The Remediation Process: Responsible Party Cases
February 22, 2005 (Minor update 18 June 2007)
Within the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP),
the Site RemediationProgram (SRP) oversees the remediation of contaminated
properties in accordance with our mandate to protect public health and
the environment. The type of cases overseen by SRP range from the replacement
of household fuel tanks to large abandoned industrial facilities in the
center of some of our largest cities. There are also many rural sites
where ground water contamination has raised public health concerns. These
concerns dictate that wells be tested and municipal waterlines extended
to homes if contamination is found.
Overall, sites are either remediated by the party responsible for the contamination, or, in instances where there is no responsible
party, by the state of New Jersey. The remediation process is
slightly different in the two situations. This guidance document describes
cases where there is a responsible party.
Remediating Responsible Party Cases
The remediation process is guided by a set of adopted technical regulations,
which are readopted through a public process every five years. The level
of remediation required to reuse contaminated property is set by the soil
standards criteria. These criteria are established using the most current
scientific information and a risk assessment process to evaluate potential
exposure scenarios for sensitive populations such as children, elderly
and nursing mothers.
The technical regulations apply to all remediation undertaken in New
Jersey and offer guidance on each step of the process. That process generally
follows three phases: the Initial Assessment (called Preliminary Assessment
and Site Investigation), Remedial Investigation (where the site is studied
to determine the full extent of the contamination) and Construction (the
actual physical remediation phase).
When a site enters the remediation program, there is a two-step initial
assessment. The Preliminary Assessment is a search of historic
records and deeds to determine what type of activities may have occurred
on the site. This review identifies possible contamination (based on the
use) and where on the property the contamination may exist. This assessment
is followed by a Site Investigation during which samples are
taken to verify the existence of contamination. Often, the result of this
phase will show that the site meets the state's criteria and the case
can receive a letter of "No Further Action" which essentially
states remediation at the site is complete.*[Note]
If the site requires further remediation, it enters the Site Investigation
phase. This stage is signified by a thorough series of samples of both
soil and groundwater, if needed. It can also involve sampling of properties
adjacent to the site; especially when there is an indication that the
contamination has traveled off-site. This commonly happens when groundwater
has been contaminated, and less frequently, soil of adjacent sites is
When contamination moves off-site, the responsible party will request
permission of the adjacent landowners to come onto their properties to
do sampling. This permission is granted through an agreement and basically
authorizes the responsible party to sample the soil and the groundwater
on adjacent properties.
In the event that contamination has migrated onto adjacent properties,
the regulations obligate remediation of those properties. This remediation
can take several forms. If the contamination is limited to the surface
(generally considered the first five feet of soil), it is removed and
replaced with clean soil. If the contamination is deeper, either the soil
can be replaced or it can be left in place with a deed restriction.
A deed restriction follows the property from owner to owner and simply
advises any future owners of the existence of the contamination. NJDEP
does not allow contamination to remain on site if it poses a threat to
human health or the environment.
A third scenario is that contamination from a neighboring site has migrated
via groundwater and has not affected the soils of the adjacent property.
In this situation, a monitoring well may be required on adjacent properties.
This is also done in cooperation with owners and is memorialized through
an agreement signed by both the property owner and the responsible party.
The final phase of remediation comes after the site has been thoroughly
investigated: samples are analyzed and the results have been verified.
The plan for conducting the remediation has been submitted, reviewed and
approved by the NJDEP Case Manager. These steps often require a lot of
time, but once they are completed, the physical cleanup activities can
Based on the approved plan, the remediation can follow one of several
tracks. The most familiar is that of removal. In this situation, all of
the contamination is to be physically removed from the site and disposed
of at a permitted landfill or other disposal facility. A second type of
cleanup involves leaving some or all of the contamination on site, presuming
the plan provides an acceptable way of ensuring that neither the public
nor the environment will suffer future harm from the materials left behind.
This type of cleanup requires engineering controls and obligates
the remediating party to track the site and monitor the site on a regular
basis to ensure the integrity of the controls and to show that the controls
continue to be protective. This is often the solution when ground water
is impacted. In these instances, remediation is conducted over a period
of years, and tracked by way of permanent monitoring wells.
Natural attenuation is a third remedial option allowed when
the contamination is of the type that can dissipate over time.
Following the guidance of the NJDEP Technical Regulations, the party
undertaking the remediation must notify the clerk of the municipality
45 days prior to initiating construction. This allows municipal officials
time to notify anyone they deem appropriate and make any local arrangements
for the additional traffic or to meet other local concerns.
Finishing the Job
After the construction is completed, the NJDEP Case Manager will review
the case one last time and make a determination of completion. If the
site has been properly remediated, the Case Manager can direct that a
letter of No Further Action be granted, and the property can be reused.
Reuse of Remediated Properties
Many communities think all remediated sites are 'brownfields' - underutilized
old industrial or commercial properties that will live again as business
establishments. In reality, remediated properties have a multitude of
uses ranging from housing to schools to permanently preserved open space
and parks. The technical regulations include a long-term monitoring program
for any property where contamination is controlled on site and properly
A key element to the long-term success of a remediation is having access
to information about these sites. The NJDEP is committed to providing
citizens with the best information possible through a number of channels.
First and foremost, residents are encouraged to call the Office of Community
Relations (OCR) and speak to a member of the staff. These specially trained
professionals can quickly access information about sites from our databases,
give you answers to many questions about site remediation generally and
often about individual cases where they are actively involved. They also
work as partners with Case Managers on technical teams for cases where
there is community interest in a site. OCR staff can be reached at (609)
An increasingly popular means of getting information is through the NJDEP
Internet website. The SRWM site is www.nj.gov/dep/srp.
Community Relations hosts a website designed to respond to community issues.
This site can be reached via www.nj.gov/dep/srp/community,
with links to a list of cases with OCR involvement www.nj.gov/dep/srp/community/sites.
Those who wish to be on a mailing list for remediation updates may call
and register with the Office at 1-800-253-5647.
|* An NFA letter is either for the entire site (all
contamination removed) or conditional. The conditional letter indicates
the type of control in place to ensure protection of public health,
safety and the environment. These can be engineering or institutional
controls (such as a deed notice). In all cases, the remediation is
protective and meets DEP requirements.
Alternate Format: Adobe Acrobat [pdf 73 Kb]
"Documents provided on the Office of Community
Relations website define in non-technical language the more commonly
used environmental terms and concepts appearing in Site Remediation
Program publications, news releases, and other documents available
to the general public, students, the media, and state employees.
These documents do not have regulatory effect, and cannot be relied
upon in lieu of officially promulgated NJDEP rules and definitions
published in the New Jersey Register and the New Jersey Administrative