Managing Environmentally-Impaired Soils & Fill Materials During Construction Projects

Nearly every development project involves the handling of soil and fill materials. REPSG has created an E-Book to assist site owners, developers, and contractors in navigating the cumbersome world of export.

The soil export in your next construction and development project doesn’t have to be a headache, REPSG can guide you through each element from due diligence to documentation. We address all the issues you may face and have even outlined a five step process to effectively do so.

Save yourself time—and money—by checking out our Practical Guide for Site Owners, Developers, and Contractors, “Managing Environmentally-Impaired Soils & Fill Materials During Construction Projects” Soil Export E-Book 2017

Like what you read? Have questions about your project? Comment below or contact our office at (215) 729-3220 or info@repsg.com.

Excerpt from RESPG’s Soils Export E-Book

Soil Transportation & Disposal Services in Philadelphia’s Growing Real Estate Market

Recently the Greater Philadelphia real estate and construction markets have been increasing in five main areas: University City, Market East, the Navy Yard, Camden, and King of Prussia. Three out of these five markets are located within the city limits meaning that there is bound to be a whole lot of change coming to the City of Brotherly Love. Some of these changes will be apparent physically such as the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center which started construction just over a year ago. This building will surpass the current tallest skyscraper in the city, the Comcast Center. When completed the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center will be the tallest building in the United States outside of Chicago and New York City at 1,121 feet.

Although not a skyscraper, arguably the most prominent development will be in University City with the Schuylkill Yards project announced by Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust. This 14-acre, $3.5 billion investment will be the largest-scale project in Philadelphia’s history. The development will encompass an area next to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station and Brandywine’s Cira Centre towers on the west bank of the Schuylkill River. At the end of the predicted 15-20 year construction phase the area will be home to residential, retail, hotel, corporate, and research spaces.

However, no matter what is going into these projects one thing is sure to come out… soil. REPSG’s soil disposal services have seen strong demand over the last few years and we are prepared to keep the momentum going throughout the growth of our city. Located in Southwest Philadelphia our soil disposal services department provides comprehensive services for your disposal needs.

REPSG’s soil experts will help in every step of your transportation and disposal project. Our skilled technicians will start by sampling materials requiring export or disposal. These sample results will provide the information necessary to coordinate the applicable approvals needed to safely and legally dispose of the materials. REPSG will complete and submit all necessary paperwork to the proposed facilities in order to ensure acceptance and approval. Additionally, REPSG will coordinate and provide transportation for the proper disposal of the soil to the facility. Once the work is completed, REPSG will provide all disposal documentation.

REPSG provides the staff and support to sample and dispose of your soil in the most efficient and affordable means. We will work with your construction, demolition, or financing schedule to ensure your project stays on, or ahead of schedule. Your project may not be as large as those highlighted here but regardless of size, REPSG is here to help. We have provided transportation and disposal services to several redevelopment projects in the Greater Philadelphia Area including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Our transportation and disposal department staff have expertise in all standards and regulations of your disposal needs. Contact us for more information by commenting below or contacting our office at (215) 729-3220 or info@repsg.com.

For more information on the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center please visit: http://corporate.comcast.com/media-center/citc-updates

For more information on the Schuylkill Yards project please visit: http://www.schuylkillyards.com/

Mark Kuczynski, PA & NJ Tank Closure Certified

REPSG is happy to announce that Project Manager Mark Kuczynski has obtained certification for underground storage tank (UST) removal for the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Certified storage tank closure is one of the many services that REPSG provides. The first type of storage tank that REPSG services is an aboveground storage tank (AST) which is used for containing regulated substances that are either hazardous or are a petroleum product. Aboveground storage tanks are defined as having 10% or less of the tank volume underground. The other type of tank which is most relevant to this discussion is an underground storage tank (UST). An underground storage tank is different in the fact that only 10% or more of the volume has to be underground for it to be considered a UST. USTs must be registered, permitted, and have all associated fees paid in order to be in operation. It also must be installed, maintained, and operated in regards to standards set by governmental officials. When USTs are damaged or no longer necessary they need to be properly closed in place or removed. According to EPA data there are approximately 566,000 USTs nationwide. The biggest threat when USTs are not maintained is their potential to leak their contents into groundwater and the neighboring soil. Over a third of all Americans depend on groundwater as their main drinking supply. If the majority of these USTs are faulty or are not regulated properly, the potential outcome is severe to humans, wildlife, and the environment.

