rule- making, DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) now seeks comment on changes that would allow LNG to be transported in these cars as well.

Citing LNG’s expanding role as a critical domestic and international energy resource, PHMSA proposes to permit the transport of LNG by rail tank car to meet the demand for greater flexibility in the modes of transportation available to transport LNG. The proposed rule would facilitate harmonization across the North American rail network. In Canada, LNG is already authorized for transport in DOT-113 equivalent specification rail tank cars (TC-113C120W).

“Safety is the number one priority of PHMSA and we understand the importance and will make it a top priority to evaluate all public comments and concerns raised throughout the rule-making process,” said PHMSA administrator Skip Elliott. “This major rule will establish a safe, reliable, and durable mode of transportation for LNG while substantially increasing economic benefits and our nation’s energy competitiveness in the global market.”

“FRA shares regulatory oversight responsibility for the safe transportation of hazardous materials by rail,” said Ronald Batory, Federal Railroad Administration administrator. “This rule-making is consistent with our systemic approach to accident prevention, mitigation, and emergency response preparedness.”

Packaging requirements

In the NPRM, PHMSA proposes the following packaging controls:

  • Authorized transport of LNG by rail in DOT-113C120W tank cars. DOT-113 tank cars are vacuum-insulated and consist of an inner stainless steel tank enclosed with an outer carbon steel jacket shell specifically designed for the transportation of refrigerated liquefied gases.
  • Amend the Pressure Control Valve Setting or Relief Valve Setting Table in 49 Code of Federal Regulations § 173.319(d)(2) by adding a column for methane, thus identifying the pressure relief valve requirements for DOT-113s transporting methane.

Operational controls

PHMSA is not proposing new operational controls for transport of LNG by rail tank car. However, PHMSA notes the operational controls (e.g., speed restrictions) set forth in the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Circular OT-55 would apply to the bulk transport of LNG by rail in a train composed of 20 car loads or intermodal portable tank loads in which LNG is present along with any combination of other hazardous materials. OT-55 is a detailed protocol establishing railroad operating practices for the transport of hazardous materials that has been voluntarily adopted by the industry.

Safety case for LNG-by-rail

DOT-113 specification tank cars, including DOT-113C120W tank cars, include a stainless steel inner vessel and a thick steel outer vessel (or jacket); there is an insulated vacuum space between the two vessels to minimize the rate of heat transfer from the atmosphere to the refrigerated liquid during transport; and the cars include pressure relief devices, vents, and valves to prevent or minimize overpressure releases.

Additional requests for information

In addition to commenting on the specific packaging requirements listed above, the NPRM asks the public to comment on the following topics that are within the scope of the NPRM:

  • Whether the authorized transport of LNG by rail has the potential to reduce regulatory burdens, enhance domestic energy production, and impact safety.
  • Whether there is a reasonable basis for limiting the length of a train transporting LNG tank cars and what length is appropriate.
  • Whether there is a reasonable basis for limiting the train configuration, such as by limiting the number of LNG tank cars in a train consist or by restricting where LNG tank cars may be placed within the train.
  • Whether PHMSA should consider any additional operational controls and whether such controls are justified by data on the safety or economic impacts.

Comments on the LNG-by-rail NPRM are due on or before December 23, 2019.

 

 

Urgent Canadian Action is needed on PFAS — the Forever Chemicals

Written by Bev Thorpe and Fe de Leon for the Canadian Environmental Law Association

The class of chemicals called PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) are often referred to as ‘the forever chemicals’ because they are highly persistent in the environment and will take hundreds if not thousands of years to disappear from the soil and groundwater where they accumulate.  The Netflix film, The Devil We Know, and the newly released film, Dark Waters, have brought these chemicals to popular awareness.  As we now know, two substances in this chemical class – PFOS and PFOS – are the focus of multi-million dollar lawsuits due to the cover up of data demonstrating health impacts such as increased cholesterol, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, low birth rates, thyroid disease, and weakened immunity.  Over 99% of all Canadians tested by Health Canada’s biomonitoring surveys, have PFOA and PFOS in their blood and other organs including communities in the far north.  Producers of PFOS and PFOA voluntarily stopped production in 2002 resulting in a slight decrease of these two PFAS in sampled populations, but other PFAS are now turning up in Canadians. Yet the Canadian regulatory response to this crisis is lacking urgency and transparent communication with impacted communities.

