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Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to Re-Examine up to 4,000 Sites for Vapor Intrusion Risk

Consistent with an emerging nationwide trend, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is proposing to step up its investigation of vapor intrusion (VI) issues at known sites of contamination. This initiative is in response to new information MDEQ believes indicates that much lower concentrations of VI chemicals of concern may be harmful to human health. Volatile compounds include fuel oils, degreasing solvents, dry-cleaning fluids, paint thinner, printing inks, and other chemical mixing formulations.

MDEQ and the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) will work together to review and prioritize sites for VI risk in what MDEQ representatives have called a data-driven process. A significant issue these departments are working through is to have the same criteria consistently applied by both MDEQ, which favors a risk management approach, and DHHS, which favors a more conservative, zero-risk approach.

While it is unclear exactly how many sites will be investigated or possibly reopened as a result of the initiative, MDEQ estimates that as many as 4,000 sites are of interest. MDEQ has been identifying these sites using a variety of data sources, including Baseline Environmental Assessments (BEAs) conducted to protect purchasers of contaminated property; other likely targets are leaking underground storage tanks (LUST), dry cleaners, and manufacturing and repair facilities that use metal degreasers. This renewed focus on VI may impact “due care” plans at properties that MDEQ considered closed with residual contamination.

The Michigan Governor’s executive budget recommendation for fiscal year 2018-2019 proposes $4.9 million to establish this joint program to address VI, $2.7 million of which would be allocated to MDEQ to fund its cooperative VI review project with DHHS.

Current and former owners, lessees, operators, and other responsible parties of sites impacted or potentially impacted with contaminants that could pose a VI risk should consider re-evaluating their remediation and due care obligations in light of MDEQ’s new initiative.

© 2019 BARNES & THORNBURG LLP

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About this Author

Lydia Barbash-Riley, Barnes Thornburg, Environmental Sustainability Lawyer,
Associate

Lydia Barbash-Riley is an associate in the Grand Rapids office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP and a member of the Environmental Law Department.

Ms. Barbash-Riley received her J.D., cum laude, from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington. She was a summer associate with Barnes & Thornburg prior to joining the firm full time. During law school, she was an intern with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of General Counsel International Section and the Conservation Law Center. Additionally, she...

616-742-3945
Charles Denton, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Grand Rapids and Atlanta, Environmental and Litigation Law Attorney
Partner

Charles M. Denton is a partner in the Grand Rapids and Atlanta offices of Barnes & Thornburg LLP and is a member of the firm’s national Environmental Law Department, which was recently recognized as Tier 1 for National Environmental Law and Environmental Litigation in the annual “Best Law Firms” ranking by U.S. News and Best Lawyers. He focuses his practice on environmental agency enforcement defense, toxic torts and class action litigation, “Brownfields” redevelopment, environmental compliance counseling, pollution insurance coverage and alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

Mr. Denton represents a broad range of industrial, municipal, institutional, educational and individual clients in judicial and administrative environmental proceedings at federal, state and local levels, as well as policyholders for environmental coverage claims and litigation. Mr. Denton also assists clients with environmental considerations in commercial transactions, mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, as well as ISO 14000 environmental management systems. This includes lender liability issues and environmental audits to assess potential facility contamination and regulatory compliance for the acquisition and financing of real estate, as well as waste management and remedial actions, environmental permits enforcement, and defense of citizens suits.

616-742-3974
Tammy Helminski, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Grand Rapids, Environmental Law Attorney
Associate

Tammy L. Helminski is an associate in the Grand Rapids office of Barnes & Thornburg, and a member of the firm’s Environmental Law Department. Ms. Helminski has experience with environmental due diligence and risk evaluation, project management of large-scale remediation sites involving numerous parties, and assisting manufacturing and developer clients with environmental auditing and compliance. Her litigation experience includes representing clients in cases involving CERCLA, NEPA, RCRA and NREPA, as well as product liability, mold, asbestos, construction and contract litigation...

616-742-3926
David Gillay, Barnes Thrornburg Law Firm, Indianapolis, Environmental and Litigation Law Attorney
Partner

David R. Gillay is a partner in Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Environmental Department. Before joining the department in 2001, he obtained an advanced environmental engineering degree and practiced as an environmental consultant on various projects across the country.

Mr. Gillay’s legal practice primarily concentrates on the following subjects: underground storage tank regulation, including Indiana’s Excess Liability Trust Fund; Brownfields projects; remediation projects dealing with soil, surface water and groundwater contamination under a wide...

317-231-7474