Air Practitioners’ Working Group –Frequently Asked Questions

December 17, 2015:  FAQs on “Update of ESDM Reports due to the Ministry’s Adoption of Updated Model Versions”

Q1: I know that the ministry has adopted updated air dispersion model versions on November 2, 2015 (i.e. AERMOD/AERMET 14134 and ASHRAE 2011).  My facility is subject to the requirements of section 19 of O.Reg.419/05, and has used the models in the Appendix to Regulation 346 to assess compliance with Schedule 2 standards. Am I affected by this ministry’s adoption of updated air dispersion model versions?

A1: At the present time, a facility that is subject to the requirements of section 19 does not have to update their ESDM report or make any changes to their air dispersion modelling as a result of the adoption of the updated model versions.  However, if you have an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) with Limited Operational Flexibility (LOF) in which you use AERMOD to demonstrate compliance with Schedule 2 standards, and you do not have a valid approval under section 7 of Reg. 419/05 to use your current model version, you are required to use the updated model versions in your update of ESDM Report in 2016 on or before the date specified in your ECA with LOF.

Q2: I know that the ministry has adopted updated air dispersion model versions on November 2, 2015 (i.e. AERMOD/AERMET 14134 and ASHRAE 2011).  When is a facility required to update its ESDM Report using the updated air dispersion model versions?

A2: A facility in Schedule 4 or 5 of Reg. 419/05 is required to update its ESDM Report by March 31, 2016 using the newly adopted air dispersion model versions of November 2, 2015, unless you have a valid approval under section 7 of Reg. 419/05 to use your current model version.  A facility not in Schedule 4 or 5 that has an ECA with LOF (note 1) is also required to update its ESDM Report at the time specified in the Approval, using the newly adopted air dispersion model versions of November 2, 2015, unless you have a valid approval under section 7 of Reg. 419/05 to use your current model version.

Q3: My facility is not a Schedule 4 or 5 facility of Reg. 419/05 and does not have an ECA with LOF.  I did speed up to AERMOD under a section 20(4) Notice but I do not have a valid section 7 Notice to use my current model version.  My current ESDM Report is the one that was submitted last time for my current ECA and my facility has not made any change after issuance of the ECA.  Do I have to update my current ESDM Report using Ontario’s newly adopted updated air dispersion model versions on November 2, 2015?

A3: At present you are not required to update your current ESDM Report.  You are required to update your ESDM Report either when you have to apply for amendment to your current ECA for changes in your facility or when you are required by the ministry to submit an ESDM Report.  At that time your update should also include the use of the updated air dispersion model versions most recently adopted by the ministry.

Q4: My facility is required to model using AERMOD.  I have an ECA with LOF and am planning to make a Modification before my next ESDM Report update.  I do not have a valid approval under section 7 of Reg. 419/05 to use your current model version.  Do I have to use Ontario’s newly adopted updated air dispersion model versions on November 2, 2015 when preparing a proposed update of my ESDM Report?

A4: Yes you do.  If you are required to use AERMOD, you are required to use Ontario’s newly adopted updated air dispersion model versions on November 2, 2015 to prepare the proposed update to your ESDM Report due to the Modification.  Nevertheless, it is acceptable for you to use the newly adopted updated air dispersion model versions adopted on November 2, 2015 only for the Compounds of Concern associated with the Modification planned before your next ESDM Report update.  The whole ESDM Report would then be updated using the newly adopted updated air dispersion model versions in your next annual update.

Q5: My facility is a Schedule 4 (or 5) facility under O. Reg. 419/05 and I have an ECA without LOF.  I need to update my ESDM Report next year using Ontario’s newly adopted updated air dispersion model versions on November 2, 2015, since I do not have a valid approval under section 7 of Reg. 419/05 to use my current model version.  What should I do if this update revealed that I have exceeded the ministry’s standards or guidelines or JSLs?

A5: If your update of your ESDM Report indicates that a contaminant has its new POI concentration less than its previously calculated value, there is no further assessment at this time:  the information must be documented in the Emission Summary Table of the ESDM Report.

If the update indicates that discharges of a contaminant may result in a contravention of section 20 or that discharges of a contaminant may cause an adverse effect, you are required to notify the ministry under section 28 of O. Reg. 419/05 (Regulation).  Specifically, the regulation requires notification if there is an exceedance of a regulatory standard or if discharges may cause an adverse effect (e.g. guideline).  Please refer to the notification provisions in s. 25(9) and 28(1) of the Regulation.  Once notification under section 28 is made, you are obligated to prepare and submit a written abatement plan within 30 days that recommends steps that would be taken to prevent and minimize discharges, as per section 29 of the Regulation. (Note 2)

