ESAA Weekly News – Week ending January 29th, 2021

This issue sponsored by: THINK Envirotechnical Services

ESAA is Requesting Photos of Members at Work

ESAA is looking for a few photos of ESAA Members working in the field for inclusion on the main page of our new website. If you have a hi-res image of staff working in the field, with minimal visible logos, please email Joe at the ESAA Office. ESAA will be choosing a few and rotating the image on the main page month.

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

Canadians value a safe and clean environment. Environment and Climate Change Canada’s enforcement officers strive to ensure that businesses and individuals comply with the laws and regulations administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada, which protect Canada’s natural environment.

On January 21, 2021, the Compagnie d’Arrimage de Québec Ltée pleaded guilty in the Court of Quebec in the District of Québec to one count of contravening the Fisheries Act. The company was fined $100,000. In addition to the fine, the Court ordered the company to pay an amount of $575,000. These amounts will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund. As a result of this conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IRCs are funded jointly by NSERC and industry and must be in an area of high priority for both the university and the industrial partner. The funding supports salaries for students and other research personnel, equipment and materials. 
“NSERC is proud to support research endeavours aimed at creating a better future for all Canadians,” said NSERC Vice-President (Research Partnerships) Marc Fortin. “This renewed collaboration will support the development of new techniques to remove hydrocarbon pollution from the soil of contaminated sites, resulting in cleaner soils across our country. This research will allow Dr. Siciliano and his team to continue to be leaders in the field of soil remediation, and create positive impacts on our environment.”

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

Call for Proposals for Northern Canada Contaminants Research

The Government of Canada is calling for proposals for northern contaminants research and monitoring projects.

The Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, has launched the 2021-2022 Call for Proposals for research, monitoring and related activities concerning contaminants that originate in other parts of the globe and are transported through air and sea currents to Canada’s North and Arctic.

“For 30 years, the Northern Contaminants Program has worked with northern communities to collect invaluable data on northern and arctic ecosystems,” said Vandal. “With this new call for proposals, the Program will continue its commitment to co-developed research and analysis, using scientific methods and Indigenous Knowledge, by measuring, reporting and informing local, national and international communities on the levels and effects of contaminants.”

Under the Northern Contaminants Program, the Government of Canada is providing $1 million in 2021-2022 for new projects focusing on environmental and community-based monitoring and research; health research; and capacity, communications and outreach activities. This will also include projects addressing knowledge gaps related to plastic pollution in Canada’s Northern and Arctic regions, as part of Canada’s Plastics Science Agenda.

The 2021-2022 project year marks the 30th year anniversary of the Northern Contaminants Program. Much of our current understanding of the issue of contaminants in the Canadian North and Arctic, which is a critical basis for international action to reduce or eliminate global sources of these pollutants, is a result of projects and partnerships among researchers, Indigenous partners and northern communities for the past 30 years.

In the 2020-2021 project year, 68 projects were selected for funding from the Northern Contaminants Program. These projects increase knowledge of the levels of long-range transported contaminants in traditionally harvested foods and their potential impacts on animal and human health. The findings, from projects such as these, are helping policy-makers, citizens and communities determine the safety of traditional foods, which play an important role in the health and well-being of Northerners.

Community members and Indigenous and territorial governments are encouraged to work in partnership with university and federal government scientists to submit proposals.

Applicants have until February 15, 2021, to submit their proposals. Projects selected for funding will be announced in the summer of 2021.

The Northern Contaminants Program supports research and monitoring of contaminants that are transported to the Arctic through atmospheric and oceanic processes from other parts of the world, including persistent organic pollutants (POPs), heavy metals (particularly mercury), and other contaminants of concern for Arctic regions, such as microplastics.

Proposals for funding are subject to a thorough technical and social/cultural review process conducted in coordination with subject matter experts, and Northern and Indigenous members of regional committees in Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut.

For further information, click here:
Northern Contaminants Program Call for Proposals for 2021-2022
Projects funded under the NCP

Coal-mining linked contamination of Alberta rivers has been going unreported since 2006

(Source: Globe and Mail)  Some Alberta rivers and streams have already been heavily contaminated by coal mining, unreported government data suggest.

The province’s plan for large-scale expansion of coal mining is fuelling widespread criticism that includes concerns over selenium pollution. The data show that same contaminant has been found for years at high levels downstream of three mines and never publicly reported.

The findings raise questions about Alberta Environment, said a former senior official who has seen the data.

“There were lots of [selenium] numbers and it was consistently above the water-quality guidelines and in many cases way higher,” said Bill Donahue, the department’s one-time executive director of science. “Why did Alberta Environment sit on these data for easily the last 10 to 15 years?”

Mr. Donahue left the department in 2018 after the NDP government of the day dissolved the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency, an independent body intended to fill information gaps.

Before resigning, he had become concerned about selenium in the Gregg and McLeod rivers and in Luscar Creek, all in the Rocky Mountain foothills east of Jasper. He took the data with him when he left and recently analyzed it for The Canadian Press.

