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, although for issues as house pests.  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!