Student Projects: Environmental Contamination/Reclamation


Investigation of Heavy Metals in a Green Space Corridor: Sources, Health Concerns and Mitigation Strategies

Brianna Thompson, MLWS 2019

As urbanization increases, so does the demand for multi-functionality of limited green spaces. However, as urbanization intensifies, so does contamination associated with urban development into these green spaces. One related concern is heavy metal exposure for humans in green spaces associated with community gardens, urban agriculture and children’s play spaces. This becomes an issue when heavy metals enter the soil, are taken up by vegetable plants and are then consumed by humans or when children play in soils with heavy metals and are exposed through dermal contact or inhalation of dust.

This white paper first reviews the literature concerning both sources of heavy metal contaminants in urban agriculture and green spaces and current remediation/prevention methods available. Secondly, it uses a section of the Arbutus Corridor in Vancouver as a case study to assess contamination of heavy metals in community gardens, the surrounding native soil and whether a number of physical barriers adjacent to a traffic corridor prevent or limit the contamination of heavy metals into the community garden’s soils and vegetation.

Advanced Wastewater Treatment and a Holistic Approach Recommended to Mitigate the Effects of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in the Aquatic Environment

A Case Study: Alberta, Canada

Jenna Szuch, MLWS 2019

This paper evaluates evidence regarding the adverse effects EDCs and PPCPs have on aquatic life and people, and highlights the potential risk that exists for humans from exposure to EDCs in the aquatic environment. EDCs are introduced into the environment through a variety of urban, rural and industrial sources. Treated wastewater is a major source of EDCs and PPCPs entering the aquatic environment. Municipal wastewater treatment plants were designed to control a variety of substances, such as nutrients and pathogens, which are (typically) successfully removed. However, this is not the case for a wide range of emerging contaminants, such as EDCs and PPCPs that are present in low concentrations and possess unique characteristics.

The presence of EDCs and PPCPs in the environment is a complex land and water issue, which requires a holistic approach. It is important to recognize that depending on how the issue of EDCs is framed, different conclusions can be reached. It is essential to include the frameworks from a variety of disciplines. This can help eliminate a disciplinary bias, while recognizing the interconnectedness of land and water.

Environment Impact Assessment of Hydraulic Fracturing in North Eastern British Columbia

Samuel Bolarinwa Makinde, MLWS 2019

This project was targeted to address the public and the provincial government of British Columbia on the issue of fracking. Thus, the specific objectives of this project work were: (i) to assess impacts of fracking on water resources; and (ii) to conduct meta-analysis of impacts of fracking on induced seismicity in North Eastern British Columbia.

Based on personal communication with researchers currently working on fracking and preliminary studies from literatures, it can be concluded that (i) if boreholes are done properly with due to diligence and mechanical integrity, there will be no or very limited groundwater contamination; (ii) if the sites are properly managed, there is little or no chance of environmental pollution (including air and water resources) by shale gas; (iii) fracking induces seismicity and if fracking continues, the magnitude and effects of earthquake will increase; and (iv) lastly, ongoing research in Northeastern British Columbia shows the concern of well leakage due to gas migration, which may lead to air pollution and groundwater contamination by methane gas.

Assessment of Heavy Metals in the Arbutus Greenway, Vancouver

Bixin Lin, MLWS 2019

From 1902 to 2001, Vancouver’s Arbutus Greenway served as a railway for regional freight and interurban passenger transport service. In March 2016, the City of Vancouver purchased the Arbutus Corridor from the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) built this corridor into a greenway.

The overall aim of this study was to provide an evaluation of potential heavy metal contamination along a recently de-commissioned railroad track in Vancouver and a particular section that has a history of small scale raised bed community gardens. This study focuses on Vancouver transportation corridor, the Arbutus Greenway, as a case study. Five random sites were selected in Zone 1 of the Arbutus Greenway. The pH, ash content and heavy metal concentration of the soil were determined. The metals Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn were selected as important in relation to human exposure.

