University of Saskatchewan Professor provides insight on oil spill remediation

A December 9th train derailment near the near Guernsey, Saskatchewan resulted in a spill of an estimated 1.5 million litres of crude oil.  According to Canadian Pacific Railway, it will take a number of weeks to clean up the spill.  The  Canadian Transportation Safety Board stated that 33 oil tank cars and one hopper car derailed.  Guernsey is approximately 115 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon.

In an interview with Global News, soil science professor Steven Siciliano noted details about how fast oil was spilling out of tank cars could make a difference.  “If it’s slowly seeping, what happens is you can kind of imagine a sort of pancakes, so then it doesn’t go as deep. Whereas if it’s rapidly spilling, it can actually get deeper into the soil. And the deeper in the soil it gets, the harder and harder it can get to remediate,” said the professor in the interview.  He added the Prairies have glacial till soil, which means it is made up of large clay layers which make it hard for water and air to go through them and making clearing oil very difficult.

Prof. Steve Siciliano, U of  Saskatchewan

Professor Siciliano is the NSERC/FCL Industrial Research Chair in In Situ Remediation and Risk Assessment Director, CREATE Human and Ecological Risk Assessment Program at the University of Saskatchewan.  Current and recent research projects undertaken by Professor Siciliano include modelling and assessing the transfer of pollutants from soil to children, development of new soil toxicity test methods and approaches for Antarctic and the Arctic, and assessment of cardiovascular effects of metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Siciliano added many regions don’t have soil that freezes, which means techniques used in other areas won’t be as successful at the derailment site. He said many technologies have been developed in places like Oklahoma, California and southern Ontario, but the soil in Western Canada is much different from those places.

In a 2017 article in the Conversation, Professor Siciliano provided insight into various methods for managing oil spills including in-situ remediation.  In the article he provides estimates for “dig-and-dump” versus in-situ remediation.  He estimated dig-and-dump costing $150 per cubic yard of soil or more ($300 per cubic yard) in remote areas whereas the pricetag for in situ remediation can be as little as $20 to $80 per cubic yard.

 

 

 

Fukushima: Lessons learned from soil decontamination after nuclear accident

Following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in March 2011, the Japanese authorities carried out major decontamination works in the affected area, which covered more than 9,000 square kilometres ( 3,470 square miles). On Dec. 12, 2019, with most of this work having been completed, researchers provided an overview of the decontamination strategies used and their effectiveness in the Scientific Journal Soil.

Of primary concern after the Fukushima nuclear incident was the release of radioactive cesium in the environment because this radioisotope was emitted in large quantities during the accident,  it has a half-life of 30 years, and it constitutes the highest risk to the local population in the medium and long term.

This analysis in the journal provides new scientific lessons on decontamination strategies and techniques implemented in the municipalities affected by the radioactive fallout from the Fukushima accident. This synthesis indicates that removing the surface layer of the soil to a thickness of 5 cm, the main method used by the Japanese authorities to clean up cultivated land, has reduced cesium concentrations by about 80% in treated areas.

The removal of the uppermost part of the topsoil, which has proved effective in treating cultivated land, has cost the Japanese state about $35 billion (Cdn.).  This technique generates a significant amount of waste, which is difficult to treat, to transport and to store for several decades in the vicinity of the power plant, a step that is necessary before it is shipped to final disposal sites located outside Fukushima district by 2050. By early 2019, Fukushima’s decontamination efforts had generated about 20 million cubic metres of waste.

Decontamination activities have mainly targeted agricultural landscapes and residential areas. The review points out that the forests have not been cleaned up -because of the difficulty and very high costs that these operations would represent – as they cover 75% of the surface area located within the radioactive fallout zone.

 

Supreme Court of Canada finds two forest-product companies must pay for remedial work

Written by Peter Brady and Claire Seaborn, McCarthy Tétrault

On December 6, 2019, the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) found in R v Resolute FP Canada Inc., 2019 SCC 60 (“Resolute”) that two forest-product companies, Resolute and Weyerhaeuser, are on the hook to pay for remedial work at a waste site in Northwestern Ontario.

Resolute and Weyerhaeuser are successors of the companies that abandoned the waste site decades ago. They sought to rely on an indemnity agreement from 1985 between the Government of Ontario and their predecessor companies to argue that they were not responsible for the site’s monitoring and maintenance.

The decision was split 4-3. The majority of judges found that the indemnity agreement did not protect the companies from the province’s remediation order. As a result, Resolute and Weyerhaeuser, and not the provincial government, were found to be responsible for the costs of compliance.

History of industrial activity, contamination and adverse health effects at the site

The history of this case dates back to the 1960s when a pulp and paper mill operated in Dryden, Ontario. The mill bleached paper using a process that involved mercury, which was dumped into the nearby English and Wabigoon rivers. The mercury waste flowed downstream, which resulted in harm to health of some local residents (including members of the Grassy Narrows and Islington First Nations) the closure of a commercial fishery and damage to the region’s tourism industry.[1]

In the mid-1970s, a company called Great Lakes Forest Products was interested in buying the properties where the pulp and paper mill were located from its owner, Reed Ltd. In an effort to ensure the mill remained operational and provided local jobs, the Government of Ontario entered into an indemnity agreement with Great Lakes Forest Products in 1979. Under the indemnity agreement, Great Lakes Forest Products agreed to spend $200 million to expand and upgrade the mill, and the Government of Ontario agreed to cover the costs of past pollution above $15 million.[2]

