Week ending June 30th, 2023

Market Survey for Spill Preparedness – new company research

Hello ESAA members! A Third Party is seeking your opinions to research and improve our spill response training and products available and would love to have your input through a quick anonymous survey from the link below. If you have spills or help companies respond to spills, they would appreciate your time and opportunity to potentially help improve spill preparedness and response times by completing this survey. Thank you for your time in advance. 

Alberta Lays Environmental Charges

Alberta Environment and Protected Areas has laid charges against Amberg Corp. and Olga Kiiker for not following environmental legislation.

The charges are related to allegedly providing false and misleading information, providing functions of a third-party assurance provider without the required qualifications, and failing to comply with the rules and requirements set out in the Standard for Validation, Verification and Audit.

Charges under the Emissions Management and Climate Resilience Act (EMCRA) and the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Regulation (TIER) were laid on May 3.

The parties are facing 25 charges:

  • 2 charges under the EMCRA

  • 23 charges under TIER

The next court date is currently scheduled for June 29, in the Alberta Court of Justice, Calgary.

Quick facts
  • Large facilities that emit 100,000 tonnes or more per year of carbon dioxide equivalent are regulated under TIER. This includes oil and gas, landfills and food processing.

  • Third-party verification of the TIER system is a critical part of the process to avoid errors.


The Alberta Energy Regulator publishes 2023 Alberta Energy Outlook report

CALGARY, AB, June 26, 2023 – The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has published the 2023 Alberta Energy Outlook report, our annual publication featuring independent, comprehensive information on the state of Alberta’s energy economy.

The report shows growth in several areas of Alberta’s energy sector, including oil sands, conventional oil, natural gas, capital expenditures, and emerging energy resources such as geothermal. New for 2023, the report includes forecasts for brine-hosted lithium production.

Alberta remains the largest natural gas and oil producer in Canada, producing 62 per cent of Canada’s natural gas and 83 per cent of the oil and oil equivalents.

In 2022, total capital expenditures in Alberta’s energy industry increased from Cdn$18.5 billion in 2021 to Cdn$26.6 billion in 2022, exceeding prepandemic spending of Cdn$24.7 billion in 2019. Marketable bitumen production, which includes nonupgraded and upgraded bitumen, increased by five per cent in 2022. The number of wells drilled (including oil, gas, and bitumen) grew by 52 per cent.

Geothermal is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 13 per cent. With the rising global demand for lithium batteries, the production of brine-hosted lithium in Alberta is forecast to be around 7600 tonnes by 2032. 

The 2023 Alberta Energy Outlook report is a credible, unbiased, and comprehensive resource that governments, industry, and other key stakeholders may use for planning or making decisions about Alberta’s diverse energy sector.      

BC: Enhanced permitting review, cumulative effects analysis establish strong regulatory environment for proposed quarry expansion

Application to designate Bamberton projects as reviewable under Environmental Assessment Act
  • Under the Environmental Assessment Act, any group or person can apply to have a project designated as reviewable. Reviewable projects require an environmental assessment by the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO), and an environmental assessment certificate, to move forward.
  • The EAO thoroughly assesses each request to recommend to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy whether or not a project should require an environmental assessment.
  • Saanich Inlet Protection Society asked the EAO on Nov. 2, 2022, to require an environmental assessment for the Bamberton quarry expansion and related activities, which do not meet the thresholds to automatically require an EAO assessment.
  • The Reviewable Projects Regulation of the Environmental Assessment Act governs whether a modification to an existing quarry is automatically subject to an environmental assessment. To trigger an automatic review, a project must meet both of the following criteria: increase of 50% or greater to the previously permitted area (the area of land that can be disturbed); and an annual production rate exceeding 250,000 tonnes.
  • Malahat Investment Corporation applied to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low-Carbon Innovation in May 2019 to expand the existing quarry. The application reviewed by the EAO in its review proposed to increase production capacity to 479,000 tonnes per year – up from 240,000 (a 99.6% increase) – and expand the mine permit area from 39.3 hectares to 45.7 hectares (a 16% increase).
  • The proponent had also applied to the Ministry of Forests to renew the 30-year foreshore lease for barging activities at the site, which expired in 2019 and has been renewed month-to-month since. The review of the application under the Land Act has been on hold during the EAO’s review.
  • The Cowichan Valley Regional District issued Malahat Investment Corporation a permit in October 2020 authorizing the continued operation of a clean-fill site adjacent to the quarry. The permit allows storage of soil that meets the standards for residential developments.


