Climate Change and Its Effect on Fresh Water Resources in Latin America


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???????????????????????????????Climate change is a top issue on the agenda for many countries.  Changes in climate can have negative impacts on global ecosystems, economic activities and human health.  Countries located within Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to be especially affected by climate change and variability, even though they contribute the least to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Latin America has abundant freshwater resources; however, climate change can have a significant impact on the water cycle, reducing water’s availability and quality.  Climate Scenarios for Latin America, as well as the Caribbean, project increased variability in precipitation patterns and a higher frequency of extreme weather events (hurricanes, floods, droughts and landslides). The number of tropical storms in Central America alone has increased 12 fold between 2000 and 2009 as compared to the period between 1970 and 1979.  The unique geographical location of these regions combined with population growth, poverty and intensified land use practices makes them extremely vulnerable to extreme climatic events.

 Climate-driven impacts on freshwater resources and water-related sectors (agriculture, health, energy) have to be adequately addressed in management plans, water policy, and research through the development of effective adaptive strategies. Timely and effective adaptation strategies are an imperative response to climate related water stresses that will increase Latin America’s resilience to future impacts.

For BluMetric’s Environmental’s website, please go to:

Certified Toxic Reduction Plans are due December 31, 2013. Are you Ready?


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Ontario’s Toxics Reduction Act

In 2009, Ontario introduced the Toxics Reduction Act (TRA) in an effort to reduce the use of toxic substances and promote a greener, healthier Ontario.  This act makes Ontario the leading province in Canada for toxics reduction legislation and requires thousands of Ontario Manufacturers to prepare certified toxic reduction plans.

What is a certified toxic reduction plan?

Under the TRA regulated facilities are required to track, quantify and report annually on the toxic substances they use and create.  A certified toxic reduction plan looks at ways to reduce the use or creation of these substances.  Regulated facilities are required to make annual reports and summaries of these plans available to employees and the public.

360537_6094Who is required to file a plan?

The act and regulation (O. Reg. 455/09) applies to Ontario facilities in the manufacturing and mineral processing sectors that:

1)     Report to Environment Canada for any  National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) substance; or

2)    Report to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) under O. Reg. 127/01 for acetone.

Reporting Deadlines:

Certified Toxic Reduction Plans are due December 31, 2013.

How do I go about getting our facility’s plan certified?

Toxic reduction plans must be certified prior to submission by an MOE licensed toxic substance reduction planner.  Licensed planners provide their clients with recommendations to improve plans and certify that it complies with regulations.

BluMetric has a number of licensed planners who can assist you with the preparation and/or certification of your plan.  For more information on the TRA or to contact a certified planner in your area, please send an e-mail to

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Unmanned Aerial Systems


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What are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles/Systems? Kingston-20130808-00045

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) are aircraft that can fly autonomously, using computers and predetermined flight plans, or be piloted remotely. 

 The use of commercial UASs is growing and the applications of the technology can be endless.  One way in which UASs are increasingly being used, both by private industry and government, is as a new tool to conduct surveys and mapping.

The Benefits

Equipped with on-board cameras, UASs can capture timely aerial images at a fraction of the cost of traditional manned flights.  UASs can also fly at lower altitudes, allowing for better ground resolution and more accurate mapping information to be collected. After a flight, the images captured by the UAS can be quickly downloaded for analysis and the results obtained within days of the survey. These results can then be used by organizations to make better informed decisions about resource management or land use planning.

For organizations concerned about sustainability, UASs have a lower environmental footprint than manned flights as they are smaller, lighter and tend to be battery operated.

Due to their low operating cost and their ability to follow complex flight patterns, areas that were once inaccessible to field investigations can be easily surveyed and mapped using UASs. 

High Resolution Aerial Surveysquarry_blumetricUAS

For mining, pits and quarries, the high resolution surface data collected by UASs can be used to effectively calculate mining and aggregate stockpile volumes to within 1-3%.   Using the imagery captured, ground surface topography can be rapidly generated and semi-automated photo stitching processes can create geo-referenced, 3-D information. 

Accurately calculating stockpile volumes allows companies to better manage their resources and costs.

Environmental Assessment and Management

Who Can Benefit From UASs?

