Hamilton considers new report of cleanup options for Chedoke Creek

A new report for the City of Hamilton, written by GM Blueplan Engineering,  provides dozens of recommendations to clean up sewage contamination of Hamilton’s Chedoke Creek could cost the Ontario city more than $150 million over 14 years.

The GM Blueplan Engineering report offers options for studies, projects, programs and maintenance to the City of Hamilton’s general issues committee sitting on July 5th, as they determine how best to remediate the creek.

The contamination at Chedoke Creek was first disclosed by the City of Hamilton in July 2018 after it discovered that one of its combined sewer overflow tanks was discharging combined sewage into Chedoke Creek. The City immediately stopped the discharge, began clean-up activities in the area, and contacted the Provincial Spills Action Centre.

Since July 2018, the City has been working closely with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) to investigate the incident, respond to Orders related to the spill, and plan for remediation efforts in the Creek and Cootes Paradise.

 

Currently, the City is working with the MECP and various stakeholders on remediation activities in the watershed. The City has recently submitted a workplan to the MECP outlining targeted dredging activities in Chedoke Creek and a report proposing remediation/mitigation methods for Cootes Paradise and the Western Hamilton Harbour Area.

The short-term work is expected to begin this summer, with the removal of dead algae and placement of small-scale aeration systems near the mouth of Cootes Paradise to guard against the formation of noxious algal blooms.

Researchers use Biochar to treat arsenic from mine waste

Written by Erin Matthews, Lightsource.ca

Researchers used synchrotron light to determine that plant waste could be an ideal, cost-effective method for preventing arsenic in mine waste from polluting our water.

The mining industry plays a key role in the North American economy and the wider global market. Precious metals like copper are crucial to several industries, including home construction and vehicle manufacturing. While we rely on precious metals for continued innovation, we also need to find ways to prevent environmental contamination from mining.

A program at the University of Arizona is working to reclaim landscapes that have been impacted by mining waste to create a more sustainable mining industry. Its researchers recently published findings on how reducing environmental impacts through remediation processes that are both efficient and cost effective.

Jon Chorover, a professor and head of the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Arizona, wants to clean up acid mine drainage that contains substantial amounts of heavy metals like arsenic and lead. These top priority pollutants are released when rock materials are exposed to oxygen and rain. The toxic compounds can leak into the ground and contaminate water used for drinking and farming, which can be detrimental to human health.

SM beamline
The SM beamline at the CLS that the team used for scanning transmission X-ray microscopic analyses.

“We have a strong interest in being able to treat acid mine drainage to remove the arsenic with something that’s relatively low cost,” said Chorover.

Using beamlines at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan and the SLAC National Accelerator, Chorover and colleagues analyzed the molecular interactions that occur when biochar is introduced to acid mine drainage.

Created naturally when plant matter is burned, biochar can also be engineered. And it may be the perfect solution for the mining industry if the environmental conditions are just right. It’s also a waste product of the logging industry, made from the woody plant materials that are left behind and it can be used as a remedial tool in the presence of iron.

“Synchrotron based X-ray spectroscopy is essential for being able to get a mechanistic understanding of what we can measure in the lab,” Chorover said. “The only way you can really get a handle on the long-term capacity for the material to retain that arsenic is if you know what bonded structures are formed.”

A man standing over scientific equipment
Co-author Dr. Rob Root conducting synchrotron work at SSRL.

Iron, another mineral found in mine drainage, interacts with the biochar to form a crystal-like structure. As these crystals grow, they attract the arsenic — similar to a magnet — and form very tight bonds. This allows the arsenic to be safely removed from the environment.

Using the SM beamline at the CLS, Chorover and his team were able to visualize the surface chemistry of the biochar and reveal the fine details of these complex interactions.

“We saw that biochar is not a perfectly homogenous material, but it actually has patchy locations that are highly reactive to the growth of these crystals and as those crystals grow, they sequester the arsenic,” Chorover said.