Canadian Brownfields Network welcomes new board of directors

(Environment Journal) The Canadian Brownfields Network (CBN) has elected its new Board of Directors for 2023-24, welcoming a new President, two new Vice-Presidents, and four new Board members.

Krista Barfoot of SLR Consulting has been named as the organization’s new President, taking over for John Georgakopoulos of Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers LLP (Willms & Shier). Joining Barfoot on the executive are two new Vice-Presidents: Monisha Nandi from Kilmer Brownfield Management Ltd. and Carl Spensieri from Berkley Canada. They take over the roles from Barfoot and Carol LeNoury of ERIS.

Four new members have joined the CBN Board, elected to serve a two-year term: Prasoon Adhikari from the City of Guelph, Ric Horobin of SLR Consulting, Joanne Vince from Willms & Shier, and David Meikle of Milestone Environmental Contractors (Milestone).

Returning to the CBN Board for the 2023-24 term are:

  • Pete Craig, QM Environmental
  • Rob Hoffman, Canadian Fuels Association
  • Andrew Macklin, WSP Canada
  • Reanne Ridsdale, Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU)
  • Peter Sutton, Terrapex

The Board also includes several advisors who act as non-voting members: Georgakopoulos, Chris DeSousa (Toronto Metropolitan University), Grant Walsom (XCG Consulting), Eric Pringle (Milestone Environmental Contracting), and Kate Tang (Berkley Canada).

“With a diverse team representing the Canadian brownfield industry from coast-to-coast, CBN is well-positioned to understand the needs of our members and work with government and industry partners to resolve today’s biggest challenges,” said Barfoot.

CBN is a national not-for-profit organization, creating a professional network for brownfield practitioners and stakeholders. The organization works to encourage governments across Canada to ensure that brownfield properties are remediated, rehabilitated and redeveloped to enhance the environmental and social health and well-being of the communities where they are found.


Nutrien continues remediation efforts at Fort Saskatchewan site, planting 26,000 trees


Nutrien’s Fort Saskatchewan Nitrogen Facility, located about 20 minutes north of Sherwood Park, has been working in partnership with Project Forest and Trees for Life to plant the trees on 37 hectares of phosphogypsum, which is a waste product from manufacturing fertilizer. 

“We were left with the by-product, and it really wasn’t a marketable, saleable product and we looked at different ways on how we could reclaim it,” said Ted Sawchuk, Nutrien Fort Saskatchewan general manager.  

The company was given a grant to do something with this leftover material and discovered that trees grew well in the area. 

“We were granted $5-million to actually continue the remediation of these gyp stacks, which really brought in some sloping, grading, bringing in topsoil, mixing the fresh topsoil with the gypsum that we found would grow better than just soil or gypsum alone,” Sawchuk explained.

The site already had 44,000 trees planted on 20 hectares, and on June 5, another 26,000 hybrid poplar trees were planted on 17 hectares. 

Connie Nichols, environmental consultant with Nutrien, said the project started with collaborative research with the University of Alberta.

“We started planting trees in 2015 and that was our first foray into our tree planting and are they going to grow, will they grow well, and we collaborated with the Canadian Forest Service back then,” explained Nichols. “The provided the trees and the expertise and gave us advice and did all the planting and measurements.”

Nichols said the project was such as success it has continued to grow. 

“The first 1,000 trees we planted grew so well we just kept going. We planted 20,000 trees in 2016 and a bunch more in 2017. To date, as of last week, we have 44,000 trees planted and there are another 26,000 going in this week,” she said. “It is an overnight success over 20 years.”

Nichols said there are many benefits to planting trees instead of grass, including improving air quality, combating climate change, and improving local ecosystems.

“As soon as we planted these trees, (animals) started moving in such as a family of mule deer, coyotes, rabbits and all kinds of things running around and it just looks so much better,” she adds.

Gypsum contains calcium and sulphate, both of which are nutrients for plants.

The thriving forest is in the middle of a heavy industrial area and Nichols said it is not open to the public but the wildlife in the area is enjoying it.

“We’ve almost captured most of the real estate up on our site with 70,000-plus trees, which gives us some carbon offsets, but it is something we are piloting here and looking to expand to our other facility at Redwater or broader across our North American footprint,” Sawchuk said.

