Soil and Groundwater Remediation Technologies: A Practical Guide

This book offers various soil and water treatment technologies due to increasing global soil and water pollution. In many countries, the management of contaminated land has matured, and it is developing in many others. Topics covered include chemical and ecological risk assessment of contaminated sites; phytomanagement of contaminants; arsenic removal; selection and technology diffusion; technologies and socio-environmental management; post-remediation long-term management; soil and groundwater laws and regulations; and trace element regulation limits in soil. Future prospects of soil and groundwater remediation are critically discussed in this book. Hence, readers will learn to understand the future prospects of soil and groundwater contaminants and remediation measures.

Key Features:

  • Discusses conventional and novel aspects of soil and groundwater remediation technologies
  • Includes new monitoring/sensing technologies for soil and groundwater pollution
  • Features a case study of remediation of contaminated sites in the old, industrial, Ruhr area in Germany
  • Highlights soil washing, soil flushing, and stabilization/solidification
  • Presents information on emerging contaminants that exhibit new challenges

This book is designed for undergraduate and graduate courses and can be used as a handbook for researchers, policy makers, and local governmental institutes. Soil and Groundwater Remediation Technologies: A Practical Guide is written by a team of leading global experts in the field.

About the Book’s Authors

Yong Sik Ok, PhD, is a Full Professor at and Global Research Director of Korea University in Seoul, Korea. He currently serves as Director of the Sustainable Waste Management Program for the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU).

Jörg Rinklebe, PhD, is Professor for Soil and Groundwater Management at the University of Wuppertal, Germany. Recently, Professor Rinklebe was elected as Vice President of the International Society of Trace Element Biogeochemistry (ISTEB).

Deyi Hou, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the School of Environment of Tsinghua University.

Daniel C.W. Tsang, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Queensland.

Filip M.G. Tack, PhD, is Professor in Biogeochemistry of Trace Elements at the Department of Green Chemistry and Technology at Ghent University. He is Head of the Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry and Applied Ecochemistry of Ghent University.

Update on the Remediation of Low-Level Radioactive Waste in Port Hope, Ontario

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) recently announced that it has completed the excavation and transfer of historic low-level radioactive waste away from the Lake Ontario shoreline in Southeast Clarington.

The placement of the last truckloads of waste in the aboveground mound at the new long-term waste management facility, located about 700 metres north of the shoreline site, marks a milestone for the Port Granby community and the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI). CNL is implementing the PHAI on behalf of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), a federal Crown corporation.

“The safe and successful completion of this remediation is the culmination of years of hard work and planning carried out by CNL’s Port Hope Area Initiative team, and fulfills a key commitment by the Government of Canada to restore these lands for the local community,” said Joe McBrearty, CNL President and CEO. “This milestone represents continued progress in one of the largest and most complex environmental clean-up missions ever undertaken in Canada.”

Remediation of the legacy waste management site began in 2016 and was undertaken in stages, with each section of the site undergoing a stringent testing process to confirm that all contaminated material had been removed. Verified areas were then backfilled with clean soil and restored by hydroseeding and planting vegetation. As the cleanup neared completion, internal roads and other infrastructure were removed.

Capping and closing of the engineered storage mound at the new facility is underway and expected to be completed in summer 2021, with final landscaping targeted for summer 2022.

Dedicated systems are being installed within the mound and around the perimeter of the new facility to closely monitor the safety and performance of the facility for hundreds of years into the future.

“I want to thank the residents of Port Granby for their support and patience during the decades of community consultation, followed by the remediation and restoration of land in the heart of their rural community,” said Richard Sexton, President and CEO of AECL. “I am very pleased that CNL and its contractors have fulfilled the Government of Canada’s commitment to clean up the lakefront site so generations to come will enjoy the benefits of a cleaner environment.”