Chorover believes their research will provide companies and regulators with the information necessary to maintain the environment and reduce impact on communities located near mining operations.

Sustainable Brownfield Development Building a Sustainable Future on Sites of our Polluting Past

Christopher De Sousa, a Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University, recently published a new book entitled Sustainable Brownfield Development Building a Sustainable Future on Sites of our Polluting Past.

While industrial and chemical innovations have contributed extensively to human advancement, the darker part of their legacy has been the hundreds of thousands of polluted sites left behind. Governments at all levels have rallied to support the remediation and reuse of these land resources and put many of the nation’s brownfields back into productive use. This book presents two dozen brownfield projects in the United States that have incorporated sustainability, highlighting project features, best management practices, and lessons from the field regarding the underlying policies and practices that enabled these projects to be completed or, in some cases, stalled, altered or abandoned.

The case studies represent an array of brownfield projects that aimed to go beyond conventional practice and include a range and variety of end uses (e.g., corner gas stations, industrial, office, residential, brightfields, green space, mixed-use, and transit-oriented developments). The cases investigate site histories, planning and development and examine sustainability characteristics to understand how projects overcame the barriers to brownfield reuse and the implementation of sustainability features and derive a series of lessons learned, including innovative policies, programs, and/or funding mechanisms that helped make these projects work.

Sustainable Brownfield Development will be of interest to developers, planners, consultants and community representatives interested in environmental policy, urban planning, community development, ecological restoration, economic development, and parks planning by providing direction and inspiration for those eager to erase the blight of the past and build a more sustainable future.

Table of Contents

1. Brownfields Background 2. Sustainability and Brownfields 3. Industrial and Commercial Redevelopment 4. Office Redevelopment 5. Residential Redevelopment 6. Green and Community Space Redevelopment 7. Corner Gas Station Brownfields 8. Main Streets, Neighborhoods, and Towns 9. Mixed-Use Complete Communities 10. Brightfields 11. Project Characteristics and Lessons Learned

Biography

Christopher De Sousa is a Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University and was previously at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His research focuses on brownfields redevelopment in the United States and Canada. De Sousa is past President of the Canadian Brownfields Network, a Steering Committee Member of the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Brownfields/Land Reuse Health Initiative, and on the Management Committee of Ryerson’s Center for Urban Research and Land Development.

City of North Bay Ontario reaches $20-million PFAS cleanup agreement with DND

The City of North Bay and the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) have reached an agreement that will see the federal government fund the majority of costs related to the remediation of per- and polyfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS) at Jack Garland Airport.

“The City has been working proactively toward this agreement for the past two years. It is a major step that will advance PFAS cleanup efforts at the airport,” said Mayor Al McDonald. “The health and safety of our residents is our highest priority and we will continue to do all we can to move this remediation work ahead as quickly as possible.”

The $20 million-contribution agreement, which goes before Council this evening for approval, will see DND provide up to $19.4 million over six years toward the airport PFAS cleanup, including study, removal and remediation. The City will fund the balance of up to $600,000 over the same period. Additionally, the agreement allows the City to submit a second proposal in the future for additional costs, if required.

“Our government has been working hard with our partners to leave a better environment to future generations. Though our work to solve the PFAS issue in North Bay is complex and ongoing, we remain committed to addressing this issue with the seriousness it deserves. By working together with our partners, including the City of North Bay, we are making real progress,” said the Hon. Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence.

PFAS are manmade substances found in many consumer and industrial products, including firefighting foam. Past use of the airport lands for firefighter training between the early 1970s and mid-1990s has been identified as the main source of PFAS on the airport property.  Although firefighting foam containing PFAS was an accepted practice and was in accordance with regulations at that time, its use is very limited today.

Since 2017, the City has been working collaboratively with DND, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP), and the Health Unit to support ongoing testing and monitoring for PFAS in Trout Lake, Lees Creek and residential wells in close proximity to the North Bay Jack Garland Airport lands. In order to expedite the remediation process, the City also completed its own environmental investigations into PFAS soil and groundwater contamination on the airport site.

