The Province of Alberta is the latest to join a chorus of Canadian jurisdictions that are either examining or actively implementing environmental policies that are more harmonized with those of the United States. Provinces such as Ontario have adopted the “derived from” approach to classifying hazardous waste to include what would be considered non-hazardous wastes but for the fact that they are derived from hazardous wastes. The use of this approach is an attempt (albeit partial) to bring the approach to hazardous waste management in line with that of the U.S. EPA.
In addition, Alberta Environment is proposing amendments to the Alberta User Guide for Waste Managers along with significant amendments to the Waste Control Regulation, both of which have been passed pursuant to the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.
The environment ministry’s Science and Standards Division originally released the guide in 1995 to assist waste managers and others in the interpretation and implementation the Act and its related regulations. Since that time, practices in the management of hazardous waste have undergone some changes, which led the ministry to update the guide.
Proposed changes to the guide include:
the adoption of criteria to identify and classify hazardous waste by including the U.S. EPA list of hazardous wastes and chemicals;
proposed changes to the numerical criteria for certain substances both for classification and landfill restriction, based on a number of factors;
an update of sampling and test methods, including clarification regarding the use of the toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP); and,
updating the de-listed wastes as well as certain information with respect to the importation of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclables.
Through these changes, hazardous waste landfill operators anticipate that material, which in the past could have been landfilled, will now need to undergo treatment.
The impact is that material that would otherwise have gone to hazardous waste landfills in Alberta would, under the proposed guide, likely be diverted to the Swan Hills facility for treatment. (See www.solidwastemag.com for past articles and industry news.) While there are a number of ways in which such materials can be treated, a significant amount would be incinerated at Swan Hills. These proposed changes could have a profound impact on the operations of privately owned hazardous waste landfills, as well as the provincially owned and operated Swan Hills facility.
It is common knowledge that the facility has had difficulty in the past maintaining the volumes needed to be profitable. As a result, the facility has experienced changes in ownership, which now lies with the Alberta Government. As the province controls the regulations and the Guide, it has the ability to influence the waste stream and, more to the point, the amount of hazardous material that is required to be sent to Swan Hills. The potential positive impact on the bottom line of the facility is obvious. The proposed changes to the Guide and related regulations will most certainly stand to increase revenues for the facility. Equally obvious is the possible negative impact of the changes on the facilities currently receiving the waste that would be diverted under the proposed changes.
Anticipated future action
The Guide and the related regulations are still in their draft form for public comment. In the autumn of 2001 Alberta Environment held two public information sessions to obtain stakeholder input; written submissions were also accepted. One of the primary points in these submissions has apparently been the desire for a separate consultative process to discuss the proposed amendments to the Waste Control Regulation. This regulation contains most of the substantive proposed changes to the hazardous waste management regulatory regime in the province. As a result, it is likely that there will be a further consultative process on the proposed amendments to the regulation in early 2002 – any formal resolution to the issue of the proposed changes is probably several months away.
At this point it is unclear how strong the environment ministry feels about further harmonizing its hazardous waste regulations with those of the U.S. EPA and moreover, the tie between that consideration and the commercial considerations related to the operation of Swan Hills treatment facility.
It will be interesting to see how the Alberta Government resolves the balance of interests between the private hazardous waste industry and those of the government itself as a participant in that industry.
Written by Adam Chamberlain, LL.B. of Power Budd, the Canadian affiliate of Cameron McKenna, an international law and consulting firm. Mr. Chamberlain is based in Toronto, Ontario.
Article online www.solidwastemag.com