Environmental Studies: Watershed, Water, Air, Solid Waste, Groundwater Pollution

Petroleum-Contaminated Groundwater Remediation
  • Groundwater contamination in the petroleum industry can lead to a variety of problems, risks and liabilities. Experience in Canada and around the world suggests that both the economic and social damages derived from contaminated groundwater and the costs of cleaning it up are enormous. IEESC is conducting research to help the petroleum industry clean up contaminated sites.
  • IEESC has developed groundwater simulation models based on soil and climate conditions for the prairies.
  • In research and development of remediation technologies for the clean up of petroleum-contaminated sites, IEESC members have been exploring a number of enhancement methods that are suitable to soil and climate conditions of western Canada.
  • Recently, IEESC members have been working on the development of biosurfactant-enhanced remediation technology. The technology is different from conventional chemical and biological technology, having the following characteristics: (i) ability to improve medium conditions, (ii) non-toxic to microorganisms, and (iii) ability to promote microbial activities. The biosurfactants could then at a slow rate be degraded as preferential substrates by inherent microorganisms.
  • This technology is critical for improving remediation performance in the prairie region where low-permeability soil conditions exist. Our methods have been applied to a number of remediation projects and received attention by peers around the world.
  • Funded by: Petroleum Technology Research Centre, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

Solid Waste Engineering
  • Solid waste removal is an essential part of our lives. Every day, waste is generated from industrial, construction, institutional, construction and demolition materials and residences. Methods to deal with waste materials include dumping, burying, burning and diverting, yet there are problems associated with processing the materials. Those facilities can generate pollutants, such as leachate, odors, dioxins, heavy metals, etc. which can have negative impacts on environmental and human health.
  • Our research helps solid waste managers control contaminants and protect human health through an integrated approach to solid waste management. IEESC works with managers on the long-term planning of solid waste management systems to analyze the support decisions for regulating and managing facilities and their impacts.
  • Cities studied include Hamilton, Regina, Bangkok and Beijing, and IEESC has been internationally accepted as an authority in this field.
  • As space at landfills becomes increasingly more limited, diverting organic wastes from the landfill is key and IEESC has expanded its work to composting research. Using mathematical programming to analyze system interactions, biological processes and related tradeoffs, IEESC’s research is critical to the automatic control of waste composting and opens a new field for advanced composting-process research.
  • Funded by: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

Groundwater Simulation and Environmental Risk Assessment
  • Risk assessment is an important part of managing a problem on an industrial site, such as one that has been contaminated with pollutants. While researching environmental problems in the petroleum industry, IEESC members developed a groundwater simulation model. This model outlines the risks associated with soil remediation methods and is based on the soil and climate conditions of the Canadian prairies. 
  • Our model provides decision support to assess and rank the severity of a contaminated site and helps to identify critical issues to alleviate the problem. Our methods also help predict future soil and contaminant behavior on a contaminated site using hydrogeologic information.
  • We have applied our methods to a number of real-world case studies. For example, the research of the Hoosier Gas Plant Site with TransGas led to the study of additional contaminated sites.
  • Funded by: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, TransGas Ltd., Petroleum Technology Research Centre, and Husky Oil.
Watershed Management
  • Waterborne disease concerns in our drinking water systems have become a significant issue since the Walkerton, Ontario E. coli outbreak in 2000. Research tells us that weather plays a significant role in triggering such disasters.
  • It is important to have tools for investigating the effects of climate change on microbial contamination of source water (water from lakes, rivers and aquifers) and identify the key components of effective surface water protection and management strategies, under various climate scenarios. 
  • IEESC developed a system for managing the effects of climate change on microbial contamination of surface water supplies. We also developed a user-friendly tool to support drinking water decision making and management to reduce the health risks associated with microbial contamination. The system will be applied to various regions across Canada, focusing on Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Yukon.
  • Funded by: Canadian Water Network, Networks of Centers of Excellence.