Meanwhile, the Grassy Narrows and Islington First Nations commenced litigation regarding the mercury contamination in 1977 that ended with a settlement in 1985. When the settlement was reached, the Government of Ontario granted a new 1985 indemnity agreement to Reed Ltd., Great Lakes Forest Products Limited and their successors and assigns for the mercury contamination.[3]

Ontario Ministry of the Environment issues a remediation order in 2011

Twenty-six years later, on August 25, 2011, Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment issued a remediation order for environmental monitoring and maintenance at the waste site where the mill had operated in Dryden, Ontario (“Remediation Order”).[4]

The Remediation Order was issued as a “Director’s Order” under what is now s. 18 of Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act, and imposed three main obligations:

  1. to repair certain site erosion, perform specific groundwater and surface water testing, and file annual reports containing specified information;
  2. deliver to the Ministry of the Environment the sum of $273,063 as financial assurance in respect of the waste disposal site; and
  3. to “take all reasonable measures to ensure that any discharge of a contaminant to the natural environment is prevented and any adverse effect that may result from such a discharge is dealt with according to all legal requirements.”[5]

The property’s ownership had changed several times in that period. The Remediation Order was issued to two former owners of the property: Bowater (which later became Resolute) and Weyerhaeuser.

Weyerhaeuser and Resolute successful in courts below

In May 2013, Weyerhaeuser sought a declaration from the Superior Court of Justice that the 1985 indemnity agreement required the Government of Ontario to compensate for all of the costs of complying with the Remediation Order.[6] Resolute intervened. Ontario submitted that it was not responsible for compliance costs.

All three parties moved for summary judgment. The motions judge held that the 1985 indemnity agreement applied to the Remediation Order and granted summary judgement in favour of Weyerhaeuser and Resolute.[7] Ontario appealed.

The Ontario Court of Appeal agreed that the 1985 indemnity agreement applied to the Remediation Order; however, it applied that decision only to Weyerhaeuser and found that Resolute had assigned its benefit under the agreement.[8]

SCC decision: the 1985 indemnity agreement does not cover the Remediation Order

By a narrow margin of 4-3, SCC overturned the courts below and found that the 1985 indemnity agreement did not apply to Remediation Order, thereby leaving Resolute and Weyerhaeuser on the hook to pay for remediation costs.

The majority’s key findings include:

  • The 1985 agreement only provided an indemnity for claims brought by “third parties.” The provincial government was a party to the 1985 agreement, and therefore cannot be considered a third party.
  • The 1985 agreement was intended to cover only “pollution claims” (a term defined in the agreement). The Remediation Order is not a “pollution claim” since it requires monitoring and maintenance to prevent more pollution, and is not intended to stop ongoing pollution.[9]
  • The 1985 agreement must be considered in the context of prior indemnities and the settlement with Grassy Narrows and Islington First Nations. This context indicates that the 1985 indemnity agreement should apply more narrowly and was not intended to provide protection against the costs of regulatory compliance.[10]

While the “polluter-pays principle” is not referenced explicitly in the decision, the SCC has interpreted the 1985 indemnity agreement in such a way as to hold successor companies liable for past environmental contamination, as opposed to requiring the provincial government to foot the bill.

Parallels to the recent decisions in Orphan Wells and HBBC

The Resolute decision comes less than a year after the SCC released its decision in Orphan Well Association v Grant Thornton Limited, 2019 SCC 5 (“Orphan Wells”), another case in which a successor entity was liable for historic environmental cleanup costs.

In Orphan Wells, the SCC held a bankrupt energy company’s estate liable for abandonment and reclamation obligations for certain old oil and gas wells. These environmental responsibilities were found to take priority over obligations to pay back creditors in the case of insolvency or bankruptcy. Like in Resolute, the SCC in Orphan Wells overturned the appellate court below and reached a decision ensuring that taxpayers were not left paying for environmental remediation.

Please refer to the article, “Redwater – SCC Delivers the Final Word”, for an in-depth summary and analysis of the Orphan Wells decision.

The issue of ongoing regulatory liability for contamination for “non polluters” and/or successor companies was also front and center in the Hamilton Beach Brands Canada, Inc.  v Ontario (Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change), 2018 ONSC 5010 (“HBBC”).

In HBBC the Ontario Ministry of Environment issued an Order to three parties to take steps to delineate and monitor (with the potential for future remediation) ground water contamination that had migrated from an industrial property to surrounding commercial, residential and municipal lands. The contamination had occurred decades early through actions of a prior lessee of the property. The Orderees were a corporate successor of a prior owner of the property, the current owner and the current Lessee of the property.

The Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal (“ERT”) dismissed the appeal of the Order, rejecting the argument that the Order under s. 18 of the Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act could not apply to off site contamination that was not caused by the Orderees.[11] The Ontario Divisional Court, on Review, upheld the ERT decision holding that there is no geographical constraint limiting orders to the source property of the contamination.[12] Leave to appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal was sought and refused.[13]

What comes next

The Resolute decision has not quite ended the series of legal disputes that have plagued this Dryden, Ontario site for decades, but has provided clarity on how the 1985 indemnity agreement ought to be interpreted.

In a statement, Resolute indicated that it would continue its monitoring of the site and posting of financial assurance while an appeal of the Remediation Order proceeds to the ERT.

We can help

Our team at McCarthy Tétrault has experience navigating the legal and regulatory uncertainties that arise in environmental matters. If you would like more information on these developments and their potential impact on your business, we can help. Please contact Peter Brady or Claire Seaborn with any questions or for assistance.

[1] R v Resolute FP Canada Inc., 2019 SCC 60 at para 4.