In New Jersey and Pennsylvania one must be certified in order to remove an underground storage tank. In order to become certified in New Jersey one must have a minimum of two years of experience performing closures with at least five closures within each of those years or nine months of experience participating in at least 25 closures within that nine month period. One must then also complete a 40-hour health and safety training course. In Pennsylvania one becomes certified by having two years of experience or a college degree and one year of technical training that includes at least six removals.

It is necessary for a company such as REPSG to have certified tank closure personnel for various reasons. There is clearly a financial benefit to having a certified individual in house instead of contracting another company. Mr. Kuczynski can schedule and provide his own estimates for jobs instead of working through a third party. However the most important reason is that when tricky or dangerous removals and cleanups arise REPSG field personnel will have a direct contact to help mediate the situation. This provides better communication and a smoother operation for all involved, client and company alike.

REPSG is here to help! If you need a UST or AST removal on your site please get in touch with us by commenting below or submitting an information request via our Contact section.

For more information on underground storage tanks please visit: http://www.epa.gov/ust

For more information on gaining UST closure certification for Pennsylvania please visit: http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/025/chapter245/chap245toc.html

For more information on gaining UST closure certification for New Jersey please visit: http://nj.gov/dep/exams/ust.htm

Ted Mosher & James Romanchek, Council-certified Microbial Consultants

REPSG is happy to announce that Project Managers Ted Mosher and James Romanchek have received the certification of Council-certified Microbial Consultant (CMC) by the American Council for Accredited Certification.

This industry certification is one of the most prominent for mold consultants and inspectors. Ted and James will use their expertise to strengthen our mold abatement services. The presence of mold is a serious occupational health and safety issue as mold can have numerous effects on one’s health. Mold can be found anywhere that moisture is present. Spores are produced due to mold reproduction and are then released into the atmosphere. The inhalation of spores over time or of specific types can cause adverse health effects such as asthma, allergies, and respiratory issues. Our mold abatement service helps to decrease the risk of incurring mold related symptoms and concerns. Ted, James, and the rest of our Due Diligence staff have the proper experience and tools necessary to assess potentially hazardous samples.

In order to obtain this worldwide recognized accreditation one must have extensive training. Applicants must complete one of the following requirements: a Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) in a related field of science with a minimum of four years of field experience that includes documented microbial sampling; a two-year degree (or equivalent) in a related field of science with at least six years of documented experience in microbial sampling; or no post-secondary degree (high school diploma or GED required) and at least eight years of microbial sampling consulting experience. In addition to one’s academic and field achievements one must also pass a rigorous exam that includes many areas of microbiology. The certification must also be renewed every two years with evidence that one has been continuing their education and performing relevant field work adding to at least forty hours within the two year span.

REPSG is here to help! If you feel it is necessary to perform mold abatement on your site please contact us by commenting below or submitting an information request via our Contact section.

For more information on CMC requirements please visit: http://www.acac.org/forms/applications/cmcdescription.pdf

For more information on molds, potential risks, and removal please visit: http://www.epa.gov/mold

New Help for Child Care Center Permitting in NJ

NJDEP LogoThe NJDEP announced today the launch of an updated website for child care and educational facilities to clear up confusion on the environmental compliance requirements for sites subject to the “Madden Legislation”  P.L. 2007, Chapter 1. The site provides useful links and guidance to assist you with navigating through this multi-agency regulatory process.

In our experience, REPSG recommends that a new applicant allow up to three (3) months to address the environmental compliance steps. The first step is to hire a licensed site remediation professional (LSRP) to prepare a Preliminary Assessment Report (PAR). If a prior Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is available this is helpful, but it does not replace the PAR. The LSRP will review the site history and identify potential on-site and off-site sources of contamination and advise you through the next steps in the process. The selection of a qualified LSRP with specific child care permitting experience is vital to the success of the project.