  •  Exploration and Large Scale Mining Industry
  •          Aggregate Industry
  •          Waste Management and Solid Waste Operators
  •          Forestry Planning and Transformation Industry
  •          Local and Regional Municipal Government
  •          Conservation Authorities
  •          Agricultural Sector
  •          Consulting and Engineering Firms
  •          Land Developers and Real Estate


  •          High Resolution Aerial Surveys
  •          Environmental Assessment and Management
  •          Topographic Mapping and Surveys
  •          Infrastructure Inventory and Land Management
  •          3D Site Visualization
  •          Crop Growth Assessment
  •          Surface Water and Drainage Modelling

 For more information about using UASs in surveying and mapping, please contact us at

Managing and Using Material Safety Data Sheets in Your Workplace


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Ensure Your Workplace Has  Updated MSDS for Every Product in Use

Ensure Your Workplace Has Updated MSDS for Every Product in Use

Ensure you have the correct Material Safety Data Sheets for the product in use. 

When a new product is introduced to the workplace Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) must be provided. The MSDS must be for the specific brand name and supplier of the product. Do not use products in the workplace until the MSDS has been obtained.

Ensure the Material safety data sheets are valid.

MSDS expire three years from the date of preparation. When you obtain an MSDS determine the date of preparation as it is printed on the MSDS. Make note of the date by highlighting it or creating a master list of when your MSDS will expire so that maintenance efforts can be minimized.

Know the content on the MSDS.

It is not enough to just have the MSDS in a workplace. Make sure that any personnel using controlled products have read and understand the MSDS. Material safety data sheets provide important information such as; proper handling procedures, first aid information and proper disposal methods. Know the risks of a product and how to protect yourself from it will make your workplace a safer environment.

Keep MSDS in a central location.

The location of MSDS in a building is very important. MSDS must be situated in a central location so that those who are using products will know where to find the MSDS in case of an emergency. Having multiple locations in large buildings is okay as long as the MSDS in each of these locations are kept up to date. Ensure that all workers know where the MSDS binders are located from day one.

Minimize the amount of products requiring MSDS.

There are many alternative products on the market which are not controlled by WHMIS.  Using these products in the workplace means you do not have to keep an MSDS and you will also reduce the risk to employees.

Organize MSDS so that they are easily accessible.

When preparing an MSDS binder organizing it in alphabetical order will ensure that in the event of an accident the information will be quickly accessible. In addition, adding a table of contents will help make accessing a specific MSDS easier.

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Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month: Promoting Health and Safety in Your Business


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Is workplace health and safety a priority in your company?

October 1-28 is Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month.

Employers should take advantage of this campaign to promote awareness about health and safety within their organization.  You can register onlineto access a dashboard where you can plan events, activities or workshops to help educate and engage your employees.

The month has been sectioned by week into four different categories:

  • Week One – Taking Action on Our Mental Health
  • Week Two – Improving Our Workplace Culture
  • Week Three – Making Our Workplace Resilient
  • Week Four – Keeping Our Workplace Safe

During the month of October Vicinia will also be providing a workplace safety tip per day via this Blog, Twitter and Facebook.  To keep informed, make sure you follow us.

More Information on Healthy Workplace Month can be found here:

Emergency management planning – when the “unthinkable” happens is your workplace prepared?


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Is Your Business Prepared?It is every employers responsibility to provide a safe workplace – it is called “due diligence”.  Having a plan in place to deal with emergencies is an important part of any workplace health and safety program. An Emergency Response Plan (ERP) specifies procedures for handling potential emergency situations.

Although emergencies by definition are often sudden and unexpected, the lilkihood of their occurrence can be somewhat predictable. A workplace ERP should be developed based on working through a process to identify known hazards, potential risks, the likelihood of a particular event occurring, and the severity of the consequences should the “unthinkable” happen.  The reality is that no workplace is immune, an emergency can happen anywhere.

Geographic location tends to determine the type and severity of natural disasters that may occur whereas physical and mechanical hazards and risks vary from one organization or industry to the next based on the nature of materials that are handled and work that is performed. Emergency situations have the potential to kill or cause injury to workers, impact the general public in the vicinity of the organization or business, harm the environment, and cause damage to buildings, equipment and stores.  Examples of hazards that may be present in or could potentially occur at or near your workplace include:

  • Chemical/Environmental Hazards: HAZMAT spills, compressed gas leaks, fire, explosion, accidental release of toxic substances, deliberate release of hazardous biological agents, or toxic chemicals, transportation accidents,
  • Security Hazards: bomb threat, terrorist activities, lockdown, armed intruder, criminal behaviour, workplace violence,
  • Mechanical Hazards: building collapse, major structural failure, elevator malfunctions, loss of electrical power, loss of water supply, loss of communications, and
  • Natural Hazards: floods, earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, other severe wind storms, snow or ice storms, severe extremes in temperature (cold or hot).

