Environmental Management at Greenhouses in Ontario

The Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) has made clear their concerns with water quality issues, water supply issues, and discharges of wastewater…but not from what you might think of as a “typical” industry of concern for the MOE. The Ministry’s concern is with Ontario’s Greenhouse Business. In fact, according to an MOE report, “Greenhouse Wastewater Monitoring, 2010-2011” (http://bit.ly/MJkiqJ), the Sturgeon Creek and Lebo Drain watersheds have been “heavily impacted by greenhouse inputs.”

The MOE report published in January 2012, documents that there have been negative impacts to surface waters/streams/rivers from greenhouse operations in southwestern Ontario. The surface water quality in several watersheds near the greenhouses has been impacted with elevated concentrations of potassium, phosphorus, nitrates, and several metals.

Because the watersheds have been negatively impacted, the MOE stated they “cannot support further greenhouse development within (the Sturgeon Creek and Lebo Drain watersheds) without appropriate treatment technology in place.”

So, if you are a greenhouse owner and want to expand, what do you need to do?

Start with an evaluation of your operations and define all of your actual and potential stormwater, sanitary sewage, and process wastewater outputs or discharges. This will help to identify how many activities potentially need to be covered by the Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA)1. If you are not familiar with the ECA process, an ECA is required for operations that may have discharges or emissions (air, water, noise).

As you consider your ECA, one challenge you may face is how you segregate stormwater from process wastewater. A more significant challenge is how you manage and/or treat process wastewater. And, in all likelihood, your local MOE district office will want to see how you are addressing these issues.

The bottom line is if you are starting a new greenhouse or looking to expand your greenhouse operations, whether you are in the Sturgeon Creek and Lebo Drain watershed or elsewhere, it would be wise to give careful consideration to your environmental permitting requirements. Good planning, engineering, and design will play a key role in a successful development.

If you have questions or need assistance with an Environmental Compliance Approval, contact Chris Pare’, P. Geo. (cpare@dragun.com) at 519-979-7300.

1. Previously “Certificate of Approval” or “C of A”

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Environmental Managers’ Insight on Enforcement at Farms

“SPCC Requirements for Farms: Enforcement Outlook.”  This headline caught my eye recently as this story showed up in Business & Legal Resources’ Publication: The Environmental Manager’s Compliance Advisor (Compliance Advisor). This is a publication geared toward the more typical “smokestack” industry, so I was interested in their take on the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) issue for agriculture.

(Note: For a more detailed discussion on the May 10, 2013 deadline for SPCC for certain farms, see our May 5, 2011 and August 5, 2011 blog entries).

In the Compliance Advisor newsletter, they pose the following question, “Should small farmers in remote rural areas expect inspectors to be knocking on their doors and writing them up while they are in the middle of their 2013 spring planting?”

To answer this, the authors of the newsletter juxtapose the federal 1998 Underground Storage Tank (UST) deadline to the approaching deadline for agriculture. Specifically, they provide that the 1998 federal enforcement for USTs considered the following:

  •  Known problem facilities (e.g., abandoned sites)
  • Sites that were consistently out of compliance
  • Facilities near sensitive populations or sensitive resources

How might this translate to farms? The federal and state regulators might take a similar tact; for example, the regulators might consider the following approach:

  •  Assess farms that should have had their SPCC plan completed and implemented prior to August 16, 2002
  • Focus on farms that had previous Clean Water Act violations
  • Focus on farms near sensitive watersheds or water supplies

What the enforcement action might actually look like is anyone’s guess, but as we have continued to suggest, be proactive and have your plans and permits in place well in advance of any regulatory deadline.

If you have questions or need assistance with your SPCC plan, contact Matthew Schroeder, P.E. (mschroeder@dragun.com), Christopher Paré (cpare@dragun.com), or Amy Owen, EIT (aowen@dragun.com) at 248-932-0228.

Changes to Michigan’s LUST Regulations

As of May 1, 2012, Michigan’s regulation (Part 213 of PA 451) designed to address Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (LUSTs) in Michigan have changed. Here are a few key points regarding the changes:

• Part 213 is clearly separated from Part 201 (Remediation).

• Free Product, which was previously defined to be at least one eighth of an inch of product, is now defined as (dense) and (light) non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPL, DNAPL, and LNAPL). More specifically, free product is
o Migrating NAPL
o Mobile NAPL
o Residual NAPL

• The Risk-Based Corrective Action (RBCA) process must be used to assess contaminated properties.

• The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) must determine if they will audit a report within 90 days of submittal and must complete the review within 180 days.

• Initial assessment reports are now due in 180 days following a confirmed release (previously 90 days). A report can only be audited once. A report is considered “approved” if the MDEQ does not perform an audit or provide a written response to the owner/operator.

• “Deficient” reports only have to resubmit deficiencies. The MDEQ review must be completed within 90 days.

• The MDEQ must provide 15-day prior notice before “red tagging” a UST.

• The MDEQ will no longer maintain the Qualified Consultant/Certified Professional (QC/CP) list. The owner/operator is now responsible for assuring the consultant meets the QC/CP requirements. Consultants will continue to sign an affidavit attesting to their qualifications.

