The Hidden Dangers of Undeveloped Land

Developing farmland might appear, on the surface, to be free of environmental risks and liabilities.  If a field has only ever been a farm field or a forest, what environmental risks could a developer possibly face?  The answer lies in the field itself: pesticides.

In 1997 New Jersey created the Historic Pesticide Contamination Task Force (“Task Force”) to evaluate the potential environmental impacts and health effects of exposure to historic pesticide contamination.  The findings of the Task Force were published in 1999.  The Task Force recommended the sampling of former agricultural areas, particularly in areas where soils will be exposed to children (i.e. schools, daycare centers and playgrounds).  Indeed, under the Site Remediation Reform Act (“SRRA”) former agricultural land is considered an area of concern when the future use of a property includes sensitive populations.  Addendum 2 of the Task Force report lists the concentrations of pesticides included in the NJDEP Soil Cleanup Criteria (“SCC”).  While the Task Force report remains an informative document to be used in assessing a property, the pesticide concentrations included in the addenda are no longer the most up-to-date since the implementation of the New Jersey Soil Remediation Standards in June 2008.  For this reason, it is critical that environmental professionals communicate with the laboratories completing the soil analysis.  The pesticide chlordane is an excellent example of the potential pitfalls to not clearly communicating with the laboratory about project needs.

The old pesticide list required investigators to analyze soil samples for alpha-chlordane (CAS No. 5103-71-9) and gamma-chlordane (CAS No. 5103-74-2) individually.  The current NJ Soil Remediation Standards (“SRS,” last updated October 3, 2011) require the analysis of total chlordane (CAS No. 57-74-9) instead of the individual compounds.  According to N.J.A.C. 7:26D (Table 1A and 1B), total chlordane is calculated by adding together alpha- and gamma-chlordane.

When requesting chlordane from an analytical laboratory, it is critical that you specify the correct chlordane and CAS number.  Unless otherwise specified, the laboratory may report technical chlordane (CAS No. 12789-03-6) which is a mixture of 23 different compounds that include chlordane isomers.  In our experience we have seen analytical results in which technical chlordane is more than double the concentration of total chlordane.

The development of farmland remains an attractive option to avoid environmental risks; however mistaking technical chlordane for total chlordane could mean the difference between compliant soil samples and a delayed project due to repeated rounds of soil sampling.

If you have any questions about Site Remediation, Soil Contamination or the NJDEP, feel free to email me at jmanuel@repsg.com or leave a comment below!

UPDATE: NJDEP Remedial Priority Scoring

We have another update on our previous post on the NJDEP’s Remedial Priority Scoring System.  The NJDEP has, again, extended the deadline for submission of data on the RPS Feedback Form. The new submission deadline is September 30, 2012. This provides Persons Responsible for Conducting Remediation and associated LSRPs with more time to update Site information that could impact the RPS score.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments section below or email me at jcutright@repsg.com.

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Original Update: 7/19/12

NJDEP LogoWe have an update on our previous post on the NJDEP’s Remedial Priority Scoring System.  The NJDEP has extended the deadline for submission of data on the RPS Feedback Form to August 31, 2012. This provides more time to update the X and Y Site coordinates, extent areas for soil and groundwater, pathway information, and missing or rejected Electronic Data Deliverables (EDDs).

If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments section below or email me at jcutright@repsg.com.

 

A Primer to NJ’s EPH Categories

Approved methods of compound analysis change all the time, and so do their associated regulations. While it is always advisable to read and become fully familiar with the most up to date versions of regulations that are available, sometimes what you need is a primer to help get you started. And that’s what this post is all about.

Previously in New Jersey, petroleum hydrocarbons were analyzed by the total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) analysis method 418.1, however, over time this method was systematically replaced through a series of evolving methods designed to address extractable petroleum hydrocarbons (EPH). The method eventually settled on, and which is now in place, is known as ‘NJDEP EPH Method Revision 3.’