In addition, section 30 of the Regulation sets out steps regarding exceedance of Upper Risk Thresholds (URTs).  If an URT may be exceeded, based on any relevant modelling or monitoring information, immediate notification to the local District Office of the ministry is required followed by submission of an ESDM report for that contaminant within 3 months’ time.  (Note 2)

If the update of your ESDM Report indicates that a contaminant has a new POI concentration higher than its previously calculated value and that contaminant has no value on the JSL List or its JSL is exceeded, in general, this would not require notification to the Ministry and this can be dealt with at the next opportunity for MOECC review i.e. as part of an application for an amendment to the ECA or when MOECC requests the submission of a copy of the ESDM Report.  However, one should keep in mind that the Environmental Protection Act prohibits a person from discharging a contaminant or causing or permitting a discharge of a contaminant if the discharge causes or may cause an adverse effect.

Q6: If I am required to do an annual update of my ESDM Report, do I have to re-model all contaminants in my ESDM Report using Ontario’s newly adopted updated air dispersion model versions, since I do not have approval under section 7 of O. Reg. 419/05 to use my current model version?  What if the POI concentrations of the contaminants in my ESDM Report are mostly small fractions of their respective ministry standards, guidelines or JSLs. 

A6: O. Reg. 419/05 requires some facilities to update their ESDM Reports on an annual basis “so that the information in the report is accurate as of December 31 in that year”.  ECAs with LOF also require a facility to update its ESDM Report on an annual basis.  When a new model version is introduced, the ministry expects the facility to assess all the contaminants in its ESDM Report using the new model version.  However, the ministry also recognizes the burden on the facility when there are a lot of contaminants in the facility’s emission inventory especially when the re-modelling is for contaminants with POI concentrations that were only fractions of their respective ministry standards or guidelines or JSL/APOICs.  Therefore the ministry is prepared to accept alternative means of re-assessing POI concentrations for their ESDM Reports which use more recent versions of AERMOD (i.e. AERMOD version 12345 or later).

A facility may be able to propose and fully document a rationale for why facilities with POI concentrations that are well below the acceptable benchmark do not have to be re-modelled each time there is a change in the model versions.  Examples of an acceptable rationale, for this round of updates, may include:

  • I have already modelled all the POIs using AERMOD version 12345 or later and the expected changes in POI between this version and AERMOD version 14134 are minimal.
  • The current POI levels are very low (less than 10%), and hence I do not expect there to be any exceendence of ministry POI limit using the newer model versions.
  • I re-modelled the key contributing sources and/or source groups with AERMOD version 14134 for the contaminant(s) that are closest to the POI limits, and the remaining sources/source groups that were not modelled are all similar in nature to the key contributors.  The remodelling shows that if the percent changes to the maximum POI concentrations for the modelled contaminants are applied to the maximum POI concentrations for the remaining, unmodelled contaminants, the remaining contaminants are very likely to be well below their respective POI Limits.  Note that the complete rationale, including an assessment of the source types and characteristics will be required to be provided if this approach is to be used.

However, if a facility is modelling using any AERMOD version that predates AERMOD version 12345, and there is no valid section 7 Notice under O. Reg. 419/09 for use of the current version, the ministry recommends re-modeling POI concentrations as soon as practicable.

It should be noted that despite the issuance of this section 7 notice, the Director under Section 9 of the Environmental Protection Act may require you to use these updated model versions to assess compliance with the Schedule 3 standards for the Environmental Compliance Approval application currently under review at the Environmental Approvals Branch.

August 2014

Q:  Can you please provide guidance when an Acoustic Assessment Report is required?
A:  According to previous guidance, if a facility was more than 500 metres or 1,000 metres (depending on the equipment) from a Point of Reception (POR), it would not usually require any noise assessment (beyond the required documentation demonstrating the separation distance).  This wording was lost in the recent guidance updates, although the screening capability still applies and the wording will be restored to future updates.  

A facility closer to a POR than the 500 metre or 1,000 metre separation distance may also screen out by using one of the ministry’s Primary Noise Screening (aka the Noise Screening Process) or Secondary Noise Screening approaches.  

If the facility is unable to screen out through the 500 metre or 1,000 metre separation distance, Primary Noise Screening or Secondary Noise Screening, an Acoustic Assessment Report will be required to support the application.  The Abbreviated Acoustic Assessment approach is still under development and is not generally available for use by applicants.

Finally, in response to noise complaints, the ministry may require an Acoustic Assessment Report to be submitted for a facility that appeared to screen out, since compliance is related to actual noise impacts at PORs, rather than separation distances or screening estimates.  In addition, applicants may choose to submit an Acoustic Assessment Report for review to ensure their proposed noise emissions are compliant, rather than relying on the screening approach.

The ministry’s guidance documents are currently undergoing updates to ensure consistency with NPC-300 and future updates will also reflect the above guidance.

