Using biosolids to revegetate inactive mine tailings

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Vale Canada (a global mining company with an integrated mine, mill, smelter, and refinery complex in operations Sudbury, Ontario) has been working with Terrapure Environmental (an industrial waste management company) to utilize biosolids on its main tailings area.

For over 100 years, tailings from the milling operation have been deposited in the Copper Cliff Central Tailings impoundment. The facility is still active, but approximately 1,300 hectares are inactive and need reclamation work.


The Big Nickel in Sudbury (Photo Credit: pizzodisevo)

Over the decades, Vale has had some success in revegetation of its tailings area, but there are still large areas of bare or sparsely vegetated tailings, which have led to wind-erosion-management challenges. To control dust, Vale uses agricultural equipment to cover the tailings with straw or hay, as well as a chemical dust suppressant. These practices are costly, and they have to be done continuously to maintain an appropriate cover at all times. In 2012, Vale decided its tailings needed a permanent vegetative cover—not just to suppress dust and reduce erosion, but to improve overall biodiversity. They entered into discussions with Terrapure Organics Solutions (formerly Terratec Environmental) to collaborate on a trial project to apply biosolids on the mine tailings.

In 2012, Vale decided its tailings needed a permanent vegetative cover—not just to suppress dust and reduce erosion, but to improve overall biodiversity. They entered into discussions with Terrapure Organics Solutions (formerly Terratec Environmental) to collaborate on a trial project to apply biosolids on the mine tailings.

THE CHALLENGE

The biggest challenge was forging a new path for this type of work. Applying biosolids to mine tailings had never been done before in Ontario. Just to get the right permits and approvals took about two years. Vale Canada and Terrapure worked closely with the Ontario Environment Ministry to ensure standards compliance. Some of this work included helping to determine what those standards should be. Terrapure was able to contribute to these discussions, leveraging decades of expertise in safe biosolids application to agricultural land. Once the Environmental Compliance Approval came in April 2014, the team had to figure out the best application method and proper amount to encourage vegetation, which meant a lot of testing and optimizing.

THE SOLUTION

At first, Terrapure mixed biosolids into the surface layer of the tailings. Over time, however, the team learned that applying biosolids to the surface, without mixing, allowed for greater rates of application and coverage at a lower cost.

Terrapure also had to experiment with the right tonnage per hectare. After seeding four trial plots with different amounts of biosolids coverage—20, 40, 60 and 80 dry tonnes/hectare—it was determined that 80 dry tonnes was best for seed germination. At the time, it was the maximum allowable application rate. By the end of 2014, approximately 25 hectares of tailings were amended. Where the biosolids were applied, there were impressive results. Wildlife that had not been seen feeding in the area in years started to return. In 2015, the Ontario Environment Ministry approved an increase in the biosolids application rate to a maximum of 150 dry tonnes/hectare, which was necessary for providing higher organic matter and nutrient levels, and for stabilizing the tailings’ pH levels. This approval also increased the cap on the amount of biosolids that could be delivered to the maximum application rate per hectare. To enhance the program even more, Terrapure and Vale partnered with the City of Greater Sudbury to blend leaf and yard waste with biosolids. By blending these materials, the mixture becomes virtually odourless, its nutrients are more balanced and it allows for a more diverse application.


Glen Watson, Vale’s superintendent of environment, decommissioning and reclamation, surrounded by lush vegetation covering part of the company’s Central Tailings Facility in Sudbury

THE RESULTS

As of 2018, Terrapure has successfully covered over 150 hectares of Vale’s tailings with municipal biosolids. Vegetative growth and wildlife are well established on all areas where the team applied organics. Just as importantly, this project has diverted more than 25,000 dry tonnes of valuable biosolids from becoming waste in the landfill. Following the success of the initial trial, the Environment Ministry widened the approval to include all areas of the inactive tailings and a portion of the active tailings. At the current application rate of 150 dry tonnes/hectare, Vale’s central tailings facility could potentially require another 195,000 dry tonnes of biosolids. That’s more than 30 years of biosolids utilization, at an annual rate of 6,000 dry tonnes of material. Needless to say, Vale is very pleased with the results, and the relationship is ongoing. In fact, the Vale team is evaluating other sites in the Sudbury area for this type of remediation, ensuring a long-term, environmentally sustainable rehabilitation program.