If you are about to embark on your child care center new application, three year renewal or are constructing an educational facility please contact me at cdrake@repsg.com so that I can assist you with your process. Grants are available through the HSDRF. Ask me how!

The Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development or “BUILD” Act

BUILDlogo_FINAL_crop The Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development or “BUILD” Act (2013) is a bill recently introduced in the US Senate that would make federal brownfields cleanup grants available to a wider variety of groups and local governments, and would smooth the way for communities to redevelop these properties. These grants are a critical part of the success of the nation’s Brownfields program. According to EPA figures Brownfields grants have resulted in the assessment of more than 20,000 properties and the completion of 845 cleanups.

The bill was introduced by Senators Lautenberg, Inhofe, Crapo and Udall  to amend the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C.A. §9601 et seq. (“CERCLA”), which has been the main US law governing federal cleanups since the 1970s. The BUILD Act reauthorizes the EPA’s Brownfields Program through Fiscal Year 2016. The BUILD Act is more than a simple reauthorization bill, however, as it contains important new eligibility and increased funding provisions that have the potential to both revive Brownfields projects that were tabled due to the economy and encourage new redevelopment projects. While currently non-profit organizations are only eligible for site remediation grants, the Act broadens the definition of an “eligible entity” under CERCLA to include non-profit organizations, certain limited liability corporations, limited partnerships and “qualified community development entities” among those that can obtain site assessment grants.

Some of the other important features of the BUILD Act include:

  • Local governments benefit from expanded opportunities to obtain site assessment grants to allow them to investigate properties that were acquired prior to the enactment of the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act in 2002. The site assessment grants are available to local governments even if they do not qualify for the “bona fide prospective purchaser exemption” under CERCLA (i.e. they did not undertake a level of due diligence amounting to “all appropriate inquiry” before buying the site).
  • Under the Act, states benefit through targeted funding. The EPA is authorized under the BUILD Act to award up to $2,000,000 to provide grants to states. The caveat is that states must have spent at least 50% of the previous year’s funding on site assessment and remediation to qualify.
  • Increases in the amounts and allowable uses for funding are key elements of the proposed legislation. Under the current law, site remediation grants cannot exceed $200,000 per site. The BUILD Act would increase that cap to $500,000 per site and give the EPA further authority to waive the limit and award up to $650,000.
  • Grant recipients would have greater flexibility under the BUILD Act in terms of the costs that can be reimbursed though the grant program. Currently, CERCLA prohibits grant recipients from using grant proceeds to pay for administrative costs. If enacted, the BUILD Act would remove this prohibition and permit grant recipients to use up to 8% of any grant for administrative costs.
  • The BUILD Act would create multipurpose Brownfields grants of up to $950,000 that could be used to fund inventory, characterization, assessment, planning or remediation work at one or more sites in an area, provided that the grant money is used within a three-year period. At present, the grants are segmented in such a way that multiple grants may be needed in order to complete an entire project. Allowing applicants to apply for one grant to cover multiple phases of a project is be expected to save grant recipients money by reducing the administrative application costs and the delays and uncertainty associated with piecemeal grants.
  • The Act incents Brownfields redevelopment at particular types of sites through focused funding. It directs EPA to give priority in awarding technical assistance grants to “small communities, Indian tribes, rural areas, or low-income areas with a population of not more than 15,000” individuals. The EPA will also be required under the BUILD Act to give consideration to “waterfront brownfield sites” when awarding funds. A “waterfront brownfield site” is a site that is located adjacent to a body of water or a federally designated floodplain. Special grants up to $500,000 are available for clean energy projects, which include renewable energy (wind, solar and geothermal) projects at Brownfields sites.

Want to know more? A convenient section by section summary presented by Smart Growth America is available here.

As participants in successful brownfields redevelopments in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware over the last twenty-five years, REPSG stays on top of funding opportunities, grants and legislation pertaining to your development. Please do not hesitate to contact me at Cdrake@repsg.com, or post in the comments below, to discuss your project and see how we can help.

Do New Vapor Rules in NJ Affect Your Project?

NJDEP LogoToday, January 17, 2013: NJDEP published major changes to guidance and standards pertaining to Vapor Intrusion. Vapor Intrusion is defined as the migration of volatile chemicals from the subsurface into overlying buildings through subsurface soils or preferential pathways (such as underground utilities). This pathway has been the driver for many off-site investigations, public notifications and costly indoor air testing since the NJDEP’s initial guidance came out in 2007.