[2] R v Resolute FP Canada Inc., 2019 SCC 60 at para 9.

[3] R v Resolute FP Canada Inc., 2019 SCC 60 at para 13.

[4] R v Resolute FP Canada Inc., 2019 SCC 60 at para 20.

[5] R v Resolute FP Canada Inc., 2019 SCC 60 at para 20.

[6] R v Resolute FP Canada Inc., 2019 SCC 60 at para 22.

[7] Weyerhaeuser Company Limited v Ontario (Attorney General), 2016 ONSC 4652.

[8] Weyerhaeuser Company Limited v. Ontario (Attorney General), 2017 ONCA 1007. Note that in dissent, Justice Laskin had found that the 1985 indemnity agreement only applied to claims brought by third parties, and not regulatory claims by governments.

[9] R v Resolute FP Canada Inc., 2019 SCC 60 at para 14-28.

[10] R v Resolute FP Canada Inc., 2019 SCC 60 at para 30.

[11] Hamilton Beach Brands Canada Inc. v. Ontario (Environment and Climate Change), ERT Case No. 17-025.

[12] Hamilton Beach Brands Canada, Inc. v Ontario (Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change), 2018 ONSC 5010.

[13] The Ontario Court of Appeal refused leave on December 12, 2018: http://www.ontariocourts.ca/coa/en/leave/2018.htm#refused.

This article has been republished with the permission of the authors.  It was first published on the McCarthy Tétrault ‘s website.


About the Authors

Peter Brady  is a partner in McCarthy Tétrault ‘s Litigation and Mining Groups and co-head of the firm’s National Environmental, Regulatory & Aboriginal Group. He regularly advises and represents clients in all legal aspects of regulatory litigation, with particular emphasis in the areas of environmental law, occupational health & safety law, mining law, and extractive industry projects. Peter also has significant experience in anti-corruption compliance, investigations, and due diligence for transactions involving Canada, Indonesia, China, the USA, and Africa.

Claire Seaborn’s litigation practice focuses on commercial disputes, public law and regulatory matters. She draws from her experience in the public and private sectors in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. Claire’s involvement in high-profile and high-stakes files has sharpened her ability to advocate for her clients and provide sound legal advice.

Hazardous Waste & Environmental Response Conference – November 25th & 26th

The Hazardous Waste & Environmental Response Conference is scheduled for November 25th & 26th at the Mississauga Convention Centre in Mississauga, Ontario.  The event is co-hosted by the Ontario Waste Management Association and Hazmat Management Magazine.

This 2-day conference provides an essential and timely forum to discuss the management of hazardous waste and special materials, soils and site remediation, hazmat transportation, spill response and cutting-edge technologies and practices. Valuable information will be provided by leading industry, legal, financial and government speakers to individuals and organizations that are engaged in the wide range of services and activities involving hazardous and special materials.

Attendees can expect an informative and inspiring learning and networking experience throughout this unique 2-day event. Session themes provide an essential and timely forum to discuss the management of hazardous waste and special materials, soils and site remediation, hazmat transportation, spill response and cutting-edge technologies and practices.

As the only event of its kind in Canada, delegates will receive valuable information from leading industry, legal, financial and government speakers who are actively engaged in a wide range of services and activities involving hazardous waste and special materials.

Company owners, business managers, plant managers, environmental professionals, consultants, lawyers, government officials and municipalities – all will benefit from the opportunity to learn, share experiences and network with peers.

CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 25 – GENERAL SESSIONS

8:00 am – Registration

8:45 am – Opening and Welcome Address

9:00 am – 9:40 am

OPENING KEYNOTE – Lessons Learned from Hazmat Incidents

Jean Claude Morin, Directeur General, GFL Environmental Inc.

Dave Hill, National Director Emergency Response, GFL Environmental Inc.

Jean Claude and Dave will discuss lessons learned from hazmat incidents in Canada, including, train derailments, truck turn-overs, and hazardous materials storage depot explosions. This presentation will also provide an overview of some of the more serious incidents in Canada and discuss the valuable lessons learned regarding best practices in hazmat response.

9:40 am – 10:10 am

Legal Reporting Requirements

Paul Manning, LL.B., LL.M, Certified Specialist in Environmental Law and Principal, Manning Environmental Law

Paul will provide an overview of the Canadian federal and Ontario legislation as it relates to the reporting requirements in the event of a hazmat incident and/or spill. Included in the discussion will be an examination of the case law related to hazmat incidents and failure to report.

10:10 am – 10:45 am – Refreshment Break             

10:45 am – 11:15 am

Hazmat and Spill Response Actions and the Utilization of Countermeasures

Kyle Gravelle, National Technical Advisor, QM Environmental

Kyle will be speaking on hazmat and spill response actions and countermeasures to prevent contamination. Included in the presentation will be real-world examples of incidents in Canada and advice on preparations and hazmat management.

11:15 am – 12:00 pm

PANEL DISCUSSION: Utilization of New Technologies for HazMat Emergency Response

Moderator:  Rob Cook, CEO, OWMA

James Castle, CEO & Founder, Terranova Aerospace

Bob Goodfellow, Manager, Strategic Accounts & Emergency Response, Drain-All Ltd.

Ross Barrett, Business Development/Project Manager, Tomlinson Environmental Services Ltd.

The hazmat and environmental response sector is quickly evolving. During this discussion, panelists will share their experiences on new technologies and methodologies for the management of hazmat and environmental incidents and provide advice on what companies should do to be better prepared for hazmat incidents.