ABOUT THE PORT GRANBY PROJECT
The Port Granby Project involves the relocation of approximately 1.3 million tonnes of historic low-level radioactive waste from the legacy storage site on the shoreline of Lake Ontario in Southeast Clarington, to a new, engineered aboveground mound. Ongoing maintenance and monitoring will continue for hundreds of years after the facility is capped and closed. The historic waste resulted from radium and uranium refining operations of the former Crown corporation Eldorado Nuclear and its private sector predecessors, which operated from the 1930s to 1988.

ABOUT THE PHAI
The Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI) represents the federal government’s commitment to respond to the community-recommended solutions for the cleanup and local, long-term, safe management of historic low-level radioactive waste in the municipalities of Port Hope and Clarington. Through its Historic Waste Program Management Office (HWP MO), Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is implementing the PHAI on behalf of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, a federal Crown corporation.

Source: CNL

Chedoke Creek spill update: City of Hamilton receives additional Orders from Ministry of the Environment, Conservation & Parks

The City of Hamilton, Ontario recently received an additional Provincial Officer’s Order from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation & Parks (MECP) as they relate to a spill into Chedoke Creek.

In 2019, the MECP ordered the City to complete an Environmental Risk Assessment of Chedoke Creek and an Ecological Risk Assessment for Cootes Paradise. These studies both found that it was not possible to attribute environmental impacts experienced in these areas exclusively to the spill.

The most recent Order from the Ontario Environment Ministry requests that the City undertake remedial action for Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise. In part, the Order asks that the City develop a plan for targeted dredging in Chedoke Creek and recommends mitigation measures to improve water quality in Cootes Paradise.

The City stated that it is committed to continuing its full cooperation with the MECP’s investigation and staff will be consulting with Council regarding how we can best address the environmental concerns in Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise.

To date, in response to the spill, the City has taken a number of actions toward addressing the impacts of the discharge, including:

  • Undertaking clean-up of the creek, including removing 242,000 litres of “floatable material” from the surface and edge of the creek.
  • Initiating regular monitoring of water quality in impacted areas of Chedoke Creek.
  • Initiating and implementing enhanced inspections of wastewater facilities and equipment.
  • Undertaking expert studies to determine what kind of further remediation is appropriate for Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise.
  • The approval of four new staff members to increase the City’s ability to perform regular, routine physical inspections and preventative maintenance for City water infrastructure, as well as sampling and analyzing water and wastewater quality in Hamilton.

Background Information

In July 2018, the City of Hamilton informed the public that it had discovered that one of its combined sewer overflow tanks was discharging untreated wastewater into Chedoke Creek. The City immediately stopped the discharge and began clean-up activities in the area.

Over the course of a four-and-a-half-year period, the City estimated that approximately 24 billion litres of combined storm water runoff and sanitary sewage was discharged into Chedoke Creek. This represents approximately four per cent of the annual volume of flow to Hamilton’s wastewater treatment plants.

Investigations have determined that the spill was the result of two separate malfunctions at the Main/King combined sewer overflow tank. First, a station bypass gate in the combined sewer overflow tank that should have been in a closed position appears to have been manually opened to approximately five per cent on January 28, 2014. An error in computer programming showed this as normal operation and, as such, this error remained undetected until July 2018. Additionally, a second gate that should have remained in the open position experienced a mechanical failure in January 2018. The sensor on this piece of equipment did not pick up the failure and was reporting normal operation. Despite extensive investigations, the City has not been able to determine why the first bypass gate had been opened in January 2014.

Update on Faro Mine Remediation Project

The Government of Canada recently announced it had reached a significant milestone in the Faro Mine Remediation Project that will help protect the valuable fish habitat of Rose Creek.  Under the North Fork of Rose Creek Realignment Project, clean water has started to flow through a newly constructed channel that will help prevent the contamination of Rose Creek. In collaboration with Yukon partners and First Nations communities affected by the contaminated site, the Government of Canada continues to work to ensure environmental protection work is maintained throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The Faro Mine in south-central Yukon was once the largest open pit lead-zinc mine in the world. Today, it is the site of one of the most complex abandoned mine remediation projects in Canada. While the full remediation plan to clean up the mine is under environmental assessment, certain necessary work like this project have continued at the site as they are critical and essential for protecting human health and safety and the environment.