The level of PFAS detected in the City’s municipal water supply remains significantly lower than drinking water screening values set out by Health Canada and the interim guidance level provided by the MECP. A long-standing drinking water advisory for Lees Creek remains in place as well as a fish consumption advisory for fish from the creek issued by the MECP.

Immediate next steps will include issuing a request for proposals for engineering consulting services to aid the City in the environmental remediation process for the airport lands.  The scope of work will include environmental assessment, site-specific risk assessment, development of remediation objectives, treatability studies and remediation design.  Once a design is complete, the works will be tendered and remediation can begin.

Source: City of North Bay

Canada: Court Of Appeal Clarifies Limitation Periods For Third Party Claims related to Contaminated Property

On Feb. 4, 2021, the Court of Appeal for Ontario released its decision in Albert Bloom Limited v. London Transit Commission,  2021 ONCA 74. This decision clarifies the approach to limitations disputes with respect to third party claims; in particular, the analysis of when a defendant is deemed to develop actual knowledge of a potential claim against a third party and how continuing torts are to be treated in the context of third party claims.

Background

Trichloroethylene

The plaintiff, a private property owner, sued the London Transit Commission (LTC) on May 22, 2013, alleging that its property had been contaminated by Trichloroethylene that had flowed from adjacent lots owned by LTC. LTC defended the claim in January 2014, yet continued to resist demands by the plaintiff to investigate its property until the end of that year. After completing the testing and determining that Eaton, a previous landowner, had operated a sludge pit on the property before 1973, LTC brought a third party claim against Eaton on March 16, 2016.

Eaton brought a motion for summary judgment, arguing that all of LTC’s claims against it had been discoverable as of May 22, 2013 and had therefore expired two years later, pursuant to the Limitations Act. The motion judge agreed and dismissed the third party claim in its entirety.

The Court of Appeal decision

The Court dismissed the appeal, dealing with each of LTC’s submissions in turn.

With respect to the claim for contribution and indemnity, the Court began by noting that LTC bore the onus of demonstrating that its claim against Eaton was not discoverable on the day it was served with the Statement of Claim. The Court rejected LTC’s submission that there is a general rule that sub-surface testing is required to establish actual knowledge of prior contamination in environmental contamination cases. A paragraph in LTC’s Statement of Defence which blamed any contamination on a previous owner of its property also did not assist LTC’s submissions in this regard. The Court found that LTC had not met its onus to prove this was a mere “boilerplate”, pleading that did not indicate actual knowledge. The Court also held LTC had constructive knowledge of its third party claim more than two years before it was commenced, as it did not act with due diligence when it ignored the plaintiff’s demands for further investigation.

The Court also dismissed LTC’s alternative argument that because the claim against it was based on a continuing tort, its third party claim was similarly based on continuous conduct such that the limitation period had not expired. The Court explained Eaton’s involvement with the property had ended in 1973 and for a claim to be continuing in a limitations sense, the legal injury itself must continue, not just the ill effects of the prior legal injury.

Commentary

This decision highlights the importance of due diligence when responding to new claims ensuring that limitation periods for third party claims are not missed. Environmental lawsuits raise distinct factual issues, but the underlying legal principles remain the same for all claims for contribution and indemnity. The decision also reminds litigants that pleading choices which may seem harmless when made can have unintended effects on a party’s legal rights at a later stage.

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

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About the Authors

Aidan Fishman is an associate in the Toronto office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP and is a member of the Insurance and Tort Liability Group. Aidan returned to BLG after articling with the firm. Prior to receiving his Juris Doctor in 2018 from the University of Toronto, Aidan graduated with a Masters of Arts, magna cum laude in Diplomacy from the Interdisciplinary Centre of Herzliya, and an Honours BA in International Relations from the University of Toronto.
Natalie Kolos practises civil litigation, including insurance law, municipal and police liability, defamation and occupiers’ liability at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.  She acts for municipalities, insurance companies and corporate clients in negligence claims.