12:00 pm – 1:30 pm – Luncheon Speaker

From Hacking to Hurricanes and Beyond – The New Era of Crisis Communications

Suzanne bernier, CEM, CBCP, MBCI, CMCP, President, SB Crisis Consulting, Founder & Author of Disaster Heroes

During any crisis, communicating effectively to all key stakeholders is key. This session, delivered by a former journalist and now award-winning global crisis communications consultant, will look at the evolution of crisis management and crisis communications over the past 15 years. Specific case studies and lessons learned from events like the recent terror and mass attacks across North America, as well the 2017 hurricane season will be shared, including Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico communications challenges and successes. The session will also review traditional tips and tools required to ensure your organization can communicate effectively during any crisis, while avoiding any reputational damage or additional fall-out that could arise.

1:35 pm – 2:15 pm

Fire Risk in Hazmat and Hazardous Waste Facilities – The Impact and Organizational Costs 

Ryan Fogelman, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Fire Rover

Fire safety is an important responsibility for everyone in the hazardous materials & waste sector. The consequences of poor fire safety practices and not understanding the risk are especially serious in properties where processes or quantities of stored hazmat and waste materials would pose a serious ignition hazard.

In an effort to prevent fires and minimize the damage from fires when they occur, owners, managers and operators of hazmat and related facilities will learn about fire safety and how to develop plans to reduce the risk of fire hazards.

Learn about:

  • Data and statistics on waste facility fire incidents
  • Materials and processes that create a fire risk
  • Planning and procedures to reduce fire risk
  • Tools and practices to detect, supress and mitigate fire damage.

2:15 pm – 2:45 pm

Implementation of Land Disposal Restrictions (LDR) in Ontario – Treatment Requirements & Associated Costs

Erica Carabott, Senior Environmental Compliance Manager, Clean Harbours Inc.

The field of hazardous waste management in Ontario is complex and places an onus on all parties involved, including, generators, carriers, transfer and disposal facility operators. Initiatives such as pre-notification, mixing restrictions, land disposal restrictions, recycling restrictions and the requirements of the Hazardous Waste Information Network (HWIN) all add to the cumbersome task. The Landfill Disposal Restrictions (LDR) place responsibilities on generators and service providers alike. This presentation aims to navigate the implementation of LDR in Ontario, with specific emphasis on the Clean Harbors Sarnia facility to accommodate LDR treatment and the significant costs associated with it.

2:45 pm – 3:15 pm – Refreshment Break

3:15 pm – 4:00 pm

New Requirements on the Shipment of Hazardous Goods – Provincial, Federal and International   

Eva Clipsham, A/Safety Policy Advisor for Transport Canada

Steven Carrasco, Director, Program Management Branch, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MOECP)

Current federal and provincial frameworks for regulating the movement of hazardous waste and materials are currently undergoing change. Manifesting systems are being upgraded and refocused as electronic systems that will provide efficiencies to both generators and transporters. Learn about the current federal and provincial systems and the changes that are anticipated to be implemented in the near future.

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm – All attendees are invited to attend the Tradeshow Reception!

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 26

8:30 am – Registration

8:45 am – Opening & Welcome Address

9:00 am – 9:45 am

Management of contaminated sites & increasing complexity and cost

Carl Spensieri, M.Sc., P.Eng., Vice President Environment, Berkley Canada (a Berkley Company)

This presentation will explore the various elements contributing to the increasing complexity and cost of managing contaminated sites. Carl will examine emerging risks and speak to potential strategies we can use to mitigate them. This presentation will also highlight opportunities for conference participants to offer new services that help owners of contaminated sites best respond to existing and emerging challenges.

9:45 am – 10:10 am – Refreshment Break

TRACK 1: HAZARDOUS WASTE GENERATION, TRANSPORTATION, TREATMENT AND DISPOSAL

10:15 am – 10:55 am

A National Perspective on the Hazardous Waste

Michael Parker, Vice President, Environmental Compliance, Clean Harbours Inc.

Hear about the challenges and opportunities facing the hazardous waste, hazmat and emergency response sector from an industry leader with a national view. The industry is evolving and the business fundamentals are ever changing. Government administrative and technical burdens are increasing and the volume of hazardous waste is declining – what will the future hold?

11:00 am – 11:40 am

PANEL DISCUSSION: Hazardous Waste & Special Materials – Transportation & Transit Challenges

Jim Halloran, Regional Manager, Heritage – Crystal Clean Inc.

Doug DeCoppel, EH&S Manager, International Permitting and Regulatory Affairs, GFL Environmental Inc.

Frank Wagner, Vice President Compliance, Safety-Kleen Canada Inc.

This panel will discuss key transportation issues and compliance challenges faced by hazardous waste generators and service providers, including significant changes to the documentation, labelling, packaging, emergency planning, and reporting requirements for hazardous waste and special materials shipments resulting from updated regulations and proposed initiatives. The panel will also review key considerations when selecting service providers to manage hazardous waste and special materials.

Topics included in this discussion: E-manifests (provincial and federal – lack of e-data transfer capabilities), HWIN fees (300% increase in fees but no increase in service), Transboundary Permits (lack of e-data transfer capabilities), container integrity and generator awareness.

11:45 am – 12:25 pm

Factors Influencing Treatment and Disposal Options for Hazardous Waste in Ontario

Ed Vago, Director of Operations, Covanta Environmental Solutions

Dan Boehm, Director of Business Development, Veolia ES Canada Industrial Services Inc.