Impacts of Wildfires on Environmental and Human Health in British Columbia

Xinyao Li, MLWS 2019

Over the years, wildfires have been of higher intensity and of longer duration throughout the world. This is caused by either human activities or natural factors. In British Columbia, climate change is believed to be responsible for this increasing phenomenon. Forest fires can have long term impacts on the environment, including physical, chemical and biological impacts. These environmental impacts pose threats to aquatic species and human health. In response to wildfires that are increasing due to climate change, wildfire prevention strategies, such as reducing the fuel volume, are recommended to apply in forest management practices. In addition, post fire measures aimed to mitigate the effects of wildfires, such as the upgrading of water supply treatment plants, is believed to be important, as it has been shown that wildfires cause the formation of toxic substances to both human and salmonid species.

A Review of the Regulatory Framework for Environmental Protection in BC’s Mining Industry

Lessons Learned from the Mount Polley Incident

Andrew Chan, MLWS 2019

In 2014, the Mount Polley mine tailings storage facility breached, spilling approximately 25 million cubic metres of water and mine tailings into the surrounding environment and nearby water bodies. Following the incident, an independent review panel and the Chief Inspector of Mines conducted investigations to determine the cause(s) of the failure and to make recommendations. The Auditor General of British Columbia also reviewed the incident during an audit of compliance and enforcement activities in the mining industry. This study was undertaken to determine areas of overlap in the recommendations across the three reports in order to identify regulatory gaps. This study conducted a review of key pieces of legislation guiding the mining industry in BC, two regulatory bodies and the three reports. The following four areas of overlap in the recommendations were identified: professional reliance, geotechnical oversight, life-of-mine planning for permitting and investigation, compliance and enforcement review. These findings suggested that additional controls should be implemented in these areas of overlap in order to prevent another tailings storage facility incident from occurring.


A Case Study of Constructed Wetlands Application to Restore Habitats and Treat Wastewater

Li Wang, MLWS 2018

Constructed Wetlands (CWs) have been seen as a practical and cost-effective solution to solve both wastewater issues and habitat loss issues. The use of constructed wetlands in Canada is, however, less common than in other countries. The main objective of this project is to investigate the current development of constructed wetlands and the current application of Constructed Wetlands in Canada. The elements of CWs, different types of CWs, as well as the advantages and limitations of CWs were reviewed in this report. In order to assess the current application of CWs in the west coastal area of Canada, a case study in the Greater Vancouver region was selected. It is expected that CWs provide multiple benefits to both wildlife and local communities. Further studies are required to understand the viability and long term performance of CWs in Canada.

Using SWAT to simulate the effects of forest fires on water yield in forested watershed:

A Case Study of Bonaparte Watershed, Central Interior of British Columbia, Canada

Abia Katimbo, MLWS 2018

Climate change has impacted the forested watersheds of British Columbia by bringing extremely high temperatures and beetle infestations, thus coinciding with increasing amounts of forest fires. On average, it is estimated that about 10,000 fires occur every year in Canada, burning about 2 million ha of the 400 million ha forested landscape. One of the areas that was most affected by the forest fires in 2017 was the Cariboo Regional District in the central interior of British Columbia. Wildfire burns away the ground cover of the landscape, exposing soils to erosion under heavy storms. The major objective of this study was to simulate the changes in water yield in the forested watershed during pre- and post-wildfire periods, using Bonaparte watershed as the study area. The SWAT model was used for water yield simulations, in order to evaluate the hydrological response of the watersheds to forest fires.

Evaluation and Remediation of Potential Environmental Contaminants in Alberta Oil and Gas Well Sites

Jierui, MLWS 2018

By way of a reconnaissance, this report presents an evaluation of some of the challenges pertaining to drinking water access and availability in small First Nation communities in BC’s southern interior. Representatives from two groups were approached, Lytton First Nation and Esh kn-am, and through informal meetings, an assessment of local drinking water concerns in the region was conducted.

The Lytton First Nation had recently installed a new water treatment system. The communities represented by Esh-kn-am had challenges with water shortages and some sporadic Boil Water Advisories (BWAs). The current water management does not provide long-term solutions, and as such, potable water will always need to be treated if further actions are not taken.