Nutrien said trees planted in 2015 and 2016 have already reached heights of more than nine metres tall. The company said trees planted in the latest efforts will grow at a rate of 1.5 to 2 metres per year.

Nichols said this model of reclamation could be blueprint for other industries to help with reclamation and carbon offsets.

(Source: Globe and Mail) An environmental group is calling for stronger action from Alberta’s energy regulator after it announced heavy rain had caused flooding and excessive surface runoff at energy sites, including coal mines.

The Alberta Energy Regulator posted on its website Tuesday that some coal mines in the Hinton and Grande Cache areas reported waste water being discharged into the environment. It said the mixture of surface runoff and sediment was above approved water-quality limits and from unauthorized sources.

“There have been no reported impacts to public safety,” the statement said.

The regulator said the rain along the eastern slopes of the Rockies was easing off, but that it would continue to monitor the situation across the province and respond to other situations at energy sites as they arise.

However, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society said it’s alarmed that the regulator hasn’t provided more details about the environmental effects of the spills, including what was in the waste water, potential contaminants or even the exact locations.

The regulator’s dashboard shows one of last week’s spills occurred June 19 at CST Coal. It was a release of waste water from a settling pond into the Smoky River.

A second spill happened Tuesday at Prairie Mines and Royalty near Robb, Alta., where waste water was released into the Lovett and Erith rivers and Chance Creek.

Both postings said the emergency phase is over, but the regulator deferred comment Friday on any effects to the companies involved.

Westmoreland Mining, which owns Prairie Mines and Royalty, said in a statement that the release of surface water at both the Coal Valley and Obed mines was owing to “an unusually intense rain event that overwhelmed the entire region and exceeded the water control capacity of the mines – which were designed, and subsequently approved by AER, to handle a 100-year storm event.”

It added that the water was surface runoff and did not contain any chemicals or other substances that would adversely affect the environment.

Gillian Chow-Fraser of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society said the latest spills raise concerns.

“There have been so many incidents of that happening so far this year across mines across the province at both coal mines and oil sands mines,” she said Friday in an interview. “It’s very clear that we’re putting a lot of stress on these rivers and these watersheds that so many people depend on.”

Ms. Chow-Fraser said she expected more information from the regulator, particularly since coal mines can have harmful contaminants.

“There can be selenium in there, which is poisonous to fish, which can be harmful to wildlife and the water,” she said. “The makeup of that waste water is really important to understand what are the environmental risks.”

She said the regulator also needs to do more to prevent similar spills in the future.

“It’s obvious that infrastructure needs to improve to buffer against these extreme weather events, which we know are going to increase with climate change,” she said.

“There needs to be more regulatory oversight to understand why these discharges keep happening and how we are going to stop them.”

Ms. Chow-Fraser said she would also like to see improved environmental monitoring downstream of the spills as they continue to happen.

A months-long leak of industrial waste water from an Imperial Oil oil sands mine site was revealed earlier this year. It was followed by another 5.3 million litres of waste water that escaped from a containment pond, which prompted the regulator to issue an environmental protection order.


In Rush for Key Metals, Canada Ushers Miners to Its Fragile North

(Source:  Yale Environment 360) Canada is offering incentives to mining companies to dig in its northern regions for the critical minerals needed for EVs and solar panels. But based on past abuses, critics fear carbon-rich peatlands will be lost, wild rivers polluted, and enormous cleanup projects left behind.

In the wilderness north of Great Slave Lake, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, mining companies are eyeing a potential treasure trove of critical minerals as demand for lithium, nickel, graphite, and copper has risen sharply to meet the needs of the burgeoning electric vehicle and solar power industries.

The cost of mining in this and many other roadless parts of northern Canada used to be prohibitive. That changed last December, when the Canadian government announced its highly anticipated Critical Minerals Strategy, which offers mining companies generous tax breaks, $3 billion in additional funding incentives, and a promise to fast-track the federal environmental impact review process.

While the strategy is being touted as a way of helping the world transition to a post-carbon economy, some environmentalists fear that it will result in drained wetlands, diverted streams, and the disturbance of carbon-rich peatlands. Over the past three decades, the mining industry has walked away from these and many other environmental liabilities, leaving Canadian taxpayers with cleanup bills amounting to more than $10 billion.

Critics say the benefits of mining might not outweigh its costs to biodiversity and the Indigenous people who live there.