Learn about the many recycling, treatment and disposal options for hazardous waste and hazardous materials in Ontario. Hear about the regulatory and operational factors to consider when deciding on the best management approach.

TRACK 2: SITE REMEDIATION

10:15 am – 10:55 am

Soils – Dig and Dump vs. On-Site Remediation: Factors to Consider & Case Studies

Devin Rosnak, Senior Client Manager & Technical Sales Manager, Ground Force Environmental

D. Grant Walsom, Partner, XCG Consulting Limited, Environmental Engineers & Scientists

Mark Tigchelaar, P. Eng., President and Founder of GeoSolv Inc.

Developers of brownfield site are faced with decisions around how to manage excavated soils. Impacted soils and soils with hazardous characteristics as tested at the site of generation can be managed through on-site remediation, or can be removed from the site to a variety of remediation and/or disposal options. Learn about the key options and factors that contribute to determining the optimum approach to managing soils.

11:00 am – 11:40 am

The Legal Framework for the Management of Contaminated Sites and Materials      

John Tidball, Partner, Specialist in Environmental Law, Miller Thomson LLP

The management of contaminated sites and related materials, including soils, are constrained by both regulatory and legal framework. Hear from a legal expert with unparalleled experience about the regulatory and legal issues that all developers/excavators transporters and service providers should be aware of as the legal liabilities in this area can be significant.

11:45 am – 12:25 pm

Anaerobic Bioremediation & Bioaugmentation – from the Lab to the Field

Dr. Elizabeth Edwards (Professor), Dr.Luz Puentes Jacome, Dr. Olivia Molenda, Dr. Courtney Toth, Dr. Ivy Yang (all Post doctoral fellows in the lab), Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto

Together with her Post-Doctoral team, Dr. Edwards will present an overview of anaerobic bioremediation and bioaugmentation with some examples from their research and its application to the field.

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm

CLOSING KEYNOTE & LUNCHEON SPEAKER

Andrea Khanjin, MPP Barrie-Innisfil, Parliamentary Assistant, Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MOECP)


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U.S. EPA Green Remediation Best Management Practices

Excavation and Site Remediation

Excavation of soil, sediment or waste material is often undertaken at contaminated sites to address immediate risk to human health or the environment; prepare for implementation of remediation technologies and construction of supporting infrastructure; and address contaminant hot spots in soil or sediment.

The excavation and subsequent backfilling processes rely on use of heavy earth-moving machinery and often involve managing large volumes of material. Many opportunities exist to reduce the environmental footprint of the various cleanup activities and improve ultimate restoration of the disturbed land, surface water and ecosystems.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Fact Sheet outlines specific best management practices (BMPs) that can be used to minimize the environmental footprint concerning emission of air pollutants and use of water, energy, and other resources at excavation sites. The refined set of BMPs is based on recent experiences reported by regulators, property owners, cleanup service contractors and other stakeholders in the cleanup community.

Sites with Leaking Underground Storage Tank Systems

The U.S. EPA estimates that approximately 65,450 releases of petroleum or hazardous substances from federally regulated underground storage tanks (USTs) had not yet reached the “cleanup completed” milestone as of September 2018.  The Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO) estimates that in 2017, alone, state cleanup funds collectively spent approximately $1.113 billion in cleaning up UST releases.

Use of green remediation best management practices (BMPs) can help minimize the environmental footprint of cleanup activities at UST-contaminated sites and improve overall outcomes of the corrective actions. In accordance with the EPA Principles for Greener Cleanups, BMPs outlined in the updated “Green Remediation Best Management Practices: Sites with Leaking Underground Storage Tanks” fact sheet are intended to complement federal requirements for corrective actions at UST-contaminated sites and may enhance state-administered UST program requirements.

Nova Scotia’s Auditor General Concerned about Mine Contamination

In a recent report issued by Nova Scotia’s Auditor says more work needs to be done to address contaminated mine sites throughout the province.

“I drew attention to this accounting because the cost to clean up the province’s contaminated sites could significantly change in the future as the province collects more information on these sites,” Michael Pickup, Nova Scotia’s Auditor General said.

This was the first year the report drew attention to accounting for contaminated sites. The report showed that contaminated site liabilities increased to $372 million in 2019 compared to $107 million five years ago.

According to Pickup’s report, the Department of Lands and Forestry’s investigations of contamination at abandoned mine sites is lacking, leaving a risk of unknown financial, ecological and human health concerns. The report also found an additional 63 mine sites with no liability for remediation because the contamination extent is unknown.

Historical Gold Mining Area Map for Nova Scotia

“Those sorts of legacy sites, unfortunately, date from a period in which there really wasn’t environmental science and people just didn’t have a good understanding of our impact on the environment,” says Sean Kirby, the Executive Director of the Mining Association of Nova Scotia.

Greener Cleanup Metrics

The United States Environmental Protect Agency (U.S. EPA) “Principles for Greener Cleanups” provide a foundation for planning and implementing cleanups that protect human health and the environment while minimizing the environmental footprint of cleanup activities.

The U.S. EPA has developed 14 greener cleanup metrics that may be used to quantify specific portions of the footprint, such as the amounts of refined materials, public water or diesel fuel that are used or the amount of wastewater and hazardous waste that is generated.

