Recent Developments in Site Remediation: Revised Soil Remediation Standards
Thursday, March 1, 2018

On September 18, 2017, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) updated the soil remediation standards for nineteen contaminants. These changes, which took effect on September 18, 2017, are significant for persons responsible for remediating contaminated property, environmental professionals, and potential purchasers of contaminated sites, as the new standards may impact remediation requirements.  The impact of the new standards will depend primarily upon whether the site already has a Final Remediation Document and how much the revised standard(s) have changed.

DEP’s September 2017 soil remediation standard updates are based upon revisions by the United States Environmental Protection Agency to toxicity information. Specifically, the soil remediation standards are now less stringent for eleven contaminants, including solvents tetrachloroethene (PCE) and 1,1,1-trichloroethane (1,1,1-TCA) and several polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) commonly found in historic fill, like benzo(a)pyrene.  The soil remediation standards are more stringent for six contaminants, including the solvent trichloroethene (TCE).  The standards for three of those six contaminants have significantly decreased (i.e., the threshold for action is lower) by an order of magnitude or more: 1,1-biphenyl (for both residential and non-residential); cyanide (both residential and non-residential); and nitrobenzene (non-residential only).  One contaminant remains unchanged (1,1,2,2 tetrachloroethane), while another will no longer be regulated under DEP’s soil remediation standards (thallium).

Persons remediating contaminated sites and their environmental professionals should familiarize themselves with the new standards and understand the potential impact on remediation requirements, particularly if the site has been impacted by any of the contaminants subject to significantly more stringent standards (i.e., 1,1-biphenyl, cyanide, and nitrobenzene). In addition, prospective purchasers of contaminated property should carefully assess during due diligence whether there is a possibility of DEP re-opening a remediation case given the new standards, and environmental professionals should consider addressing same in a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment and/or a Preliminary Assessment.

Donna A. McBarron and Melissa A. Clarke contributed to this post. 


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