Since the enactment of environmental laws and regulations in Canada and the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, many treatment and disposal options for hazardous wastes have come and gone. Despite the development of new technologies over the years, incineration continues to be the “tried and true” method to dispose of wastes and offers the best solution to dispose of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) including PCBs, dioxins/ furans and other more ubiquitous hazardous waste compounds.
In Canada the Swan Hills Treatment Centre (owned by the Alberta Government and operated by the Contract Operations division of Earth Tech Canada Inc.) provides one of the best options in North America for the treatment and disposal (incineration) of hazardous wastes.
The Swan Hills Treatment Centre (SHTC) is the only fully integrated facility in Canada and one of only a few in the world. Since its inception in 1987, it has played a principal role in treating many hazardous wastes – including PCBs, dioxins/furans and ozone depleting substances (ODS) – from across North America. Exceptions include pathological, explosive, mercury and radioactive wastes.
The plant site consists of 320 acres of land of which approximately 80 acres are fenced. Treatment facilities include a stabilization/solidification plant a physical/ chemical facility to treat inorganic solid and liquid wastes and a large rotary kiln incinerator for treatment of organic wastes.
Treatment residues from any process are analyzed to confirm the material has been rendered non-hazardous. The nonhazardous solid residue is placed in a secure on site landfill cell built into the clay base and lined with high-density polyethylene that is rated for the placement of hazardous waste. Liquid residues are also verified to meet non-hazardous criteria and then injected into an on site deepwell.
Technically the SHTC is licensed to achieve a Destructive Removal Efficiency (DRE) of 99.9999 percent or six “nines” for incineration. Recent compliance testing confirms that the SHTC actually performs much better than its license requires and the centre consistently achieves DRE's of eight “nines” or 99.999999 percent efficiency.
In addition to treatment facilities, the site has a variety of storage facilities to store bulk solids (700 cubic metres), bulk liquids (1,000,000 litre capacity) and drums (17,000 drum spaces). Wastes are inventoried at the facility using a bar-coding system which allows complete tracking from “cradle to grave.” The SHTC is remotely located 240 kilometres north west of Edmonton, Alberta, close to the town of Swan Hills. The facility was originally envisioned to accept a broad range of hazardous waste streams generated by a variety of hazardous waste producers exclusively from the province of Alberta. Over the years the mandate of the plant has expanded to include wastes from other jurisdictions across Canada and North America.
The SHTC was the first voluntarily sited hazardous waste treatment facility in North America. Through an extensive public consultation process and community referendums, the facility received the support of the Town of Swan Hills and the surrounding area. Today the plant continues to receive the full support of the town and all of the local stakeholders including the neighbouring First Nations communities.
The SHTC has one of the most expansive environmental monitoring programs in the world. As part of its recently renewed Alberta Environment 10 year operating approval, the plant monitors all of the major environmental receptors (air, water, land, animals) and reports on the results regularly to Alberta Environment and the neighbouring stakeholders. With its world class environmental, health and safety management programs, the facility was recently able to pass the significant 1,000,000 man hour milestone without a lost time accident.
Today the SHTC remains a leader in the treatment and disposal of hazardous waste compounds from across North America. As the only licensed “full spectrum” PCB treatment and disposal facility in Canada, the only permitted facility in Canada to destroy ODS (CFCs and HCFCs) and the only licensed and permitted facility in North America to treat and destroy certain dioxin and furan contaminated materials, the SHTC continues to play an integral part in North America's hazardous waste treatment strategies.
Swan Hills Treatment Centre