Provincial Environmental Obligations Prevail Over Federal Bankruptcy Laws – Supreme Court of Canada

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by Paul Manning, Manning Environmental Law

Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in the case of Orphan Well Association, et al. v. Grant Thornton Limited, et al.Orphan Well Association, et al. v. Grant Thornton Limited, et al. 

The decision writes another chapter in the long running saga of whether a company’s environmental regulatory obligations survive bankruptcy and, in particular, whether the company’s trustee in bankruptcy can disclaim an asset so as to avoid environmental liability. (See our blog post The Non-Polluter Pays: Creditor Roulette and Director Liability)

The Supreme Court has now decided in Orphan Well that, after going bankrupt, an oil and gas company must  fulfill provincial environmental obligations before paying its creditors.

Background

Redwater was an Alberta oil and gas company, which owned over a hundred wells, pipelines, and facilities when it went bankrupt in 2015.

Alberta has provincial laws requiring oil and gas companies to obtain a licence to operate. As part of the licence, companies have to “abandon” wells, pipelines, and facilities when they are done. This means permanently taking these structures down. They also have to “reclaim” the land by cleaning it up. Companies cannot transfer licences without permission from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), which they won’t receive if they haven’t met their responsibilities.

Most of Redwater’s wells were dry when it went bankrupt. Dismantling the sites and restoring the land would have cost millions of dollars more than they were worth. To avoid paying those costs, the the trustee in Orphan Well decided to disclaim (i.e. not to take responsibility for) the redundant wells and sites under the BIA. The trustee wanted to sell the productive sites to pay Redwater’s creditors.

The AER said that this wasn’t allowed under the BIA or provincial law and ordered the trustee to dismantle the disowned sites. The trustee argued that even if the AER was correct, the provincial abandonment orders were only provable claims under the BIA. In this case, this meant the money would first go to pay Redwater’s creditors.

The Supreme  Court’s Decision

There were two main legal issues before the Supreme Court. The first was whether the BIA allowed the trustee disclaim the sites it didn’t want take responsibility for. The second was whether the provincial orders to remove structures from the land were provable claims under the BIA. If they were, that would mean the payment order set up in the BIA applied. Only money left, if any, after those payments were made, could be used to pay for taking the sites down.

The trial judge had ruled that the trustee was allowed to disclaim the disowned sites and the abandonment costs were only provable claims in the bankruptcy. The majority of judges at the Alberta Court of Appeal hearing had agreed.

The majority of judges at the Supreme Court disagreed. It ruled that the trustee could not disclaim  the disowned sites. It said the BIA was meant to protect trustees from having to pay for a bankrupt estate’s environmental claims with their own money. It did not mean Redwater’s estate could avoid its environmental obligations.

The majority also said the abandonment costs were not “provable claims”. These costs weren’t debts requiring payments; they were duties to the public and nearby landowners. This put the abandonment costs outside the BIA’s payment order scheme and as such, the majority ruled, there was no conflict between the federal and provincial laws.

(The minority of judges at the Supreme Court disagreed, arguing that there was a genuine conflict between the federal and provincial laws and the BIA being the federal law should prevail over the provincial regulations. Where a valid provincial law conflicts with a valid federal law, the federal law will normally prevail under the constitutional law “doctrine of paramountcy.”)

As the trustee had already sold or given up all of Redwater’s assets, the money from the sales was held “in trust” by the court during the lawsuit. This money must now be used to abandon and reclaim the land before anything is paid to any of Redwater’s creditors.

Click here for the full decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Orphan Well

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Manning Environmental Law is a Canadian law firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Our practice is focused on environmental law, energy law and aboriginal law. 

Paul Manning is a certified specialist in environmental law. He has been named as one of the World’s Leading Environmental Lawyers and one of the World’s Leading Climate Change Lawyers by Who’s Who Legal. This article is only as a general guide and is not legal advice.

Guideline for the Management of Sites Contaminated with Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquids

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Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (LNAPL) Management is the process of LNAPL site assessment, monitoring, LNAPL Conceptual Site Model development, identification and validation of relevant LNAPL concerns, and the possible application of remediation technologies. The presence of LNAPL can create challenges at any site.  Examples of LNAPLs include gasoline, diesel fuel, and petroleum oil.

