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States and locals gather on the web to talk ics

A little over a week ago, Terradex hosted a web meeting on institutional controls (IC) efforts at state and local agencies, with a particular focus on the use of one call and local and state cooperation. About 15 participants from EPA, state agencies, local government, and academia gave 3-minute overviews of their IC stewardship efforts and then I helped facilitate a question and answer discussion.

Not unlike an ASTSWMO report concludes, I thought the discussion showed that states increasingly focus attention towards IC stewardship and I might even say that a shift of sorts has begun – one that’s evolving with the cleanup site pipeline and slowly shifting more and more towards post-cleanup site management. I don’t know of any that have taken “the leap” yet, but some states mentioned the idea of creating a centralized IC or Long Term Stewardship (LTS) program in their state. Having said that, states also report this increased role could strain their resources.

California’s Department of Toxic Substances Controls reported that it was drafting an upcoming LTS best practice guide, and for years has managed a comprehensive IC monitoring program to compliment regulatory requirements for its growing list of deed restricted sites. Maryland built an IC mapper with GIS capabilities that help speak directly to local governments by matching site boundaries to real estate parcel numbers. West Virginia joined the West Virginia One Call center, and uses web mapping technologies to screen excavation announcements against sites with environmental covenants.  Missouri is beginning to develop an IC tracking system, with an eye towards community and local use. Virginia recently enacted a UECA statute (which includes the creation of an environmental covenant fund) and is considering a regulatory program to compliment the enactment.

With the evolution of state IC efforts, though I wouldn’t quite call it a trend yet, there is movement in the use of One Call and local and state cooperation. In both West Virginia and California, the state actively monitor excavation activity by connecting into One Call centers, and California even reported cases where excavation notices allowed them to prevent IC breaches with potentially severe consequences. Like California, West Virginia’s newer process showcases the power of web technolgies to efficiently screen excavation “tickets” – in the past, screening of excavation tickets and the issue of overnotification proved burdensome in some states. New York is evaluating the use of One Call.

As California explained (and this is the case in many states) efforts to notify local agencies of ICs has occurred for many years. Efforts in Colorado and New York, the only states where legislative requirements demand local and state cooperation (see, e.g., Colo. Rev. Stat. § 25-15-324), move further. Denver explained its successful cooperative agreement with the Colorado DPHE, where the City routinely downloads state-prepaed lists of IC sites and screens permit applications against those sites, notifying the state of permit applications that occur at IC sites. In New York, a more recent law requires a similar type of state and local cooperation. While evolving state procedures help implement the law, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) explained the need for more local awareness.

Jerry Cobb summarized Idaho Panhandle Health District’s IC program for the Bunker Hill Superfund site – a robust program requiring pre-excavation permits, training for persons performing work in the area, reliance on the One Call center for identifying excavation events, and other measures that control and manages deep soil contamination (below about one foot).

EPA summarized its evolving IC tracking efforts, including efforts that improve the ability of communities to locate and learn of IC details, as well as guidance document in the works on IC enforcement and IC implementation planning – a process to identify the roles and responsibilities for IC management before-hand.

Joe Schilling, a professor of land use at the Virginia Tech Metropolitan Institute (and I would add an expert on brownfields, vacant properties, smart growth, and ICs), took note of of the local-state cooperations that are budding in Colorado and New York and opined that national-scale systematic cooperation would only happen if legislation required it, and he thought that national-scale effort or federal intervention would be needed and should occur.

Overall, the attendees seemed to appreciate the discourse, especially given the evolving nature of IC stewardship and the varying (yet largely aligned) efforts across the states. As it does in states already, the Terradex technology provides a powerful tool in the IC management effort and, we believe, plays a part in the overall (and evolving) IC management solutions. We were pleased to organize the small discussion (our first) and are planning more – stay tuned.

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