Quebec cargo-handling company sentenced to pay $675,000 for Fisheries Act violation

The Compagnie d’Arrimage de Québec Ltée recently pleaded guilty in the Court of Quebec in the District of Québec to one count of contravening the Fisheries Act. The company was fined $100,000. In addition to the fine, the Court ordered the company to pay an amount of $575,000.

The guilty plea and fine arise from incident on December 10, 2017.  On that date, the Compagnie d’Arrimage de Québec Ltée, while unloading a ship at the Port of Québec, failed to take all necessary measures to prevent the discharge of an estimated 500 kilograms of fertilizer into the St. Lawrence River, contrary to the provisions of subsection 38(6) of the Fisheries Act.

 

Englobe announces the acquisition of Ontario-based Terraprobe

Englobe Corporation, a soils, materials and environmental engineering firm with a established network of offices across Canada and in Europe, recently announced that it has acquired Terraprobe, an Ontario-based consulting engineering firm. Terraprobe’s technical and engineering expertise will help position Englobe as a provider of geotechnical, materials testing and environmental engineering (GME) services in the province.  

Founded in 1977, Terraprobe’s areas of specialization include geotechnical, environmental, shoring design, building science, and hydrogeological engineering. In addition to its head office in Brampton, the company has satellite offices in Barrie, Sudbury and Stoney Creek, Ontario. As a result, some 200 Terraprobe employees will join the Englobe family. 

In addition, Englobe stands to gain market benefits from this new partnership. Notably, Terraprobe’s  geotechnical, hydrogeology and soil/rock testing capabilities, when combined with Englobe’s construction materials testing expertise, will serve to build a team able to deliver diverse GME services across Ontario.  

“By working in tandem, Englobe and Terraprobe will be much better positioned to pursue major provincial transit and infrastructure projects requiring higher-complexity qualifications,” notes Mike Cormier, Co-President of Englobe. “We’re excited to welcome Terraprobe’s experienced engineers, scientists and technicians to Englobe’s Ontario Professional Services team. In doing so, Englobe’s bench strength will grow to more than 450 staff – primarily in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area – with an impressive range of technical and administrative expertise.” 

The two companies have partnered on numerous projects over the years, developing a solid track record of positive and close collaboration as well as an excellent cultural fit. “Terraprobe has always adopted a client-centric approach in delivering full customer satisfaction,” says Billy Singh, Terraprobe President and CEO. “We’re very pleased to be joining Englobe, a company that shares our own ethical, fair and rewarding work practices to benefit their clients, employees and community. I’m certain this new relationship between our two companies will be fruitful and mutually beneficial.” 

 

 

PFAS – EPA Interim Guidance on How to Say Goodbye to Your “Forever Chemicals”

Written by Janessa GlennDawn LamparelloSteve Morton, and Cliff RothensteinK&L Gates LLP

In response to Congressional direction in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, Public Law No: 116-92, on 18 December 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued “Interim Guidance on the Destruction and Disposal of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances and Materials Containing Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances” (Interim Guidance) as part of its continuing efforts to regulate the large body of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, collectively referred to as “PFAS.” SeeInterim Guidance.

EPA issued the Interim Guidance, not as a rulemaking or policy statement, but to provide current scientific information on disposing of or destroying PFAS and PFAS-containing materials. PFAS are often referred to as the “forever chemicals” because they do not break down easily or quickly in the environment. Thus, they present a unique challenge for disposal/destruction. The Interim Guidance outlines three methods that may be effective and are currently available for disposal or destruction—landfill disposal, underground injection disposal, and thermal treatment for destruction (incineration)—and discusses the data gaps and challenges for each, along with noting the need for further research into these methods for future guidance. EPA intends for this information to inform the decision making process of those managing the destruction/disposal of this material.