In 2009, the United States Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) published LNAPL-1: Evaluating Natural Source Zone Depletion at Sites with LNAPL (ITRC 2009b) and LNAPL-2: Evaluating LNAPL Remedial Technologies for Achieving Project Goals (ITRC 2009a) to aid in the understanding, cleanup, and management of LNAPL at thousands of sites with varied uses and complexities. These documents have been effective in assisting implementing agencies, responsible parties, and other practitioners to identify concerns, discriminate between LNAPL composition and saturation-based goals, to screen remedial technologies efficiently, to better define metrics and endpoints for removal of LNAPL to the “maximum extent practicable,” and to move sites toward an acceptable resolution and eventual case closure.

This guidance, LNAPL-3: LNAPL Site Management: LCSM Evolution, Decision Process, and Remedial Technologies, builds upon and supersedes both previous ITRC LNAPL guidance documents in an updated, web-based format. LNAPL-1 and LNAPL-2 are still available for review; however, LNAPL-3 is inclusive of those materials with new topics presented and previous topics elaborated upon and further clarified.

This guidance can be used for any LNAPL site regardless of size and site use and provides a systematic framework to:

  • develop a comprehensive LNAPL Conceptual Site Model (LCSM) for the purpose of identifying specific LNAPL concerns;
  • establish appropriate LNAPL remedial goals and specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely (SMART) objectives for identified LNAPL concerns that may warrant remedial consideration;
  • inform stakeholders of the applicability and capability of various LNAPL remedial technologies
  • select remedial technologies that will best achieve the LNAPL remedial goals for a site, in the context of the identified LNAPL concerns and conditions;
  • describe the process for transitioning between LNAPL strategies or technologies as the site moves through investigation, cleanup, and beyond; and
  • evaluate the implemented remedial technologies to measure progress toward an identified technology specific endpoint.

Initial development and continued refinement of the LCSM is important to the identification and ultimate abatement of site-specific LNAPL concerns. Figure 1-1 identifies the stepwise evolution of the LCSM, the specific purpose of each LCSM phase, and the tools presented within this guidance to aid in the development of the LCSM. As depicted, the LCSM is the driving force for identifying actions to bring an LNAPL site to regulatory closure.

LNAPL remediation process and evolution of the LNAPL conceptual site model (LCSM).

This guidance document is organized into sections that lead you through the LNAPL site management process:

  • Section 2 – LNAPL Regulatory Context, Challenges, and Outreach
    Section 2 identifies some of the challenges implementing agencies face when investigating, evaluating, or remediating LNAPL sites. These challenges include regulatory or guidance constraints, a lack of familiarity or understanding of LNAPL issues, and poorly or undefined objectives and strategies. This section also stresses the importance of identifying and communicating with stakeholders early in the process in order to address issues or concerns that can lead to delays or changes in strategy. Understanding and recognizing these challenges and concerns during development of a comprehensive LCSM can help reduce costs and lead to a more effective and efficient resolution at an LNAPL site.
  • Section 3 – Key LNAPL Concepts
    Section 3 provides an overview of key LNAPL terminology and concepts including LNAPL behavior following a release to the subsurface (i.e., how LNAPL spreads away from the primary release point, its behavior above and below the water table, and how its migration eventually stops and naturally depletes). An understanding of these basic terms and concepts is crucial for developing a comprehensive LCSM and an effective LNAPL management plan.
  • Section 4 – LNAPL Conceptual Site Model (LCSM)
    The LCSM is a component of the overall conceptual site model (CSM), and emphasizes the concern source (i.e., the LNAPL) of the CSM. The presence of LNAPL necessitates an additional level of site understanding. The unique elements of the LCSM are presented as a series of questions for the user to answer to help build their site-specific LCSM. Ultimately, a thoroughly-developed, initial LCSM provides the basis for identifying the LNAPL concerns associated with an LNAPL release.
  • Section 5 – LNAPL Concerns, Remedial Goals, Remediation Objectives, and Remedial Technology Groups
    Section 5 describes the decision process for identifying LNAPL concerns, verifying concerns through the application of threshold metrics, establishing LNAPL remedial goals, and determining LNAPL remediation objectives. This section also introduces remedial technology groups, the concept of a treatment train approach, and how to transition between technologies to address the identified LNAPL concern(s) systematically and effectively. It is important to understand the content of this section prior to selecting and implementing an LNAPL remedial strategy.
  • Section 6 – LNAPL Remedial Technology Selection
    Section 6 describes the remedial technology screening, selection, and performance monitoring process. This section begins by identifying technologies recognized as effective for mitigating specific LNAPL concerns and achieving site-specific LNAPL remediation objectives based on the collective experience of the LNAPL Update Team. The LNAPL Technologies Appendix summarizes each of the technologies in detail and presents a systematic framework to aid the user in screening out technologies that are unlikely to be effective, ultimately leading to selection of the most appropriate technology(ies) to address the specific LNAPL concerns.