The possibility of one event triggering others must be considered e.g. an explosion may start a fire or cause structural failure.

After the initial hazard identification and risk assessment step is completed you are ready to begin working out the details of your plan.  The following items should be considered when preparing your emergency response plan:

  • The scope of the plan – which emergencies will you develop formal response procedures for based on identified hazards and risk assessment results?
  • Assign and define specific emergency response duties, responsibilities and points of contact at appropriate levels within your chain of command. Include contact information for key positions and ensure your communication strategy is clear and that information is kept up to date.
  • Identify and list contact information for external organizations that may be available to assist (fire departments, police, ambulance, hospitals, utility companies, government agencies).
  • Determine resource and equipment needs such as personal protective equipment (PPE), and other emergency equipment (AEDs, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, spill containment supplies).  Note that ensuring adequate resources may also include the need for external services in response to some types of emergencies.
  • Specialized training of both individuals and teams may be required, if they are expected to perform adequately in an emergency. Determine the level and frequency of emergency response employee training that is needed.
  • For most types of emergencies you will need a plan for alerting and evacuating staff.  Maps showing evacuation routes and assembly points are useful.
  • Ensure the ERP is communicated to workers, contractors working on-site, visitors and local authorities.
  • Emergency response exercises and drills should be practiced periodically. At a mimimum these exercises should test critical portions of the ERP such as evacuations. Conduct a review after each exercise, drill, and after actual emergencies to determine if there are any areas of the ERP that require improvement. The plan should be reviewed at least annually and updated whenever weaknesses are identified.

A well planned and well maintained ERP is one of the best tools you can develop to ensure the safety of personnel and to minimize property damage and environmental impacts in the event of an actual emergency.  Don’t wait until you need one to start thinking about you will respond.

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Podcast: Update on GHS in Canada


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In this podcast Lorraine Davison, Manager of Chemical Services at CCOHS, discusses the most recent updates in GHS and how these updates will impact Canadian workplaces.

Take a listen:  Update on GHS in Canada


Advanced Tertiary Wastewater Treatment: A Case Study of Commercial Land Development in Rural Ontario


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Rural communities are frequently disadvantaged by the lack of commercial services typically available in larger municipalities. The Thornton Crossing Commercial Plaza, built in a rural community North of Toronto, is an example of an environmentally sustainable development project. The project is distinguished by the construction of an onsite wastewater treatment plant that incorporates advanced tertiary wastewater treatment processes.

On a small property in the rural community of Thornton, Ontario, Unifay Fedar Investments of Mississauga wanted to develop Thornton Crossing, a commercial plaza housing a variety of restaurants, including a Tim Hortons, a gas station and some shops.

Thornton is not serviced by a municipal wastewater treatment facility and a condition of property development required the construction of an onsite treatment plant to treat wastewater. The most significant contributor of wastewater strength to the system is undoubtedly the Tim Hortons restaurant. To accurately estimate the loading on the system, data from several existing locations was analyzed and
the wastewater characteristics were defined. This analysis is critical because wastewater strengths in commercial facilities are typically four to 10 times that of typical municipal wastewater.

The plant is integrated into the commercial development, meets footprint requirements,
and can treat elevated levels of BOD and TSS to tightly imposed standards.
Thornton Crossing Onsite Treatment Plant
Note: Plant is brick structure to the right and fenced structure to left is the shopping mall solid waste storage

Following extensive consultation with the Ministry of the Environment (MOE), it was determined that the effluent was to be disposed of on the property through subsurface discharge. The complete Certificate of Approval
(C of A) effluent requirements are shown in Table 1, with the major challenge being a nitrate level of 3.0 mg/l or below. Inherent in such a stringent requirement is a need for tertiary treatment processes for both nitrification and denitrification.