Just released on the NJDEP’s Vapor Intrusion web page is the revised Vapor Intrusion Technical Guidance document and updates to the 2007 Vapor Intrusion Screening Levels (VISL). Finally, the web page also features Johnson & Ettinger (J&E) Model spreadsheets that were updated to reflect toxicity changes in the new VISL.

Here are just some of the changes:
Naphthalene and 2-methylnaphthalene have been added to the VISL tables. At this time, the laboratory capacity to analyze naphthalene and 2-methylnaphthalene using the preferred USEPA Method TO-17 is limited (only one certified laboratory). Therefore, the Department will not require the collection and analysis of naphthalene and 2-methylnaphthalene until July 16, 2013.

A factor of 10 has been incorporated into the calculation of the health-based ground water screening values for additional petroleum related contaminants (not reflected in the March 2007 tables) to account for degradation of the contaminants in the unsaturated zone. The additional petroleum related contaminants include: 1, 3-butadiene; cyclohexane; n-hexane; 2-methylnaphthalene; naphthalene; and styrene.

Five contaminants have been eliminated from the VISL tables due to the absence of inhalation toxicity information. These chemicals include: 1, 3-dichlorobenzene; 1, 2- dichloroethene (cis); 1, 2- dichloroethene (total); 2-chlorotoluene; and tertiary butyl alcohol (TBA).

Changes to many previously regulated compounds, including increases in groundwater screening levels for tetrachloroethylene (aka PCE) (up to 31 ug/l from a prior standard of 1 ug/l) and trichloroethylene (TCE) (up to 2 ug/l from a prior standard of 1 ug/l) for example, were also made.

Consult your LSRP regarding how these changes affect your project, or feel free to contact REPSG directly at info@repsg.com.

PCBs in Caulk

CaulkingIn 2012, several school renovation projects were hindered by caulk. The reason: PCBs.

In Connecticut, the towns of Southington and Fairfield discovered PCBs in the window caulking of their middle school and high school, respectively. In both cases, the discovery led to an unexpected increase in cost. The clean-up can also be confusing, since PCBs leach from caulk into surrounding porous building materials, including masonry, wood, and concrete. In October, the USEPA issued a reinterpretation of PCB Bulk Product Waste, specifically to address this issue.

PCBs, short for Polychlorinated Biphenyls, were commonly used in electrical equipment and building materials, until Congress banned manufacture of the toxic chemical in 1979. PCBs were used in caulk to impart flexibility, and can still be present in buildings constructed or renovated in the 1950s through the 1970s. The USEPA states that caulk containing PCBs at levels ≥ 50 parts per million (ppm) must be removed. When disposed, the caulk is to be managed as PCB Bulk Product Waste.

Now, here’s the tricky part. Because PCBs in caulk are known to contaminate adjacent building material, any surrounding building material that is coated by ≥ 50 ppm PCB-containing caulk is also considered PCB Bulk Product Waste if the caulk is still attached to the building material at the time of designation for disposal. To quote the EPA: “if your abatement plan states that you intend to dispose of the PCB caulk and any contaminated building materials together and the PCB caulk becomes separated from the adjacent contaminated building materials during remediation, you may still dispose of all the materials as a PCB Bulk Product Waste.” The plan is what’s important, not what happens between the building and the dumpster. If the caulk and building material are disposed of separately, then the building material is managed as a PCB Remediation Waste. The respective disposal options are outlined here.

With all the nitty gritty of disposal regs, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture: how to minimize exposure to PCBs, especially in schools. Air monitoring in affected schools can determine the inhalation exposure. Diligent housekeeping can minimize ingestion exposure. Encapsulation is effective at very low levels. Ultimately, all PCB-containing caulk should be removed.

Have you discovered PCBs in caulk during renovations, or gotten tangled up in disposal questions? Leave a comment below, or feel free to contact me at Sszymanski@repsg.com. Happy 2013!

Views from the Field: “Call Before You Dig”

811 - PA One Call LogoMachine Operator: Did I just hit that gas line?!