Realigning this section of the creek has been vital for ensuring that clean water and valuable fish habitat in Rose Creek do not come into contact with the contaminated water from mine wastes. Contaminated water can now be captured for treatment on site while the clean water safely flows into a new channel that reconnects with Rose Creek. Fish overwintering ponds have also been built to compensate for fish habitat lost due to construction.

This project has been important for the environmental protection of the area and to local First Nations: Ross River Dena Council, Liard First Nation and Selkirk First Nation. Yukon-based company Pelly Construction Ltd. was awarded the subcontract for the realignment project and partnered with Ross River Dena Council’s Dena Nezziddi Development Corporation to include training and employment of local Indigenous workers for the project.

The Dena Nezziddi Development Corporation also actively participated in the construction of a new work camp at site. The camp provided temporary housing for approximately 75 workers who came from Ross River and other communities outside of Faro and the Yukon, reducing travel between Northern communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the mine site.

The North Fork of Rose Creek Realignment Project has been an important and necessary part of protecting the environment and in advancing one of the most complex abandoned mine remediation projects in Canada.

QUOTES

“I would like to extend my congratulations to the Faro Mine Remediation Project team, as well as their First Nations and Yukon partners, on the North Fork of Rose Creek Realignment Project. Canada has been working collaboratively with Northern and Indigenous partners, and we are proud to see opportunities for training, employment, and engagement with Yukon First Nations on this long-term project as a whole and on critical work for environmental protection. We know that by working in collaboration with all partners, we will be able to effectively continue to advance the long-term remediation plan while also managing the immediate risks to both the health of northerners and the environment.”

The Honourable Daniel Vandal, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Northern Affairs

“Remediating the Faro Mine Site is our top priority. The completion of the North Fork of Rose Creek realignment marks an important step towards protecting the water. The Ross River Dena Council is pleased with the progress being made at the Faro Mine Site. We want to see the remediation work continue and for this to remain a top priority for Canada and the Yukon.”

Chief Jack Caesar
Ross River Dena Council

“The Government of Yukon is pleased with the advanced progress on the North Fork Rose Creek realignment project. Our skilled Yukon-based workforce is why this project can continue despite limitations due to COVID-19. We are glad that Yukoners and Yukon First Nations will benefit economically from participation in these urgent works. It also proves that Yukoners are well positioned to contribute to remediation activities being implemented at Yukon’s abandoned mines.”

Minister Ranj Pillai
Energy, Mines and Resources, Government of Yukon

“The Faro Mine Remediation Project is key to supporting our communities, strengthening our economy, and protecting the environment. Yukoners and Yukon First Nations continue to be an important part of this remediation and the North Fork of Rose Creek Realignment Project. I am happy to see the remarkable progress made as work continues during this unprecedented time. It is a testament to the dedication of all those involved in the project.”

The Honourable Larry Bagnell, P.C., Member of Parliament for Yukon

Quick Facts

  • Most work packages and subcontracts at the Faro Mine site are structured to maximize opportunities for Indigenous businesses.
  • To ensure the Faro Mine Remediation Project is a success and that all partners work cooperatively, a Transition Agreement situating management of the Faro Mine Remediation Project under the Government of Canada has been signed by both Selkirk First Nation and Ross River Dena Council.
  • Budget 2019 allocated $2.2 billion over 15 years to create the Northern Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program, starting in 2020–21. The program will remediate the largest, most complex contaminated sites in the North.