“In this transition to renewables, two clear storylines have emerged,” says Teresa Kramarz, a professor and co-director of the Environmental Governance Lab at the University of Toronto and co-chair of the United Nations Development Programme’s Advisory Group on Energy Governance. The first, she says, is the political urgency to rapidly decarbonize, while the second is the enormous business opportunity presented by mining for critical minerals needed for a clean energy revolution.

The blending of these storylines concerns Kramarz, as well as many other scientists and environmentalists, because the overall benefits of mining might not outweigh its costs to biodiversity and to Indigenous people who live in mineral-rich regions.

Nor is there any guarantee that reserves of minerals like lithium are large and accessible enough for Canada to compete with reserves in South America and China, which are much larger and are subject to less environmental oversight.

“The Critical Minerals Strategy is one important step and welcomed, given the need for Canada to strengthen supply chains to support the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources,” says Justina Ray, senior scientist and president of the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada. “But the strategy doesn’t fully appreciate the global [ecological] significance of mining regions such as the Hudson Bay Lowlands, the second largest peatlands in the world.” While peatlands account for only 3 percent of the Earth’s land, they store approximately 30 percent of the planet’s soil carbon. A quarter of the world’s peatlands are found in Canada. What’s needed, says Ray, “is a regional assessment led by federal, provincial, and Indigenous leaders to determine whether the trade-offs are worth the cost to biodiversity.”

Most of the critical minerals reserves are located in remote regions of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and northern Quebec, and in the Hudson Bay Lowlands of northern Manitoba, Ontario, and western Quebec.

The mine that Fortune Minerals is exploring in the 3,700-square-mile mineral region north of Great Slave Lake lies within the migratory path of the Bathurst caribou herd, whose numbers have crashed from a high of nearly 470,000 in the 1980s to 6,240 today, due to a number of factors including mining disturbance, overhunting, and climate change.

In the so-called Ring of Fire region, in the 124,000-square-mile Hudson Bay and James Bay Lowlands, mining activity could accelerate the thawing of permafrost that stores nearly 35 gigatons of carbon and degrade the habitat of caribou and the nesting grounds of millions of birds. The Lowlands, according to Jeff Wells, vice president of boreal conservation for the National Audubon Society, are “astonishingly important.” No other place on the planet has as many red knots, semipalmated sandpipers, dunlins, and other nesting shorebird species. The Lowlands also are possibly the most important refuge for woodland caribou, which are now functionally extinct in the United States and disappearing quickly across Canada.

If the past history of mining in northern Canada says anything about the future, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned.

Politically, the Critical Minerals Strategy is a win-win for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government. It speaks to the Conservative Party’s demand for more mining jobs and regional economic development while addressing the left-wing New Democratic Party’s demand for climate action.

If the past history of mining in northern Canada says anything about the future, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned, especially with the Ontario, Manitoba, and Northwest Territories governments signaling their desire to speed up mining for critical minerals.

Just a few dozen miles from Fortune’s play in the Northwest Territories, the Colomac gold mine’s tailings ponds once overflowed with cyanide and ammonia, triggering a mining inspector to complain of burning eyes and a sore throat just minutes after arriving at the site. After low gold prices finally shut the mine in 1997, Colomac’s $1.5 million security deposit, posted to cover environmental liabilities, didn’t come close to covering the $53 million cleanup that was performed at taxpayer expense.

The final cost of the remediation at Colomac, whose initial phase included construction of a five-mile fence to keep caribou out of contaminated areas, is dwarfed by the resources that continue to be poured into two ongoing remediations.

The Faro zinc mine, which operated in the central Yukon between 1968 and 1998, was once the largest open-pit lead-zinc mine in the world. Today, it is one of the most complex abandoned-mine remediation projects in the country, if not the world. Its 77 million tons of tailings and 353 million tons of waste rock contain high levels of heavy metals, which authorities fear could potentially leach into the mountainous headwaters of many fish-bearing streams. The remediation, which began in the early 2000s, is expected to take between 10 and 15 years at an estimated cost of $500 million or more.

The remediation of the Giant gold mine, on the shores of Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, will cost an estimated $4.38 billion and won’t be completed until 2038. Even then, storing the gold mine’s 261,000 tons of highly toxic, virtually indestructible arsenic trioxide — in frozen underground mine chambers — is anticipated to require perpetual maintenance because groundwater that flows into the mine and rapidly thawing permafrost are undermining its stability. The mine may have to be refrigerated permanently, according to engineers working on remediation options. Since 2016, all 20,000 Yellowknife residents have been warned by the government to avoid drinking water, swimming, fishing, and harvesting plants and berries in and around several lakes due to their high arsenic levels.

