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Usepa releases final guidance for implementing institutional controls

The USEPA issued the Final Guide to Planning, Implementing, Maintaining and Enforcing (PIME) Institutional Controls at Contaminated Sites.  This is the second of two guidance documents prepared by the USEPA to inform long-term stewardship of contaminated sites.  In 2000, the first guide was drafted with a focus toward the selection of institutional controls (ICs). In 2000 ICs were an emerging remedy component with relatively immature concepts toward implementation.  Today, based upon Terradex’s estimates, there at least 20,000 ICs in-place nationwide as part of cleanup remedies. With greater experience, the focus of this recent PIME guidance has appropriately shifted toward the implementation, maintenance and enforcement of ICs across the IC’s lifecycle.

The new PIME guidance encompasses IC implementation services that Terradex has pioneered for nearly ten years. The PIME guide is a rewrite of draft guidance revised based upon extensive comments to the draft. Many of Terradex’s experiences are reflected in this guidance including:

  • Importance of Accurate Mapping of Boundaries.  The PIME guidance discusses in Section 3.5 the importance of modern digital mapping coordinates in describing ICs, and moving away from the traditional metes and bounds approaches reflected in property descriptions.  The antiquated metes and bounds may serve the legal community, but they are not easily converted to digital coordinates necessary for web-based mapping systems.
  • Role of Out-Sourced IC Monitoring.  The PIME guidance identifies the role for outsourced IC monitoring.  Terradex developed and pioneered outsourced LTS monitoring through the Terradex LandWatch web service.  The guide finds that the most useful approach to ensure long-term effectiveness of ICs is through periodic monitoring and reporting.  The sooner a potential breach is detected or prevented, the greater is the reliability and comfort stakeholders enjoy around ICs as a remedy component.
  • Advantages of Utilizing State One-Call Systems.  Use of the excavation clearance system, such as in the recently commenced Dig Clean service for the State of Delaware or the State of West Virginia help ensure that site excavation activities do not conflict with the land or resource restrictions imposed in an IC.

Ultimately the PIME constitutes a step forward in building rigor for IC implementation. ICs will always be part of remedies as long as cleanups confront an inevitable finding that not all residuals can practicably be removed.  If ICs are inevitable, the PIME is important as the effectiveness of this remedy component is bolstered across the life cycle of the residual contamination.  There of course remain many challenging questions in IC implementation, and approaches to addressing these will emerge over time.

As we examine this new guidance, we will update this post to reflect other insights.

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