Protocol for implementation of the EPH Method Revision 3 divides petroleum types into two categories. Category 1 deals with releases of diesel fuel and/or number 2 (No. 2) fuel oil, while category 2 deals with releases of petroleum hydrocarbon mixtures other than diesel fuel/No. 2 fuel oil such as: cutting oils, crude oils, hydraulic oils, lubricating oils, number 4 and number 6 fuel oils, and waste oils. Category 1 requires analysis of non-fractionated EPH only while category 2 utilizes analysis of both non-fractionated and fractioned EPH analysis.

One thing to keep in mind when analyzing for EPH is that, regardless of the category, contingent analysis of specific compounds may be required based on your EPH results. EPH concentrations that trigger contingent analysis are determined by Table 2-1 of the Technical Requirements for Site Remediation Guidance (known as the ‘Tech Rule’ or ‘N.J.A.C. 7:26E’). Contingent analysis triggers and parameters vary based on petroleum type, so make sure to package your samples accordingly!

The concentration of EPH present within a sample that warrants soil remediation is 5,100 ppm for category 1, residential exposure. This is referred to as the human health value. Soils with concentrations above 5,100 ppm must be treated or removed. Alternatively, engineering controls (like an asphalt cap) and institutional controls (like a deed notice) can be used to mitigate exposure. A concentration of 54,000 ppm is the human health value for category 1 non-residential exposure scenarios. A determination of the presence of EPH product is made for both the category 1 residential exposure scenario and the non-residential exposure scenario when the concentration of EPH reaches 8,000 ppm. Soils with EPH concentrations above 8,000 ppm must be removed.

The Department requires that an ecological evaluation be conducted when the concentration of non-fractionated EPH reaches 1,700 ppm. However, if you’re a homeowner, or if the site being evaluated doesn’t have any significant ecological receptors, you’re in luck! The NJDEP typically doesn’t require that an ecological evaluation be conducted in those instances.

For category 2, the 1,700 ppm ecological evaluation trigger can also serve as the trigger to analyze for fractionated analysis. Initially, non-fractionated EPH analysis is sufficient; however, concentrations over 1,700 require fractionated EPH data. Due to analysis turnaround times with labs, you may find it prudent to simply analyze category 2 soils for both non-fractionated and fractionated EPH at the same time. The human health value for category 2 can be calculated using the NJDEP’s EPH calculator spreadsheet. Simply input fractionated data and whether the scenario is residential or non-residential and the spreadsheet will indicate if additional remediation is necessary. A determination of the presence of EPH product for category 2 samples is made when the concentration of EPH reaches 17,000 ppm. As with category 1, soils with concentrations of EPH above 17,000 require removal while soils with concentrations below 17,000 that are calculated to be above the human health value may be treated, removed, or addressed with a combination of engineering and institutional controls.

For both category 1 and category 2 EPH analysis, the evaluation of sheen is determined utilizing the Department’s Sheen Remediation Guidance.

Now that you have the basics of the NJDEP’s EPH protocol down, please download (and read!) the complete NJDEP EPH Protocol Guidance document to learn more. Or if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at sshourds@repsg.com, or leave a comment in the reply section below. Happy sampling!

NJ Annual Fees in the Simplest Terms

NJDEP LogoThe New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has replaced the past “hour-by-hour” oversight billing with a Site Remediation LSRP Annual Fee. This offers some advantages in terms of project budget planning, since the fees are fixed and predictable after you wade through confusing nuances. Your  Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) will guide you. If you have not retained a LSRP for your existing case, you need one.

The Way This Works
Your LSRP calculates your project’s annual fees for you and submits this information to the NJDEP in an Annual Fee Form. The cost of the fee is based on the number of contaminated areas of concern that have not been fully remediated as defined in N.J.A.C. 7:26E “NJ Tech Rule” last amended May 2012.

The annual fees must continue to be paid until all areas of concern have received a Response Action Outcome (similar to a No Further Action). Deadlines and other details regarding the fees are found in the Administrative Requirements for Remediation of Contaminated Sites Rule “ARRCS Rule”. The fee breakdown is as follows:

  • 0-1 Contaminated Areas of Concern $450.00
  • 2-10 Contaminated Areas of Concern $900.00
  • 11-20 Contaminated Areas of Concern $5,000.00
  • >20 Contaminated Areas of Concern $9,500.00

In addition to these amounts there are additional “contaminated media” fees of $1,400 (each) assessed if groundwater, sediment or surface water is impacted.  The Department estimates that most sites fall in Category 2. If no Annual Fee Form has been submitted, you will probably get a Site Remediation LSRP Annual Fee invoice for $900.00. Special considerations for underground storage tank sites apply, consult your LSRP.

