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Site Remediation News
January 1997 (Vol 9 No 1) - Article 06

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Division of Responsible Party Site Remediation Oversees A Cleaner New Jersey
By: Michael Tompkins
Division of Responsible Party Site Remediation
Bureau of Field Operation

The mission of the Division of Responsible Party Site Remediation (DRPSR) is to remediate contaminated sites by maximizing the privately funded, contaminated site cleanup activities within the State. This mission supports that of the Department of Environmental Protection by requiring those responsible for contamination to conduct and fund the cleanup, thereby minimizing the expenditure of public funds.

In most cases, cleanups overseen by the DRPSR are first reported to the Department's 24 hour hotline. Last Fiscal Year, the hotline, which resides in the DRPSR's Discharge Response Element, received almost 21,000 environmental incidents/complaints, of which over 12,500 were further investigated by the Division. The balance (approximately 8,500) was handled by the other programs within the Department. Twenty percent of the Division's 12,500 incidents were actual emergencies or situations that could become emergencies and were handled by the Discharge Response Element's Bureau of Emergency Response (BER). Among the more dramatic emergencies BER responded to included the Shell Oil fire in Middlesex County and the Anitra oil spill impacting the southern New Jersey coast just prior to Memorial Day. Of the remaining 10,000 non-emergency incidents/complaints received by the DRPSR, approximately 3,700 were referred to either local or county health agencies. The remaining cases were either from regulated underground storage tank (UST) facilities and industrial establishments, or were spills/releases from other sources (i.e., homeowner oil tanks, drums, etc.). Those parties responsible for spills, in which the discharge did not result in an emergency or immediate threat to public health (and were not currently under the Division's oversight), were offered Division oversight via the Voluntary Cleanup Program. Parties willing to take part in this program, do so by signing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Division. The MOA is a contract whereby a party agrees to investigate and cleanup a discharge in accordance with the Technical Requirements for Site Remediation (Tech Rules, N.J.A.C. 7:26E) and reimburse the Division for the time and material it expends. The Division, in turn, agrees to dedicate its resources to provide oversight and technical guidance to those conducting the remediation. During Fiscal Year 1996 (FY96), a record 1,436 MOAs were entered into by parties wishing to voluntarily clean-up their sites, and nearly 1,200 MOAs were closed, with sites, or contaminated portions of sites cleaned up.

Regulated UST facilities in New Jersey reported approximately 600 releases from leaking tanks or their piping systems during FY96. Of these, as well as ongoing cleanups reported during prior fiscal years, 620 releases were cleaned-up and 2,880 cleanups of UST related contamination are currently underway.

Not all of the sites at which the DRPSR oversees clean-ups come in to the Department through the hotline. Pursuant to the Industrial Site Recovery Act (ISRA), many industries in New Jersey are required to evaluate their property prior to sale, cessation of operations, etc. During FY96, approximately 620 industrial establishments performed this evaluation. Of these establishments, approximately 75 discovered they had areas in which a cleanup was necessary. Of these, as well as establishments that had entered the ISRA process prior to FY96, 65 sites had completed cleanups, with approximately 935 remediations currently under way.

During Fiscal Year 1996 (July 1995 - June 1996), the DRPSR fulfilled this mission utilizing a staff of 317. As of the end of FY96, the DRPSR was providing oversight for approximately 6,000 cases in New Jersey requiring cleanup. Over the years, DRPSR has had to initiate innovative approaches to provide oversight for so many cases. These include delegation of case-specific decision-making down to the case manager and supervisor level. The Bureau of Underground Storage Tanks has developed the "Cooperative Venture Program" in which the responsible parties of one or many sites can prioritize their sites with the Bureau and develop mutual schedules based on risk (see the Summer 1995 SRP Newsletter for a full description of this initiative). The result has been more expedient cleanups that are protective of the environment and public health.

The Division has also worked hard to continue providing outreach in the form of informational speeches and training, further educating both the regulated community and the consulting firms that are conducting the clean-ups in this state. As a result of this outreach, the DRPSR has seen closer adherence to the technical requirements for the Site Remediation Program (7:26E), resulting in improved submittals of site evaluations, remediation plans, and remedial action reports. Overall, these improvements have resulted in fewer multiple reviews by the Division, a reduced need in having to go back and perform additional work, and a resultant cost savings to those conducting cleanups. The Division has also developed a closer working relationship with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), resulting in a greater number of cases being overseen utilizing federal resources. For example, 39 emergency cases which met the criteria of the joint EPA-DEP Memorandum of Understanding were referred for EPA cleanup or oversight, saving the N.J. Spill Fund more than $2.3 million and countless DRPSR staff hours.

Assistance to parties responsible for cleanups that continued in FY96 included disbursement of low interest loans and grants, overseen by the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Authority. During FY96, 145 loans and grants were approved, with a total of $18,076,000 disbursed. Additionally, a refocus on intended land use has been undertaken (Brownfields Initiative), which has allowed for, among other things, capping of contamination where it could be shown that such a cap would be protective of human health and where groundwater would not be impacted. A prime example of this is the Mercer Waterfront Stadium, home of the Trenton Thunder AA professional baseball team.

For Fiscal Year 1997, we expect an increase in oversight work for the Division. This will require an even better prepared and educated staff, and a need for even better submittals from consultants servicing both the regulated community and residents of this State. Still, we remain optimistic that all priority sites will be remediated effectively and in a timely manner. As contaminated sites in New Jersey continue to be cleaned, as parties responsible for cleanups voluntarily come forward and do so, and as long as the DRPSR can continue to provide oversight, we will continue to see a cleaner New Jersey well into the future.

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