By Shawn M. LaTourette and David E. Haymes, NJDEP
The dichotomy could not be clearer: New Jersey is beautiful beaches and verdant woodlands. It’s also abandoned factories and faded brownfields.
Preserving the first – and cleaning up and restoring the latter – are both part of our mission to protect the environment and the public’s health.
We know environmental improvement is a sound investment. In particular, reclaiming land parcels once used by industry or commerce, but now abandoned, stagnant and often contaminated, can help to revitalize neighborhoods, improve public safety, create jobs, enhance economic growth, establish open space, and cultivate business opportunities, especially in overburdened communities.
At the helm of New Jersey brownfields renewal work is DEP’s Contaminated Site Remediation & Redevelopment (CSRR) program. Formerly the Site Remediation and Waste Management Program, CSRR is responsible for reducing the number of contaminated sites in our state and readying the spaces for reuse.
While remediation and redevelopment are distinct, the realignment of the program is intended to recognize that remediation encourages redevelopment, which can drive economic growth. CSRR continues to oversee the investigation and cleanup of identified or suspected contaminants and to ensure that regulations covering remediation procedures are followed.
The program’s Office of Brownfield and Community Revitalization coordinates remediation and reuse efforts, and also pursues innovative approaches to expedite the process. It provides financial assistance and partners with municipalities, developers, LSRPs and others to complete cleanups that encourage redevelopment.
There are nearly 14,000 active cases at remediation sites in New Jersey. Success stories of redeveloped brownfields come through business ventures and community enrichment. Three sites in Perth Amboy, contaminated with PCBs, were remediated as one large project, under a single LSRP, and redeveloped simultaneously.
Those brownfields are now Thomas Mundy Peterson Park, which opened in September. With more than $11.8 million in investments provided through the DEP, the 10 acres of open space boasts athletic fields, a waterfront walkway, signs detailing the area’s history, park benches and visitors’ comfort stations, as well as a parking lot. A property long off–limits to the public now serves as a community gathering space.
CSRR is prioritizing efforts to increase efficiency of LSRP program processes and studying rule amendments to streamline permitting. Engaging its stakeholders – industry representatives, LSRPs and environmental groups – remains vital to its efforts to advance the LSRP program and remediation work.
When we breathe new life into underutilized and contaminated sites, we can improve public health, deliver environmental justice and create new opportunities for New Jersey residents and businesses.
About the Authors: Shawn M. LaTourette is the NJDEP Commissioner. David E. Haymes is Assistant Commissioner of NJDEP’s CSRR program.
By Michelle Bouwman, LSRP, Verdantas
With the passage of landmark environmental justice legislation in 2020, New Jersey became one of the pre-eminent states committed to protecting overburdened communities from environmental contaminants.
These protections include enforcement actions that have brought more responsibilities to LSRPs for sites where required remediation stalled or never started.
Environmental justice communities, often in urban areas near former industrial hubs, are disproportionately impacted with contaminated properties, including many properties where cleanup has languished. Overburdened environmental justice communities are considered communities with primarily minority residents, communities with limited proficiency in English, or low-income communities.
Since 2018, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office and NJDEP have filed suit in more than 50 environmental justice cases yielding nearly $20 million in judgments.
In 2022, the NJDEP’s environmental justice enforcement actions spanned a range of issues, from illegal import of contaminated fill material at a waterfront development site, to plumes of petroleum from gasoline service stations impacting neighborhoods, to unsafe drinking water being supplied to migrant farm workers.
In many of these cases, the court has ordered responsible parties to conduct environmental cleanup with the direction of an LSRP. Each case has unmanaged contaminants that pose a risk to the public and a business risk to responsible parties.
LSRPs are key components of each responsible party’s response, serving as the intermediary between the NJDEP, responsible parties and other stakeholders, and have the unique role of understanding the regulatory, scientific and business concerns unique to each case.
In New Jersey, owners of contaminated properties and dischargers of contaminants have an affirmative obligation to conduct remediation per the state regulations. The NJDEP’s and Attorney General’s actions show that ignoring or violating this obligation, especially for sites in environmental justice communities, can carry severe consequences.
Proactive management and cleanup of environmental contaminants with the support of an LSRP is an important component of property management and development in New Jersey.
