Groundwater Contamination

Due to the influence of overlying land uses groundwater is susceptible to contamination as potential contaminants from the surface infiltrate through the soil to the groundwater table. CBC recently reported on such an incident of groundwater contamination from the use of firefighting foams used as part of an emergency response to a fire at Smiths Falls.  The firefighting foam used to suppress the fire worked it’s way to the groundwater contaminating the supply.  PFAS used In such foams and its potential environmental impacts to soil and groundwater is an area of contamination which has been termed “the new asbestos”. While it is unlikely to be as widespread as asbestos it’s ability to contaminate groundwater is of serious concern. This is only one of the many risks to groundwater and if you are reliant on groundwater wells it is important that the water is regularly tested for a range of potential contaminants.  Contaminants can take many years to reach the groundwater table and therefore regular monitoring is important to pick up any changes early and to ensure the water is fit for human and animal consumption. On larger properties it is often a good idea to install monitoring wells on property boundaries to enable regular monitoring of water quality. This can assist in determining direction of groundwater flow and identify contaminants and their possible source before they reach the main supply well. The installation of groundwater monitoring wells is standard practice for many industries and businesses such as Gas Stations in order to monitor any potential groundwater contamination for both environmental and liability risk. As many Albertans rely on Groundwater for their drinking water supply it is important to have the water quality regularly checked to ensure it has not become contaminated.  The links below provide some useful information.

As Environmental Consultants Calgary and Edmonton we are happy to assist our clients in a range of areas.  Why not give us a call to discuss your specific requirements. ?

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/smiths-falls-fire-contamination-wells-1.4934750

https://www.alberta.ca/groundwater-overview.aspx

Environmental Assessments – expect the unexpected

When undertaking Phase I ESA’s and Phase II ESA’s you never know exactly what you may find when you attend a site.  Here is an example of an obvious item of potential concern being dumped drums and other associated debris from machinery servicing. Such activities can result in contamination of surrounding soil and when purchasing a property, it is important to consider former uses which may have resulted in contamination to the soil or ground water.

Items representing a Contamination Risk
Items representing a Contamination Risk

It is important to undertake a sound Due Diligence assessment of any site whether for finance for the lender or if you are a cash purchaser. Once a purchase is finalized any contamination present on the site becomes the “property” of the new owner.

This next photo shows a contaminated former Gas Station. Older Gas Station sites represent a much higher risk than newer sites due to the lack of Environmental Standards and controls historically. This particular site contained a “hot spot” of heavy oil contamination near to the old workshop with the probable source being an underground storage tank (UST) or leaking oil change pit.

oil contamination - environmental assessment alberta
Heavy Hydrocarbon Oil Contamination at a Gas Station/Workshop

Environmental Due Diligence is an important consideration when purchasing a property or for “change of lease” for Commercial Properties. There are many potential risks when purchasing a property and with the cost of Environmental Remediation being so high it is important to avoid or minimize the risk of purchasing a Contaminated Site.

Why not give us a call for your next Due Diligence Environment Site Assessment. We cover all of Alberta and British Columbia with competitive rates and reliable service.

Treated Lumber Contamination in Soil

Recently Anderson Environmental Inc received a request to determine the risk for soil use for vegetable production for soil which was contained in large garden beds made of treated lumber. Lumber retaining walls in the garden beds were suspected to have been Chromated Copper Arsenate (CAA) treated and/or to have been painted with Creosote. Leachate from these timbers has the potential to contaminate the soils within the beds. Application of the Alberta Tier 1 Soil Remediation Guidelines resulted in of a total of 10 samples being collected from the soils of the garden beds near to the wooden retaining walls. Samples were distributed throughout the beds generally within 30cm of the treated lumber. These samples were collected at a depth of 5-15cm. Samples were analysed for Arsenic (As) (five samples) as well as a total of 23 Creosote-associated Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) (all samples). The results were assessed against the values of the Alberta Tier 1 Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guidelines for fine soils intended for agricultural land uses. Of the samples submitted for analysis, all contained Creosote-related PAH concentrations in excess of the Alberta Tier 1 Soil Remediation Guideline levels. Arsenic concentrations were found to be below guideline levels.

With migration above guideline levels at 30cm from the treated lumber it was recommended that the soil not be used for the intended purpose. The migration of chemically treated timber has also been found to leach initially to nearby wetland environments in research undertaken by the US Forest Service. As such when you are considering vegetable production please consider the potential risks involved with treated products.

As Environmental Consultants in Calgary and Edmonton we occasionally get unusual requests beyond our normal range of assessments which provides for interesting work. We undertake a range of assessments including: Phase 1 ESA and Phase 2 ESA, Biological Assessments, Wetland Assessments and Soils Assessments and Water Quality Testing however occasionally we receive interesting requests which are quite specific. Why not give us a call for any assessments you require.

Resources:
https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/842becf6-dc0c-4cc7-8b29-e3f383133ddc/resource/a5cd84a6-5675-4e5b-94b8-0a36887c588b/download/albertatier1guidelines-jan10-2019.pdf
http://www.calgary.ca/UEP/WRS/Pages/What-goes-where/Wood-Creosote-treated.aspx
https://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/alberta-worried-about-creosote-site-chemicals-near-edmonton-residential-area
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/pretty-nasty-chemicals-alberta-orders-cleanup-at-former-creosote-treatment-plant-in-edmonton-1.3912726

What is an environmental assessment?

Environmental assessments form an important part of any development.  The  aim of an environmental assessment is to provide a sound understanding of a project in terms of its potential impacts on the natural environment.  This includes a range of assessments depending on the type and scale of the project along with its location in the environment.  These often include;

  • Biophysical Impact Assessments which aim to determine the level of impacts in the ecology and biology of a site and its surrounds.  These include plant and animal surveys which are often seasonal in response to the specific biological attributes of a species and when it is most likely to be detected.  These often include rare plant surveys, migratory bird surveys and species at risk surveys.
  • Environmental Site Assessments (Phase 1 and 2) aim to determine if past or current activities have resulted in a site becoming contaminated.  The Phase 1 ESA is a detailed site inspection, records searches including historical records and historical aerial photographs.  If a risk of contamination is found to be likely then the assessment proceeds to a Phase 2 ESA which involves intrusive sampling for potential contaminants which are likely to occur. This helps protect the new development by providing a safe environment and remediation is often required to make a site suitable for the proposed development.
  • Wetlands Assessments are undertaken to determine potential impacts on wetlands.  Although similar in many ways to Biological impact Assessments they focus specifically on the wetland environment.  This involves delineation and classification of a wetland and rating of its significance.

Early planning to identity which Environmental Assessments are required as part of your project is useful in the planning process particularly considering some of the assessments are subject to seasonal requirements.

As Environmental Consultants Calgary, Edmonton and also servicing B.C. we undertake a range of Phase 1 and Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessments, Biophysical and Biological Assessments, Migratory Bird Survey’s and Wetlands Assessments.  We are here to assist our clients so please give us a call to discuss your next project.