Recently, Ohio EPA released its newsletter directed toward those interested in brownfield redevelopment (SABR News). The July 2010 newsletter included some important recent developments at the federal and state level.
Federal Brownfields Legislation
The Federal Brownfield Re-authorization Bill was introduced in May 2010. If the bill passes it could include some important reforms to U.S. EPA’s brownfield programs, including:
- Increased funding– From $350 million in 2011 up to $600 million in FFY 2016. While an increase in funding helps spur brownfield redevelopment, one has to question whether such an increase is at all likely given the state of the federal deficit.
- Increase in the cap on federal grants– Move from $200,000 to $750,000. This is obvious change because the cap was woefully low compared to real word sampling and clean up costs at brownfield sites. Compare it to the Clean Ohio program that has a cap for property assessment work of $300,000. Over and above the assessment money, you can also get a maximum of $3 million in clean up funding under Clean Ohio.
- Locally owned properties eligible for federal funding– Under current law, any municipality who takes ownership of a parcel through foreclosure is considered a PRP under CERCLA and is ineligible for federal brownfield funding. The legislation would remove this prohibition. This is a very important change. Cities often take properties because of health or safety issues presented by their current conditions. We shouldn’t penalize cities for being proactive.
Background Soils Workgroup
The newsletter provides an update on Ohio EPA’s effort to create a background soil database. Native Ohio soils can contain various contaminants. For example, Ohio farm soils are known for higher natural arsenic content.
At clean up sites, consultants are often asked to perform an analysis to determine if detected levels of contamination are "above background." If levels are at or below background, then remediation is not necessary.
The site specific background evaluations can become time intensive and costly. Hopefully, by producing an Ohio background soil database these types of evaluations will be streamlined and can be performed in a more cost effective manner. A draft of the database may be available by this Fall.
New Guidance on Vapor Intrusion
In May 2010, Ohio EPA released its new guidance document for sampling and evaluation of potential vapor intrusion associated with contaminated soil and groundwater. The technical guidance document provides information regarding how Ohio EPA will determine whether soil or ground water contamination would potentially result in unhealthy indoor air exposure to occupants of buildings.
Vapor intrusion is getting much more attention nationally. Previously, Ohio EPA simply referred to U.S. EPA’s OSWER guidance on vapor intrusion. Now, Ohio EPA has developed their detailed guidance.
From discussion with some environmental consultants, they indicate that the Ohio EPA guidance seems to tilt the scales toward sampling in addition to just modeling. Regardless, it is an important guidance document on an issue that will be receiving heightened attention.