 

Category Metric Unit of Measure
Materials
Refined materials used or conserved tons
Unrefined materials used or conserved tons
Waste Hazardous waste generated or avoided tons
Non-hazardous waste generated or avoided tons
Water Public water used or conserved million gallons
Groundwater used or conserved million gallons
Wastewater generated or avoided million gallons
Other water used or conserved million gallons
Energy Grid electricity used or conserved megawatt hours
Diesel used or conserved for equipment gallons
Diesel used or conserved for transportation gallons
Gasoline used or conserved for equipment gallons
Gasoline used or conserved for transportation gallons
Other energy used or conserved (variable)

The metrics provide an optional means for regulators, private industry and other cleanup partners to collect and track site-specific footprint information across multiple sites in a uniform and transparent manner. On a site-specific level, use of the metrics can help decision makers prioritize and select best management practices (BMPs) that could be implemented to minimize the footprint. The metrics may be applied to any type of site cleanup, including ones conducted through Superfund, RCRA or brownfield regulatory programs or voluntary initiatives.

Due to wide variations in cleanup project scopes and regional or local priorities, environmental footprints associated with other core elements of a greener cleanup may be quantified through additional metrics chosen by project stakeholders. Parties interested in quantifying a cleanup project’s environmental footprint at a more detailed level may use EPA’s Spreadsheets for Environmental Footprint Analysis (SEFA).

Questions about the Greener Cleanup Metrics may be forwarded to: Carlos Pachon, EPA/Office of Land and Emergency Management, or Hilary Thornton, EPA/Region 4.

 

Nova Scotia announces plan to remediate two abandoned gold mines

The Nova Scotia provincial government recently announced it plans on spending $47.9 million (Cdn.) to clean up two former gold mines in the province.  The two mines – Goldenville, near Sherbrooke on the Eastern Shore, and Montague Gold Mines, in Dartmouth – are deemed to be the most contaminated of dozens of abandoned sites in Nova Scotia.

Analysis

The two sites were mined extensively from the 1860s to the early 1940s. Back then, environmental regulations were non-existent, or, at best, inadequate.  Miners used liquid mercury to extract gold from crushed rock, and the mine tailings were disposed in nearby waterways.  Arsenic, which occurs naturally in rock, was also released as part of the mining process.

Analysis of samples from the two abandoned mines site reveal that levels up to 200,000 mg/kg at the Goldenville mine and 41,000 mg/kg at the Montague mine.  The Nova Scotia Environment Department’s human health soil quality guideline is 31 mg/kg.

Remediation Plan

With respect to inorganic mercury, samples from the two mine sites were found to be at levels reaching 48 mg/kg at Goldenville and 8.4 mg/kg at Montague.  The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s human health and ecological soil quality guidelines for inorganic mercury is 6.6mg/kg.

The remediation plans involve excavating the tailings with the greatest contamination to a depth of two metres and placing them in a lined containment cell.  The cells will than be capped so water cannot enter them and clean backfill will be added on top.

At Montague, two containment cells will each be 95 metres by 95 metres and five metres high, made with a berm, an impermeable liner, a leachate collection system and an impermeable cover system. At Goldenville, the same structures will be built, but one will be 180 metres by 180 metres and the other will by 135 metres by 135 metres.

The two sites will also require a water treatment system as well as a wall to prevent contaminated water from leaving the excavation zone.

In other areas with lower levels of contamination, a protective, low-permeability cover will be placed on top of the tailings to prevent precipitation from getting into the contaminated soils. That barrier will then be covered with soil and vegetation.

TPH Risk Evaluation at Petroleum Contaminated Sites

Written by Abimbola Baejo, Staff Reporter

This report is from a webinar
conducted by the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) Total
Petroleum Hydrocarbon Risk Evaluation Team and the US EPA Clean up Information
Network on the 19 of June 2019. https://tphrisk-1.itrcweb.org/

The webinar was made to facilitate
better-informed decisions made by regulators, project managers, consultants,
industries and stakeholders, on evaluating the risk of TPHs at petroleum contaminated
sites.

What is TPH?

In environmental media, crude oil and individual refinery products are typically characterized as TPH. They are made up of hydrocarbons along with other elements such as nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur, inorganics and metals. The refining process generates various commercial products such as kerosene, diesel, gasoline; with over 2,000 petroleum products identified. These products are made up of various number of carbon atoms which may be in straight or branched chain forms.

TPHs can be found in familiar sites such refineries, air- and seaports, offshore sheens, terminals, service stations and oil storage areas. Hydrocarbons can be broadly classified into aliphatic (e.g. alkanes and alkenes) and aromatic (e.g. benzene and naphthalene) hydrocarbons.

For TPH assessment at contaminated sites, relevant properties to consider are water-solubility, polarity, boiling point and evaporation ranges. Aliphatic hydrocarbons are non-water soluble, non-polar, have lower boiling points and are more prone to evaporation compared to the aromatic hydrocarbons. At a typical petroleum contaminated site, substances such as fuel additives (such as oxygenates), naturally occurring hydrocarbon components, metabolites from degraded substances and individual petroleum constituents (such as BTEX).

TPHs are made up of various constituents with similar or different carbon atoms. This means that there is the challenge of analytically separating TPH constituents in a risk assessment context since hydrocarbon constituents from a specific range of carbon atoms could be a challenge, especially if they are diesel, jet fuel or petroleum. With this knowledge, one can conclude that bulk TPH analysis, though a good screening method, is not a suitable method for TPH risk evaluation. A good way of summarizing this is in shown below.

