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EPA Cleanup Proposal Relies on Institutional Control Monitoring

A recent EPA cleanup proposal directly recognizes what many have come to accept as a given – cleanups need institutional controls (ICs), monitoring of ICs is a critical component of cleanup remedies, and private sector landwatch services make monitoring effective.

 Recognizing the key role of IC monitoring, EPA’s June 2010 “proposed plan” for a Southern California Superfund site sets forth a preferred cleanup alternative for soil contamination at a 280-acre commercial/industrial tract.  The soil cleanup, engineering control, and IC strategy relies on long term monitoring of institutional controls, stating  “institutional controls, caps, and building engineering controls would be monitored in perpetuity to ensure effectiveness.”

EPA’s proposed plan covers shallow and deep soil at the Del Amo Superfund Site, near Los Angeles California. Organic contaminants, such as benzene (among others) lie beneath this commercial/industrial business park, which spans 67 separate parcels and 280 acres of largely paved and built-out areas.  The risk assessment showed elevated risks to commercial workers, construction workers and future residents (if the area were to be redeveloped).   EPA selected a preferred alternative (subject to public comment) that would partially clean the soil with vapor extraction and chemical oxidation technologies (2) apply “engineering controls” at certain buildings to prevent chemical vapor intrusion, and (3) cap areas of the site which weren’t already paved or covered by buildings.

The plan also sets forth a comprehensive IC regime.  It requires each of the parcels to record restrictive covenants designed to prevent inappropriate future land uses, and to prevent exposure to soil and/or groundwater contamination.  The ICs also establish an EPA review of land use permit applications, designed to prevent or condition future uses and to collect additional site data (as necessary) prior to any new development.  Finally, the ICs require current commercial/industrial zoning restrictions to remain flagged in the land use planning document (the “general plan”) so future planning efforts are aware of site restrictions.

The proposed plan recognized that establishing an IC regime isn’t enough – it must be monitored.  “Institutional controls, caps, and building engineering controls would be monitored in perpetuity to ensure effectiveness” the plan explains.  The feasibiilty study (available here) provides the basis of the proposed plan and explains “[m]onitoring of any IC tools selected in the ROD is an important component of remedy implementation.”  The study continues by recognizing that private sector landwatch services “monitor and report   … notices of plans to perform excavation or grading activities, records of applications for building or excavation permits, real estate marketing or transfer or ownership records, and applications filed for changes in zoning designation.”    For example, the report continues, landwatch services “identify planned excavation activities before they occur … ”

Terradex LandWatch monitors hundreds of thousands of acres of contaminated properties in states across the country, including the Del Amo site, in precisely the way that the EPA remedy recognizes as being critical.  Terradex LandWatch reviews land activity as frequently as daily and as future blog posts will explain, we see land activities occurring all the time that could threaten ICs, leaving us certain (as has been concluded by the proposed remedy described in this post and separately by ASTSWMO), IC monitoring is a critical component of cleanup remedies.

For more information on the Del Amo proposed plan, see EPA’s Proposed Plan.

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