As a result, a holistic approach to drinking water management has been recommended for both community groups. The use of watershed-level management by way of the multi-barrier approach and/or integrated watershed management more effectively protects water at its source and better ensures the quality of the water at the tap. Additionally, these holistic methods generate more collaboration and require that adequate data be gathered, both of which are needed in addressing drinking water concerns. Despite watershed level management of drinking water sources being a viable solution, the communities have little control over local governance, especially within their traditional territory, which hinders the more holistic approaches.

A Conceptual Framework for a Community-Based Approach to Addressing Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining in Ghana

Alfred Baafi Acheampong, MLWS 2016

Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) in Ghana is becoming a major concern, in spite of its positive economic impacts, particularly in alleviating rural poverty. ASM contributes to the pollution of land and water resources in Ghana, and thus to the health of the ecosystems and the local people. These environmental challenges and ASM-related social issues have resulted in several government interventions. These “top-down” approaches and policy implementations have proven unsustainable.

The study examined the potential of the introduction of a community-based framework for moving towards a more sustainable ASM in Ghana. Two case studies (Obuasi-Ghana and Mongolia) that involved community-driven intervention with the focus on the integration of technical, institutional and political capacity were examined. The framework developed presents a systematic planning and implementation strategy for project facilitators. ASM interventions should focus on organizing the miners, developing cleaner technology options, and formalizing ASM by strengthening political and institutional support.

Full report available upon request.

Conceptualizing Stream Ecosystem Restoration

P. Clemens Langemeyer, MLWS 2016

Land managers and conservationists generally agree that ecocentric restoration is a mandatory practice with regard to the development of a sustainable future. Present-day restoration projects continue to be undermined by conceptual models founded decades ago: river systems were seen as inherently homogenous, held in equilibrium by natural processes, and that these processes remained constant regardless of scale. This has led to the continued misunderstanding of the heterogeneity and interconnectivity of streams, a perception that is still represented by conventional restoration practices.

The Stream Ecosystem Network is an interactive digital mind map that stimulates thought with respect to ecosystem connectivity, allowing users to visualize various components of stream ecosystems, and how they are interrelated. Environmental professionals capable of identifying and communicating interactions between system components across a multitude of disciplines (systems-thinkers) are a valuable asset to the continued development of this network. This project reviews and discusses how the network might benefit restoration ecologists throughout project development. Several published guidelines serve as a platform for discussing restoration strategy development and the re-integration of riverine natural processes.

Interactive Mind Map

British Columbia Reclaimed Mine Sites: Case Studies and Lessons Learned

Adrienne Turcotte, MLWS 2015

This project aimed to answer the following questions: What are some of the techniques that are used to reclaim metal mines in BC? Which techniques were successful? Were there any similarities across the case studies in the different environments? Which techniques caused challenges in reaching ecological restoration? Were there any similarities across the case studies in the different environments?

By investigating examples at specific mines, knowledge on implementing successful ecological restoration can be gained. This study focused on several metal mines in British Columbia that are representative of the province’s ecological environments. The assessment provides a base from which we can learn from the successes and challenges encountered in these reclamation cases, and inform future approaches to mine closure planning. This project is intended to be a resource for those looking to understand mining reclamation practices in BC. This project may be particularly useful to those studying reclamation or mine closure, mining inspectors new to these mines, or practitioners looking to broaden their knowledge of real world mining reclamation examples.

Cumulative Ecological Impact of the Residential Construction Industry on Watershed Health in Three North Shore Communities in the Lower Mainland of BC

Erika Nassichuk, MLWS 2015

There are many issues associated with the impacts of residential construction on watersheds. Examples include: sediment-laden or chemically contaminated water entering into watercourses, and a trend towards larger building footprints that can reduce the amount of land available for rainwater infiltration. The cumulative effects of widespread construction are not well understood. There is not currently an easy-to-follow guide to help builders and contractors minimize damage to the surrounding watershed while building or renovating single-family homes. There are two overall objectives associated with this project. The first is to create a clear, easy to follow online educational resource that can inform developers of the potential negative impacts of residential construction on watercourses and watersheds. The second objective is to encourage the use of Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) by the construction industry, in order to facilitate small changes to improve urban watershed health. A guiding framework was developed to aid both developers and homeowners to minimize their impact on watersheds by activities.