A Better Remediation Solution

CleanEarth Technologies

CleanEarth Technologies is dedicated to providing leading edge soil and water remediation solutions to Canada and beyond. The Nova Scotia based business utilizes an innovative, recently developed technique called soil washing that separates and extracts contaminates from the earth.

“There are not a lot of companies that do this,” explains Colin Morrell, CleanEarth’s Vice-President of Research & Development. “There are some in Northern Europe where the technique was pioneered; but, as far as North American based soil washers, we may be the only one. If there are others I don’t know of them.”

The trail blazing company got its start when Mr. Morrell met a property developer named Glenn Clark. Mr. Morrell had been working for a remediation company throughout the UK and Yugoslavia, where he “basically learned everything that you shouldn’t do when you try to treat contaminated soil.” Mr. Clark, on the other hand, had purchased contaminated properties in Canada and was looking for a reasonable solution. “The options here weren’t great,” Mr. Morrell recalls. Mr. Clark could either dig up the contaminated soil and haul it two provinces away at a very high cost, or create a four acre landfill on site. Not surprisingly, he was open to Mr. Morrell’s game changing ideas.

In fact, Mr. Clark was so taken by Mr. Morrell’s suggestions that the men launched their own company, with Mr. Clark taking on the role of President and Mr. Morrell heading up the scientific side of the business. The partnership made perfect sense. “Even though we had diverse backgrounds – myself being a developer and Colin being a scientist – we still had the same fundamental goal as far as the environment goes,” Mr. Clark explains. “We were always looking to find better solutions.”

The two partners also agreed that it was absolutely crucial to find a solution that was cost effective. “The environmental end point is very important fundamentally,” Mr. Clark explains, “But part of finding better solutions is also the cost. Because, if we could get the cost down, more people would embrace it. So we are always looking at things from that perspective.”

Indeed, cost too often proves an insurmountable barrier to new remediation techniques. “Most times when people talk about alternative ways [of remediation], there is usually a negative cost consequence,” Mr. Morrell points out. “We took a different approach. For something to be truly innovative and unique it actually has to meet the cost criteria as well. It has to be more cost effective or it won’t really be used. It will get used on some government projects and a few trials, but as far as becoming a commercial technology, it is unlikely that will happen.”

The bulk of CleanEarth’s work is for private industry, however. “That goes against the perception that alternative techniques are generally pricy,” Mr. Morrell points out. In fact, CleanEarth’s reasonably priced solutions are actually reinventing what is possible. “We put a price point here that has helped the local market. A lot of marginal sites have now become developed.”

As a general rule, the main form of remediation in North America is to simply haul contaminated materials to a landfill. “We don’t have a lot of landfill pressures here,” Mr. Morrell explains. CleanEarth is breaking that mould by providing a solution that is equally affordable. “We are able to compete with the landfill prices. If given the option of sending something for treatment or sending something to landfill, most people will choose the treatment option if the price is the same.”

CleanEarth places a tremendous emphasis on research and development in order to provide the best, most up to date remediation solution. The team’s R&D capabilities also allow the company to provide a fully customized solution. “Very few sites are identical,” Mr. Morrell points out. “We adapt to a particular project’s needs.” This flexibility is unusual within the industry, he adds. “A lot of companies are married to a single technique, and they apply it regardless of the circumstance.” CleanEarth, on the other hand, carries out a comprehensive process to determine how best to approach each problem. The team brings samples back to the lab for extensive testing in order to develop an individualized treatment plan. Once one is developed, they test it on site before committing to a specific course of action. “We go through quite a long process,” Mr. Morrell explains. “We run a series of tests and more or less custom make a process for a particular contaminated site.” All plans incorporate the key elements that make a CleanEarth solution effective, safe, and low cost. “There are common elements of the systems, but the peripheral elements are all different to achieve the end goals of the property,” Mr. Morrell explains.

The company’s clients range from real estate developers to major oil and gas companies and governmental agencies. “Anybody and everybody who has an impacted site is a potential client,” Mr. Clark says. Specific clients include: Canadian Tire, Cleanharbors Environmental Services, DND (Department of Defence), DFO (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), Halifax Port Authority, Halifax Regional Municipality, Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Heritage Gas, Imperial Oil/Exxon Mobil Canada, Irving Shipbuilding, Jacques Whitford, Murray Demolition, National Gypsum, Nova Scotia Power, Ocean Contractors, PWGSC (Public Works and Government Services Canada), RBC Financial Services, Shell Canada and Ultramar Canada.

The work CleanEarth recently undertook for a confidential client is an example of finding a solution for a complex problem. The company, which has a facility located adjacent to a harbour, was dealing with a huge problem. “They had a very ugly situation with contaminated waters,” Mr. Clark remembers. “There was no immediate solution and none had been developed.” CleanEarth had to deal with 4,500,000 litres of water, as well as the underlying ash sediment, both of which were laced with vanadium. The team spent six months studying the seemingly insurmountable problem before they could develop a solution. “There just wasn’t anything off the shelf for that particular one,” Mr. Morrell explains. “It needed a custom made solution.”

Once a plan was developed, the team achieved a processing rate of 570 litres per minute. After the contaminated water was treated, the exposed ash was further dewatered, excavated and removed off-site for final disposal. At project’s end, the total vanadium concentrations were reported at non-detect level, fully meeting Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada, and Nova Scotia Environment and Labour requirements.

In another notable recent project, CleanEarth remediated a 33 acre brown site in Halifax, NS for Fairmount Subdivision. The 10,000 tonne project dealt with contamination from TPH, PAH, and metal due to years of dumping. The team managed to achieve a processing rate of more than 100 tonnes per hour. Ninety-seven percent of the soil was treated to residential criteria and reused as clean fill. The remaining 3 percent, which contained concentrated PAHs and metals, was treated with off-site thermal desorber. The project was successfully completed at a substantially lower cost than would have been the case using traditional remedial methods.

CleanEarth has also started work on a contaminated site located in Melbourne, Australia. The project represents an exciting new step for the growing company. “We are getting more and more interest abroad as the word gets out,” Mr. Morrell reports. “It is word of mouth.”

The team is eager to continue its expansion. “Growth is critical. There is no such thing as sitting on the fence. You are either moving forward or going backwards.” The company is pushing into new territory both at home and abroad. “We have been planting seeds and opening doors in the province of Quebec,” Mr. Clark shares. CleanEarth has recently received a permit to carry out treatment in Ontario and is currently establishing key relationships with partners in Western Canada and the United States. The team has already treated and recycled over 500,000 tonnes of soil and over 200,000,000 litres of water in Canada. With countless sites across North America still in need of a low cost, state of the art remediation plan, CleanEarth’s expansion is sure to be a success.

For more information about CleanEarth Technologies, please visit http://www.cleanearthtechnologies.ca/

May 29, 2020, 2:36 AM EDT