Since 2002, when the Auditor General of Canada issued a scathing report on 30 abandoned mines in the north, federal, territorial, and provincial governments have become more diligent in reviewing mining plans and demanding security deposits to cover the cost of cleanups. But the liabilities continue.

Canada’s Critical Mining Strategy is bound to attract even more interest now that several battery plants are being planned in Ontario.

This past May, for example, the Yukon government took over the Minto copper and gold mine on Selkirk First Nation territory after mining inspectors repeatedly warned of the potential for contaminated water to flow into the salmon-bearing Yukon River system. The action was taken less than a year after the owners of the Wolverine Mine, which contains reserves of gold, silver, zinc, and copper in the southeast corner of the territory, reneged on paying $19 million in security costs. By then, the Yukon government had already poured millions of dollars into environmental mitigation efforts after an underground portion of the mine flooded in 2017.

Tom Hoefer, executive director of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, says that abandoned mines in the Canadian North “should be a thing of the past” thanks to legislative changes that have addressed the issue of security deposits and created oversight boards that oversee land-use planning, wildlife management, environmental assessment and review, and land and water regulations.

“The driver, of course, was that Indigenous groups also didn’t want to see repeats of environmental messes on their traditional lands,” he said, noting that the law requires that half of the review board members in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut come from an Indigenous community.

Canada’s Critical Mining Strategy has already attracted a lot of interest and is bound to attract more now that several battery plants, including one proposed by Volkswagen, are in the planning stages in Ontario. The Volkswagen plant will receive a package of subsidies amounting to as much as $10 billion over the next decade.

In addition to fast-tracking the regulatory review process, the federal strategy will give mining companies a generous tax credit, equal to 30 percent of the capital costs associated with establishing a mine. Priority will be given to mines that produce lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, copper, and other critical metals. To entice companies to invest and explore, the government has earmarked $60 million for geoscience and exploration aimed at discovering potential new deposits.

The Canadian government has funded this kind of geo-mapping before, in the hopes of encouraging oil and gas companies to develop energy and mineral reserves in the northern regions of the country. Between 2008 and 2017, more than $75 million was spent helping private companies find new sources of fossil fuels and minerals, but not a barrel of oil or a gigajoule of gas found its way to market. What northerners got instead was tens of thousands of miles of seismic lines — narrow corridors cleared of vegetation — running through formerly frozen peatland that are now releasing untold volumes of greenhouse gases as they thaw.

“If I have to hop on a bulldozer myself, we’re going to start building roads in the Ring of Fire,” says Ontario’s premier.

Provincial leaders tend to be supportive of the new mining projects. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said, “If I have to hop on a bulldozer myself, we’re going to start building roads in the Ring of Fire.” Based on the increased value of critical minerals already established to be in the ground, George Pirie, Ontario’s minister of mines, estimates the mining value of this area at a trillion dollars.

But according to Jamie Kneen, the national program co-lead of Mining Watch Canada, there is little data to back up such claims. He fears that Canada will be left with a lot of holes in the ground and many more environmental liabilities if technological developments come into play and make the Critical Minerals Strategy obsolete.

Charles Kazaz, a Montreal-based lawyer for a firm that advises clients in the mining sector, concedes that demand could drop, but he considers the Critical Mineral Strategy unique for addressing both economic development and climate-change targets. “Canada needs to be aggressive and act fast in order to catch up with the rest of the world,” he says.

Without the strategy, he says, Canada might miss an opportunity because of foreign investment restrictions that prevent countries like China from partnering in critical-mineral development in Canada, and by the constitutional requirement that the government and industry consult with and accommodate Indigenous communities before mines or access roads can proceed.

Indigenous communities are divided over whether to support development of resources within their territories. The recent federal decision to greenlight Nemaska Lithium’s project in northern Quebec is a case in point. The Nemaska Cree band council embraced the mine on the basis that it would provide the community with jobs and royalties. But some Cree, including Thomas Jolly, a former Nemaska chief, don’t think it is worth the risk of contaminating the Rupert River watershed. Neither does Jolly accept the argument that the Cree should agree to the mine to help the world deal with climate change.

“Who is responsible for the climate crisis?” he asked. “Is it up to us to pay and suffer for what they [southerners] have done?”