The company selected to provide the process design, engineering and equipment supply was Seprotech Systems Inc. of Ottawa. This environmental technology company owns a number of proprietary technologies and, based on the client requirement, the engineers selected a combination of aerobic and anoxic treatment technologies. At the heart of the aerobic process is an extensively modified Rotating Biological Contactor (RBC) design trademarked Rotordisk.™ This is biological process whereby bacteria are grown on a media that is mounted on a shaft and rotated into and out of the wastewater. The process is extensively modified over a conventional RBC by incorporating a series of sludge digestion, recirculation and aeration functions. This technology was selected based on the advantages of low energy consumption and low operator and maintenance needs.
The client wanted an operator to visit the plant no more than twice per week
for no more than two hours at a time. The anoxic portion of the plant that performs the denitrification uses a submerged fixed-film biological growth system. In this case, the bacteria are grown on rectangular sections of media that are submerged and a motor maintains a forward and backward movement that provides conditions of controlled growth of bacteria on the media. This technology is known as Submerged Dynamic Media.

The Rotordisk™ integrated with Submerged Dynamic Media was chosen as it was an ideal choice for the Thornton Crossing installation for two important reasons. First, it could be custom designed to treat the very high strength waste streams generated by the restaurants and commercial facilities. Second, the plant design required a small footprint and it needed to be architecturally designed into the complex and have the appearance of a small outbuilding emitting no noise or odours. The client’s engineering firm selected
subsurface discharge through ‘shallow buried trenching,’ an engineered dispersion technology that allows for tile beds to take on any shape desired by the engineer. This important design detail has allowed the footprint of the tile field and plant to be only a fraction of the area that is normally required for a similar sized operation.

The treatment process is shown in Figure 1 and summarized as follows:

Figure 1

  • Wastewater is pumped from a wetwell to the Primary Settling Tank (PST).
  • The PST removes readily-settleable solids and floating material and thus reduces the suspended solids content of the wastewater.
  • The wastewater flows by gravity to the Rotorzone of the Rotordisk.™ The first two stages of the Rotorzone reduce organic strength (Biological Oxygen Demand BOD) to an advanced tertiary standard using naturally cultivated microorganisms, which form a film on the surface of each disc. As the discs rotate, the inactive film of microorganisms sloughs off and a new active film is regenerated in a continuing cycle. A portion of the microorganisms slough off and the remaining BOD consumed converts into carbon dioxide as it is used in the metabolism of the bacteria.
  • The third and fourth stages of the Rotorzone are for nitrification – the bacteriological conversion of ammonia nitrogen to nitrates. In the nitrification reaction ammonia is oxidized first to nitrite and then to nitrate.
  • The wastewater exits the Rotorzone, is dosed with acetic acid, and enters an anoxic Submerged Dynamic Media zone where nitrates (NO3-) are oxidized into nitrogen gas (N2).
  • The wastewater flows into a Final Settling Tank (FST).
  • The wastewater is pumped through multi-media filters (MMFs) to eliminate any remaining solids and flocculants. From there, the wastewater is pumped into a holding tank that discharges into the shallow buried trench system.

Despite the extremely high strength of the wastewater, the system has performed well. The tenant base in the plaza continues to evolve and the treatment plant is able to adjust and accommodate the changes. This project is a solid example of how the selection and application of advanced treatment technologies results in environmentally friendly and sustainable treatment of wastes, while at the same time giving the developer of the shopping mall the ability to develop the site in exactly the same way as in an area serviced by municipal infrastructure. The greatest beneficiary is the local community that has access to services they would otherwise lack.

More Photos of the Thornton, Ontario Wastewater Treatment Plant

Article originally published in Influents Magazine, Summer 2009

Written By:

Naomi Barratt and Christopher Hauschild, Vicinia Corporation.
Gary Black, P. Eng. , Seprotech Systems Inc.

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Spill Response in the Workplace: The Importance of Assessing the Risks


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Hazardous materials spills occur in many workplaces throughout Canada. They can occur indoors or outdoors and often lead to harmful outcomes when the response is not executed properly. Human health is the most important concern when responding to a spill situation. After health risks have been assessed the environment becomes the next priority. In order to understand the proper response to a spill situation and to minimize risks to human health and the environment, personnel should be trained in spill prevention and response.

Responding to a workplace spill

Knowing How to Respond to a Spill Can Save Your Business Money

Spill response training does not only teach the techniques which should be used during the clean up of a spill. It also teaches the importance of assessing risks in spill situations in order to minimize hazards which could result from cleaning the spill. Human health should always be the first factor assessed in any emergency situation. In all spill scenarios the product must be identified before a response can be safely executed.