Source: Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

SNC-Lavalin awarded National Nuclear Cleanup Contract from United States Department of Energy

SNC-Lavalin (TSX: SNC) was recently awarded an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract to provide nationwide deactivation, decommissioning and removal (DD&R) of nuclear facilities, as well as waste management and program support from the United States Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM), through its Atkins Nuclear Secured Holdings Corporation entity. This multiple award contract has a 10-year ordering period, and a maximum ceiling of $3 billion US, split between nine companies. This contract is within SNCL Engineering Services, the cornerstone of our strategy moving forward to greater growth and support for our partners and customers.

“We are pleased to be included in this list of awardees to provide deactivation, decommissioning and removal of nuclear facilities to the US DOE to reduce environmental risks,” said Sandy Taylor, President, Nuclear, SNC-Lavalin. “Waste management and decommissioning is a significant and growing part of SNC-Lavalin’s nuclear business, and this contract solidifies our position in this important market.” SNC-Lavalin previously held a DOE-EM prime contract that preceded this nationwide DD&R contract.

About Atkins Nuclear Secured
Atkins Nuclear Secured Holdings Corporation is a business unit within SNC-Lavalin’s global nuclear sector focused on the US federal market.  SNC-Lavalin acquired WS Atkins plc on July 3, 2017.

About Atkins
Atkins (www.atkinsglobal.com) is a design, engineering and project management consultancies, employing over 18,300 people across the UK, North AmericaMiddle East and AfricaAsia Pacific and Europe.

About SNC-Lavalin
SNC-Lavalin is a fully integrated professional services and project management company with offices around the world. SNC-Lavalin offers services in consulting & advisory, intelligent networks & cybersecurity, design & engineering, procurement, project & construction management, operations & maintenance, decommissioning and sustaining capital.

SOURCE: SNC-Lavalin

Canadian Government Awards Contract for clean-up of KELSET Creek Pond, British Columbia

The Canadian government recently announced that it had awarded a contract to complete the second phase of the ḰEL¸SET (formerly Reay Creek) Remediation Project that will remove sediments with elevated levels of metals from this 200 metre long pond. Last summer, the first phase of creek sediment remediation was completed within the Victoria Airport boundary.

The pond clean-up work will begin this summer and is expected to be complete by fall 2020.  The remediation work will be restricted to a short window of time between the cutthroat trout and coho salmon’s critical spawning timeframe in the ḰEL¸SET (Reay) Creek.

The clean-up work involves diverting the creek around the pond area, excavating contaminated sediment in the pond, transporting the sediment to an approved facility for treatment/disposal, and backfilling the pond. It is estimated that approximately 3,900 cubic meters of sediment will be removed from the pond, which is about seven times more than the volume excavated during last year’s work.

The contract awarded to QM Environmental for $1,144,350 will be closely monitored by Transport Canada to ensure the safety of workers and the community. The work will be conducted in accordance with all federal and provincial guidelines, including those addressing COVID-19. Construction and environmental monitoring will be conducted throughout the project to ensure that clean-up activities comply with Town of Sidney bylaws and do not adversely impact the surrounding environment.

Reay Creek is also known by the Sencoten name ‘Kelset,’ (pronounced “KWAL-sit”). It is a relatively small creek originating both on the east side of the Victoria International Airport and the northeast slope of Mount Newton. It drains into Bazan Bay near Sidney.

A healthy waterway is essential for the well-being of fish who live there. Fish health is threatened when high concentrations of metals that don’t break down remain in the environment, threatening the marine food web.

The ḰEL¸SET (Reay) Creek Remediation Project is funded through Canada’s Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan (FCSAP). FCSAP provides funding to assess and remediate federal contaminated sites and is coordinated by Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

Marc Garneau, the federal Minister of Transport stated, “Completing this phase of the ḰEL¸SET (Reay) Creek remediation project demonstrates our government’s commitment to remediating contaminated sites and protecting the environment. Cleaning-up the pond will reduce threats to the pond ecosystem and the food web, in addition to providing a healthier home for cutthroat trout and coho salmon.”