Laborer: We should have just called 8-1-1.

Mistakes happen, but because of Pennsylvania’s One Call System, accidents like this become very avoidable. With a simple five minute phone call, machine operators and ambitious home owners of Pennsylvania can break ground with confidence. REPSG knows from experience how important Pennsylvania’s one call system can be. For example, on one memorable occasion a property owner was shocked when One Call found a high pressure petroleum pipeline running through their backyard.

The service’s slogan, “Call before you dig,” completely sums up its purpose of being. Since its beginnings in 1972, this Pennsylvania Non-Profit has been promoting safety by helping to provide the exact locations of underground utility lines. In doing so, it has helped to minimize utility interruptions, reduce on-the-job injuries, and has encouraged a higher level of public safety. Just three years later, in April 1975, Act 287 went into effect requiring all excavators to call before digging.

While most states offer this great service, each state has its differences regarding the rules and regulations of digging. By calling 8-1-1 a few days before your scheduled excavation you will acquire the information you’ll need to dig safely, without the fear. By just telling the One Call operator where you will be digging and what type of work you are doing, utility companies that may be affected by your dig will be notified. In turn, they will dispatch a locator to mark the underground lines, pipes, and cables within your approximate dig area.

The mark outs that One Call use are even color-coded to indicate which type of utility you will encounter:

  • Red: electric power lines, cables, conduit, and lighting cables
  • Orange: telecommunication, alarm or signal lines, cables, or conduit
  • Yellow: natural gas, oil, steam, petroleum, other gaseous or flammable material
  • Green: sewers and drain lines
  • Blue: drinking water
  • Purple: reclaimed water, irrigation, slurry lines
  • Pink: temporary survey markings, unknown facilities
  • White: proposed excavation limits

To avoid not just injury but expense and embarrassment, call 8-1-1.

Don’t forget to gather all the necessary info such as addresses, nearest intersections, and extent of excavation prior to calling in order to avoid any unnecessary delays.

Long-Term Impacts of Lead

Children Raising Hands

The use of lead-based paint was phased out by the EPA as of 1978. Yet, 34 years later, lead remains on surfaces in many aging homes.

Last month, James wrote about the soon-to-be-implemented Philadelphia ordinance requiring rental units to be certified as “lead free” or “lead safe” (read his post here for more details).

Now, here’s another reason to care about lead exposure in homes. Children exposed to lead tend to do worse in school than kids who are not exposed. A Massachusetts case study shows that the concentration of lead in a child’s bloodstream is linked to their academic performance later in life. The research found that the state’s investment in lead abatement led to improved standardized test scores among elementary school students a decade later.

Add this to the research from 2007 linking childhood lead exposure to crime rates. As a poison that targets the nervous system, lead is shown to negatively impact control impulses in children. People that are exposed as youth are more likely to have juvenile and adult criminal records. Earlier studies focused on the impact of car exhaust during the era of leaded gasoline. Now that we’ve cleaned up the air a bit, the focus has shifted to lead paint, which persists especially in low-income communities.

So, starting in December, does this mean that Philadelphia is on its way to a smarter and less violent city? Let’s hope so. It may not be much of a consolation to landlords facing tighter regulations now. But, hey, maybe it’ll pay off next decade when there are fewer broken windows to repair, and property values are soaring in those safe neighborhoods with high-performing city schools. Feel free to share your thoughts on the topic in the comments below, or contact REPSG with any questions about lead exposure and abatement.

Stop Chasing Contamination: DEP Implements Compliance Averaging Guidance

NJDEP SRP LogoOn September 24, 2012 the NJDEP finalized the Technical Guidance for the Attainment of Remediation Standards and Site-Specific Criteria. The new Guidance provides helpful information for applying appropriate remediation criteria and determining compliance. However, the standout piece of information is that compliance averaging, like the use of 95 percent upper confidence limit of the mean (95 UCL) and 75%/10x, can now apply to Sites in New Jersey. These compliance options have been accepted by the PADEP for years, and REPSG has applied these statistical strategies at many Sites in Pennsylvania.

HOW DOES THIS IMPACT YOUR NEW JERSEY REMEDIATION?

