O.Reg. 153/04: Some Further Reflections

Our previous updates regarding some of the “technical issues” relating to the impending changes to Ontario Regulation (O.Reg.) 153/04 have focused on the “nuts and bolts” of field-preservation of soil samples for Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) analysis. Specifically, we have looked at VOC preservation using methanol or aqueous sodium bisulphate (consistent with United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Method 5035) and how this may affect future transactions in Ontario.

Let’s think about this from a practical standpoint. We know that under the Environmental Protection Act regulation (EPA), if a record of site condition (RSC) is filed in the Registry, “no order shall be issued” to “the person who filed or who submitted for filing the record of site condition or a subsequent owner of the property.” 

So does this mean if you have an RSC you don’t need to be concerned with the regulatory changes?  Maybe not.  Let’s now bring USEPA Method 5035 (Method 5035) back into the mix. Method 5035 was developed in 1996 and published in 1997.  The USEPA has previously stated that the losses of the actual insitu concentration of VOCs by bulk sampling methods were up to three orders of magnitude.  This said, would you still have a level of comfort with an RSC that was developed prior to Method 5035?

Starting in July of this year, the MOE may require soil sampling Method 5035.  So it’s a fair assumption that using this new method may yield VOC concentrations (in soil) orders of magnitude higher than the traditional bulk methods. Don’t forget, many VOCs (under the amended regulation) have more stringent standards. 

In the near future, you may find that you are taking ownership of a site with an RSC. Would this property (with an RSC) based on the old bulk soil sampling methods be “clean” under the new O.Reg. 511/09 standards if re-tested after July 1, 2011 using Method 5035?  Some additional considerations might be:

1)    What additional investigation would be appropriate?

2)    Is there an impetus for looking? (e.g., liability protection, conducting your due diligence)

3)    Would there be a need for remediation?

4)    Could there be renewed concern regarding vapour intrusion? (see our recent article on vapour intrusion)

Furthermore, it is the MOE’s position that you should conduct your own due diligence (rather than relying on seller provided information).

In the late 1990s The Dragun Corporation began conducting investigations in other jurisdictions using Method 5035 and we can tell you first hand that it does impact site characterization and subsequent decisions.  We say all this so you might consider your various environmental and business decisions going forward.  As always, we advise you to discuss these types of issues with your legal counsel as well. 

If you have specific technical questions, contact Christopher Paré (cpare@dragun.com) or Clifford Lawton (clawton@dragun.com) at 519-979-7300.

UN Embraces “Agroecology”

Can smaller farms be the answer to feed a growing global population? This is the message in a report by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council.  According to a report in Drovers Cattle Network, Oliver De Schutter, the UN’s special rapporteur on food and author of the report, says, “To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most efficient farming techniques available. Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production in regions where the hungry live” (http://www.cattlenetwork.com/cattle-news/latest/UN-report-criticizes-industrial-farming–119429229.html).

Seemingly in contrast to this report, according to the USDA, “The level of U.S. farm output in 2008 was 158 percent above its level in 1948, growing at an average annual rate of 1.58 percent. Aggregate input use increased a mere 0.06 percent annually, so the positive growth in farm sector output was very substantially due to productivity growth” (http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/agproductivity/). So despite impressive gains in agricultural productivity over the last century, the authors of this UN report believes it’s time for a new direction, one called agroecology. According to the report, agroecology is defined as the following:

“Agroecology is both a science and a set of practices. It was created by the convergence of two scientific disciplines: agronomy and ecology. As a science, agroecology is the “application of ecological science to the study, design and management of sustainable agroecosystems.” As a set of agricultural practices, agroecology seeks ways to enhance agricultural systems by mimicking natural processes, thus creating beneficial biological interactions and synergies among the components of the agroecosystem.”

The report hails agroecology as it “…puts agriculture on the path of sustainability by delinking food production from the reliance on fossil energy…”  The report goes on to say, that agroecology, “…contributes to mitigating climate change, both by increasing carbon sinks in soil organic matter and above-ground biomass, and by avoiding carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions from farms by reducing direct and indirect energy use.”

While we certainly cannot ignore the growing population trend and the demand it will place on producers of food, this is not the first prediction of this nature.  In his 1968 book, “The Population Bomb,” Dr. Paul Ehrlich predicted that hundreds of millions of people would die due to starvation during the 1970s because population would grow at a faster rate than the world’s ability to supply food. And in the 1700’s it was Thomas Malthus that said, “The number of mouths to be fed will have no limit; but the food that is to supply them cannot keep pace with the demand for it…” (http://www.blupete.com/Literature/Biographies/Philosophy/Malthus3.htm)

Many suggest that the demand for food will continue to be in the forefront of global issues for the foreseeable future.  Global populations are projected to grow to more than 9 billion by 2050. The question of how we continue to feed a growing global population while minimizing the environmental footprint is not a minor question. As we consider this issue, it should be based on scientific evidence and facts; to get this wrong or to make decisions based on emotions can potentially lead to significant consequences.

Here is a link to the UN Report http://www.srfood.org/images/stories/pdf/officialreports/20110308_a-hrc-16-49_agroecology_en.pdf

UN Agency Reports Ozone Layer Over Arctic Region Experiences Record Loss

According to a press release by the United Nations, “…ozone loss over the Arctic has reached an unprecedented level this spring owing to the continuing presence of ozone-depleting substances and extremely cold temperatures.”

As you may know, The Montreal Protocol (Protocol) was signed in 1987 and became effective in 1989.  The intent of the Protocol is to eliminate stratospheric ozone depleting substances. The Protocol “regulates” approximately 100 chemicals. The most common chemical group identified as ozone depleting, are chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs.  CFCs have many practical uses such as refrigeration and aerosols. The problem is these chemicals are believed to cause a thinning of the protective stratospheric ozone layer around the earth.  This is commonly known as the “ozone hole.”

As an aside, an unintended consequence from the ban of certain ozone depleting chemicals resulted in the use of another class of chemicals; hydroflourocarbons (HFCs), which have global warming potentials up to 14,800 times higher than carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.  

Ozone depleting gases in the atmosphere have been reduced as a result of the Protocol.  However, as this report and others over the past several years show, the thinning of the ozone layer has been largely unaffected and continues to fluctuate. The “repair” of the ozone, based on models and predictive tools, may take another 50 years.

The end result is the Protocol is regulatory success, participatory success, but the jury is still out on the overall success.

Here is a link to the UN Press Release:


Genetically Modified Crops In The News

What do you do with the recent claims by Purdue University, professor emeritus, Don Huber?

According to an article in the Washington Post, “Huber, 76, wrote (a) letter to (Agriculture Secretary) Vilsack in January, warning of a new organism he claims has been found in corn and soybeans modified to resist the weed killer Roundup. Huber wrote that the organism could lead to a ‘general collapse of our critical agriculture infrastructure’ and further approval of Roundup Ready crops ‘could be a calamity.’”

But, according to the Washington Post, other scientists claim they have no way to verify Professor Huber’s claims because he won’t provide evidence to back them up.

The impressive gains in agricultural productivity have likely gone unnoticed by the general public. But according to the US Department of Commerce, from 1940 to 2000 agricultural productivity has increased 2% a year.  These gains are critically important because as the global population continues to grow, food production must double by 2050!

Science and technology have served agriculture (and consumers) well. Making good scientific decisions regarding our food supply will be critical if we are going to meet the growing demands.

Here is a link to the article in the Washington Post