This guidance also includes relevant, state-of-the-science appendices for more detailed information on LNAPL specific topics:

  • LNAPL Technologies Appendix 
    This appendix describes in more detail each of the 21 LNAPL technologies introduced in the main document. The A-series tables describe information to evaluate the potential effectiveness of each technology for achieving LNAPL goals under site-specific conditions. Information includes the basic remediation process of each technology, the applicability of each technology to specific remedial goals, and technology-specific geologic screening factors. The B-series tables describe information to evaluate the potential implementability of each technology considering the most common site-specific factors. The C-series tables describe the minimum data requirements to make a final technology selection through bench-scale, pilot, and/or full-scale testing; they also describe metrics for tracking remedial technology performance and progress.
  • Natural Source Zone Depletion (NSZD) Appendix
    This appendix provides a technical overview of NSZD for LNAPL and the methods by which rates can be estimated and measured. It also provides a discussion of long-term LNAPL site management and how NSZD can be applied as a remedy including decision charts to support integration of NSZD and case studies demonstrating its use. For this document, the original ITRC NSZD document (ITRC LNAPL-1) was updated and incorporated into the main body and appendix.
  • Transmissivity (Tn) Appendix
    LNAPL transmissivity has application throughout the life cycle of a LNAPL project. This appendix provides an understanding of how transmissivity connects to the broader framework for LNAPL management including LNAPL recovery and mobility, and the potential for NSZD to decrease LNAPL transmissivity and mobility over time.
  • Fractured Rock Appendix
    This appendix describes the behavior and differences of how LNAPL behaves in fractured bedrock formations. While some of the same physical principles apply for multiphase flow in fractured aquifers as in porous aquifers, unique characteristics of finite and restricted fluid flow paths can lead to unexpected results in fractured settings.
  • LNAPL Sheens Appendix
    This appendix details how LNAPL sheens form, the concerns and challenges of sheens, and potential sheen mitigation technologies.

LNAPL Contamination of the Subsurface

Microbial Biotechnology in Environmental Monitoring and Cleanup

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A new book on the advances in microbial biotechnology in environmental monitoring and clean-up has just be published by IGI Global.  The book is part of the Advances in Environmental Engineering and Green Technologies Book Series.

In the book, the authors state that pollutants are increasing day by day in the environment due to human interference. Thus, it has become necessary to find solutions to clean up these hazardous pollutants to improve human, animal, and plant health.

Microbial Biotechnology in Environmental Monitoring and Cleanup is a critical scholarly resource that examines the toxic hazardous substances and their impact on the environment. Featuring coverage on a broad range of topics such as pollution of microorganisms, phytoremediation, and bioremediation, this book is geared towards academics, professionals, graduate students, and practitioners interested in emerging techniques for environmental decontamination.

This book is a collection of various eco-friendly technologies which are proposed to under take environmental pollution in a sustainable manner. the role of microbial systems has been taken as a tool for rapid degradation of xenobiotic compounds. Application of microbes as bio-inoculants for quality crop production has been emphasized by some authors. Conventional method of bioremediation using
hyper-accumulator tree species has been given proper weightage. The emerging role of nanotechnology in different fields has been discussed. The contents of book are organized in various sections which deal about microbial biodegradation, phytoremediation and emerging technology of nanocompounds in agriculture sector.

Chapter 18, which covers phytoremedation, acknowledges that environmental pollution with xenobiotics is a global problem and development of inventive remediationtechnologies for the decontamination of impacted sites are therefore of paramount importance.
Phytoremediation capitalizes on plant systems for removal of pollutants from the environment.  Phytoremediation is a low maintenance remediation strategy and less destructive than physical or chemical remediation.  Phytoremediation may occur directly through uptake,translocation into plant shoots and metabolism (phytodegradation) or volatilization (phytovolatilization) or indirectly through plant microbe-contaminant interactions within plant root zones(rhizospheres).  In recent years, researchers have engineered plants with genes that can bestow superior degradation abilities. Thus, phytoremediation can be more explored, demonstrated, and/or implemented for the cleanup of metal contaminants, inorganic pollutants, and organic contaminants.