75%/10x is a useful statistical analysis strategy for remediation involving point-source impacts, like underground storage tanks or small spills. As long as the specified number of samples is collected and the analytical results of 75% of those samples are compliant with the remediation standard, the soils under investigation are in compliance. This approach can eliminate the need to chase low-level contamination that can sometimes persist after the removal of a heating oil tank; for example, in the case of benzo(a)pyrene and number 4 fuel oil.

95 UCL is another helpful statistical analysis strategy that can now be utilized at Sites in NJ. This method identifies uniform contamination and estimates the average concentration at the 95 UCL. If the average concentration is below the remediation standard, the associated soils are compliant; even some samples within the dataset have concentrations above the remediation standard.

Do you think that compliance averaging could help speed up remediation at your Site? REPSG can apply our statistical experience to your New Jersey projects. Leave a comment below or please feel free to contact me at jcutright@repsg.com.

EPA RRP (Renovation, Repair, and Painting) News

EPA LogoFor those of you who are not already aware, the EPA’s 2008 lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule is a set of required standards for all building and home contractors who work in buildings that have lead-based paint. The rule requires the use of lead-safe work practices to minimize the possible conditions that can generate a lead hazard during normal RRP activities. Part of the requirement is for contractors and workers to take appropriate classes in lead-safe work practices.

Originally, the law was anticipated to include a requirement for final clearance dust wipe sampling to ensure there is not a lead dust hazard in the area of renovations. However, the EPA backed off of the requirement in 2011, instead favoring a “qualitative” method of having the contractor compare a damp cloth wipe of the renovation area to an “EPA Standard” to determine if they needed to do additional cleaning (the so called “dirty-diaper test”). You can read the EPA’s reasoning for this change in a document titled “Improving Our Regulations: Final Plan for Periodic Retrospective Reviews of Existing Regulations.” The entire EPA document is worth reading, as it addressed other regulatory topics, including drinking water standards, vehicle emissions, TSCA, NPDES, and others. However, the RRP Paragraph is below:

“After carefully weighing the issues and considering the comments from over 300 stakeholders, EPA has determined that there are currently no data or information that call into question the reliability, safety, and efficacy of the lead safe work practices established in the 2008 RRP rule.

Therefore, EPA did not finalize additional “clearance” requirements that contractors obtain lead-dust testing and laboratory analysis of the results for renovation jobs.  EPA believes that if certified and trained renovation contractors follow EPA’s 2008 RRP rule by using lead-safe work practices and following the cleaning protocol after the job is finished, lead-dust hazards will be effectively reduced.”

The RRP Rule has been in effect since April of 2010. However, it was not until April of this year that the EPA announced the first set of enforcement actions against contractors who violated the RRP rule. For those of you counting, that took the agency two years.

The three announced enforcement actions all included fines of at most $10,000, but it has been long suspected that these actions were in the pipeline. The violations cited by the EPA included both the failure of companies to obtain the RRP certification and then subsequent work practices that could have caused a lead hazard. No incidents of elevated lead blood levels were indicated.

The press release regarding the violations is available here.

Have a comment of question regarding the EPA lead RRP? Feel free to leave a comment below or contact me at jromanchek@repsg.com.

Philadelphia Lead Paint Disclosure Ordinance and Musing of Politics in Philadelphia

Philadelphia City Planning Commission SealPhiladelphia City Council, at the end of 2011, passed an ordinance that will dramatically effect some of our major clients, and hopefully will have an impact some of the work we do. Philadelphia City Ordinance 100011-A, colloquially called the “lead based paint disclosure ordinance,” amends the city code to require that a rental property be certified as either “lead free” or “lead safe” before it may be rented.

The law takes the approach of being a disclosure ordinance; landlords are required to disclose this certificate that says that the rental unit is lead free or lead safe to their prospective tenants, and such a certification must have been acquired no more than two years prior to the start of the lease. However, what the law is actually accomplishing is something different. Essentially, as I read the text of the bill, it is requiring that the owner/landlord must have the unit inspected by a certified lead paint risk assessor and declared “lead safe” or “lead free” by the assessor. Lead free means that the house has no lead-based paint at all and is a permanent designation. Lead Safe simply means that the unit is free of lead based paint hazards and is only valid for 2 years. It should be noted that part of the requirement for “lead safe” certification includes the collection of lead wipe samples to assess any potential lead dust hazard. Lead wipe samples are a quantitative way of determining lead paint hazard, rather than the mostly qualitative methods of a risk assessment.