Q:  The Primary Noise Screening Form applies to facilities with specific NAICS codes.  Can I use the screening form for facilities with other NAICS codes?  What are the situations under which I can use the screening form or which I cannot use the screening form?
A:  If the facility does not satisfy the NAICS codes listed on the Primary Noise Screening form, it may still qualify for the screening if all of the major equipment on the site is referenced in Question 3 and the site does not include any of the equipment listed in Table 1.2.  The Primary Noise Screening form must include a cover letter for consideration by the ministry, indicating that all of the major equipment on the site is referenced in Question 3 and the site does not include any of the equipment listed in Table 1.2.

Q:  I noticed that in my renewed Environmental Compliance Approval with Limited Operational Flexibility (ECA with LOF), previously called Basic Comprehensive C of A, the Maximum Concentration Level Assessment (MCLA) Request process has removed the condition that if I do not receive a reply from the Director within 30 days after my request has been acknowledged by the ministry, I could consider that MCLA accepted by the ministry.  Why is the change?  Besides, I am concerned about the impact of this change on my planned modifications.

A:  The ministry has recently re-visited the MCLA Request process prescribed in an ECA with LOF and concluded that, from a legal perspective, the Director must render a decision on the MCLA Request for the MCLA considered as a Performance Limit.  Therefore the ministry has amended the relevant conditions in the ECA to reflect this revised position.

The ministry is committed to deliver improved environmental protection and better client service.  The ministry’s record indicates that the MCLA Request process prescribed in ECAs with LOF has been working well with all decisions being made within 30 days of the date that the submission is acknowledged.  With the new process in place, the ministry is committed to continue to provide timely feedback on MCLA requests.  Furthermore, the ministry is continually looking into means to expedite the processing of the MCLA Request process.  In case you have not received a response from the ministry in 30 days after your MCLA request has been acknowledged, you could contact the ministry on status of your request.

Q: What references can be considered “standard” in an ECA Application? How do I deal with non-standard references?

A: References used in an ECA application should be available to the ministry for technical review.  Many references are “standards” (e.g. AP42). The ESDM guide, in Procedure Table C-1 provides a list of “standard” references that do not need to be included in an ESDM.

If any references are used that are not in the standard list, either the web link or a copy of the reference should be included in the ESDM.

Q: Can noise screening be used to apply for an ECA with Limited Operational Flexibility?  Page 53 of the ECA guide (left hand column, about ½ way down page), indicates “Furthermore, note that an AAR is required if the applicant applies for an ECA with Limited Operational Flexibility. In such a case you cannot use a SNS process or A-AAR”.

A: This statement is not correct.  An application for Limited Operational Flexibility would be able to screen out by submitting the required documentation for the 500 metres or 1,000 metres separation distance, Primary Noise Screening or Secondary Noise Screening.

Q: What is the best way to indicate a Request for Limited Operational Flexibility on the Application Form?

A: There has been confusion in the current application form in terms of EBR postings when an amendment application is submitted for an ECA with Limited Operational Flexibility.  The request for the LOF is not always noticed, and can sometimes lead to an EBR posting that does not reference the LOF. Revised EBR wording would have to be reposted before the application could be approved.  Applicants should note the LOF in the Exec Summary section on the application form. Also, the applicant should track the EBR posting to ensure that the LOF is included. If not, contact MOE immediately.
 
Q:  When is it correct to use NO2 and/or total NOx (expressed as NO2) in an ECA Application or Environmental Assessment?

A: Nitrogen oxides are one of the few compounds where the form of the substance is different for Ambient Air Quality Criteria (AAQC) and O.Reg. 419 Standards.  The AAQC is based only on for NO2.  The O.Reg. 419 standard is based on total NOx (i.e. NO plus NO2) expressed as NO2.   It can be confusing, since the AAQC and the standard both have the same numerical value.

For environmental assessments, impacts are usually assessed against NO2 only. For ECA applications, the assessment must be done against total NOx emitted (NO/NO2) to demonstrate compliance with the O. Reg. 419/05 standards.

Q: How do we deal with errors in calculating fees in the new form? How do we deal with fields that “must” be completed even if not appropriate for the type of application?

A: There have been a number of reported instances where the form calculates the fees incorrectly or fields become a “must fill” where not appropriate for the type of application. As with any smart form, MOE has not been able to test all possibilities. If fee errors are encountered in the application form or inappropriate field errors occur, describe the circumstances that lead to the errors to MOE.  Fixing errors in the application form does not require regulatory changes; send the issue to Approvals Branch, general inquiry e-mail at EAABGen@ontario.ca.

Please note that the Ministry will assess the application including the submitted fee and as a result of the assessment, the fee may change.  If you complete the ECA application form on paper, you will have to calculate the fee manually using the available the Minister’s Requirement for Fees – Application Fees for ECA under the EPA.