The initial phase of the remediation project, conducted in 2019, removed and treated 923 tonnes of contaminated sediment from portions of the creek bed located on the Victoria Airport.

Scientists Discover A New Material For Cleaning Up Oil Spills

Researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in Australia recently published the results of a research project that found dog fur and human hair products—recycled from salon wastes and dog groomers—can be just as good as synthetic fabrics at cleaning up crude oil spills on hard land surfaces like highway roads, pavement, and sealed concrete floors. Polypropylene, a plastic, is a widely-used fabric used to clean up oil spills in aquatic environments.

“Dog fur in particular was surprisingly good at oil spill clean-up, and felted mats from human hair and fur were very easy to apply and remove from the spills.” lead author of the study, UTS Environmental Scientist Dr. Megan Murray, said. Dr. Murray investigates environmentally-friendly solutions for contamination and leads The Phyto Lab research group at UTS School of Life Sciences.

“This is a very exciting finding for land managers who respond to spilled oil from trucks, storage tanks, or leaking oil pipelines. All of these land scenarios can be treated effectively with sustainable-origin sorbents,” she said.

The sorbents tested included two commercially-available products, propylene and loose peat moss, as well as sustainable-origin prototypes including felted mats made of dog fur and human hair. Prototype oil-spill sorbent booms filled with dog fur and human hair were also tested. Crude oil was used to replicate an oil spill. The results of the study are published in Environments.

 

Preparing Post-Construction Cleanup Sites for Natural Disasters

The United States Association of State and Territorial Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO) CERCLA Post Construction Focus Group has developed a checklist called, Preparing Post-Construction Cleanup Sites for Natural Disasters, which is intended to help States in identifying efficient and effective measures for preparation in advance of potential natural disasters to aid in the identification of likely concerns following a natural disaster. The information provided on the checklist can be used to identify and respond to changed conditions at sites to support action to ensure protectiveness of human health and the environment.

Purpose of the Checklist

The purpose of this checklist is to provide a planning tool for post-construction sites (sites) in the event of a natural disaster. The checklist was developed for CERCLA post-construction sites; however, it may also be used for similar “non-CERCLA” post-construction sites. The checklist includes site-specific information that should be considered prior to and post natural disaster event to streamline site security, minimize damage to remedy components, and reduce the risk of site-related environmental impacts. The checklist does not replace Health
and Safety Plans (HASP), Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), or other site-specific / programmatic guidance documents. Site managers are encouraged to complete the checklist following review of these guidance documents, and incorporate supporting information, as  appropriate.

Recommendations

Based upon the development of this checklist, the team recommends the following practices that will help States be prepared to react following a natural disaster:
• Pre-event planning: Assess site conditions to compile site specific details to complete the checklist prior to a natural disaster.
• Pre-event information: Identify and collect site plans/data and contact information so the information is readily available should a disaster occur. Periodically review this information to ensure that it is current.
• Post-event information: Use the checklist to identify conditions that require action/repair and track planned actions.

The team also recommends considering the use of a version of this checklist for sites that may be in active cleanup stages.

 

About the ASTSWMO CERCLA CPC FG

The ASTSWMO CERCLA Post Construction Focus Group (CPC FG) is comprised of State and Territorial (State) members from all United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regions. This checklist was prepared by the ASTSWMO CPC FG, under Cooperative Agreement 83870001 with the U.S. EPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation (OSRTI).

The mission of the ASTSWMO CPC FG is to promote facilitation and maintenance of reliable, effective, and protective remedies constructed at contaminated sites, to include identification of the resources necessary following remedy construction, and to communicate State program strategies effectively among interested parties.

Oil Spill Dispersants Market Surpass $23.6 Billion By 2026

According to a recent market report by Acumen Research Consulting, the global Oil Spill Dispersants market size is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate above 3 % over the forecast time frame and reach the market value around USD 23.6 billion by 2026.