PFAs are used in fighting fires

The Interim Guidance identifies six waste streams that commonly contain PFAS:

  1. Aqueous film-forming foam (used in fire suppression);
  2. Soil (directly through land application or spills, or indirectly through particles released from stack emissions, for example) and biosolids (the Interim Guidance refers to the definition in 40 C.F.R. Part 503 for “sewage sludge,” also called “biosolids”);
  3. Textiles, other than consumer goods, treated with PFAS;
  4. Spent filters, membranes, resins, granular carbon, and other waste from water treatment;
  5. Landfill leachate containing PFAS; and
  6. Solid, liquid, or gas waste streams containing PFAS from facilities manufacturing or using PFAS.

Congress specifically identified these six areas in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 as the waste EPA was required to address through issuance of the Interim Guidance. As a result, while EPA recognizes the information could be useful to other PFAS and PFAS-containing materials, the Interim Guidance only covers these six materials.

The Interim Guidance addresses the three disposal and destruction techniques currently used by industry discussed above: landfill disposal, underground injection disposal (liquid phase only), and thermal treatment for destruction (incineration). None is favored or rejected by EPA. However, as EPA clearly recognizes, the science behind potential migration of PFAS and PFAS-containing chemicals into the environment during any of these three disposal/destruction methods is still in its infancy. Accordingly, the Interim Guidance recognizes that in some cases it may be best to store PFAS and PFAS-containing materials for a period of two to five years while scientific advances in this area are made.

EPA’s inclusion of destruction in commercial incinerators, cement kilns, and lightweight aggregate kilns in the Interim Guidance was not surprising. EPA acknowledged data gaps related to temperatures, residence times, and emission characterization data. EPA had planned an experimental burning in a New Jersey incinerator to learn more about how PFAS reacts to incineration; however, that test was canceled due to vocal objections by environmental groups concerned about potential resulting air pollution. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said protestors misunderstood the testing, thinking PFAS-containing firefighting foam shipped from New York would be burned, when in truth the experiment involved burning CF4, a chemical with similar bonding properties to PFAS chemicals, but that is considered a safe, nontoxic surrogate compound to PFAS.

EPA has pledged to move forward over the next three years with its efforts to further study thermal destruction of PFAS, but individual states are acting in the meantime. New York adopted a state law banning incineration of PFAS-containing aqueous film-forming foam. The PFAS Waste Incineration Ban Act of 2019 (H.R. 2591) was introduced during the 116th Congress but was not adopted into law. The bill would have not only banned the incineration of PFAS-containing firefighting foam, but would also have required EPA to identify and then ban incineration of other wastes containing PFAS. It is unclear whether such legislative actions will be a priority going forward.

The Interim Guidance is just one part of EPA’s larger PFAS Action Plan. The Biden administration is expected to aggressively continue EPA’s current work on the items listed in that Action Plan, including setting maximum contaminant levels for PFAS in drinking water and designating certain PFAS as CERCLA hazardous substances. Congress is also expected to push for PFAS legislation such as the PFAS Action Act, which among other things would designate PFAS as a CERCLA hazardous substance and mandate the promulgation of a national primary drinking water standard.

Public comment on the Interim Guidance is invited and closes on 22 February 2021. Comments must include Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2020-0527 and can be submitted at: Public Comment (preferred method) or by mail or hand delivery.

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About the Authors

Janessa Glenn is counsel at the K&L Gates LLP‘s Austin office where she concentrates her practice on a variety of administrative law issues, environmental regulatory issues, and environmental litigation. Janessa practices both before state agencies, including contested case proceedings, and in state court related judicial review of agency decisions.

Dawn Lamparello concentrates her practice in environmental law, including related regulatory compliance and litigation concerning various federal and state environmental statutes. Dawn counsels clients in connection with CERCLA site studies and remedies, as well as RCRA waste management issues, across the United States.

 Steve Morton is a partner in the firm’s Austin office. He has 34 years of experience obtaining necessary environmental permits, defending government or third-party claims before administrative agencies and courts, and assisting clients on regulatory and statutory developments before administrative agencies and the Texas Legislature.

