Applied research program

Developing strategies to manage sites impacted by residual soil sterilants

The Soil Sterilants Program (SSP) is an applied research program managed by InnoTech Alberta to address a suite of challenges in the management of industrial sites impacted by residual soil sterilants. The projects advanced within the program will provide industry and practitioners in Alberta with a broader set of tools for more accurate environmental site assessment, risk assessment and management, and remediation of the two most common sterilants in Alberta, bromacil and tebuthiuron.

Through the five-year program, on the ground needs are addressed with support from experts and researchers for the benefit of industry, practitioners and regulators, who form the community of practice.

Quick Facts

  • Program manager: Simone Levy
  • Focus area: Applied research for more effective environmental management of residual soil sterilants specific to Alberta industry sites
  • Five year program (2019-2024)
  • $1.45 million budget
  • Fourteen projects in progess

What is in this section?

Sections

Program Focus Areas
Program Focus Areas

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History
History

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Challenges
Challenges

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Working Towards Solutions
Working Towards Solutions

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Intended Outcomes
Intended Outcomes

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Steering Committee
Steering Committee

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Contact
Contact

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Program Focus Areas

The Soil Sterilants Program is focused on establishing proven, technical and cost-effective strategies and best practices for effective management of sites impacted by residual soil sterilants, with the goal of supporting regulatory site closure in Alberta.

History

From the 1960s to 1990s, residual soil sterilants were used as non-selective herbicides for vegetation control on industrial sites in Alberta. Soil sterilants are contaminants that render treated soil unfit for plant growth. They are applied historically at wellsites, transmission lines, oil and gas distribution and industrial facilities, pipelines and electric substations and railways. They can become contamination sources through leaching, runoff or wind dispersion.

In the 1990s their use was discontinued as their persistence and potential for migration beyond treatment sites became apparent. Now that many of these sites are reaching the end of their productive lives, soil sterilants have been identified as contaminants of concern that hinder sites’ ability to reach regulatory closure. Those responsible for assessment, remediation and reclamation to reduce liabilities are seeking ways to manage soil sterilants in ways that are practical and cost-effective.

Challenges

While there have been considerable efforts over past 20 years to arrive at adequate solutions, knowledge gaps remain. Remediation has often stalled due to the challenging nature of contaminants and cost associated with conventional remediation approaches. For instance, there is currently no single, standardized solution due to differences in chemical structure and environmental behaviour of sterilants.

Working Towards Solutions

While remediation technologies have been successfully utilized to reduce or eliminate sterilant impacts in other regions, more research is required at a larger scale, and for Alberta-specific conditions.

The Soil Sterilants Program was initiated by InnoTech in 2019 to address knowledge gaps and challenges in managing sites impacted by residual soil sterilants, including site assessment, risk management and remediation. The program is funded by key industry members and government, creating a platform for stakeholders to work together towards common goals that benefit industry, practitioners, regulators and Albertans. 

Fourteen projects are currently underway to establish best practices, develop advanced laboratory methods, and to test a variety of remediation technologies at various scales.

Intended Outcomes

Identification and delineation

  • Uncertainty associated with the methods used to identify when/where sterilant impacts occur is reduced.
  • Technologies, best practices and analytical methods are developed to more accurately and cost-effectively assess and delineate impacts.

Risk assessment and management

  • Uncertainty associated with empirical data inputs to risk assessment models for protection of ecological pathways is reduced.
  • Conclusive evidence is generated regarding long-term effectiveness of immobilization technologies.

Remediation

  • Optimal, state-of-the-art technologies and/or processes are demonstrated under Alberta conditions to address specific challenges faced by the community of practice.

Knowledge transfer

  • A community of practice consisting of practitioners, industry and government representatives is developed and retained.
  • Technical information is disseminated through annual workshops and external presentations.

Steering Committee

  • InnoTech Alberta
  • TC Energy
  • ATCO Gas
  • ATCO Electric
  • Alberta Innovates

Visit the Soil Sterilants Program members site

Soil Sterilants Program members can access research documents, past presentations and workshops, and other related materials through the members portal.

Visit SSP members portal

Contact

Simone Levy
Senior Researcher
simone.levy@innotechalberta.ca
780-450-5210