The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has proposed substantive changes to the remediation standards administered under New Jersey’s Site Remediation Program (SRP). The 273-page rule proposal includes 84 pages of commentary and 26 pages of rule amendments, and the remainder consisting of technical detail and charts. If adopted, it will have a significant and far-reaching effect on the remediation of contaminated sites in New Jersey so the regulated community should carefully assess those ramifications and take advantage of the opportunity to offer comments and other input to the DEP.
DEP has a statutory mandate under the Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act (Brownfield Act), N.J.S.A. 58:10B-12, to develop remediation standards for soil, ground water, and surface water quality necessary for the remediation of contamination of real property. Under the Brownfield Act, these standards must be protective of public health and safety, and the environment. The remediation standards apply to contaminated sites throughout the State. DEP states that it utilized some of the input provided during stakeholder sessions that ended in 2015, though rejected other input and concerns expressed by the stakeholders. The regulatory proposal includes:
- Indoor Air Standards replacing the current screening levels used to identify if additional investigation or remediation was needed to address potential impacts from discharges to soil or groundwater. The manner by which these standards would be applied is not directly addressed in the proposed rule.
- Impact to Groundwater Standards replacing the current site specific criteria used to determine if soil contamination could result in adverse impacts to groundwater.
- Eliminate any distinction between residential and non-residential exposure pathways, and modifying the definition of “residential” which focuses on “residences”, private and public schools, charter schools and licensed childcare centers, and deletion of the definitions for “residential use” and “non-residential use” and references to “direct contact soil remediation standards” and “direct contact”.
- Requiring a more complex approach for developing Alternative Remediation Standards and other Site Specific Standards expanding upon the current approach for developing such standards.
- A Phase-in period which defers the application of the new standards until six (6) months after the rule is adopted (which may not occur until 2021) and for sites that have the following and comply with all applicable timeframes:
- The new standard is not greater by an order of magnitude than the remediation standard used for the site; and
- A Remedial Action Workplan (RAW) or Remedial Action Report (RAR) containing then applicable standards or criteria was submitted to the DEP between March 18, 2018 and 6 months after the effective date of the new regulations, the RAW or RAP was approved by the DEP or and LSRP and the remedial action is completed with the applicable regulatory timeframe;
- Grandfathering – For use of site specific standards that were established pursuant to prior adoptions of this chapter, when a RAW or RAP was timely submitted to the DEP, approved by the DEP or an LSRP and the remedial action is competed within the applicable regulatory timeframe.
The rule proposal is subject to a comment period that has been extended to August 5, 2020 and a public hearing that has been postponed without date. The full proposal can be found at 52 N.J.R 566(a) or https://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/notices/20200406a.html