The term oil spill is a common term used in the contamination, by accident or human error, of water, land or earth by oil pouring or release. Oil sources are distributed throughout the world, and are drilled both onshore and offshore. Since oil is an essential source of energy, it is very important that oil is distributed and transported consistently. Oil is mainly transported by seaside vessels and land pipelines. Most accidents occur during the shipment of oil, transport and pipeline breakages or during land boiling. Small-scale oil spills take place regularly and can be easily and quickly controlled.

Dispersants contain detergents which help break oil into small droplets that can become diluted in the ocean. They also contain an organic solvent that helps the detergents mix with both the oil and water (Credit: Natalie Renier, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The market is mainly driven by frequent oil spills and the crucial importance of reducing the after effects on the environment of oil spills. These dispersants work in steady weather, since the efficiency of dispersants is reduced by high tides. Such limitations of oil discharges are the main restrictive factors on the global market for oil discharges.

The growth of the market of petroleum discharges depends directly on frequency, duration and volume of the oil discharges. Since the last decade, there has been a decrease of large oil spills every year, but very frequent small-scale oil spills are mainly driving the market for oil spills. Furthermore, a consistent selection of new petroleum resources and new oil plants will further boost the growth of the petroleum spill market. Another driving factor for the global market for oil spills is stringent government rules and penalties for reinforcing the response to oil spill.

Application Stance

The market share of offshore oil dispersant applications for the application segment was more than 70% in 2017. Similarly, it is estimated that the onshore application sector will grow steadily as newly identified onshore oil sources and frequent oil spills occur during transport or drilling of the oil. Onshore petroleum production accounts for 70 percent, which is projected to increase in the coming years. The demand for oil spill dissipators in onshore spill areas will be further increased.

Asia-Pacific Hold the prominent Share in the market

Geographically speaking, Asia Pacific will lead the global market for oil spillers driven by increased oil demand in the region and increased production pressures on petroleum companies to explore further existing offshore and onshore petroleum sources. Such explorations are certainly expected to have some incidents due to failure or human error in technology / equipment. Middle East & Africa is similar to the Asia-Pacific region, and a major part of the world’s oil demand is made of it. Global financial, trade and political pressures in terms of oil production and demand will certainly compel oil companies to take risks as they explore new petroleum sources.

ACME Environmental is Likely to Continue to Lead the Global Oil Spill Dispersants Market

The Oil Spill Dispersants market is consolidated with large number of manufacturers. The company profiling of key players in the market includes major business strategies, company overview and revenues. The key players of the market are ACME Environmental, Inc., Blue Ocean Tackle, Inc, Canadyne Technologies, Canadyne Technologies, Chemtex, Inc., and Desmi A/S, Blue Ocean Tackle, Inc, Inc, Chemtex, Inc., and Desmi A/S.

To Sample or Not: U.S. EPA Issues Interim Guidance on Site Field Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Written by Amy L. Edwards, Bonni F. Kaufman, and Meaghan A. Colligan,  and  Holland & Knight LLP

On April 10, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) and Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) issued Interim Guidance on Site Field Work Decisions Due to Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic to all EPA Regional Administrators. The Interim Guidance outlines the factors that EPA Regional Offices should consider on a case-by-case basis to evaluate if cleanup actions should continue as is, be reduced or paused, as well as affirmative steps that EPA Regions must take depending on what decision they make. The Interim Guidance is applicable to Superfund cleanups, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) corrective actions, Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) PCB cleanups, cleanups under the Oil Pollution Act, the Underground Storage Tank (UST) program and EPA emergency responses to releases or substantial threats of releases (Response Actions) when EPA is the lead agency. The Response Actions may be performed by EPA, states, tribes other agencies of the federal government and potentially responsible parties where EPA is the lead agency.