The Cree communities that live in and around the Ring of Fire, where several mines are already in operation and where at least 15 other companies have more than 26,000 mining claims, are working with conservation groups like the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, the Wildlands League, and Mining Watch Canada to make sure that no environmental shortcuts are taken, as federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has promised.

Kramarz, at the University of Toronto, remains skeptical. Like other scientists, she isn’t downplaying the need to aggressively deal with climate change. But she believes that enthusiasm for exploiting critical minerals to speed a transition to carbon neutrality ignores significant costs.

“If that’s the narrative,” she says, referring to industry exuberance, “then it would be good to not forget that there are environmental concerns that need to be thoroughly understood and mitigated.”


Humans pump so much groundwater that Earth’s axis has shifted, study finds

Humans’ unquenchable thirst for groundwater has sucked so much liquid from subsurface reserves that it’s affecting Earth’s tilt, according to a new study.

Groundwater provides drinking water for people and livestock, and it helps with crop irrigation when rain is scarce. However, the new research shows that persistent groundwater extraction over more than a decade shifted the axis on which our planet rotates, tipping it over to the east at a rate of about 1.7 inches (4.3 centimeters) per year.

That shift is even observable on Earth’s surface, as it contributes to global sea level rise, researchers reported in the study published June 15 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.


“Earth’s rotational pole actually changes a lot,” said lead study author Ki-Weon Seo, a professor in the department of Earth science education at Seoul National University in South Korea, in a news release. “Our study shows that among climate-related causes, the redistribution of groundwater actually has the largest impact on the drift of the rotational pole.”

You might not be able to feel Earth’s rotation, but it’s spinning on a north-south axis at a rate of about 1,000 miles per hour (1,609 kilometers per hour).

The ebb and flow of seasonal change is linked to the angle of the planet’s rotational axis, and over geologic time, a wandering axis could affect climate on a global scale, said Surendra Adhikari, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in the release. Adhikari was not involved in the study.

Earth’s interior is layered with rock and magma surrounding a dense, hot core. But in the outermost rocky layer, there are also vast quantities of water. Below the planet’s surface, rocky reservoirs known as aquifers are estimated to contain over 1,000 times more water than all the surface rivers and lakes in the world.

Between 1993 and 2010, the period examined in the study, humans extracted more than 2,150 gigatons of groundwater from inside Earth, mostly in western North America and northwestern India, according to estimates published in 2010. To put that into perspective, if that amount were poured into the ocean, it would raise global sea levels by about 0.24 inches (6 millimeters).

In 2016, another team of researchers found that drift in Earth’s rotational axis between 2003 and 2015 could be linked to changes in the mass of glaciers and ice sheets, as well as the planet’s reserves of terrestrial liquid water.

In fact, any mass change on Earth, including atmospheric pressure, can affect its axis of rotation, Seo told CNN in an email.

But axis changes caused by atmospheric pressure shifts are periodic, which means that the rotational pole wanders and then returns to its prior position, Seo explained. Seo and his colleagues had questions about long-term changes to the axis — specifically, how groundwater contributed to that phenomenon. It had not been calculated in prior research.

Shifts in Earth’s axis are measured indirectly through radio telescope observations of immobile objects in space — quasars — using them as fixed points of reference. For the new study, scientists took the 2010 data about groundwater extraction and incorporated it into computer models, alongside observational data about surface ice loss and sea level rise, and estimates of rotational pole changes.

The researchers then evaluated sea level variations “using the groundwater mass change from the model,” to pinpoint how much of the axis shift was caused by groundwater pumping alone, Seo said.

The redistribution of groundwater tilted Earth’s rotational axis east by more than 31 inches (78.7 centimeters) in just under two decades, according to the models. The most notable driver of long-term variations in the rotational axis was already known to be mantle flow — the movement of molten rock in the layer between Earth’s crust and outer core. The new modeling reveals that groundwater extraction is the second most significant factor, Seo said.

“This is a nice contribution and an important documentation,” Adhikari said. “They’ve quantified the role of groundwater pumping on polar motion, and it’s pretty significant.”

Future models can use observations on Earth’s rotation to illuminate the past, Seo added. “The data is available since the late 19th century,” he said. With that information, scientists can peer back in time and trace changes in planetary systems as the climate warmed over the last 100 years.

Groundwater pumping can be a lifeline, particularly in parts of the world that are heavily affected by drought caused by climate change. But subterranean reserves of liquid water are finite; once drained, they are slow to replenish.

