In December of 2015, XCG was retained by a seller to provide environmental consulting services during a sale of a hotel located in Woodstock, Ontario. Site investigations completed by the purchaser’s consultant identified a localised presence of chloride, trichloroethylene (TCE) as well as benzene, toluene, and ethylbenzene (BTE) in groundwater at concentrations that were above the generic MOECC Table 2 criteria published in a document entitled “Soil, Ground Water and Sediment Standards for Use Under Part XV.1 of the Environmental Protection Act,” dated April 15, 2011 (MOECC Standards). The purchaser’s consultant concluded that the presence of TCE above the generic MOECC Standards could be an indication of a potential presence of dense non-aqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) and recommended a significant additional deep (bedrock) site investigation program. Furthermore, the purchaser’s consultant provided an opinion that unless the property met the MOECC’s generic standards, the purchaser will not be able to obtain financing for the purchase of the site. Based on this opinion, and the additional time and cost that would be required to complete the recommended additional investigation, the transaction was put in jeopardy.
Given the mutual desire to see the transaction go through, the seller and the purchaser agreed for XCG to peer review the information and data generated by the purchaser’s consultant. Based on this review, XCG completed a limited shallow investigation to delineate the extent of previously identified TCE and BTE-related groundwater impacts. The work completed by XCG confirmed the originally detected concentrations. However, XCG determined that there is no evidence or a likelihood of a DNAPL being present under the subject property (TCE concentrations were less than 5 µg/L). Furthermore, it was XCG’s opinion that since the purchaser did not need or require a Record of Site Condition (RSC), the site conditions could be assessed using site-specific criteria.
This opinion was based on the fact that in Ontario, in order to assess soil and groundwater quality on properties, the soil and groundwater results are compared to the MOECC Standards. There are various standards that can be used depending upon the soil type, depth to bedrock, groundwater use (potable/non potable) and proximity to surface water bodies. These standards have been derived by the MOECC through a risk assessment based on the assumption that all exposure pathways and receptors relevant to a particular land use are actually present. From the regulatory standpoint, the generic MOECC Standards are only applicable to properties for which a RSC is being sought, or when site cleanup is ordered by the MOECC. However, these generic standards are often used ‘by default’ when assessing if a property is ‘clean’, without giving any consideration to whether or not all exposure pathways and receptors relevant to a particular site are actually present.
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The generic Table 2 MOECC Standards selected ‘by default’ by the purchasers consultant to assess the soil and groundwater conditions on the subject site are based on the assumptions that the following exposure pathways and receptors are present on-site:
- The on-site groundwater is used for on drinking purposes;
- Volatile vapours from groundwater can migrate into indoor air at a residential property; and
- On-site groundwater can discharge to a surface water body located within 30 metres of the subject site.
However, since a RSC was neither required or being sought for the subject site by the purchaser, it was XCG’s opinion that the use of the generic Table 2 MOECC Standards, or other MOECC generic standards was not required. Furthermore, given that none of the above conditions applied to the subject site, i.e.:
- Groundwater on-site (or in the vicinity of the site) is not used for potable purposes;
- Subject site and adjacent properties are used for commercial purposes; and
- There are no natural bodies of water within 30 metres of the subject site;
the use of the generic Table 2 MOECC Standards would be unnecessarily conservative and restrictive without providing additional protection to the on-site receptors. Therefore, XCG recommended the use of site-specific standards, based on the site use, exposure pathways, and receptors that are actually present on-site would be more appropriate, since presence of parameters at concentrations below these site-specific standards would not affect the ongoing use of the property for commercial purposes.
Consequently, in order to be protective of the on-site receptors, the on-site soil and groundwater quality was assessed using the MOECC risk-derived standards based on the protection of indoor air from vapours originating from groundwater for commercial/industrial land use, coarse-textured soil (i.e. S-IA for soil, and GW2/industrial for groundwater) components published in the MOECC document entitled “Rationale for the Development of Soil and Ground Water Standards for Use at Contaminated Sites in Ontario,” dated April 15, 2011 (MOECC Rationale Document).
By assessing the soil and groundwater on the subject site using the MOECC-derived criteria for the exposure pathways and receptors that were actually present on the subject site, XCG concluded that the soil and groundwater quality on the subject site meet the site-specific standards and the subject property can continue to be used for commercial purposes.
Based on the above conclusions, no additional work was required by the purchaser to obtain financing for the purchase of site and the transaction was successfully completed without much of a delay or extra costs.