Topics Covered

The 400-page, 20 chapter book covers many academic areas covered including, but are not limited to:

  • Bio-Fertilizers
  • Bioremediation
  • Microbial Degradation
  • Microorganisms
  • Organic Farming
  • Pesticide Biodegradation
  • Phytoremediation

 

 

Using GPS trackers to fight toxic soil dumping

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As reported by the CBC News and the Montreal Gazette, the Province of Quebec and the City of Montreal are joining forces to try to crack down on a possible link between organized crime and the dumping of contaminated soil on agricultural land.

The solution? A GPS system that can track where toxic soil is — and isn’t — being dumped.

According to the province, there are about two million metric tonnes of contaminated soil to be disposed of every year.

Toxic soil is supposed to be dumped on designated sites at treatment centres. But the Sûreté du Québec has confirmed it believes members of organized crime have been dumping soil from contaminated excavation sites onto farmland.

Quebec Provincial police confirm they are investigating a possible link between organized crime and the dumping of contaminated soil.

“It’s a constant battle. The city and all municipalities have to be very vigilant about any types of possible corruption,” said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

“What we are talking about today supports a solution, but again, we always have to be proactive.”

The new pilot project, called Traces Québec, is set to launch in May. Companies would have to register for the web platform, which can track in real time where soil is being transported — from the time it leaves a contaminated site to the time it’s disposed of.

Some environmentalists say they’re concerned about the impact the toxic soil has had on agricultural land where it’s been dumped. They’re also uncertain about how a computerized tracking system will put an end to corruption and collusion.

“Right now, there’s no environmental police force in Quebec so there have been investigations into these toxic soils being dumped but unfortunately nobody’s been held accountable yet,” said Alex Tyrrell, leader of the Quebec Green Party.

“There’s really a lack of a coherent strategy for how Quebec is going to decontaminate all of these different toxic sites all over the province. There’s no announcement of any new money.”

The city and the province say this is a first step at addressing the issue and more announcements will be on the way in the coming months.

The pilot project — a joint effort with the city of Montreal — will test a system, known as Traces Québec, that uses GPS and other technologies to track contaminated soil. The first test case will involve a city plan to turn a former municipal yard in Outremont into a 1.7-hectare park. Work is to start in the fall.  All bidders on the project will have to agree to use the Traces Québec system.

Using the system, an official cargo document is created that includes the soil’s origin and destination and its level of contamination. Trucks are equipped with GPS chips that allow officials to trace the route from pickup to drop-off.

Mayor Valérie Plante said the pilot project is “a concrete response to a concrete problem.”

She said she wants to protect construction workers and residents by ensuring contaminated soil is disposed of properly. The city also wants to make sure the money it spends on decontamination is going to companies that disposed of soil safely and legally.

“Municipalities have to be very vigilant about any types of possible corruption,” she said. “We know there are cracks in the system and some people have decided to use them and it’s not acceptable.”

Plante said Montreal will study the results of the pilot project before deciding whether to make the system mandatory on all city projects.

The Traces Québec system was developed by Réseau Environnement, a non-profit group that represents 2,700 environmental experts.

Pierre Lacroix, president of the group, said today some scofflaws dispose of contaminated soil illegally at a very low cost by producing false documents and colluding with other companies to circumvent laws.

He said the Traces Québec system was tested on a few construction sites to ensure it is robust and can’t be circumvented. “We will have the truck’s licence plate number, there will be GPS tracking, trucks will be weighed,” Lacroix said.

“If the truck, for example, doesn’t take the agreed-upon route, the software will send an alert and we’ll be able to say, ‘Why did you drive that extra kilometre and why did it take you an extra 15 minutes to reach your destination?’”

Organized crime can be creative in finding new ways to avoid detection and Lacroix admitted “no system is perfect.”

But he noted that “at the moment, it’s anything goes, there are no controls. Technology today can help take big, big, big steps” toward thwarting criminals.

With files from CBC reporter Sudha Krishnan

How the GPS tracking system will work

Contaminated sites could pose issue for Saskatoon's transit plan

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As reported in the Phil Tank in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, the city of Saskatoon has tested the soil at several locations where transit stations are planned for the bus rapid transit (BRT) system. The results of the tests will not be known until later this month, but Mayor Charlie Clark says contaminated sites, like former gas stations, pose a big issue for Canadian cities.

The testing took place along the proposed BRT red line, which is expected to run on 22nd Street on the west side of the river and on Eighth Street on the east side.