Cliff Rothenstein is a government affairs advisor in the firm’s public policy and law practice in Washington, D.C. He brings more than 30 years of expertise developing and executing federal environmental and transportation legislation, policies, and regulations.

 

Ammonia-Nitrogen Spill results in $500,000 fine for Quebec Intermunicipal Board

The Régie intermunicipale du centre de valorisation des matières résiduelles du Haut-Saint-François et de Sherbrooke, also known as Valoris, recently pleaded guilty in the Sherbrooke, Quebec courthouse to one count of contravening subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act, which prohibits the discharge of a deleterious substance into waters frequented by fish.

The guilty plea was the result of investigation by officers of Environment and Climate Change Canada. Between March 13, 2014, and October 12, 2016, Valoris released effluent containing ammonia nitrogen, which is lethal to rainbow trout, from its leachate-treatment system at its sanitary landfill site and from its composting platform, into the Bégin stream, a tributary to the Saint-François River.

Valoris was fined $500,000, which will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund.  In addition to the fine, the court ordered Valoris to take action to ensure its water-treatment system is closely monitored.

Environment and Climate Change Canada administers the Environmental Damages Fund, which is a Government of Canada program that was created in 1995. The Fund follows the polluter pays principle and ensures that court-awarded penalties are used for projects that will benefit the environment.

 

University of Saskatchewan Researcher awarded $2.5 million to optimize contaminated site remediation approaches

Over the last five years, University of Saskatchewan soil scientist and Industrial Research Chair (IRC) Steve Siciliano and his team have developed techniques that can reduce hydrocarbons in the soil by more than 90 per cent.  

Now, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) are each providing $1.25 million to renew the five-year term to build on this success and further optimize soil remediation approaches. 

“The overall goal of this innovative research program is to improve how we clean up and manage these impacted sites in a safe and sustainable manner,” said Dr. Siciliano.  

USask soil scientist and Industrial Research Chair (IRC) Steve Siciliano. (Photo: University of Saskatchewan)

“Over the next five years, we will further develop and validate our approach of using naturally occurring biological stimulants and nutrients to further increase hydrocarbon degradation, particularly at sites where traditional approaches have proven ineffective, and reduce hydrocarbons in soil to minimal levels.”  

Canada has more than 30,000 sites contaminated with hydrocarbons or other pollutants. These sites pose significant social and economic costs to cities, towns, and villages.  

NSERC and FCL invested a combined $2 million during the IRC’s five-year first term (2015-2020). Researchers introduced environmentally friendly solutions to impacted soils to stimulate microbial populations that naturally break down petroleum molecules.  

The traditional method of cleanup involves excavating impacted soils and relocating them to a landfill or treatment site. Reducing contamination on site is safer, cheaper and more sustainable as the environment is not disturbed and existing business can continue without disruption. 

The research has proven to be successful and FCL has already applied the findings outside of the initial six locations, said FCL’s Vice-President of Strategy Pam SkotnitskyOur investment demonstrates our responsibility and commitment to the overall health and well-being of our communities. We continue to work together with our academic and industry partners to find innovative solutions that are openly shared and have long-term, widespread benefits.” 

IRCs are funded jointly by NSERC and industry and must be in an area of high priority for both the university and the industrial partner. The funding supports salaries for students and other research personnel, equipment and materials. 

“NSERC is proud to support research endeavours aimed at creating a better future for all Canadians,” said NSERC Vice-President (Research Partnerships) Marc Fortin. This renewed collaboration will support the development of new techniques to remove hydrocarbon pollution from the soil of contaminated sites, resulting in cleaner soils across our country. This research will allow Dr. Siciliano and his team to continue to be leaders in the field of soil remediation, and create positive impacts on our environment.” 

In addition to its share of the matched funding, FCL will provide $1.9 million of inkind support. USask in-kind contributions include $1 million. More than 50 USask undergraduate and graduate students will contribute to the research. 

SOURCE: University of Saskcatchewan