EPA was clear that Regional Office decisions and follow-up steps must be made in accordance with EPA’s priorities to 1) protect the health, safety and welfare of the public, EPA staff and third-party environmental professionals, and 2) maintain EPA’s ability to respond to environmental emergencies and protect the environment (EPA’s Priorities). EPA indicated that adherence with federal, state, tribal or local health declarations and restrictions (Health Declarations), when possible, is integral to EPA’s Priorities. EPA was clear that no one factor outlined in the Interim Guidance should be considered in a manner that would override protection against unnecessary potential exposure to COVID-19. Furthermore, EPA indicated that Regional Office decisions to provide extensions or pause work obligations will not supersede or amend enforcement instruments.

When evaluating whether or not to continue, modify or pause a Response Action, EPA made clear that Regional Offices should closely consider whether or not the Response Action is addressing an imminent public health issue, such as access to clean drinking water or vapor exposure concerns, emergency spills, catastrophic events, disposals of certain wastes that may cause an imminent safety issue and in-progress decommissioning of former nuclear facilities and landfills. Applying EPA’s clear guidance that EPA’s Priorities must be at the forefront of the Regional Offices’ decisions, Holland & Knight does not believe the Regional Offices will permit any schedule alterations in these situations, so long as appropriate lodging and personal protective equipment is available for EPA workers or third-party contractors. In contrast, EPA may be more willing to approve schedule modifications for investigations that are part of long-term remedial actions that would not be completed in six months under ordinary circumstances, and remedial actions that do not address an immediate public health concern, i.e., the remedial action was already not scheduled to begin for at least one or two years regardless of any delays caused by the pandemic.

EPA indicated that Response Actions will not simply be abandoned without any controls. Rather, if Regional Offices decide that an action should be paused, Regions should continue to monitor the site and plan to resume field work as soon as it is safe to do so. If a Response Action will continue, Regional Offices must review and modify the health and safety plan (HASP) to ensure that it accounts for CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines and other Health Declarations.

EPA expects work that can be performed remotely to continue, such as completing investigation and cleanup reports, work plans, negotiations between parties, issuing decision documents, progress reports and maintaining compliance with financial assurance obligations.

Parties that believe a COVID-19 restriction will impact their obligations to perform any element of a Response Action are directed to consult the applicable enforcement instrument to review force majeure provisions and any provisions that outline the process for requesting schedule adjustments. Scheduling adjustments will be made on a case-by-case basis in line with EPA’s Priorities and the factors outlined in the Interim Guidance.

EPA indicated that it will update the Interim Guidance as the current situation evolves, as necessary.

Key Elements of the Interim Guidance

General Guidance for Response Field Work Decisions

EPA made clear that Regional Offices would continue to respond to releases or threats of substantial releases to the environment but that Regions should make every effort to ensure worker safety and compliance with travel restrictions, Health Declarations and access to personal protective equipment and lodging.

Under the Interim Guidance, Regional Offices are to perform an evaluation before deciding to continue, modify or pause Response Actions and pre-construction, construction and post-construction activities. In jurisdictions where Health Declarations have been issued, Regions are to evaluate the status of ongoing response work and the possible impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sites, surrounding communities, EPA personnel and response/cleanup partners. In jurisdictions where Health Declarations have not been issued, Regions should weigh additional factors, including the safety and availability of work crews and EPA, state and tribal staff; the critical nature of the work; logistical challenges such as travel and lodging, and other factors particular to a site.

EPA indicated that Response Actions will not simply be abandoned without any controls. Rather, if Regional Offices decide that an action should be paused, Regional Offices should continue to monitor the site and plan to resume field work as soon as it is safe to do so. If a Response Action will continue, Regional Offices must review and modify the HASP to ensure that it accounts for CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines and other Health Declarations.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, EPA encourages parties and lead agencies to regularly communicate with EPA project managers about the status of the Response Actions and any anticipated challenges and mitigation measures. If COVID-19 restrictions impact a party’s ability to perform any Response Actions, that party should review the enforcement instrument, i.e., consent order, settlement agreement, etc., for the applicable provisions allowing for schedule adjustments or invocation of force majeure provisions. EPA project managers will promptly issue decisions about schedule adjustments on a case-by-case basis.