This is just a brief overview of some of the changes. If you have any specific questions related to UST assessments or closures or any other environmental consulting matter, contact Matthew Schroeder, P.E. (mschroeder@dragun.com) at 248-932-0228.

Look…up in the sky…it’s…the EPA!

The concerns about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) using aerial surveillance to inspect Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in EPA Region 7 has farmers, the farming community, and some politicians very concerned.

Nebraska Senator, Mike Johanns, sent a letter to the EPA in May expressing his concerns about the flyover inspections and on June 11, 2012, the Senator received an official response from the Agency.

Here are some highlights in the five-page question and answer format response to Senator Johanns:

  • EPA enforcement action at CAFOs (in Nebraska and Iowa) where aerial images were collected: 53
  • “The flights are used as a screening tool to focus the on ground inspections on those operations likely to be polluting surface waters and threatening public health or the environment.”
  • “EPA Region 7’s process for identifying where it will fly involves looking at areas that contain high concentrations of large and medium sized animal feeding operations and/or watersheds where the state has identified impaired rivers and streams.”
  • “Flights to assess animal feeding operations in Region 7 did not begin until March 2010.”
  • Future plans for aerial inspections: “Two additional flights in Nebraska and two in Iowa.” And “EPA Region 7 plans on continuing to use the flights beyond FFY 2012.”
  • “As Agency records, these images are subject to the Freedom of Information Act.”
  • “EPA Region 7 has collected images that include residential buildings.” (Responding to the question, do the images collected ever include residential buildings?)

This action seems very consistent with the EPA’s goals under this administration. For example, as we previously pointed out (see March 10, 2010 ezine), the EPA announced their “National Enforcement Initiatives for Fiscal Years 2011–2013.”  The second initiative listed by the EPA is “Preventing Animal Waste from Contaminating Surface and Ground Waters.”

Many people are very concerned about the EPA’s action in Region 7.  In fact, Senator Johanns is concerned enough that he introduced an amendment to the Farm Bill that would ban EPA flyovers.

In any event, livestock owners and operators should make sure their permits and plans are up-to-date and fully implemented…and…keep a watchful eye on the sky.

EPA Flyover Question and Answers http://media.graytvinc.com/documents/Overflight.Q-A.6-11-2012.pdf

EPA Letter to Senator Johanns: http://media.graytvinc.com/documents/Senator+Johanns.pdf

Environmental Fines Reach Seven (plus) Figures for Retailers

You don’t need to be a typical “smokestack” company anymore to get hit with environmental fines.  According to a news report, “Costco has agreed to payout $3.6 million to put to end litigation against it for violations of state hazardous waste laws, the Santa Clara County District Attorney office announced Monday.”

The article goes on to say, “The statewide probe concluded that Costco improperly disposed of aerosol cans, used batteries and electronic devices. The investigations, which began in San Joaquin County, also found that employees did not dispose of the in-house cleaning supplies or other hazardous wastes safely.”

An interesting side note at the end of the article says, “As part of an analogous investigation, CVS settled with the state (California) in April for $13.75 million.”

If you have questions relating to environmental compliance or expert environmental services, contact Matthew Schroeder, P.E. (mschroeder@dragun.com) at 248-932-0228.

Link to the article: http://mountainview.patch.com/articles/costco-to-pay-county-29-750-in-settlement-from-environmental-suit

June 12, 2012 Deadline for AST/UST Systems on Federal and Aboriginal Lands

If you are the owner or operator of aboveground storage tanks (ASTs) and/or underground storage tanks (USTs) on Federal or Aboriginal lands, you are probably aware of the rapidly approaching deadline (June 12, 2012).

Some of the specific deadline requirements include the following:

  • USTs that are installed “above ground” or within an open secondary containment must be withdrawn from service by June 12th.
  • Partially buried or bunker tanks must be withdrawn from service by June 12th.
  • ASTs that are buried, partially buried, or within a filled secondary containment must be withdrawn from service by June 12th.  
  • Existing single walled USTs must be removed by June 12th UNLESS they have cathodic protection, leak detection equipment and groundwater or vapour monitoring wells.
  • Product transfer areas are to be designed to capture spillage during the transfer of product.

Here are some reminders to maintain compliance: 

  • Maintain your inventory control records.
  • Keep an ongoing log of any maintenance activities.
  • Implement and document your engineering controls (to prevent loss).
  • Make sure you have an emergency plan in place.
  • If you have any reporting obligations, make sure you do so promptly and again, keep records.

Of course, if you know of leaks in your storage tank system(s), take the tank out of service immediately. 

A release from an AST/UST can quickly become a catastrophic event for owner/operators, costing tens-of-thousands, if not hundreds-of-thousands of dollars to remediate soil and/or groundwater.  A properly designed and engineered fuel storage system will significantly reduce the risks associated with operating these systems.

If you have any questions about AST/UST compliance, contact Christopher Paré (cpare@dragun.com) at 519-979-7300.