When the Site Remediation Reform Act (SRRA) was signed into law and created the Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) program, the State Legislature required the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to report to the Senate on the progress of the program. The NJDEP has regularly been sharing statistics and metrics with the public through the NJDEP Data Miner webpage and the Site Remediation Program webpage “What’s New” feature. These statistics provide a measure of the LSRP program.
The LSRP Program by the numbers: NJDEP determined that 4,735 “old” sites were subject to a requirement to complete investigation by May 2014. These old sites had been in the investigation phase for at least 10 years before SRRA was enacted. Of those 4,735 sites, representing roughly half of the active LSRP cases in New Jersey, 3,488 met the May 2014 deadline, while 1,247 were entered into a two-year extension program, which includes strict penalties for noncompliance. The implication of these numbers is significant. By providing LSRPs with the authority and responsibility for directing and certifying these investigations, half of all the active investigations were completed within five-to-seven years, which meets the mission of the program to protect human health and the environment.
The LSRP success doesn’t just stop at the investigation phase. Completion of cleanups is documented in a Response Action Outcome (RAO) (which was called a “No Further Action” in the past). Since full implementation of the LSRP program went into effect in 2012, over 7,000 Remedial Action Outcome (RAO) documents have been issued and almost 4,500 cases have been closed. Just as important, this number is about equal to the number of new cases since the program began, showing that the program is keeping up with the caseload. Compare the numbers to the pre-SRRA days when there was a net increase of about 1,000 cases a year, and you can see the social benefit.
Another benefit of SRRA is that it provides for better tracking of long-term controls through the use of remediation permits. About 2,500 remediation permits for soil and groundwater cases have been issued, and sites are now regularly tracked, monitored and reported on Data Miner. This reporting is a huge step toward making sure that sites with restrictions are not forgotten.
Just as important as the amount of work that is being accomplished, is the rate at which work is being concluded. The NJDEP estimates that the average time to submit RAO documents is 532 days. Even accounting for the number of these cases that may be relatively simple, this completion rate is a clear benefit, especially when we recall that half of the pre-SRRA cases were more than 10 years old. The efficiency of the LSRP program makes it possible to apply resources where needed.
Another benefit of the LSRP program is that it freed resources to swiftly address safety issues that had previously been dealt with on ad hoc basis and inconsistently. LSRPs are empowered and obligated to immediately report Immediate Environmental Concern (IEC) conditions, such as a contaminated drinking water, well or unsafe indoor air. At press time, there are about 425 active IEC cases in the program. By giving responsibility and authority to LSRPs, SRRA allows for initiation and execution of sensitive work within strict timeframes.
There is another set of important numbers in the LSRP metrics: documents withdrawn. Over the course of the program, about 200 RAOs and about 145 remediation permits have been voluntarily withdrawn. When the LSRP realizes, that either through error or change in conditions, their documents are no longer adequate and protective, they withdraw them voluntarily. These numbers speak to the high professional ethic, ingrained sense of value for quality, and respect for protection of human health and the environment by the LSRPs. Just as important is that the NJDEP has not acted to rescind any RAOs because an LSRP refused to withdraw a document (the nine cases reported are the result of extraordinary circumstances such as the death of the submitting LSRP).
As the SRRA and the LSRP program go through the seventh year, a body of work, documented by a solid database of metrics, has been put together. These data demonstrate that the reform has been successful and that the system is working not only as a management mechanism, but more important, as a tool to protect human health and the environment and serve the people of New Jersey.