Assessment, Remediation & Closure
W&M Environmental has performed Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) for a broad range of clients throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Florida. From simple vacant properties to complex mergers of industrial facilities, W&M can assist you with the assessment process.
Our ESAs are performed in accordance with ASTM Standard 1527-13 and rules and regulations of EPA’s All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI). Typical turnaround time for our Phase I ESA is 8 to 10 working days at no extra charge. The site reconnaissance is conducted by an EPA qualified Environmental Professional and a draft report available prior to full production to alert you to any issues that may impact your property transaction.
W&M has extensive experience with both limited and comprehensive Phase II Investigations. These projects are performed by experienced environmental scientists, engineers, and/or licensed professional geologists. W&M is a member of the ASTM technical subcommittee on Phase II Site Assessments. Data evaluation and Phase II reports are reviewed by senior staff many of which have 15 to 25 years of professional experience.
W&M has a proven track record of sampling at properties with services stations, dry cleaners, and industrial facilities along with oversight/review from attorneys and other consultants. Our Phase II investigations have included the assessment of RCRA metals, VOCs, SVOCs, herbicides, pesticides, PCBs, and dioxins.
Where appropriate, we base our sample analysis on a comprehensive review of site conditions, sources, and potential chemicals of concern and utilize lower cost analyses such as total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH), selected metals (e. g., lead), and VOCs.
This process avoids wasted analyses on higher cost parameters like SVOCs, herbicides, pesticides, etc. that in many cases are not present at the site. If they are, we simply include them.
To avoid conflict of interest, W&M subcontracts the drilling of soil borings and monitoring wells to licensed professionals and often minority-owned, drillers. Sampling is conducted according to strict adherence to EPA and state agency guidance and even stricter internal standard operating procedures. Independent, NELAP certified, environmental analytical laboratories are used to analyze samples.
Vapor intrusion is the presence of potentially toxic vapors in a structure that arise from contaminated groundwater or soil below (or near) a building. It can lead to health problems as well as legal exposure. If you are a real estate developer and haven’t yet dealt with vapor intrusion, chances are you will soon, particularly at properties in urban areas. In recent years, evolution of the environmental due diligence process and requirements of savvy lenders have resulted in a greater awareness of the potential for vapor intrusion, and in some instances the need for mitigation.
The migration of chemical vapors from subsurface contamination into buildings has become an increasingly urgent topic for many Texas property owners. Vapor Intrusion (VI) is defined as the movement of volatile chemical vapors from contaminated soil or groundwater into nearby buildings. VI sometimes gets confused with Vapor Encroachment, which is the presence or likely presence of volatile chemical vapors in the vadose zone on a property. For instance, a vacant property could have vapor encroachment arising from a contaminant plume migrating from another property, but not vapor intrusion (due to the lack of a building). Recent emphasis by the lending industry and by TCEQ coupled with a general awareness of VI is mostly responsible for the urgency.
The TCEQ in several recent vapor encroachment cases has required responsible parties to conduct VI assessments. Unfortunately, there are no specific TCEQ rules or guidance regarding VI assessments, however, ASTM E2600-15[i] provides a very good summation of the various methods available to the Environmental Professional. Some of the acceptable methods used are:
Groundwater Sampling and Use of a Site-Specific Model
- Soil Gas Sampling and Use of a Site-Specific Model
- Subslab Soil Gas Sampling and Use of a Site-Specific Model
- Indoor Air Sampling
W&M Environmental Group has developed a reputation for cleanup and closure of contaminated properties in Texas. W&M has closed over 130 sites through TCEQ remediation programs such as the Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP), Leaking Petroleum Storage Tank (LPST), Innocent Owner/Operator Program (IOP), and Corrective Action. We have also worked on EPA/TCEQ Brownfields projects and Superfund sites along with the TCEQ’s Dry Cleaner Remediation Program (DCRP).
W&M utilizes risk-based closure strategies as much as possible, resorting to active remediation options when risk-based corrective action is not sufficient to address contaminated environmental media. W&M understands the nuances of working through TCEQ regulatory programs and has built an excellent relationship working with TCEQ case coordinators and senior managers to get projects closed.
In Texas, most contaminated sites are subject to the technical regulations under the Texas Risk Reduction Program (TRRP) or Petroleum Storage Tank (PST) rules. Programs regulated by TRRP include VCP, IOP, DCRP, and CA, while PST rules and regulations apply to LPST cases. W&M has extensive experience with both TRRP and PST sites.
Voluntary Cleanup Program
The VCP has become one of the preferred options for real estate sellers/buyers seeking to clean up contaminated properties, obtain regulatory closure from TCEQ, and obtain financing. The VCP operates under the TRRP rules and regulations. For real estate deals, the VCP has become the “gold standard” because the TCEQ issues a certificate of completion for all media, all chemicals of concern, and all current and future land owners. For liability protection, closure through the VCP is tough to beat.