And groundwater extraction doesn’t merely deplete a valuable resource; the new findings demonstrate that this activity has unintended global consequences.

“We have affected Earth systems in various ways,” Seo said. “People need to be aware of that.”

Nominations Open for Brownie Awards 2023

Do you know of an award-worthy brownfield project or brownfielder? Step up and help us acknowledge an innovative or inspiring project or brownfield expert that should be recognized and celebrated. 
The nomination deadline is September 18, 2023.


Upcoming Industry Events


Are you in the Red Deer area?  Have staff or clients in the area?  Share the following event information with them.

ESAA Red Deer Mixer

July 18th, 2023
3:30 pm – 6:30 pm 

Craft Beer Commonwealth and Birdy Coffee Co.
558 Laura Avenue, Red Deer

Food Sponsor: ERNCO Environmental
Beer Sponsor: Available
Coffee Sponsor: Available

Join us for a networking event at Craft Beer Commonwealth & Birdy Coffee Co. in Red Deer.  Network with your fellow industry professionals.  Hot and cold appetizers will be available.  There will be a selection of Commonwealth beers available and full coffee bar from Birdy Coffee.  Two drinks per person will be included.

Bring a co-worker, a client or a guest.

Registration is free and limited to 50 people. (20 Spots Remaining)

Food, Beer and Coffee Sponsorship Available.

To Sponsor or to RSVP, visit: https://esaa.org/events/#id=294&cid=153&wid=401

RSVP by no later than July 14th, 2023 


Disaster Forum:Building Connections in Emergency Management & Business Continuity

Fairmont Banff Springs
October 24-26, 2023

Disaster Forum is Canada’s premier event for emergency/crisis management and business continuity professionals to discuss and analyze best practices, tools,and support for the community of practice.

Previously held in Alberta between 1998 and 2018 with the purpose of promoting professionalism in Emergency Management, Disaster Forum included participation from industry,government, and non-governmental organizations. With this year’s re-launch, we are pleased to continue the legacy of programs filled with excellent speakers –presenting real life experience with lessons learned and applied – as well as high-value networking opportunities.

Join us over two and a half days at the beautiful Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel to meet and learn from other Emergency Management and Business Continuity professionals.

For more information or to register, contact us at [email protected] or visit https://disasterforum.ca/.  We look forward to seeing you there!

We are excited to announce that we have finalized the panel sessions for the upcoming CE3C 2024. Each panel has been carefully curated with industry-leading experts to foster meaningful dialogue, share insights, and address the most pressing issues facing our industry today. We are confident that these sessions will provide you with the knowledge, strategies, and connections you need to navigate the complex landscape of the consulting industry in Canada.

The 2024 panel sessions include:

Navigating the Integration Maze: Successful Mergers and Acquisitions in a Dynamic Environment.  M&As have long been a strategic tool for growth in our industry.  Join us for an engaging panel discussion that delves into the intricacies of M&A integration and examines how organizations can achieve a seamless and successful union.

Pioneering Change: Innovating Environmental and Engineering Consulting. This panel discussion will delve into the rapidly evolving landscape of environmental and engineering consulting. This session will explore cutting-edge concepts, technological advancements such as AI, and emerging trends that are shaping the future of the industry.

Embracing the Future of HR: Addressing Challenges and Innovating Employee Engagement.  The HR landscape is rapidly changing, with companies facing a myriad of challenges in areas such as employee retention, work-life balance, and talent development.  Join us for an insightful panel discussion as industry experts delve into the pressing HR challenges and share their experiences in implementing novel solutions.

Intersecting Realities: Political and Economic Dynamics Shaping the Canadian Environmental Consulting Industry.  Attending executives will explore the interplay between political policies and economic trends, and their consequential impact on their businesses. Our discussion will delve into how changes in government regulations, economic fluctuations, and global policy trends shape the strategic decisions and operational practices in our sector.  

Register Now

ESAA Job Board

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

Current Listings:
  • Intermediate/Senior Environmental Specialist – Summit
  • Environmental Manager (remote) – Action Land & Environmental Services Ltd.
  • Labourer – Summit
  • Reclamation Team Lead – Ecoventure Inc.
  • Intermediate Environmental Project Manager – Nichols Environmental (Canada) Ltd.
  • Environmental Technologist/Industrial Hygiene Technician – Stantec
  • Environmental Specialist – Summit
  • Environmental Scientist or Geologist – Ballast Environmental Consulting Ltd


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