Regulations Keep Getting Tougher: What You Can Do About It.
If you experience indigestion when opening correspondence from a Regulator, you’re not alone. Environmental regulations are getting tougher and so are those enforcing them. The latest version of the Record of Site Condition (RSC) Regulation in Ontario states:
“…the contaminant shall be delineated laterally and vertically for each contaminant present in soil, ground water or sediment on, in or under the phase two property.”
(Sections 7.(1) and 7.(2) of O. Reg. 153/04: Records of Site Condition – Part XV.1)
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) is demanding full vertical delineation. Previously our industry assumed that some contaminants, like floating petroleum hydrocarbons, did not extend below a certain depth. In fact most practitioners assumed the ground was clean below the bottom of an installed well, and most Regulators accepted this for quite a while. All that has changed.
Regulators are changing their minds about more than just monitoring well placement. We recently reviewed two MOECC letters for two different sites, which stated that characterizing a complex site:
“…using only monitoring wells may involve a high level of uncertainty.”
These letters from the MOECC go on to recommend high resolution technologies to map the subsurface. They specifically suggest using high-resolution technology to identify contaminants at the scale of centimetres.
Figure: Example of high resolution boreholes with 3-D interpretation of the data, showing vertical delineation.
The MOECC’s comments continue the trend in our industry to better understand the subsurface prior to acceptance of a risk assessment, an RSC, or prior to implementing remediation.
We believe the use of high resolution technology in site characterization will become much more common in Canada in the very near future, because of regulatory demands, industry expectations, the centimeter scale insights and also because of the powerful 3-D modelling that can be done with the collected data.
High-resolution technologies can be deployed to map permeability and detect free product and dissolved phase contaminants in the subsurface, all in in real-time.
High-resolution site characterization data can be used to generate the plan view and cross-sections of contamination that have become mandatory requirements for Phase II ESA and RA reports. And these data can be obtained at a lower cost than if relying on a traditional program of drilling and well installations. In fact, additional savings can be realized by avoiding time discussing uncertainties with Regulators, thus avoiding multiple re-mobilizations to a site to ultimately obtain the data required (i.e. vertical delineation).
The high-resolution technology does not replace traditional drilling, sampling, and analysis, but rather complements and enhances it. The results from high-resolution delineation can identify the edges of the contaminant plume and guide consultants on precisely where to collect soil and groundwater samples for analysis. And as more site data is collected, strong correlations between the technologies regularly develop.
In the next post we will share some direct comparisons between high-resolution field results and laboratory analysis, to show the power of these in-situ delineation tools. The real-time data provides more effective direction for conducting a delineation program and helps ensure environmental practitioners, site owners, and regulators have the information they require.