“The results are stark,” he said. Since at least the late 1990s, Alberta Environment has monitored water upstream and downstream from the Luscar, Gregg River and Cheviot mines.

Cheviot, owned by Teck Resources, still operates. The Gregg River and Luscar operations closed in 2000 and 2003, respectively. Gregg River, now managed by Coal Valley Resources, is considered reclaimed. Luscar, managed by Teck, is about 50 per cent reclaimed.

Mr. Donahue looked at water samples from 1998 through 2016, taken upstream and downstream on the same day.

He found that selenium levels averaged almost six times higher in the McLeod River downstream from the Cheviot mine. They were nearly nine times higher in the Gregg River and 11 times higher in Luscar Creek, despite years of reclamation.

Selenium levels in all the samples from the Gregg River and Luscar Creek exceeded those considered safe for aquatic life: by nearly four times in the Gregg River and nearly nine times in Luscar Creek.

The level was exceeded in about one-quarter of the McLeod River samples.
“This is not a subtle story,” Mr. Donahue said. “This is shocking.”

Alberta Environment and Parks spokesman John Muir said the department routinely monitors selenium at 89 waterways across Alberta.

“We have key experts working on our own water-quality studies to better understand the conditions of watersheds and aquatic life downstream of coal-mining operations,” he said. “[We] will make those findings publicly available.”

Mr. Muir pointed out that all raw monitoring data is available on a searchable database. He said the mines in question predate modern regulations and technology.
An Alberta government document on reclaiming the mine sites states: “Current assessments indicate there is no risk to humans who drink water or eat fish containing excessive amounts of selenium.”

Selenium is a naturally occurring element vital in small amounts but toxic in excess.
In fish, it can damage the liver, kidney and heart. It can reduce the number of viable eggs a fish can produce and lead to deformed spine, head, mouth and fins.

In humans, it can cause nausea, vomiting, hair loss and fatigue.

The last time Alberta Environment reported on selenium in the three waterways was 2006. Using data collected in 2000 and 2001, it concluded “selenium concentrations in rainbow and brook trout were usually greater than toxicity effects thresholds.”
Why the subsequent silence? Mr. Donahue asked. “They knew when a report was published that selenium was a problem in these systems related to coal mining. It draws a lot of questions.”

Last May, the United Conservative government revoked a policy that protected much of the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains from open-pit coal mining. The area is home to endangered species, the water source for much of the southern prairies, and one of the province’s best-loved landscapes.

Hundreds of exploratory drill sites and kilometres of access roads have now been scribed into its wilderness, documents from Alberta’s energy regulator show. One open-pit coal mine proposal is before a joint federal-provincial review panel.

More than 100,000 Albertans have signed petitions opposing the plans. Opponents range from small-town mayors to ranchers to popular entertainment figures, including Corb Lund and Jann Arden.

Mining opponents point across the boundary into British Columbia, where selenium from coal mines in the Elk Valley has created serious contamination problems.
The lingering contamination from the three Alberta mines shows the stakes are high, Mr. Donahue said.

“These pollution problems have persisted long after the closure of coal mines.”

Upcoming Events

New ESAA Webinar

Mental Wellness and Coping During COVID

11am – 12pm
February 2nd, 2021

Register Now

Through the Webinar: “Mental Wellness and Coping During COVID” we will explore the concepts of mental health, mental illness, and the mental health continuum – to build the foundational knowledge to support more effective and meaningful understanding and application of strategies that support mental wellness. Then, we will discuss the strategies that can be used to identify and manage stress and negative emotions and promote mental wellness throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic and beyond.

Aaron Telnes, M.C., R. Psych.
Aaron is a Registered Psychologist with the College of Alberta Psychologists and a member of the Psychologists Association of Alberta and works with clients through Synthesis Psychology and Calgary Career Counselling. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Counselling degree from the University of Calgary. Aaron strives to promote mental health and wellness in his individual and organizational clients through a focus on increasing self-awareness, developing coping skills, strategic problem-solving, and identifying and implementing attainable goals. My therapeutic style blends cognitive-behavioural, solution-focused, and mindfulness-based strategies that I integrate into both my individual client sessions and the work I do with organizations.

Registration is free! 

Register Now

ESAA Job Board

Check out the new improved ESAA Job Board.  Members can post ads for free.

Current Listings:
  • Business Development Manager – Remediation Services – Clean Harbors
  • Health & Safety Coordinator – McCue Engineering Contractors
  • Environmental Engineer / Scientist / Technologist – Nichols Environmental (Canada)
  • Journeyman Plumber – McCue Engineering Contractors
  • Mechanical Engineer / Project Manager – McCue Engineering Contractors
  • Summer Students / Seasonal Staff – Vegetation Management – North Shore Environmental Consultants
  • Executive Director – Iron & Earth
  • CEO – Iron & Earth
  • National Quality Manager – ALS Environmental
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