In some situations identification is easy, such as when a product is spilled during use. Workers should easily identify the product which they were using at the time of the spill. In other cases it is not so easy, such as if a unlabelled drum were leaking. If the identity of a product is not known, do not respond to the spill because the response in such situations may not be safe.

There are several identification systems which can be used to categorize hazardous materials depending on where they are being used, if they are in transport and how they are being stored. Knowing how to identify product properties by their WHMIS label, TDG placards or consumer labels will help to minimize risks to human health. After the product has been identified it is important to determine what the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is for the product which has spilled.

Not all hazardous materials require the same PPE, the proper equipment for each product can be found on the MSDS. There is no PPE which is adequate for all types of spills. Once the risks to human health have been assessed you can move on to assessing risks to the environment. Proper spill response can save employers from dealing with the costly repercussions which can result from spills. If spills do damage to the environment the costs to rehabilitate the area can be astronomical.  The fines which could follow can be extremely costly as the Canadian National Railroad discovered in March of 2011.

Ensuring your employees know and understand the proper procedures to follow when a spill occurs can make all of the difference. Carefully assessing the surrounding environment where a spill has occurred will enable responders to minimize the risk of causing environmental damage. Knowing the environmental features which are most sensitive to spills is a priority when trying to mitigate the effects of a spill. Does your company know how to minimize the risks to human health and the environment when cleaning up spills?

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The HAZMAT inventory: an essential management tool for your business


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At the heart of any procedural framework for managing environmental compliance is an accurate inventory of the HAZMAT present the facility. By developing and then building on an inventory, managers can extend the knowledge gained from the inventory to make better day-to-day decisions. A accurate and up to date HAZMAT inventory allows for:

  • the implementation of specific processes across multiple locations;
  • assignment of responsibility to appropriate individuals who can identify the hazards associated with products used in the workplace; and
  • tightened purchasing policies and procedures so the organization can control which chemicals are coming into each facility helps to reduce risk, cost, and liability.

A good HAZMAT inventory will contribute to the bottom line, and the basics are easy to understand and implement.

HAZMAT Inventory 101 – here is some general advice on setting up an inventory program for your workplace:

  • Getting Started. To start an inventory program, conduct a full inventory at the beginning of the year and modify the inventory throughout the year to reflect new purchases and disposed items. A follow-up inventory should then be initiated at the beginning of the next year to validate assumptions on chemical usage and turnover. Generally, if there is more than a 20 per cent change, either in the number of unique products or in the total quantity held in storage for the previous year, you should consider conducting another full inventory for each storage site.
  • Selecting an Appropriate Team. The inventory team might include a combination of EH&S staff, department/facility managers and professional consultants. An EH&S professional will provide the best inventory because they can quickly and easily identify hazardous products and chemicals. However with sufficient training non-EH&S staff can learn to read product labels as a method of HAZMAT identification. Vicinia Corporation developed a sustainable inventory approach in order to provide a more cost-effective alternative to consultant led inventories: using HAZMAT experts to train personnel at the organization to conduct the inventories themselves while providing project management and on-site support.
  • Recording Useful Information. At a minimum, each product or chemical record should include: the location of the material; the container size; the quantity of the material on hand; the name of the product or chemical; the name of the company that made the product or chemical; and, any part number or description assigned by the manufacturer. This basic information will allow one to match the item to a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which can provide data needed for reporting and critical exposures.
  • Establishing an Inventory Schedule. The frequency with which to review the inventory of chemicals and other HAZMAT will depend on the size of the business, the number of locations/departments that handle hazardous materials, the sophistication of purchasing and approval processes, and the expected turnover of chemicals and other HAZMAT. Ideally, the person who is responsible for the hazardous materials in the department/facility should take a master inventory annually.

Once an inventory is complete, it’s important to associate each item in the inventory with a manufacturer-specific MSDS and keep the inventory list and MSDSs available for easy access by employees. MSDS provide vital information for exposures and the specific characteristics of the chemicals in a product or mixture. As products change, or MSDS become outdated, ensure your organization has a process in place for acquiring new or updated MSDS.

By focusing efforts on gathering and analyzing the right information, it is possible for any organization to streamline costs associated with HAZMAT management (acquiring, tracking, storing, shipping, and disposing of hazardous materials that a facility handles, stores, uses, and produces) without compromising regulatory compliance, environmental performance, and workers’ health and safety.

Do you have an up to date HAZMAT inventory at your workplace? 

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