What Lies Beneath? Due Diligence and Subsurface Investigations

It’s amazing what you can find when you start digging in the dirt. On the surface of parking lots and greenspaces there is usually little evidence to suggest that anything is amiss. But hidden deep within the subsurface you will often find residual contamination from buried structures, storage tanks, or previous site activities. Discovering contamination after beginning construction or redevelopment can quickly lead to costly delays, worker safety concerns, as well as additional management and disposal fees that were not included in the initial budget. Like geotechnical investigations, it’s important to conduct appropriate environmental due diligence activities prior to construction. Due diligence can be invaluable in identifying potential site concerns early on and allows changes to be made accordingly during the design stage. Due diligence can include reviewing historical records for a property by conducting a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment. This review evaluates the potential for residual contamination or
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Significant Proposed Changes to NEPA Review

The Council on Environmental Quality recently proposed new regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) with intent to reduce regulatory burdens and allow for faster, more efficient development of infrastructure. Critics worry reduced environmental review will result in negative impacts to natural resources with possible consequences for public health. The following is a discussion of the proposed changes.  If  you are interested in providing public comments or attending a public meeting, more details are provided here.  What is NEPA? The National Environmental Policy Act is a federal statute that was signed into law in 1970. It requires federal agencies to consider how “major federal actions” may affect “the human environment.” This law created an environmental review process that includes exemptions, Categorical Exclusions (CE), Environmental Assessments (EA), and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). Exemptions apply to federal activities with little or no alteration of the physical environment. A CE is used
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Closing Compliance Gaps in Your Facility with Regulatory Applicability Screens

Whether you are a novice or veteran in environmental compliance, there is always something you can miss while trying to maintain regulatory compliance for your facility.  State regulatory agencies alone can have numerous rules — many of which will need to be combed through and fully understood in order to determine their applicability to your facility.  An audit is a great way to determine what rules apply to your facility and the extent to which your facility is in compliance, but the term “audit” can be scary for many companies.  It also isn’t the only option to understanding your company’s regulatory requirements.  The other route, you ask?  A high-level assessment that determines the regulatory applicability for your facility’s activities and provides a corrective framework for bridging compliance gaps, or in short, a regulatory applicability screen (RAS).  A RAS is intended to identify which major environmental (or safety) regulatory areas apply
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Environmental Compliance Programs: What Works?

In our first blog of this series we discussed the trap of a piecemeal approach to managing environmental compliance and the benefits of implementing a more streamlined program. There are common pain points and hindrances when a compliance program is lacking or mismanaged. These often manifest as unclear permit conditions or expired permits, miscommunication between personnel, poor or missed communication with regulatory agencies, lack of awareness of regulatory changes, or failure to submit compliance reports accurately or by their respective deadlines. We know what doesn’t work, so what does? Identifying what doesn’t work is easy (and almost second nature). But over the years, we have been able to identify commonalities between successfully managed compliance programs. At a minimum, they are established and maintained by: Continual, current and centralized recordkeeping. Create a system to ensure records are updated when necessary, and keep updated records in an easily accessible and centralized location.
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When Emergencies Strike, Are You Prepared to Respond?

When emergencies strike your facility, are you prepared? Have you thought of the repercussions of not being prepared? Will you be prepared in the future? What emergencies could happen? Emergencies come in large and small events. Hurricanes, floods, water inundation, dangerous gas leaks, explosions, and everything in between occur daily in the United States and across the world. A minor equipment failure or chemical release can quickly develop into a catastrophic failure.  In the past year, there have been numerous examples of large-scale emergencies that required coordination of multiple agencies and stakeholders. Some of the most notable crises in the nation’s history include the Exxon Valdez and the Deepwater Horizon Incident. Both events activated Unified Command, a structure under the National Contingency Plan (NCP) that oversees a response plan by coordinating personnel and resources from several agencies (the responder, the government, private industries, and stakeholders) to mitigate the risk of
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National Pushback on PFAS “Forever Chemicals”

Each week, it seems as if numerous articles and press releases are published recounting regulatory uncertainty, legislative action, community concerns and public outcry surrounding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Whether it is a chemical fire combated with PFAS-abundant foam, long-term health concerns for military and firefighting personnel, the reporting of impacted drinking water supplies, or the detection of contaminated food packaging — they’re everywhere, may affect millions of people, and are not likely to go away anytime soon. While steps are being taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and legislative bodies, PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals” as they are resistant to breakdown in the environment and are water soluble, resulting in their prevalence in our soil, groundwater, surface water and drinking water. The most abundant, studied, and regulated PFAS compounds of the estimated 4,700 estimated variants are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). PFAS have
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Track All Drones From Your Phone? New ASTM Standard

ASTM International recently announced plans to satisfy growing calls for an identification and tracking system for unmanned aircraft systems (drones) in airspace systems worldwide by developing a standard. The “Remote ID” standard under designation F3411 was developed by the ASTM International unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) committee that hopes to allow the general public and public safety officials to obtain the capability to identify a drone using an assigned ID. A rise in the use of drones and integration into the National Airspace System (NAS) has created safety and security concerns — primarily collisions with traditionally manned commercial and private aircrafts, radio frequency interference, and surveillance and data collection — that the Remote ID standard hopes to moderate. Standardizing a process of identifying drones is poised to help the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), federal security authorities, public safety and aviation officials, drone manufacturers and service suppliers to work in a regulated
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Environmental Compliance Management: Where to Start?

Missed project deadlines, slowed productivity, and potential fines. If you manage or are responsible for the environmental compliance at a facility, you can understand how easily one can run into these hurdles. The sheer number of regulations on a federal, state, and local level, keeping up with regulatory changes and understanding the applicability of these regulations can prove to be a burden for even the most seasoned of environmental professionals. Many facilities lack an effective environmental compliance program because compliance is often regarded as a priority only when preparing for an audit or after receiving an enforcement action from a regulatory body. Management may not know where to begin in implementing a compliance program, much less know how to establish a streamlined and centrally organized program. In my experience, it is not uncommon to adopt a piecemeal approach to compliance tasks to meet permit conditions or reporting deadlines. Unfortunately, this
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Is a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Really Necessary?

Did you inherit a contaminated industrial site in a merger or are you interested in purchasing a commercial property? Well, if you haven’t purchased the property yet — you’re in a good place. However, let’s say you buy a site, and later find out it’s contaminated. That likely means you didn’t get a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment completed and that you are currently liable for an environmental mess you didn’t create. You wouldn’t buy a used vehicle without looking at the CARFAX, close on a home without it first being inspected, and hopefully wouldn’t hire a babysitter to look after your child without first obtaining a background check. In the same vein, Phase I Environmental Site Assessments are an essential step for most real estate transactions or transfers of commercial property. It’s a property evaluation conducted in accordance with ASTM Standard E1527-13 and rules and regulations of EPA’s All
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EPA Moves Forward with PFAS Action Plan

On November 22, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is moving forward with the drinking water standard setting process outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (collectively known as PFAS), as well as a process for listing certain PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). The EPA is giving advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that would allow the public to provide input on adding PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) toxic chemical list. The EPA also announced the availability of $4.8 million in funding to expand research on managing PFAS in the agricultural sector as an overall effort to help communities address PFAS groundwater contamination across the nation. PFAS? PFAS refers to a group of chemicals that has been used since the 1940s in a large number of applications and consumer products
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