PCB

by | Jun 14, 2017 | Hazardous materials

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of manmade chemicals. They are oily liquids or solids, clear to yellow in color, with no smell or taste. PCBs are very stable mixtures that are resistant to extreme temperature and pressure. Until 1970, PCBs were used widely in electrical equipment such as capacitors and transformers as heat exchanger, insulating oil and many other applications. Since 1970, PCB importation, manufacture and sale are prohibited in Canada under a federal regulation, however, this regulation allows owners of PCB-containing equipment to continue using them if they were already in use.

Electrical equipment containing PCBs, such as transformers, capacitors and lamp ballasts, are still used in Canada. However, the PCB Regulations have set December the 31th 2025 as deadline for using  PCB-containing equipment, such as pole-mounted electrical transformers, capacitors, circuit breakers and ballasts of lamps. The purpose of this decision is to phase PCB-containing equipment out.

The only PCB disposal facility in Canada, is located in Alberta.

Once decommissioned, PCB-containing equipment become residual hazardous materials and regulated in Québec by the Environment Quality Act and the Regulation respecting hazardous materials. Thus, until December 31, 2025, residual materials containing or contaminated with PCBs will continue to be generated annually.

The Act defines hazardous materials as (a material which, by reason of its properties, is a hazard to health or to the environment and which, within the meaning of a regulation under this Act, is explosive, gaseous, flammable, poisonous, radioactive, corrosive, oxidizing or leachable or is designated as a hazardous material, and any object classed by regulation as a hazardous material).

According to the 4th section of the ROHS, PCB is classed as some hazardous materials

“[…]

Any material and object containing PCBs or contaminated by PCBs — polychlorinated biphenyls whose molecular formula is C12H10-nC1n, “n” being a whole number greater or equal to 2 but less than or equal to 10 — that are listed below:

(a any liquid containing more than 50 mg of PCBs per kg of liquid; or

(b any solid containing more than 50 mg of PCBs per kg of solid; or

(c any substance containing more than 50 mg of PCBs per kg of substance;

(d any object — equipment, machinery, capacitor, transformer, manufactured object — containing a liquid, solid or substance mentioned above or that is contaminated by such a material;

(e any object or exposed metal part whose surface is contaminated by more than 1 mg of PCBs per m2.”

Thereby the following sections should be respected:

  1. No one may emit, deposit, discharge or release a hazardous material into the environment or into a sewage system, or allow the emission, deposit, discharge or release therein, unless the operation is made in accordance with the Environment Quality Act.
  2. Every person who accidentally releases a hazardous material into the environment shall immediately

(1)  stop the spill;

(2)  inform the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks; and

(3)  recover the hazardous material and remove all contaminated material that is not cleaned or treated on site.

  1. No liquid from electrical equipment shall be reused as new filling fluid or secondary fluid where the PCB concentration is greater than 50 mg/kg.
  2. An operator shall inspect the storage facilities at least once every 3 months to ensure that they are in good condition and in good working order.
[…]

and a person who stores materials or objects containing PCBs or contaminated by PCBs shall keep a register of the inspection results, and that register shall remain at the storage site for 2 years from the last entry.

  1. Materials and objects containing PCBs or contaminated by PCBs shall be grouped together and stored apart from other hazardous materials, unless the materials and objects are placed in cargo containers.

PCB storage activities are regulated by the sections 31-32-81-85-87-88-94.

 

Storage

PCB Storage site

PCBs are first stored at the point where they were generated, most often as a result of the decommissioning of electrical equipment containing PCBs.

PCB are also stored in treatment centers. When PCBs are shipped to a treatment or disposal facility, PCBs may also be transported through a residual hazardous materials transfer facility whose the permit include PCBs treatment. Under the Environmental Quality Act, sites that offer such services must be licensed . transfer sites list is available and regularly updated.

There is no facility to eliminate PCBs by incineration in Quebec. In addition, the Hazardous Materials Regulations prohibit the burial of substances or equipments with a PCB concentration greater than 50 mg / kg.

 

PCB reporting and record keeping

Any person in possession of residual materials containing PCBs or contaminated with PCBs must submit to the Minister an annual report that include the quantities generated, the quantities stored at the end of the year and the places where these materials were sent for processing and disposal. It must be submitted by 1 April of the following calendar year.

 

Federal regulation 

  • PCB régulations
  • Canadian Environmental Protection Act

 

References 

  • Environment quality act (Quebec)
  • Regulation respecting hazardous materials (Quebec)
  • Canadian Environmental Protection Act (Canada)
  • PCBs regulations (Canada)

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