Factors to Consider for Site Field Work Decisions

EPA provided a list of situations in which Regions have decided and may continue to decide to modify or suspend Response Actions:

  • State, tribal or local health officials have requested suspensions.
  • Any site workers have tested positive for or exhibited symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Any sites where there may be close interaction with high-risk groups or those under quarantine.
  • Sites where contractor field personnel are not able to work due to a jurisdiction’s travel restriction or Health Declarations.
  • Other sites where social distancing is not possible.

EPA provides a list of factors that regional management should consider with respect to site-specific work decisions, including generally:

  • whether failure to continue the Response Action would likely pose an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health or the environment, such as emergency spill responses, catastrophic events, sites that impact drinking water or result in on-site exposures or vapor intrusion, disposals of certain wastes that may cause an imminent safety issue, and in-progress decommissioning of former nuclear facilities and landfills, and whether it is practical to continue the Response Action
  • whether maintaining Response Actions would lead to a reduction in human health risk/exposure in the next six months, such as vapor intrusion investigations, residential site work with current exposures to residents, and drinking water-related work
  • whether the work would not provide near-term reduction in human health risk, such as periodic monitoring, routine sampling activities and field sampling for remedial or facility investigations. In these instances, EPA is more likely to consider the possibility of a delay, suspension, or rescheduling of work and with updated HASPs as appropriate.

Effects on Non-Field Site Work

EPA expects work that can be performed remotely to continue, such as completing investigation and cleanup reports, work plans, negotiations between parties, issuing decision documents, progress reports and maintaining compliance with financial assurance obligations. EPA did recognize that laboratories and other supporting operations may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and directed parties to follow procedures in those situations outlined in the applicable enforcement instrument.

Next Steps When Pausing Site Work

If a decision is made to pause work, EPA expects Regional Offices to continue to monitor site conditions, plan to resume field work when appropriate and utilize EPA’s internal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) Interim Guidance on Public Engagement During COVID-19.

Conclusion

EPA has made it clear to the Regional Offices that they may approve a modification or pause of certain Response Actions, but not if the Response Action is in the process of addressing or will address an imminent or substantial threat to public health and the environment. EPA does, however, require the Regional Offices to balance any decisions with a close review of Health Declarations and exposure or any potential exposure to COVID-19 to the public, EPA workers, and contractors. Based on recent experience, EPA will not extend deadlines for deliverables such as work plans, reports or settlement negotiations based on COVID-19 that can be prepared remotely.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that the situation surrounding COVID-19 is evolving and that the subject matter discussed in these publications may change on a daily basis. Please contact your responsible Holland & Knight lawyer or the authors of this alert for timely advice.

Information contained in this article is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not designed to be, and should not be used as, the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal problem. Moreover, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and are constantly changing. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult competent legal counsel.


About the Authors

Amy L. Edwards is the co-chair of the Holland & Knight LLP’s National Environmental Team. She is a partner in the firm’s Public Policy & Regulation Group, which has been ranked among the top law and lobbying firms in Washington, D.C., by numerous publications. Ms. Edwards has been recognized as a leading environmental lawyer for several years by Chambers USA, Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers.

Bonni F. Kaufman is a partner in the Public Policy & Regulation Group of Holland & Knight, where she focuses her practice on environmental law. Ms. Kaufman represents clients in a wide variety of matters relating to environmental laws, focusing on regulatory enforcement and compliance, product regulation, litigation and environmental aspects of corporate and real estate transactions.

Meaghan A. Colligan is a Washington, D.C., environmental attorney and member of Holland & Knight’s Public Policy & Regulation Group. She focuses her practice in the areas of environmental, land use, energy and municipal law.