PFAS is widely present because  for over sixty years these chemicals have been used as stain, oil and water repellant chemicals in  clothing, carpets, grease-proof paper, ski wax, cookware and cosmetics and also widely used in firefighting foam and other industrial applications.  Their widespread use raises the question why it took so long to highlight the risk to human health and wildlife and why regulatory response has been so slow.  This is partly because scientists lacked the analytical capability to measure these chemicals in the environment until recently.  At the same time, PFAS, as with thousands of chemicals were historically allowed on the market with no toxicological screening requirements.  Even today, most new  PFAS, which industry is now switching to as replacements for PFOA and PFOS, lack full toxicological data yet they remain unregulated and on the market.

In Canada most uses for PFOS were prohibited in 2016 aside from exemptions for specific uses.  In 2012, the federal government concluded that PFOA was an ecological concern. But Health Canada maintains that PFOS and PFOA are not a concern for human health at current levels of exposure.  Most recently in June 2019 Transport Canada allowed airports to use PFAS-free firefighting foam, which shows a more precautionary approach as it targets the whole class of PFAS, but this is only a start.  There are over 5,000 PFAS in use and they are just as persistent in the environment as PFOS and PFOA, with many known to be highly mobile in rivers, lakes and groundwater.  None of these are restricted in Canada.

For Canadian adults, our main exposure to PFAS is via household dust, ingestion of food and air – in fact studies of air in Vancouver homes found levels of PFAS were twenty times higher than air outside the homes due to PFAS inside the homes.  Children, infants and toddlers are most at risk from PFAS exposure due to hand-to-mouth contact with PFAS treated products.  In addition, Canadian research has demonstrated PFAS in the leachate and air of landfill sites, due to the amount of PFAS in the clothing, carpets and consumer goods that have been discarded into landfills over the years and which are now leaching these chemicals into the environment.  PFAS are found in the air and effluent from wastewater treatment sites as well as in the sewage sludge which can be spread on land.

If this situation seems worrying, it is.  We lack full transparency of where contamination sites are in Canada and full accountability for who is responsible for the cleanup. Remediation is expensive and technically challenging which may partly explain such inaction.  The region downstream of Hamilton airport has still not been cleaned up eight years after high levels of PFAS contamination were discovered.  The extent of contamination in Canada is difficult to know, unlike the disclosure afforded to US citizens by many US state regulatory bodies.  The use of PFAS in firefighting foam at military bases, airports and refineries is increasingly acknowledged to be a common source of  water contamination but public information is absent on site specific monitoring data or even if groundwater wells are being monitored.  In December 2018 Health Canada released Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines for PFOS and PFOA which are substantially weaker than US based guidelines and to date British Columbia is the only Canadian province to establish provincial drinking water regulations.

We urgently need to see federal and provincial governments take action to phase out the entire class of PFAS in consumer and industrial use; strengthen Canadian drinking water standards to be more protective of children’s health and radically increase public right to know about the presence of PFAS in consumer products, local drinking water, and discharges into our communities. Tackling these forever chemicals requires an informed and coordinated public response which has sadly been lacking to date.

This article has been republished with the permission of the authors.  It was first published on the CELA website.


About the Authors

Bev Thorpe is an environmental consultant and principle author of CELA’s reports on PFAS.  Bev works with advocacy networks, companies and governments to advance an economy without the harm of hazardous chemicals.  She is a long time member of the Coming Clean network in the USA and she works with European and Asian networks.