This is not the sum total of your NJDEP fees, however. You are still responsible for past due oversight fees, fees related to remediation permits, and NJDEP direct oversight fees, if applicable. A handy link to check your project for past due fees is found here: Financial Obligation Summary Report. If your project’s closure strategy involves use of an engineering control (like a cap) or institutional control (like a Classification Exception Area (CEA)) you will continue to have ongoing fees.

Proper calculation and timely payment of fees is based on a good Preliminary Site Assessment and Site Investigation. If you receive a  Site Remediation LSRP Annual Fee  invoice from the NJDEP, forward it to your LSRP for review prior to paying it and don’t ignore notices. The NJDEP has the ability to assess fines and fees for non-compliance. Please feel free to contact me at cdrake@repsg.com with LSRP questions or leave a comment below.

 

Philadelphia’s Ghost Factories

USA Today’s recent investigation into ongoing lead contamination at sites of former lead smelters, which they term ‘Ghost Factories,’ has gotten a lot of coverage on environmental blogs lately. So, I decided to look and see what they say about Philadelphia. Not surprisingly, the majority of the smelter locations are in the east coast, with thirty-one located in Philly.

The newspaper’s method was to identify the location of former lead smelters (using Sanborn maps, of course), then went to 21 of those neighborhoods, and pointed an XRF analyzer at the ground, often in residents’ backyards. Most of these yards had elevated lead levels in the soil: 80% of of the neighborhoods had a median soil lead level above 80 ppm, several neighborhoods reached above 2,000 ppm. “Lead levels in the soil samples collected by USA TODAY were generally highest in places like Chicago, Cleveland and Philadelphia — where old inner-city neighborhoods mingled with industrial sites.”

The thrust of the story is the danger posed to children in these neighborhoods, and the lack of action by the EPA to address it.

Now, this bring up a few issue. First of all, it’s not like the EPA can conclusively hold the lead smelters accountable for contamination of an entire neighborhood. There are plenty of sources of lead in urban areas, it wouldn’t be hard to fight a charge. Yet, it shows a big gap in the superfund law. We do a lot of work to clean up brownfields. When a commercial transaction happens, due diligence functions as a useful screen to find out about contaminated sites and remediate them. Well, as long as there’s an interest in redevelopment. But no one conducts a Phase I when they buy an old rowhome in Kensington. What does USA Today think that the EPA is supposed to do here?

There are more than 400 of these ghost factories, only 230 are pinned down in this investigation. “Because most of the old smelters had operated for decades without any regulatory oversight and are now gone, little was known about the size of each factory, where they were located, how much lead they processed and how much pollution they left behind.” A start would be to find these factories. Then what, test everyone’s soil? Mount a massive education campaign? Pave every yard and park? It sounds a lot like the radon situation, a ubiquitous environmental hazard primarily affecting residences, and frustration about the EPA’s lack of action.

And speaking of Ghost Factories, REPSG’s own Jerry Naples received a shout-out on WHYY’s Radio Times recently. As part of the ongoing discussion of Ghost Factories in our city, Marty Moss-Coane featured the topic on her hour long PBS radio show Radio Times.  Her guests included USA Today reporter Allison Young, and Mary Seton Corboy, the founder of Greensgrow Farms in Kensington. Jerry Naples’ shout out came about halfway through the interview, when Mary was talking about the difficulty of developing neighborhood urban farms atop contaminated soils. Mary mentioned that Greensgrow was fortunate to have a member of their board who runs an environmental remediation company. That, my friends, would be REPSG.

You can download and listen to the whole interview on WHYY’s website here and hear how the USA Today’s report has started (or re-started) the conversation of residential pollution in urban environments.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about ghost factories, lead contamination, radon, or any environmental hazards in your community? Feel free to leave a comment below  or contact me at jromanchek@repsg.com.