Browse Tag: Environmental Protection Agency

Industrial Remediation: Adding Up The Costs

Doylestown, Pennsylvania

Some industry pollutes, and some property owners and operators in potentially polluting industries pollute more than other operators.  Most pollution has costs that are ultimately assessed not only to property owners, but to the community at large.  This basic reality is what Republican President Richard Nixon had in mind when he created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.


In industrial property markets, contaminated sites are sticky problems, generating costs in all kinds of ways.  The discovery of pollution on a property can lock it out of the market for decades, no matter how fit for a purpose or well-located. Once discovered, pollution can create a chain of legal liability for the health problems of neighbors that leads to the property owners or operators, which drives health and legal costs.  These costs are externalized, meaning markets just don’t work in settling the ultimate cost levels and responsibilities – hence the EPA and state agencies stepping in to that role.


It’s not often that we get to see these costs reported upon with any degree of clarity, but when a contaminated industrial property is located across the street from a newspaper office, interesting numbers arise.


This week’s story by Christina Kristofic in the suburban Philadelphia Intelligencer newspapers focuses on a former electroplating site located across the street from the Intelligencer offices whose pollution cleanup at the hands of federal and state agencies has climbed into the millions.


The basic cost of hauling away and sequestering 3600 cubic yards of cancer-causing dirt and replacing with “clean” dirt?  In one case, at least $625 per cubic yard:


The Environmental Protection Agency has decided to remove 3,600 cubic yards of contaminated dirt from the site of a former electroplating factory on Broad Street in Doylestown.


Then they will replace it with “clean” dirt.


Officials expect the process to take about 50 days and cost about $2.25 million, according to the EPA’s record of decision. But they don’t know yet when they will get the money and start the 50-day clock.


“Our preference would be that the starting date was tomorrow,” said Doylestown Borough Manager John Davis.


“Our understanding is that this is not a terribly expensive project as far as these remediations go and this is not a terribly complicated or lengthy process. It’s digging and removing fill dirt, and replacing it.”


Davis and Doylestown Council President Det Ansinn said they now intend to reach out to the borough’s representatives in Congress to see if they can help the EPA get the money it needs for the project.


The state Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA have been monitoring the site at 330 N. Broad St., which is across the street from The Intelligencer’s office, since the 1960s when it was the Chem-Fab electroplating factory.


The Bucks County Department of Health and the DEP cited the factory several times in the 1960s for spills and release of industrial waste from above-ground storage tanks, underground storage tanks and the catch basin to Cooks Run.


Another company acquired the Chem-Fab site in the late 1970s and used it for disposal of chemical wastes generated by other companies.


The EPA found the groundwater near the site to be contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) in 1987. High levels of TCE may cause liver, kidney or lung cancer if inhaled, ingested or touched, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.




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EPA Lead Paint Rulemaking: Delayed Three Years

Environmental Protection Agency SealThe Environmental Protection Agency has further delayed its plans to propose and then finalize a Lead Renovation Repair and Painting (LRRP) rule for potential lead-based paint hazards in commercial and public buildings.

By Dec. 31, 2012:  EPA will announce a public hearing to gather info on renovation activities and possible lead hazards in commercial buildings, and will hold the public meeting by July 31, 2013.

NAR’s efforts thus far, through letters to EPA and oversight from the Hill, have resulted in a significant delay in EPA’s issuance of new regulations — particularly because NAR has stressed the point that the agency lacks data on the nature and extent of lead-based paint hazards unique to commercial buildings.  EPA had been under a deadline to issue a proposed LRRP rule for exterior commercial renovations by June 15, 2012.  With a new settlement agreement, EPA has delayed issuance of a proposed LRRP commercial by nearly 3 years – until July 1, 2015.  And, any final rule with regulatory impact is not expected for well over 4 years – until Dec. 31, 2016.

A few other points are noteworthy from this Settlement Agreement:

  • Previously, EPA had been on two separate paths that would have bifurcated LRRP commercial rules for exterior versus interior building renovations.  Under the latest Settlement Agreement, the exterior and interior renovations rules are now on the same regulatory deadlines.
  • To date – and as allowed by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – EPA said it would consider LRRP Rules for commercial and public buildings regardless of the date of their construction.  In contrast, TSCA and EPA residential LRRP rules are focused on pre-1978 “target housing.”  It now appears that EPA is operating under the same pre-1978 cut-off for public and commercial buildings as well.  NAR and our coalition partners have argued that – assuming any commercial LRRP Rules are appropriate at all – the pre-1978 cut-off for “target housing” should also apply to commercial buildings.  We will be following up to confirm whether EPA has, indeed, changed course and decided to restrict the scope of any possible LRRP commercial rule to pre-1978 structures (as it has done for “target housing”).
  • Under TSCA, EPA is required to first study and report to Congress on lead-based paint hazards in commercial buildings before it issues any new LRRP rule for those structures.  It still has not done so, and the Settlement Agreement is silent on this subject.  Assuming EPA continues down the path to develop new regulations, we will continue to press EPA to meet the statutory “report and study” requirement prior to EPA’s issuance of any proposed LRRP commercial rule.
  • Paragraph 2 states that, unless EPA concludes that “renovation activities in pre-1978 public and commercial buildings do not create a lead-based paint hazard,” EPA will continue to develop regulations in this arena.  EPA sets forth a process for it to gather information regarding any “hazard” determination:
  • By Aug. 29, 2014:  EPA will have completed the oversight process required by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), including the convening of an SBAR panel.
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