“Brownfields (contaminated sites) along some of these major streets are a real problem,” Clark told reporters Tuesday at city hall. “We have a lot of gas stations that have been abandoned, left there and the owners are just sitting on them and not allowing them to be sold and redeveloped.”

The CP railway crossing on 22nd Street, one of the main routes of the BRT system. (Google Maps)

Clark, who was promoting an event to gather residents’ input on the city’s various growth plans, said he would like to see clearer rules from the province and the federal government on contaminated sites.

The City of Saskatoon has limited tools to force sites to be sold or redeveloped or to compel owners to clean up contamination, he said.

“We frankly don’t think the taxpayers of Saskatoon should have to pay to clean up contaminated sites where somebody was operating a gas station or a fuel distribution site for many years, generating a profit off of it, and then leaving it as a barren and wasted piece of land,” Clark said.

The city’s brownfield renewal strategy is among a number of different planks in its overall growth strategy, which was featured at a community open house in early March.

Brownfield Renewal Strategy

Saskatoon’s Brownfield Renewal Srategy (“BRS”) states that abandoned, vacant, derelict, underutilized properties shouldn’t stop revitalization.  The strategy supports redevelopment of brownfield sites to maximize their potential and revitalize the main transportation corridors within the City.  The goal of the BRS is to create environmental guidance manuals, provide advisory services, and implement incentive programs to encourage brownfield redevelopment.

The City of Saskatoon sees the BRS as requirement for achieving the City’s target of achieving 50% growth through infill.

The BRS will create a suite of tools and programs designed to assist prospective developers and property owners with the environmental requirements associated with impacted and potentially impacted brownfields.

Mayor Clark noted Saskatoon and its surrounding region has been identified as the fastest growing metropolitan area in Canada, with 250,000 additional residents anticipated in the next few decades.

Lesley Anderson, the director of planning and development with the City of Saskatoon, talks renewal strategy

Applied research is reclaiming contaminated urban industrial sites

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As reported by Cody McKay in the Vancouver Sun, there is outstanding discovery research occurring at universities across Canada. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of this research doesn’t translate into commercial application.  Consecutive Canadian governments have attempted to tackle this challenge, focusing research dollars on particular aspects of the research-innovation ecosystem.  This has left those not in the funding limelight to cry protest, plead neglect or worse, be under-valued.  Yet the reality is that we need to support all types of research.

Canada needs researchers devoted to fundamental science, but also those who can take existing research knowledge and apply it to solve an identified challenge for society or for industry.

Enter collaborations with applied research.  And a Canadian-made solution.

There are tens of thousands of brownfield sites scattered across Canada — many of them in urban locations. “Brownfields” are those abandoned industrial sites, such as old gas stations, that can’t be redeveloped because of the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants in the soil. As a result, they remain empty, barren eyesores for communities, financial drains for their landowners who can’t repurpose the land and environmental liabilities for future generations.

Over the past decade, a collaboration between Federated Co-operatives Limited, a Western Canada energy solutions company which owns a number of brownfield sites, and the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) developed a variety of methods to stimulate the bacteria in the soil to consume the petroleum-based contaminants more rapidly.

This U of S remediation method is faster than the natural attenuation process, which can take decades.  The U of S method has the potential to remediate a contaminated site in a northern climate in only a few months.  It is also less invasive and potentially more cost-effective than the “dig-and-dump” approach that is popular in some regions of Canada.  “Dig-and-dump” refers to excavating all the contaminated soil at site, transporting it to a landfill for disposal, and filling in the excavation with clean fill.  The research team provided an estimated cost savings on remediation of up to 50 percent, depending on the extent of contamination and the cost of dig-and-dump.  With an estimated 30,000 contaminated gas station sites in Canada, halving remediation costs represents a total potential savings of approximately $7.5 billion.

Collaborating with the University of Saskatchewan and Federated Co-op, and building on their earlier research, Dr. Paolo Mussone, an applied research chair in bio-industrial and chemical process engineering, and his colleagues at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Centre for Sensors and System Integration built sensors to monitor the bacteria and track how quickly the pollutants in the soil were degrading.  The team experimented with the technique and the sensors at an old fuel storage site owned by Federated Co-op in Saskatoon that had been leaking for 20 years.  They were able to use the technology to monitor the bacteria’s consumption and adjust the stimuli that increased this consumption in real time.