For sites in the VCP, the applicant is required to investigate and cleanup their site in a “voluntary” manner unlike other programs that are driven by the state. Since the TCEQ is giving the applicant a release of liability for all contaminants and media, the investigation requirements for a VCP case are typically more rigorous. Another key item associated with the VCP is that the TCEQ has a set time period of 60 days to review reports and respond to submittals.
W&M works with our clients to investigate, complete the required VCP documents to TCEQ, manage the project, work with the TCEQ as a client advocate, remediate impacted media as necessary, and obtain the closure certificate as quickly and efficiently as possible. To accomplish this, we consider and utilize all of the tools available in the program, such as plume management zones, municipal setting designations (MSDs), aquifer classification such as low yield (Class 3 Groundwater), use of Site-specific background calculations, Tier 2 cross-media calculations for metals, etc. W&M has used the VCP to close a wide range of sites which were later redeveloped as either residential or mixed use properties.
Leaking Petroleum Storage Tank Program
Leaking tank cases are handled by the TCEQ through their PST Division using well-established regulatory guidance. The Texas PST is a comprehensive regulatory program for underground storage tanks (USTs) and to a lesser extent above-ground storage tanks (ASTs). W&M is a TCEQ PST Registered Corrective Action Specialist (RCAS), and W&M professionals are registered as PST Corrective Action Project Managers (CAPM).
W&M has extensive experience in the project management, investigation, reporting, remediation (impacted soil and groundwater along with NAPL abatement), and assistance with obtaining No Further Action letters. W&M staff has worked with many of the LPST case coordinators over the years and met with senior agency staff to work through issues. W&M is involved in each of the steps required for regulatory closure of LPST sites.
Innocent Owner/Operator Program
The innocent owner/operator program of TCEQ provides liability relief for contamination from an off-Site source to parties that have not “caused or contributed” to the contamination. In other words, the IOP can be useful if your property was impacted by an off-Site business such as a dry cleaner (typically perchloroethylene [perc] and its degradation products), service station (gasoline range compounds) or industrial facility with VOCs and metals. W&M has worked on numerous IOP cases and received IOP Certificates for our clients. Some cases may prove to be difficult and this is where we shine. W&M has the expertise to work through issues with the TCEQ such trace concentrations of contamination in the soil and/or absence of an off-site source.
Corrective Action Program
Corrective Action is a remediation program at TCEQ that operates under the rules and regulation of the TRRP. This program is similar to VCP but is not always voluntary, typically focuses in on a specific affected area or release, and does not have a time frame for review of documents and response letters. Also the Corrective Action program issues a No Further Action letter to the Responsible Party at the end of the process and not a Certificate of Completion. It is our experience that Corrective Action is a good program for industrial facilities especially if they want to target a specific area of concern, contaminant or media (e. g., metals in the soil) rather than all contaminants and all media. For real estate transactions, Corrective Action is typically not our preferred option.
Dry Cleaner Remediation Program
The Texas DCRP is a state lead program for dry cleaning facilities and properties with dry cleaners (e. g., strip centers). The TCEQ manages the projects, using contractors to complete investigations and sampling, and pays for all costs less a deductible amount paid by the facility owner or operator. W&M has a working knowledge of the program and can assist you with the DCRP application.
In our opinion, DCRP is a good option if you want to put your property into a lower cost/long term regulatory program where the state is paying for the assessment, monitoring, remediation, and ultimately closure. However, the program is typically slow moving. Unlike VCP, the DCRP does not have a review time table, the program has a limited budget, does not use the MSD as a risk-based option, and sites are prioritized based on periodic TCEQ scoring. High priority sites are addressed first, while lower priority sites may have little or no activity for many years. DCRP site closures have historically been slow and since the DCRP does not allow the use of an MSD many of these cases have not been closed.
The Municipal Setting Designation (MSD) is an established program in Texas in which the municipality develops an ordinance prohibiting the use of groundwater in a designated area. Once the MSD is approved on the local level, it is sent to the TCEQ for final review. Although the MSD may eliminate or increase groundwater and the resulting soil clean up concentrations, it does not, in and of itself, provide “closure” of contaminated sites. The MSD is utilized with one of the TCEQ’s other programs such as VCP or Corrective Action Program to get a final closure in the form of a Certificate of Completion or No Further Action Letter. In view of the difficultly and cost of remediation and closing chlorinated solvent sites, the MSD is an excellent risk-based alternative to long term pump and treat or monitored natural attenuation.
W&M has completed or worked on more than 30 MSD projects for a variety of clients. Our staff of experts can assist you with the MSD application process, submission of reports to the city and state, project management, and final closure certification through the TCEQ VCP or Corrective Action Program.