By Mary Kay Morelli, LSRP, GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc.
The environmental consulting projects that most touch my heart are those where I make a positive difference for a small business owner.
Navigating the now-diminished Petroleum Underground Storage Tank hardship grant program on behalf of my clients, for example, brought me great satisfaction. “Mom and pop” gas station owners depended on me to help secure the hardship funding they needed.
I helped hard-working entrepreneurs achieve the regulatory compliance needed to protect their livelihoods – without depleting their often-modest personal savings. Critical local businesses were sustained and the health and safety of those in the community were protected.
Introduced in 1997, the petroleum tank hardship fund helped small business owners meet NJDEP 1988 tank upgrade requirements that usually included the closure and remediation of regulated underground storage tanks.
Small business owners were eligible if they owned fewer than 10 underground storage tanks in New Jersey, met the net worth criteria, and had been denied commercial loans. It supplied up to $1 million per project, depending on the site’s location.
Although the petroleum tank hardship fund is unfortunately being drained, it was an important funding source for environmental cleanups. Current brownfields and other tax incentives may provide the financial support and peace of mind for business owners and communities that the hardship fund had in the past.
I worked on more than 40 gas stations under the hardship program and helped owners secure millions of dollars in funding, which helped close hundreds of non-compliant underground storage tanks and remediate thousands of yards of impacted soil. Some clients who entered the program prior to the May 2011 application deadline still receive supplemental funding to complete their projects.
Using my license as an LSRP to help people continues to motivate me. Working with small businesses to investigate and clean up a site not only helps individual owners, but makes a better environment for their neighbors and their larger communities.
By Alexander Saltzman, LSRP, French & Parrello Associates
The LSRPA and its volunteer members are reaching out to high school, college and young professionals to inspire the next generation of LSRPs.
Outreach is crucial for developing the strength of the next generation of professionals within the environmental consulting industry. From the impacts of climate change to what science teaches us of the risk of new contaminants, developing more environmental professionals and LSRPs will be important to industry as environmental problems become more complex.
The LSRPA conducts high school and other non-college outreach programs each year to promote careers within the environmental industry. Through the presentations, students learn the background of industrial history and sources of pollution, notable environmental contamination events in New Jersey, and information about potential careers in the industry.
Students also are encouraged to explore the diversity of opportunities within the industry outside of consulting, including health and safety compliance, laboratory technicians, environmental law, and work within renewable energy fields and remediation contracting.
The presentation also includes an example of how environmental professionals evaluate potential contamination on a property for sale. Using insurance industry maps, aerial views and other available information, students get a look into how environmental professionals and LSRPs conduct an environmental site assessment.
Programs run by LSRPA members, with the cooperation and assistance of sponsor companies, also provide training to employees with less than seven years of experience.
Our virtual sessions included excavation safety, technical writing, and sessions to help visualize contaminants in ground water and their characterization through investigation and cleanup. Our in-person events included a soft dig and ground penetrating radar demonstration, drilling equipment and techniques demonstration, and borehole geophysical logging demonstration.
In 2023, LSRPA will hold a three-part series on understanding risks and liabilities of environmental remediation and site redevelopment in New Jersey.
The LSRPA hopes that continuing these educational, mostly free, outreach and training programs will continue to help grow and fertilize future environmental professionals who will continue to positively impact the environment and economy through increased natural resource quality.
By Rohan Tadas, LSRP, Environmental Resolutions, Inc.
Anyone involved with opening a day care center or expanding or constructing a school, should retain an LSRP during initial planning stages.
For day care licensees, school boards, architects and engineers, early engagement of an LSRP allows for necessary remediation to take place during planning and avoids unnecessary delays.
In 2007, New Jersey signed into law the most stringent requirements for environmental investigation for proposed day care centers or schools (K-12). At the time, it was the most important piece of environmental legislation in New Jersey in more than 15 years and the precursor to the Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA) of 2009.
The legislation was a reaction to the Kiddie Kollege day care facility in Franklinville, Gloucester County, which opened in a former thermometer factory and exposed children and employees to mercury contamination. The facility was shut down in 2006.