Fe de Leon is a researcher with the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) and has worked extensively on toxic substances particularly in the Great Lakes Basin, on the federal chemicals management plan and on international efforts to address persistent toxic substances through the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Great Lakes Quality Agreement, and a global treaty to address mercury.

What are the pros and cons of simulators for radiation safety training?

Written by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

Electronic radiation simulators provide trainees with realistic first-hand experience of handling detector equipment that is identical to that which they will use in the field.

But while the use of simulator detectors can offer significant advantages for both student and instructor, as with any form of training method there may be some compromises.

In this blog post we explore some of the pros and the cons of radiation safety training using simulator detectors.

The Pros

Practicality

Ionizing radiation is a powerful, invisible force – which can make creating realistic scenarios a challenge.

By incorporating the use of simulator detectors into training exercises students have the opportunity to both understand and ‘trust’ the values displayed on their instruments.

In doing so they can also develop an understanding of the relationship between the measurements on their survey meter and their own personal dose readings as well as the effects of time, distance and shielding.

Safety

Safe and environmentally friendly radiation training systems can be used in a variety of scenarios – whether indoors, outdoors in confined areas or in public spaces.

With simulators incurring zero safety risk there are no Health & Safety restrictions – and the administrative burden for instructors is vastly reduced.

Immersion

Simulator detectors offer the opportunity for a truly authentic and immersive training experience.

Scenarios can be planned to replicate all the crucial elements of real-life incidents, which in turn exposes trainees to the psychological challenges they may well encounter in high-stress incidents.

Repeatability

With the use of simulators, radiation training exercises can be quickly and easily set up – and repeated as many times as required.

Outcomes

Powerful after action review (AAR) ensures that trainees have followed clearly set out procedures and that they understand when mistakes have been made.

Efficiency

Using simulators can provide some significant time-saving advantages for training exercises.

The costly and time-consuming administrative effort normally associated with the transport, deployment and safe handling of radionuclides is completely removed – and the need to secure specialist facilities where ionizing radiation sources is no longer an issue.

The cons

With any form of training, some compromises will inevitably have to be accepted. The key, however, is to find the happy medium between the optimum training outcome and what is practical and achievable.

Dynamic ranges

The dynamic ranges associated with radiation readings are extremely large, which can contribute to challenges in implementing simulations.

Instructor intensiveness

Simulation training can also be very instructor-intensive – with the trainer finding that too much of their attention is focused on creating the “effect” for their student and not enough on observing the student’s actions.

In these cases, alternative techniques which involve the temporary placement of a means to simulate the presence of radioactivity may be more practical – selection of the ideal simulation equipment is essential.

Shielding

It is the simulation of the effects of shielding where there is the potential for the greatest compromise.

The reality is that safe alternatives won’t be subjected to the same degree of attenuation (or reduction in force) as actual ionizing radiation.

But new technology now means that shielding can be represented to a realistic enough level to enable students to appreciate its importance for protection.

Instructors will of course need to clarify the differences, where appropriate, for the lesson being delivered – and these are likely to vary depending upon the operational responsibilities of the trainees.

While training with simulator detectors has both advantages and limitations, there is no doubt that it is an effective method of ensuring successful training outcomes while at the same time maintaining the safety of student and instructor.


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 Realty of Mercury Contamination in Grassy Narrows

Written by Abimbolo Badejo, Staff Reporter

Grassy Narrows, a First Nation
community of 1,600 residents, landed on the world radar due to a tragic mercury
poisoning accident, made possible by lax laws regarding environmental pollution
in the 1960s. Affected policies have been amended to prevent further
occurrences but solutions to the poisoning effects are yet to be addressed
effectively.

Government officials
discovered Mercury contamination in the English-Wabigoon River in the 1970s, caused
by a chemical plant at the Reed Paper Mill in Dryden Ontario. The river flows
beside two First Nations communities (Grassy Narrows and Whitedog), which
depend on this river as their source of livelihood. The contaminated river
poisoned the fish, and this caused a shutdown of the associated fishing
industry, resulting in mass unemployment for the residents. In addition,
various health defects ranging from neurological disorders  to digestive disorders have been observed
among the residents (spanning three generations) with no encouraging end to the
defects in sight.