This applied research significantly shortened the time it took to clean the site, and only a few years later, the land is now home to a commercial retail space.

Dr. Mussone’s work is focused on building prototypes that use emerging nano- and biotechnologies.  The goal of this applied research is to help the energy sector improve operational efficiencies, reduce emissions and accelerate environmental remediation.  So where some would see the scars of industrial activity on the landscape, Dr. Mussone sees an opportunity to put his research into action.

Eventually, Dr. Mussone hopes to see the technology applied across Western Canada, where similar sites continue to hinder community-building efforts.

The science research undertaken by the University of Saskatchewan and Federated Co-op, and the collaborative applied research undertaken by NAIT, has led to a sustainable, commercial solution. Polytechnic institutions excel at this type of research translation.

Sometimes it is far too easy the federal government to forget about the impact of research, only focusing instead on the supply for new science dollars.  Across the country, universities, polytechnics and community colleges are each undertaking research that could have immediate impact, or future benefit.

Rather than pitting these fundamentally different models of research against one another, Canadians should celebrate the diversity of strengths that exist in our country.

Canada has excellent applied research opportunities that can be harnessed for economic impact.  Recognizing and supporting all types of research, and more significantly, fostering research collaboration amongst institutions with different research mandates and missions, is the surest and most positive way to build a sustainable science and innovation ecosystem for Canada.

Reclaiming contaminated land is NAIT Applied Research Chair Dr. Paolo Mussone’s mission

 

 

 

 

 

Are You an Early Adopter? The growth of novel contaminant delineation technology

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by Kevin French, Vertex Environmental

In the 1920s researchers became interested in the sociology of exactly how rapidly advancing technologies were dispersed and then adopted by farmers.

By the 1960s a theory known as diffusion of innovation detailed the process of how, why, and at what rate any new technology is spread to a community.

A key group in a community are known as Early Adopters. These folks, representing an estimated 13.5% of the population, are the first to embrace new advances and allow a technology to gain an early foothold. Early Adopters may also enjoy a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

In this article, on an animated map you can see how a novel contaminant delineation technology has spread across Canada since 2011. Were you one of the Early Adopters back in 2011?

Vertex started with High Resolution Site Characterization (HRSC) during a pilot-scale trial back in 2011. The technology is now used country-wide and has even been adopted into the CCME Guidelines for delineationpractices.

The Diffusion of High Resolution Technology in Canada.

The Toronto waterfront was the site of our first use of HRSC technology in Canada back in April of 2011. Early Adopter clients understood that real-time field readings could eliminate multiple mobilizations with a drilling crew. The iterative process of a delineation program suddenly had, well, fewer iterations.

Take a look at the map below showing the growth and spread of HRSC across Canada:

The number of new clients adopting HRSC technology across Canada has also generally followed the same lifecycle curve as shown above. Here is the number of meters profiled per year for a 6 year period:


The number of clients and number of annual meters profiled has increased each year since 2011, with over 11 km profiled during 2016 alone! It is interesting that innovation adoption lifecycle still holds true after 50 years – even with incredible advances in new technology that couldn’t even have been predicted back then!

As with anything new, explaining the advantages and benefits requires answering a lot of good questions. Here are a few of the most common that we encounter:

  1. Can HRSC Replace Laboratory Analysis?

Yes and No. A major advantage is the collection of on-the-fly information. Massive amounts of HRSC data is collected, quickly and cost-effectively. When combined with traditional Phase II Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) methods, they greatly enhance the understanding of presence, concentration and distribution of contamination in the subsurface. The rapidly collected data in turn reduce the number of field mobilizations for drilling and sampling and the number of samples required for laboratory analysis. Laboratory analysis is required to validate field contaminant concentrations detected by the HRSC instrumentation. In some cases it is even possible to produce a correlation between HRSC readings and laboratory analytical data, greatly simplifying the approach to accurate delineation of contamination in the field.

  1. Is this Technology Accepted Practice in Canada?

Often this question is phrased along the lines of “where have you used this?” The real meaning of the question: “is this an accepted technology”?  HRSC technology was first developed in the United States and was actively deployed in the U.S for at least a decade before we brought it to Canada full time. However, common practice in the U.S. does not necessarily translate into accepted practice in Canada. And certainly not right away.

