Addressing Soil Issues in New Jersey During Commercial Redevelopment

Addressing Soil Issues in New Jersey During Commercial Redevelopment

By Michael Novak, LSRP, Atlantic Environmental Solutions, Inc.

REGARDLESS OF THE redevelopment project, too much—or not enough—fill at a property is among the costly issues facing commercial real estate developers today. Moreover, the testing of site soils by developers and site work contractors can cause a prop¬erty not previously within the domain of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Site Remediation Program (SRP) to suddenly be subject to the program’s rules and requirements.

Real estate buyers, developers and contractors often are surprised to learn that site soils that were not an “area of concern” in a Preliminary Assessment or “recognized environmental condition” in a Phase I Assessment—along with soils that tested “nonhazardous” for dis¬posal purposes—will end up being “not clean enough” to remain at a property or be imported from an offsite source within budget.

Owners and developers also may dis¬cover that a Deed Notice or expensive offsite disposal is required and that other environmental rules could be triggered, such as annual reporting and monitoring requirements by the owner and annual permit fees paid to the state.

The 2009 Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA) shifted responsibility for initi¬ating and completing most remediation projects from the NJDEP to private sector Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRPs). Expert LSRP servic¬es are critical to saving developers time and money by characterizing soils and fill material in accordance with applica¬ble regulations and allowing for the reuse of site soils rather than disposing them offsite. This provides developers with a cost-effective method to address these “cut and fill” issues.

The NJDEP has specific testing proto¬col to follow if a developer wants to confirm that existing onsite fill material is not contaminated. The testing param¬eters are comprehensive, and sampling is required on a per-acre basis.

Separately, the NJDEP recently publish-ed guidance and regulations regarding the importation of fill material onto properties regulated by the SRP. The Fill Material Guidance for SRP Sites pro¬vides guidelines on the use of fill materi¬al with the goal of reducing the volume of soil disposed at landfills by allowing certain fill materials to be reused smartly.

Alternative fill (defined as fill that con¬tains contaminants above the most strin¬gent soil remediation standards) being imported to a property must be sampled at a higher frequency than when charac¬terizing onsite existing materials. This affects anyone who supplies fill to donor sources or receives fill at SRP sites, as well as site investigators, including LSRPs.

A specific number of samples need to be collected relative to the volume of soil being imported. The number of samples and type of analyses are different than those typically used to characterize soils for disposal purposes. With adequate testing results, an LSRP will certify the permissible importation of alternative fill to restore the pre-remediation grade/topography and elevation. Excess alternative fill also can be imported after receiving NJDEP pre-approval.

The NJDEP recently changed permis¬sions of unpermitted emplacement of alternative fill below the 100-year flood elevation. For this reason, developers and their consultants should consider involving an LSRP in “cut and fill” plans early on in a project.

Utilizing the knowledge and expertise of LSRPs, the NJDEP is returning countless contaminated sites to benefi¬cial use, providing assurance to property owners that the work meets complex rules and regulations and is protective of human health and the environment.

Engaging LSRP services from the onset of a project—even on non- recorded SRP sites—makes the program an even more efficient and cost-effec¬tive tool for redevelopment in the Garden State.

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