Studies and Plans

Since the discovery of mercury contamination in the river in the 1970s, no major action has been taken besides the establishment of a Disability Board  in 1986, which was saddled with the duty of compensating affected residents; many of whose claims for compensation were denied. After decades of delay, pressures from concerned groups (First Nations and environmental Groups) finally elicited a somewhat response from the Ontario provincial government and the Federal government. The government of Ontario stated in June 2017 that it has secured  $85 million to  clean up the contaminated water and land, while the Federal Government has agreed to put a trust fund in place to ensure the establishment of a treatment center focused on ailments related to the mercury poisoning (you can read more about mercury at quicksilver mercury). The treatment facility is expected to cost about 88.7 million dollars, as estimated after a feasibility study. 1,2

Dryden Paper Mill

Mercury in the Environment

Mercury exists in nature in
either the elemental, inorganic or organic forms. The organic form of mercury
(Methyl mercury) is of greatest concern in the health industry.  Elemental mercury is transformed into the
organic form in the aquatic environment by microbial activity, which is in turn
bioaccumulated in the flesh of aquatic organisms  along the aquatic food chain. Biomagnified
toxic methyl mercury in the aquatic apex predators is transferred to consumers
via efficient absorption from the digestive tracts into the blood stream and
eventually through  the blood-brain
barrier. Excess concentrations of methyl mercury in the human body, with
concentrations above 0.47 µg/day (per kg in adult body weight) and  0.2 µg/day (per kg in a child’s or pregnant
mother’s body weight), results in deleterious neurologic effects in humans of
any age. Additional health defects such as impaired vision, blindness and
digestive disorders have been reported.3,4

Similar tragic occurrences of
environmental mercuric contamination have been reported in some parts of the
world. Between 1932 and 1968, a chemical plant in Minamata, Japan released
mercury into a lake which resulted in the death of over 100 people. This
occurrence was highly significant, coining the name “Minamata Disease” for syndromes
associated with mercury poisoning, such as brain damage, paralysis, incoherent
speech and delirium. Another memorable tragedy was reported in Iraq in the
early 1970s, where methylmercury compounds were use in seed treatment in
agriculture. Wheat grains that were treated with this toxic compound were
planted, harvested and made into flour for human consumption. Bread made from
the poisoned flour resulted in high mortality rate among the consumers.
Occupational exposure is not left out of the list as reported in Ghana in the
1960s. Elemental mercury is used in artisanal gold mining,  where gold ores from near-surface deposits were
mixed with the elemental mercury before heating to release the toxic mercury
vapour into the environment, leaving the gold behind. Breathing in the mercuric
vapour can lead to severe pneumonitis in humans. 5

Clean-up of Mercury Contamination

Clean-up of mercury contaminated sites, such as Carson River Mercury site and Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine in Clearlake California, have been reported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) . The technology used include ex-situ and in-situ treatment methods. The most common method reported is the excavation and disposal of mercury contaminated soil or sediment, as hazardous waste meant for landfill or treated at an approved thermal treatment facility.  The excavated land is backfilled with clean soil and ecologically restored. An in-situ treatment method can be the stabilization / solidification of the toxic substance by sealing in the contaminant with a mixture of cement and Sulphur containing compounds. This method is made possible using an auger-system to mix the soil and cement to immobilize the contaminant. Contaminated sediments can be sealed by a method called “capping”, where a layer of sand and gravel  is poured over the sediments to prevent contact further with the contaminant. These methods and technologies have been used effectively at various mercury contaminated sites in the United States. More information can be found here: https://www.epa.gov/mercury/what-epa-doing-reduce-mercury-pollution-and-exposures-mercury

Ideally, post remediation
monitoring  should include restriction of
the sealed-off area to public access, absolute cessation in the consumption of
food sourced from the contaminated areas and an active reduction in all
processes that release mercury into the environment. In situations where the
mercury is an unavoidable  component of
an industrial waste such as dental amalgam production wastes or battery chemical
wastes, a preventive-control suggestion will be to discharge the liquid waste
into a holding reservoir to allow mercury-settling into sludge, which can be
collected and treated or appropriately disposed.