Under SRRA, the Legislature created the Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP), an individual deemed to have the knowledge and experience to oversee remediation in New Jersey. Under the law, all facilities looking to obtain a day care license or planning to construct a school in New Jersey must engage an LSRP to issue a Response Action Outcome (RAO), indicating no further remediation is required.
An LSRP must issue an RAO before an operator can obtain their day care license. An LSRP also must issue an RAO before most schools can either be built or be occupied. You should consult an LSRP for all the potential RAO requirements, which include for school expansions, changes in use, new construction, and any potential construction on property undergoing – or with the potential to undergo – environmental remediation.
If the LSRP identifies concerns that require additional investigation, the LSRP will oversee and direct the remediation. Only upon completion of the remediation will the LSRP issue an RAO, which is required before the local code official will issue a Certificate of Occupancy for the new structure.
Without an LSRP–issued RAO, the day care center or school cannot open. So, early engagement of an LSRP is essential to school boards, day care licensees, architects, engineers and most importantly, the public.
By Antonios Karachalios, PhD, Tetra Tech
Trichloroethylene or TCE, a chlorinated solvent used in degreasing metals and dry cleaning, was found in groundwater at a site in New Jersey. Tetra Tech was asked to identify a low cost, green, and sustainable remediation approach to treat it.
The remedial approach included injecting specialized additives to the soil to accelerate biodegradation of the TCE, eliminating the need for surface structures and piping for treatment operations.
First, a thorough investigation was completed to characterize the geology and geochemistry in order to identify and select strategic treatment areas. Tetra Tech performed isotope analysis of TCE coupled with DNA testing to quantify the genetic code of the existing bacteria in the subsurface and understand the potential mechanisms for TCE biodegradation.
Based on the testing, a self-emulsifying vegetable oil, an electron donor, along with an iron sulfide suspension and a source of nutrients, and organic carbon mixed with sodium bicarbonate were added to the soil. The injections also included additional bacteria culture grown from a site where TCE underwent complete dichlorination to further improve remediation.
Injection covered a 1,500-square– foot source area. A downgradient permeable reactive treatment barrier was created by injecting other additives to prevent further plume migration.
The remedial injections significantly decreased the concentrations of TCE within 90 days. Groundwater samples collected from monitoring wells showed a 78% or greater decrease in TCE. Daughter products of TCE biodegradation decreased by up to 99%.
This successful remedial approach accelerated and enhanced existing geochemical conditions by adding primarily food-grade additives that did not alter the characteristics of the treatment area.
No chemical reactions are occurring, and the degradation of the contaminants is based on a sustainable biologically-driven breakdown.
This green and sustainable remedial approach expedited remediation and reduced or eliminated the need for future monitoring due to the success of the remedial design.
By Elizabeth Limbrick, LSRP, New Jersey Economic Development Authority
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) knows that brownfield remediation can be a key driver in local revitalization and redevelopment efforts. New Jersey has thousands of brownfield sites because of its industrial legacy.
Left undeveloped, these sites are a burden and a blight on the communities in which they are located. The NJEDA has a suite of solutions designed to assess and cleanup brownfield sites for redevelopment and transform them into community assets rather than liabilities.
In the spring of 2023, NJEDA will offer the Brownfields Redevelopment Incentive Program. This new competitive program will offer a one-time tax credit to developers who have completed a cleanup of a brownfield site.
The tax credit is also transferrable. Eligible costs include site investigation, assessment, remediation, asbestos abatement and demolition.
Fifty percent of costs will be covered on typical sites up to a maximum of $4 million, with a boost to $8 million, or up to 60% of costs, for Government Restricted Municipalities — Atlantic City, Paterson, Trenton — and Qualified Incentive Tracts.
The applicant is awarded the tax credit upon completion of a brownfield cleanup that will allow for future redevelopment of the site. The NJEDA anticipates accepting applications this spring.
The NJEDA is looking for opportunities to meet with business leaders, developers and LSRPs to discuss pending brownfield projects in New Jersey that might be suitable for this tax incentive program.
Since this is a competitive program, the NJEDA cannot discuss specific projects once the application window has opened, so we would like to hear from you as soon as possible. Please send an email with a brief project description to firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment with us on a specific project.
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