Of course, as we know, most properties in the city with lead-based paint are not free of any lead-based paint hazards. Therefore before a “lead safe” certification can be granted the owners will have to institute lead remediation or intermediate control measures, as determined by the risk assessor, after which the property will need to be reassessed before it can be certified lead safe.

And this brings us to the interesting part of the story.

Coffee MugWhile sitting in a café off of Logan Circle recently (doing work, of course), I was having a conversation about this ordinance with a friend, in particular regarding how it is suppose to take affect this December and yet we have not seen any indication that there has been widespread movement to come into compliance. I was allegorically discussing the nature of Philadelphia politics and regulations, and was overheard by a man sitting at the table next to me.

He informed me that he was one of the (former) council staffers who helped write the ordinance, and being a policy geek myself, we began discussing the nature of the political process. According to him, the primary purpose for this ordinance was to basically coerce L&I to enforce existing lead paint safety standards in the rental properties in the city. While L&I will do a nominal “inspection” of some rental properties as a requirement to their license, they mainly react to tenant complaints. As such, the ordinance was written so that when landlords apply for their rental license through L&I, the agency will look to see if the property is “lead safe” before issuing the license, thus completing a kind of proactive inspection. This is quite similar to how asbestos inspections work in the city; the asbestos inspection report form is due to L&I along with their permit applications.

However, due to the nature of Philadelphia politics, the Ordinance was instead held up in court, changes were made, parties were appeased, and the wheels continued to turn.

Regardless, the ordinance as it stands now was left largely intact, and is scheduled to go into effect in December. It will apply to all rental housing, with the following notable exceptions:

  • Housing built after March 1978
  • PHA housing (and Section 8 vouchers)
  • Housing exclusively rented to college students
  • Housing where no child 6 years or younger will be residing during the length of the lease

The last point brings up some significant points. First, the risk assessment only needs to have occurred a maximum two years prior to the START of the lease. Therefore, in large multi-unit housing, it would not be inconceivable for each unit to have a different inspection date, based on when it is leased out. I would hope landlords would realize the logistical challenges to this approach, and the benefits of economies of scale, but who knows? Second, the wording of the bill does not require the landlords to identify the age of the tenants in order  to determine if their rental unit meets the above criteria. If the city discovers that the landlords are in violation, then they will be subject to penalties, but there may not be a reporting requirement as written

Copies of the inspection and the “lead safe” or “lead free” certification must be provided to the Department of Public Health and the tenant with every new lease, along with a notification that the tenant will contact the owner or the owner’s agent if they see any deteriorated paint. The owner must promptly make any necessary repairs. Penalties for not complying with the lead free or lead safe certifications include an order to provide the required certification and to do the work to make the property lead safe; damages for any harm caused; fines up to $2,000; refund of rent for the period the property is occupied without the certification; and attorneys fees and costs.

Do you have any comments or questions about this new ordinance? Feel free to leave a comment below or contact me at jromanchek@repsg.com.

Innocent Land Owners Need to Understand PADEP’s Act 2 Program

The old adage “let the buyer beware” refers to a time in history when the seller of a product had no obligation to warn the buyer about defects in the product. Today there are several “implied warranty” laws that ensure anyone buying a product has the right to depend on the product being useable for its intended purpose. Although there are numerous laws and regulations enforced by federal, state, and local agencies to help protect the “buyer,” there are still some wrinkles in the process that every individual should know about. This basic rule also applies to land leases – particularly to leases that allow for the extraction of mineral or oil resources from private property.