By the end of our first year in 2011, we had successfully deployed the HRSC tools at fifteen sites. As we approach the end of 2017, we have now used the technology at over 170 sites! Many of these are situated in Southern Ontario and Quebec. But our clients have also applied the technology extensively at sites from Goose Bay, Labrador to Cold Lake, Alberta to northern British Columbia, to Whitehorse, Yukon. Site types vary from corner gas stations, industrial manufacturing facilities, upstream oil and gas facilities, highway maintenance yards to Canadian Forces Bases. Along with this variety of sites the geologies that Vertex has had to profile have varied widely across Canada. Everything from tight silt tills to glacial sand and gravel deposits. Each geology presents its own unique challenges and Vertex has been able to tackle them all learning more and more, and expanding HRSC capabilities along the way. Being able to capture these data sets for clients across Canada has been quite a journey and we can’t wait to see where it leads us in the future!

  1. How Much Does it Cost?

The cost of this type of investigation is quite affordable when comparing the amount of data collected with the HRSC instruments vs the data collected with traditional investigation techniques (drilling and sampling). We have mobilized and completed cost-effective HRSC programs on both the east and west coasts and in the arctic of Canada. The HRSC technology is very affordable when your site investigation or delineation program would otherwise require multiple mobilizations and iterations of testing or when a high level of detail is required to understand subsurface site conditions. For detailed costing and estimating please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to help out and design a HRSC program that fits your site needs and budget.

  1. What is Coming Next?

The world of HRSC is constantly moving forward with new technology and tooling being invented and tested. Recently, Vertex deployed a dual Laser Induced Fluorescence (LIF) probe to complete an interesting site investigation, the first of its kind in Canada. The dual LIF probe housing both a TarGOST and UVOST unit was deployed in Ontario to further investigate a large development site in Toronto. This dual LIF probe was able to simultaneously detect petroleum hydrocarbon Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (LNAPL) and Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (DNAPL) products! The data was then used to refine in-situ pilot-scale remediation activities in order to better account for subsurface contamination conditions at the site.

Stay tuned to see what comes next in the world of HRSC!

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About the Author

Kevin French, B.A.Sc., P.Eng., has 25 years of experience in environmental assessment and remediation. Kevin holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Waterloo where he studied Civil and Environmental Engineering. Since that time, Kevin has been involved in the design and implementation of remediation programs relating to chlorinated solvents (including DNAPL), petroleum hydrocarbons (including LNAPL), PAHs/coal tar, heavy metals, etc., at hundreds of sites across Canada.

This article was first published in Vertex Environmental Inc. Newsletter.

Nominations Open from Canadian Brownfields Awards

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2018 HUB Awards Nominations are Open!  Nominate a Distinguished Brownfielder Today

Do you know someone who is making an important contribution to brownfields?  Nominate them for the 2018 HUB Awards!

The CBN HUB (Heroes Underpinning Brownfields) Awards recognize members of the brownfield community who make the exceptional projects we see every day a possibility.

The HUB Awards are given in three categories, relating to the three stages of brownfielders’ careers:

  • Foundation: Presented to a contributor to the Brownfield industry in Canada who has had a profound impact on how things are done today. Their work has provided a Foundation upon which the current practices and policies have been based. This is a “career achievement” award
  • Pillar: Presented to a recipient who has proven to be a Pillar of Strength in a significant aspect of the Brownfield industry in Canada. They continue to provide valuable expertise and influence into the policies and practices that we are employing. The Pillar award is a mid-career award
  • Vision: Presented to someone who is at an early stage in their career in the Brownfield Industry in Canada and who is already providing valuable insight into programs, policies or practices that will be improving how Brownfield redevelopment in Canada is completed

What makes a HUB Award winner? Take a look at the 2017 winners to see.

To submit a nomination, please complete our interactive nomination form.

Canadian Brownfields Survey

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The Canadian Brownfields Network (CBN), in conjunction with Ryerson University is conducting a survey on the perceptions of progress on recommendations that the National Roundtable on the Environment & Economy (NRTEE) released in 2003.

The CBN is most interested in knowing if persons involved in brownfield redevelopment feel if progress has been made on the NRTEE’s recommendations.

CBN and Ryerson have developed a survey for NRTEE +15 – have your say: https://survey.ryerson.ca:443/s?s=6603survey.ryerson.ca/s?s=6603 . Survey results will form the basis of discussion at our 2018 Conference June 13. Please participate!

Possible benefits of participating in this study include that we aim to identify methods for increasing brownfields redevelopment activity in Canada, and encourage more involvement in brownfield redevelopment through comprehensive understanding of existing plans and policies.