PCB Pilot Research Project at Secure Energy's Tulliby Lake Landfill

PCB Contaminated Soil Remediation Research Project:

Partnering with government, academia and industry for efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly solutions for the treatment of PCB contaminated soils.

What are PCB’s?

Polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCBs”) were developed in the 1940's and were used extensively in the manufacture of transformers, capacitors, and other heat transfer devices through the late 1970's. PCB’s are now known to be a probable carcinogen that is persistent both in the environment and in living tissue. Despite being made illegal in the 1980s, historical PCB contamination is still prevalent in Canada and is very costly and energy intensive to remediate. This is due to the fact that PCBs are a group of chemicals that are not susceptible to biodegradation, have extremely high boiling points and are practically non-flammable. Therefore the most efficient and widely used PCB remediation technique in Canada is incineration at extreme temperatures (1200 degrees Celsius). 

This past August, SECURE submitted a pilot application to Alberta Environment and Parks to perform PCB “Polychlorinated Biphenyls” contaminated soil remediation research at our Tulliby Lake Waste Management Facility and Class II Landfill.

The idea was brought forward to us by one of our industry partners. They had approached our regulatory team to help them pilot two newly developed PCB contaminated soil remediation technologies. The first technology was developed in partnership between the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (“SAIT”) and the University of Calgary (”UofC”). The technology involves the use of a mild alcohol to extract the PCB’s from the soil and then UV light to destroy the PCB’s, leaving only the mild alcohol and remediated soil as by-products.

The second technology was developed by TEA Inc., which also utilizes an alcohol to extract the PCB’s, but then uses an activated metals solution to treat them.

TEA Inc., a professional environmental consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of green and sustainable remediation are based out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Their PCB remediation technology has been laboratory tested and proven effective at destroying PCB contaminated soils. TEA Inc. has been contracted by our industry partner to perform a bench scale study at Tulliby Lake on the same soil medium.

So, how does SECURE come into play?

Our role in the project is to gain approval to pilot the technologies, supply adequate storage of the PCB contaminated soil and provide a safe location for the research to take place. The research medium (PCB contaminated soil) being tested for the pilot projects is being stored onsite at SECURE’s Tulliby Lake Waste Management Facility in two specially designed 1.44m3 double walled steel SECURE CleanSite bins.

Research teams at both the UofC and SAIT, in collaboration with our industry partner, Innovate Calgary and IPAC Services Corp have created a 15-metre-long mobile clean up unit for field-testing on PCB-contaminated soil. The mobile unit is capable of removing, in a few treatment cycles, most of the PCBs from soil and then degrading them in a photo-reactor using germicidal (UV) lamps. The unit can treat up to one cubic metre of soil per day. Laboratory testing of the technology has yielded results of 95-99% PCB remediation in contaminated soils. If successful, the research team believe the unit will be the most efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution for PCB contaminated soils. The entire process is performed in a closed system; mitigating any associated risks to the environment and personnel.

Residual waste materials from the process (remediated soil and IPA solution) are analyzed for efficiency data and disposal criteria. If the technology is a success, the remediated soil should meet Alberta non-hazardous (Class II) Waste Criteria, and can be disposed of at Tulliby Lake Class II Landfill. The residual IPA can then be re-used in the process.

Why Tulliby Lake?

SECURE’s Tulliby Lake facility includes an approved Class II Industrial Landfill, which was sited as per the Alberta Standards for Landfills and approvedunder the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. The facility is equipped with both fluid and solid disposal options, which made it ideal to dispose of any by-products produced during the research. The entire facility is fenced and surrounded by a run-on/run-off collection system that would contain any potential release and stop it from migrating offsite. There is more than sufficient un-used space on the site to allow for a safe working environment for the research teams away from day to day facility operations. With an operations team on site 24 hours per day, continuous groundwater monitoring and a daily site inspection program, Tulliby provided a great location to conduct the pilots safely while mitigating any risk of adverse effects to the environment.