Since there is an immense need
for more research in sustainable and environmental-friendly extensive mercury
spill clean-up, more attention should be focused on proactively preventing
further occurrences  by adhering strictly
to the controls that have been put in place to manage all operations pertaining
to the use of mercury.

References

  1. https://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/children-of-the-poisoned-river-mercury-poisoning-grassy-narrows-first-nation/
  2. https://globalnews.ca/news/5189817/grassy-narrows-liberals-mercury-treatment-facility/
  3. Pirkle, C.M., Muckle, G.,
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VelocityEHS acquires Industrial Hygiene Software company Spiramid

VelocityEHS, a Chicago-based environment, health, safety (EHS) software company, recently announced it has acquired Spiramid, developer of the a system for managing industrial hygiene (IH). The acquisition adds Spiramid’s occupational safety & health software to the VelocityEHS’s EHS platform. The software, now called VelocityEHS Industrial Hygiene, gives organizations the capabilities to efficiently run an industrial hygiene program.

VelocityEHS is launching its new Industrial Hygiene solution at a time when IH is at an important crossroads. The need for workplace programs that anticipate and prevent workplace hazards is growing, while the number of certified industrial hygienists and investments in traditional programs has been on the decline.

“We’re
excited to launch our powerful new Industrial Hygiene product. It’s a perfect
fit for people working on the frontlines and has great synergy with our
market-leading Chemical Management capabilities. Its simple design cuts through
the complexity of IH tasks,” said Glenn Trout, president and CEO of
VelocityEHS. “While there’s no substitute for a well-trained, well-resourced
team of industrial hygienists, the reality today is that a growing number of
EHS generalists are being called upon to do sampling and run IH programs that
fall outside the scope of their training and traditional responsibilities.
Whether you’re a veteran hygienist or new to the role, we believe our new IH
solution will provide significant value.”

The software gives companies with sophisticated programs the ability to see, in one place and in real time, what’s happening across their enterprise. It gives staff hygienists new reporting tools — like dynamic risk matrices — to help them determine where and why to deploy resources, as well as to demonstrate the value of IH when talking with leadership stakeholders. For companies without a Certified Industrial Hygienist, it provides a framework for managing exposure risks and meeting a wide range of IH tasks.

“The goal of any industrial hygiene program is to help as many people in the workplace as you can. I am proud to see our IH software, which we have spent years perfecting, added to the VelocityEHS platform, which serves the industry’s largest EHS software community,” said Dave Risi, co-founder of Spiramid.

Managing
IH can require the collaboration of many stakeholders, including people
sampling in the field, IH consultants, outside laboratories, and program
managers. VelocityEHS’ Industrial Hygiene software is a central management hub,
facilitating the workflow and hand-off of responsibilities from party to party.
For instance, users can more easily plan and control all aspects of IH, from
selection of chemicals and analytical methods, to selection of laboratories and
access of sampling results, with options to share information with the right
stakeholders. The solution lets users send chain of custody forms directly to
labs and receive the analytical data electronically, inside the product,
eliminating the need for manual input and helping to avoid errors by making the
information readily accessible.

Other features include an in-product database of CAS Registry Numbers, OELs and laboratories, plus easy tools for tracking and managing of similar exposure groups (SEGs), qualitative assessments, sampling plans, medical surveillance, surveys, samples and equipment. It is the smartest and most efficient way to track a high-volume of complicated sample data and to manage risk assessments and mitigation programs.

The new IH software, together with VelocityEHS’ Chemical Management and Industrial Ergonomics solutions, provides industrial hygienists with the comprehensive resources they need to promote healthier workplaces.