Chromatograms of samples from the same analysis. Sample 1, 2 and 3 are Gasoline, Diesel fuel and South Louisiana Crude respectively. The analysis method used was EPA method 8015. (Image courtesy of ITRC, 2019)

The same concentration of TPHs in
different areas of a site might be composed of different products; which in
turn, may present different risks to the ecological environment. Therefore, we
can safely say that TPH is:

  • a
    complex mixture with an approximate quantitative value representing the amount
    of petroleum mixture in the sample matrix
  • is
    defined by the analytical measure used to measure it, which varies from  one laboratory to another.
  • is
    either made up of anthropogenic products freshly released into the environment
    (or weathered) or natural products from ecological activities
  • not
    totally of petroleum origin and may simply be detected by the analytical method
    used.

This definition then enhances the
challenges faced with TPH risk assessing such as dealing with continual changes
in TPH composition due to weathering brought on by site-specific conditions,
trying to analyze for hundreds of individual constituents in the mixture and
having limited data on the toxicological effects of the various constituents.

To overcome the challenge of drawing erroneous conclusions about a contaminated site therefore, the project manager should not focus only on TPH individual constituents when making remedial decisions, which mostly degrade before the toxic fractions do, but should collect samples for both fractions and individual constituents. A detailed Conceptual Site Model (CSM) is suggested as a good guide in assessing TPH risks as it shows where the the remediation focus should be, away from human exposure routes; and periodic revision of this CSM will assist in documenting contaminant plume changes and identifying areas with residual contamination.

TPH ANALYSES

Due to the complexity of TPH mixtures,
analytical methods should be selected based on the data quality objective,
application of the results (whether to delineate a contaminated area or to
conduct a risk assessment), the regulatory requirements, the petroleum type and
the media/matrix being tested. As long as the method is fit for its purpose and
cost effective. TPH mixtures require separation and most laboratories use GC as
a preferred method as it separates I the gas phase based on its volatility.
Since it is difficult to evaluate risk for a TPH mixture, most methods suggest
separation into fractions. Guidelines are usually provided on what methods suit
a purpose best by governmental records but if such records are inaccessible,
getting information from seasoned chemists is the best option. 

Prior to TPH mixture separation,
removing method interferences, such as non-petroleum hydrocarbons, is ideal for
more accurate results. US EPA method 3630C describes the use of silica gel to
remove polar, non-PH and naturally occurring compounds from the analysis. This
gel cleanup leaves only the hydrocarbons in the sample which is the analyzed
for bulk TPH. The silica gel used is a finer version  of the common ones found in clothing
accessories and using it in a gel column setup is most effective at removing
non-hydrocarbons. Quality controls using laboratory surrogates is also advised.
Cleaning up prior to bulk TPH analysis is ideal in determining the extent of
hydrocarbon impact, biodegradation locations and knowing where to focus
remediation activities.

Silica gel can also be used to fractionate samples into aliphatic and aromatic fractions; and the technique can be applied to all matrices. However, alternative fractionation method is suggested for volatile samples. The eluted fractions are then run on the GC instrument  to obtain information on the equivalent carbon ranges. It is good to note that fractionation is more expensive compared to bulk TPH analyses as it provides a more detailed information, removes non-hydrocarbons from the analyses and raises reporting limits.

Chromatograms provide information such as sample components, presence of non-hydrocarbons, presence of solvents, presence of non-dissolved hydrocarbons, poor integration and weathering. They can also be used to compare samples with interferents as shown below:

Chromatograms from the same sample collected at different times showing an unweathered sample (above with red asterisk) and weathered samples (below). (Image courtesy of ITRC, 2019)

Chromatograms from the same TPHd contaminated groundwater sample comparing analysis before silica gel cleanup (left image, TPHd=2.3mg/l)) and after silica gel cleanup (right image, TPHd = <0.05 mg/l). The hump centered around the C19 internal standards and the non-uniform peaks indicate the presence of non-hydrocarbons, as confirmed after silica gel cleanup. (Image courtesy of ITRC, 2019)

Methods used to analyze TPH in
contaminated samples can yield different results when compared with one another,
as well as the presence of non-petroleum hydrocarbons being quantified as TPHs.  To overcome this, use field methods such as
observed plume delineation during excavation, PID analysis of bag headspaces
and oil-in-soil analysis for semi-volatiles, as well as the CSM to get valuable
information, before using laboratory methods and chromatograms to confirm
conclusions made from the field observations.

ENVIRONMENTAL FATE OF TPH

Determining the environmental fate of
TPH is critical to understand how the vapor composition and dissolved plumes
differ from the source zone  due to partitioning
and transformation processes. TPHs partition to vapor as well as water. When
partitioning to vapor, the smaller hydrocarbons are more volatile and therefore
dominate the vapor composition. A more complex process is involved when TPH is
partitioning to water because the smaller hydrocarbons are more soluble, based
on their molecular structure. Aliphatic hydrocarbons are less soluble compared
to the aromatics which are likely to dominate the soil water fractions. TPH
weathering on the other hand, contributes exceedingly to TPH mass reduction in
the environment may be due to aerobic or anaerobic biodegradation processes in
the soil or photooxidation processes; to generate petroleum metabolites which
may be further degraded. Petroleum metabolites produced have oxygen atoms in
their molecules, making them polar in nature and partition preferentially in
water. These metabolites are measured primarily via TPH analysis without silica
gel cleanup, and are identified using chromatogram patterns, understanding the
solubility of the parent compound and using CSMs maps. most TPH components
found in groundwater are metabolites and their toxicity characteristics are
usually different from their parent compounds.

The use of TPH fraction approach with
fractionation methods is considered best for assessing TPH risks because it
provides accurate hydrocarbon quantitation along with the toxicity values as
well as the chemical or physical parameters involved. To determine the
fractionation composition in a TPH, the fuel composition and the weathering
conditions are determined.