In Pennsylvania, land leases for the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus shale formation have become common. Earlier this year the PADEP published a draft policy on the obligation of gas companies to clean up spills of waste materials such as fuel oil and fracturing fluids on private properties throughout the state.  The proposed policy provides a set of procedures for oil and gas companies to follow in remediating spills at well pad sites. Of particular interest is the allowance to enter those sites in the PADEP’s brownfield remediation (Act 2) program. The PADEP will allow remediators of spills at oil and gas sites to enter them into the Act 2 program and receive liability protection, based on the fact that a spill of frack fluids would be a spill of residual waste, governed by the Solid Waste Management Act, which is one of the statutes covered under Act 2.  In addition, a spill that could impact the waters of the Commonwealth would be regulated under the Clean Streams Law, which is also covered under Act 2.

Act 2: Is It Helping or Hurting Us?

Act 2 is often perceived as a law whose primary intent was to help facilitate the reuse of old industrial sites. Instead of a developer having to figure out how to remove pollutants from soil and groundwater from a former industrial site, it could propose a “cleanup” that eliminates the risk to public health, allowing the pollution to remain in the environment. Capping the land with asphalt and using public water rather than groundwater would limit exposure of persons intending to use the site in the future, and that would suffice to consider the area “clean” under Act 2.  However, Act 2 is commonly used for all sorts of contaminated sites, not just the stereotypical abandoned factory. The practical effect of the Land Recycling and Environmental Standards Remediation Act (Act 2) was to shift the principle that governed environmental cleanups inPennsylvaniafrom the use of the best available technology to remove pollution, to one of allowing pollution to remain in the environment so long as it does not threaten public health.

An innocent land owner who is looking for a cash cow and lessees their land to gas companies for the drilling of natural gas wells should be aware, that although Act 2 does offer protection of life and health, at the end of the process contaminants may still remain in place. That means that if a gas company contaminates your soil and/or groundwater, the PADEP will only make sure the company does what is necessary to meet the risk-based standards under Act 2. So, “Let the lessors beware.” You’ll have to protect your own soil and/or groundwater if you are not satisfied with the risk-based cleanup standards under Act 2, and want to ensure that your property is as clean after drilling as it was before.

“Do you have a site that may be environmentally compromised? REPSG can help you sort through process. REPSG offers a range of environmental due diligence, environmental investigations and remediation for private and commercial land owners.  Do not hesitate to contact REPSG for all of your environmental needs and questions.

The Journey of Redevelopment: an REPSG Photo Log

As a child, I used to work on family genealogy with my dad. We spent countless Saturdays pouring over ship manifests and other old records looking for any information about our ancestors. I was fascinated with all the old documents and photos that told the story of our family’s journey. Years later, working as part of REPSG’s Phase I team, I was explaining my work to my dad. He listened carefully and responded, “So it sounds to me like you’re doing genealogy, just on property instead of people.” I had never thought of my work that way before, but I liked the analogy.

At REPSG, we do a lot of historical research. We want to understand as much as we can about the history of a property in order to inform its future transformations. Some of our projects are short term, some we get to participate in through the course of redevelopment, and some are sites that just keep coming back. It’s fascinating to see what these properties become – old factories turned into thriving community centers, forgotten land redeveloped as affordable housing, or buildings whose future is in limbo and who are left to decay.

I thought it would be interesting to share some photos of the “journeys” of some of our sites.  Click through each set of photos below to see the amazing transformations!

From empty row-homes to state-of-the-art senior housing

Before

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 A major industrial facility redeveloped into homes. In my early days with REPSG, I spent weeks at this site overseeing the volumes of trucks hauling soil on and off site. It was great to be able to see the project evolve, and REPSG was invited to take company tour of the model home!

Before

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Sometimes we visit sites multiple times over the years, and one particular site comes to mind. REPSG has watched this building change over time as it waits for a new life. These photos remind me a bit of the decay you see on the Titanic.

Before

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 REPSG frequently works with community revitalization organizations. I always enjoy working with these types of clients who have such a vision for what a site or even neighborhood can be. This old factory and warehouse is, piece by piece, being renovated to house community offices and a charter school.

Before

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 Another developer client of ours had the vision to turn this piece of vacant urban land into a vibrant senior housing community. This site was also the site of a former industrial facility that had long ago been demolished.

Before

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Do you own a site or have your eye on one for reuse or redevelopment? REPSG would love to be a part of the next phase of your property’s journey of transformation.  Contact us to see how we can best partner with you to define the next generation of your site.