PCB'sIssue Summary | Industry Response | Issue Management | Resource Library
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) belong to a family of synthetic chemicals known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. Due to their unique thermal properties and chemically stable nature, PCBs found use as insulating fluids in electrical equipment, beginning in the 1930s. However, the production of PCBs in North America was curtailed in the 1970s and halted completely by 1980. In Canada, the federal government, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999 (CEPA 1999) banned the production of PCBs and restricted the manner in which they are used and stored. Although new equipment is PCB free, and much of the equipment designed to contain PCBs has been removed from service, the oil in some equipment currently in use has been contaminated with PCBs over the years. CEA member companies are working closely with the federal government to meet the objectives of minimized risk of release to the environment and the virtual elimination of PCBs in a timely and cost-effective fashion.
The electricity industry is committed to reducing the storage and use of equipment and substances containing PCBs and minimizing the potential for release into the environment. In the late 1980s, the electric utility sector and governments agreed to voluntary initiatives aimed at gradually phasing out the use of PCBs entirely. Guided by comprehensive environmental management strategies and actions plans, the electricity sector has been steadily replacing PCB-containing equipment and oil with non-PCB materials. Today, nearly all of the apparatus containing high levels of PCBs (> 500 ppm) have been removed from service. Equipment with lower levels of PCBs, such as poletop transformers and capacitors that have been inadvertently contaminated with PCBs, now constitute only a small percentage of the total inventory. This small inventory is continually diminishing through removal programs, decontamination during maintenance and repair procedures as well as through attrition. As the nature of these electrical PCB applications are ‘closed’ or sealed, the risk of PCB release into the environment is minimal, and is managed carefully.
The federal government released the revised PCB regulation in 2008 presenting some challenges for industry. The CEA and member companies are taking a lead role in working closely with the federal government to ensure that the goal of virtual elimination can be met in a timely and cost-effective fashion.
The issue of PCBs at CEA is managed by the PCB Task Group composed of technical professionals. The PCB Task Group is funded by the Generation, Transmission and Distribution Councils.
Director, Generation and Environment