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Spyhill Waste Management Facility environmental monitoring

The City of Calgary operates Spyhill Waste Management Facility, including a Class II landfill which accepts no hazardous wastes, at 112th Ave. and 69th Street NW. When the facility opened in 1968, it was beyond the fringes of the city but over the subsequent decades residential communities such as Citadel, The Hamptons, Sherwood, Nolan Hill and Beacon Heights have grown around the site.

Municipal landfill operation is regulated by the Province, under the jurisdiction of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD). The provincial government grants The City an Operating Approval which specifies all of the requirements that must be met to ensure the landfill is operating safely. Under provincial regulations, residential development must be located at least 300 metres from a landfill property boundary.

The Province renewed the Operating Approval for The City's Spyhill facility for 10 years in July 2012. The Environmental Management Plan is one of the conditions of the Operating Approval Waste & Recycling Services (WRS) must implement.

The Environmental Management Plan consists of several components, including:

  • Groundwater, surface water, and soil vapour monitoring;
  • Proactive remedial action programs;
  • Recommendations for future changes.

Background: Past Environmental Investigations, 2006 - 2010

The City conducts a routine monitoring program year-round to sample groundwater and soil vapour conditions. In May 2006, The City began an intensive precautionary environmental investigation at and around Spyhill Waste Management Facility after monitoring found volatile organic compounds (VOCs) below the ground surface at the property boundaries. Volatile organic compounds are present in a wide range of household and industrial products such as paint, solvent, gasoline and cleaners.

By 2010, the environmental investigation program was largely complete, and had involved internal and external scientific experts from the fields of hydrogeology, geology, environmental sciences, landfill design and remediation. Over 500 on-site and off-site monitoring points were installed and thousands of data sets collected and analyzed. One of the key findings from this work was that there were no indications of unacceptable risk to public health or the environment.

The concentrations of the VOCs of interest are low, ranging from parts per billion to below detection level. Evidence points to the source of the VOCs as being the oldest section of the landfill (Stage 1), which dates back to the late 1960s before landfill cell liners and systems to collect and treat the liquids produced by waste were as widely used as they are today.
Over the past few years, there were no exceedances for landfill-related compounds above guidelines outside the setback boundaries. View a more detailed summary of the investigation work: Spyhill Landfill environmental investigation report.

Spyhill Environmental Management Plan

Based on the results of the detailed environmental investigations, an updated Environmental Management Plan (EMP) was developed for the Spyhill facility in early 2011. The purpose of the EMP is to provide a framework for systematically monitoring and managing the potential subsurface environmental risks associated with the landfill operations. The monitoring component of the EMP focuses primarily on groundwater and soil vapour conditions underlying the facility and the adjacent lands. The EMP is a living document, to be reviewed regularly and revised and/or amended as warranted.

The objectives of the EMP are to:

  • review site conditions and identify potential risks to groundwater and soil vapour quality;
  • put programs in place to monitor and reduce, or eliminate, those risks; and
  • establish Waste & Recycling Services’ commitment to implement a remediation action plan, as warranted.

The EMP includes a routine water and soil vapour monitoring program. The objectives of this annual program are to:

  • comply with regulatory requirements under the Operating Approval;
  • monitor site conditions and identify potential impacts to groundwater, surface water, and soil vapour quality; and
  • implement contingency action plans if new impacts are identified.

The program involves sampling and monitoring groundwater, water supply wells, surface water, and soil vapour in and around the facility. The data collected over the past few years were for the most part similar to historical results. According to the guidelines developed from a site specific Human Health and Environmental Risk Assessment, the concentrations measured to date do not pose a risk to human health or the environment.

The EMP includes annual reporting to Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development of the previous year’s monitoring results, remediation activities, and proposed changes to the EMP, if any. The reports are submitted every March 31st. The EMP report is available at Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development’s library. The EMP report is also available for viewing in person by contacting the project manager via 311.

Proactive Remediation Action Program

It has been shown that the oldest part of the site, Stage 1, is the principal source of subsurface impacts to soil vapour and groundwater quality. As such, the focus of the Remediation Action Program is Stage 1. The 2006, 2010, and 2012 human health risk assessments concluded that there were no significant off-site risks to human health or the environment due to groundwater and soil vapour issues from the landfill. Despite this finding, Waste & Recycling Services has committed to a series of remediation activities that will reduce soil vapour and groundwater impacts, and therefore further reduce potential environmental risks associated with Stage 1.

The first major initiative, the installation of a soil vapour extraction system, began in December 2010. It uses a series of wells along the southern and southeastern perimeter of the facility to contain and treat soil vapours, including VOCs, on site. Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development authorized the work to proceed after reviewing a detailed proposal for the system. Installation was completed in May 2012 and the system is now operating.

The second part of the remediation involved the excavation and removal of oily waste found in a section of the oldest part of the landfill. Though the area in question is relatively small, approximately 30m by 40m, the removal of the oily waste, which was completed in May 2012, is expected to improve soil vapour and groundwater quality beneath the landfill. Materials removed from this section were assessed to determine an appropriate disposal facility, with most moved to the active engineered landfill cell at Spyhill equipped with a liner and leachate collection system. The excavation was backfilled with clean soil to match the current grade after the waste was removed.

A final closure plan for Stage 1 of the landfill is required as part of the Operating Approval. The proposed closure plan calls for a new cover system to minimize production of leachate and improve stormwater management on the site. Design of this cover is underway with construction to commence in spring 2016 and continue to late 2017. Construction of the new cover system should result in further improvements to groundwater conditions underlying the site.

If you have any questions, please contact the project manager through 311.