For example, Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (NAPL) undergoing weathering process overtime will first have the mobile hydrocarbons partition out while at the same time, further NAPL depletion will occur with the generation of metabolites  by continual biodegradation. There is the migration of vapor plumes to thin zones around the NAPL as well as heavily impacted media due to aerobic degradation in the unsaturated zone. Contaminated ground water could be made up of mostly small aromatic hydrocarbon fractions, some small aliphatic hydrocarbon fractions as well as medium aromatic hydrocarbon fractions.

Along a groundwater flow path, a differential fate affects the TPH composition which in turn affects the exposure.

Fate of TPH composition in Groundwater. (Image courtesy of ITRC, 2019)

TPH
 composition changes along the path of
flow  could be due to:

  • – differential transport and sorption of individual hydrocarbons,
  • – different susceptibilities of hydrocarbons to biodegradation and
  • – different redox zones along the path of flow.

On the other hand, bulk TPH composition show highest hydrocarbon concentrations near the surface and diminish downwards along the gradient while the metabolites generated via biodegradation, increase in concentrations downgradient of the source area and highest parts of the dissolved hydrocarbon plume. Over time, metabolite concentrations may increase near source, shifting the apex of the triangle to the right.

ASSESSING HUMAN AND ECOLOGICAL RISK
FROM TPH

TPH risk assessment is done in three
tiers where the first tier is a screening-level assessment; and the  site-specific assessment comprises the second
and third tiers.

Screening-level assessment involves
preliminary CSM development (source characterization and initial exposure
pathway assessment) and initial data review (regulatory requirement evaluation,
existing TPH data review).

Site-specific assessment involves more
detailed assessment which includes the identification of data gaps from data
obtained from screening-level assessment and collecting additional field data
such as bulk TPH  data and chromatograms,
indicator compounds and fractions, and CSM updates.

An environmental risk assessment may
not be necessary if viable habitats are absent at the TPH contaminated site, if
no contamination is found below the root zones and below the burrowing zones of
ecological receptors; and there is no potential release of the contaminant to
nearby viable ecological habitats. However, risk assessment is necessary if it
is a regulatory requirement, if the screening level values are available and if
the available levels are appropriate for the site conditions or the type of
release.

Site-specific assessment, therefore,
is required when screening levels are lacking or exceeded; and at complex sites
with multiple media, sensitive habitats and receptors. Such an assessment  should focus on direct exposure,  contaminant bioaccumulation and toxicity
assessment which evaluates the ecological risk, physical and chemical toxicity
effects and the metabolites produced.

STAKEHOLDER CONSIDERATIONS

The stakeholders involved are affected
property owners or communities with regard to the risks that are specific to
petroleum contamination as measured by TPH. Communicating with them requires sensitivity
and a timely approach  in order to help
them understand facts and clear their confusions and concerns about TPH risk
assessment. This could be done through factsheets, posters, outreach meetings,
websites and internet links on TPH information. There should be public
notification prior to sampling as well as the provision of post sampling TPH
data results with appropriate explanations.  Technical information and public health issues
should be translated and communicated in a format that is easily understood by
the general public.

Similar sensitivity should be shown to
other TPH assessment impacts to public property, including property value,
access, and private property rights. A major concern is the fear of property
devaluation as a result of possible residual TPH and a Monitored Natural
Attenuation (MNA) remedy. The fears can be effectively addressed by explaining
why the selected remedy is protective and effective (especially MNA), describing
how all activities are done with agency oversight (that is local organizations
and government agencies); and individual property owners concerns  should also be addressed.

Overall, a successful TPH risk
evaluation project requires an appropriate technical approach, careful review
of analytical methods chosen, a complete CSM with regular updates during
remediation as well as stakeholders’ engagement.

Business Opportunity: U.S. EPA’s Solicitation for Small Business Innovation Research

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) is calling for small businesses to apply for Phase I awards up to $100,000 to demonstrate proof of concept environmental technology. The solicitation is open the U.S. companies that have a ground-breaking idea that can be commercialized. The areas of interest to the U.S. EPA with respect to funding can be found below.

CLEAN AND SAFE WATER

  • Sampling devices for microplastics
  • Technologies for the rehabilitation of water infrastructure
  • Technologies for the destruction of PFAS in water and wastewater
  • POU treatment for opportunistic pathogens
  • Technologies for detection and treatment of antibiotic resistant bacteria in wastewater
  • Treatment for cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins in drinking water
  • Resource Recovery for Decentralized Wastewater Systems

AIR QUALITY

  • Air monitoring technology for Ethylene Oxide
  • Air monitoring technology for Sulfur Dioxide

LAND REVITALIZATION

  • Mining site characterization and remediation

HOMELAND SECURITY

  • 3-D Gamma Camera to Map Radiological Contamination
  • Water distribution and stormwater system sensors

SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS MANAGEMENT

  • New Applications for Industrial Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials
  • Preventing Food Waste

SAFER CHEMICALS

  • Safer paint and coating removal products

Phase II Funding and Deadline for Applications

Successful Phase I companies are eligible to apply for Phase II funding, which awards up to $400,000 for two years with a commercialization option of up to $100,000, to further develop and commercialize their technologies.

Last year, the U.S. EPA awarded Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contracts to 23 small businesses across the United States to develop technologies that provide sustainable solutions for environmental issues. These SBIR Phase I recipients are creating technologies that improve water infrastructure, air quality and homeland security.

More information on the solicitation can be found here. Applications are due by July 31, 2019.