Our job is to determine if a site has been returned to a suitable condition, and understanding provincial guidelines and standards is a part of that. While not entirely health & safety related, it is still important to ensure that the health of site occupants is being protected and that contamination is not putting people/animals at risk. To do this, our personnel need to understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind guidelines, and what else needs to be considered.
Today we reviewed how water pH, temperature, hardness, and chloride concentrations can all affect guidelines for different metals and nutrients parameters in groundwater. At different pH and/or temperature levels, different metals parameters become more or less soluble in groundwater. This is very important to know when we are working near water bodies that could be impacted by a release, or when we are working with releases of fertilizer.
We also discussed the importance of a proper background soil sampling program when dealing with releases of fertilizer and/or salt into soils. There are no provincial standards in place in Alberta for many nutrient/salt parameters in soil, but that doesn't mean that it's ok to not remediate the issue. In instances such as this, taking samples from areas outside of the area of impact and using statistics to generate background guidelines is the best approach.