Before you excavate, explore compliance attainment

Developers may not know that there’s more than one way to tackle a soil remediation project. Many assume that this kind of cleanup calls for a total excavation, carting off truckloads of contaminated soil to be cleaned or replaced entirely. However, for some projects, such an invasive and labor-intensive process may not be necessary. Alternatives developed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) may be able to turn a contaminated property into a compliant, viable one without a full excavation through what’s called compliance attainment.

Primary and alternative cleanup options for soil remediation

Excavation is the most common option for remediating soil contamination. These excavations require the removal of soil that tests higher for contaminants than the state’s soil remediation standards (SRS). The removed soil is remediated and placed back on-site or disposed of entirely while clean soil is brought to the property. The equipment and soil disposal required through this remediation process can be costly.

Not every property needs to commit such expense to soil remediation. Compliance attainment establishes alternatives which do not require this extensive soil remediation while complying with NJDEP’s acceptable standards for human health and the environment. If a property is eligible for this alternative, a developer can save a significant amount of money on environmental remediation.

One option, compliance averaging, takes varying contamination levels and averages them out based on property size. Remediation experts can choose one of the following methodologies for calculating this average:

  • Single-point compliance, which measures one contaminant
  • Calculating the mean of overall contamination between nine or fewer sample points
  • Compliance averaging to the 95 percent upper confidence level (UCL) of the mean of the detected contaminants
  • Compliance averaging using a spatially weighted average

The last three alternatives, allows select sites to establish its acceptable levels that are still safe to human health and the environment without committing to an excavation.

It is important to note that compliance attainment or compliance averaging do not jeopardize the integrity of a cleanup, even if the contaminants remain at the site at low concentrations. This process is protective of human health and the environment as laid out by NJDEP regulations and guidance. Furthermore, if contamination levels are severely elevated, compliance attainment methods may not come into play whatsoever; instead, a full soil excavation may be conducted to ensure a thorough cleanup.

When a compliance attainment may be the right solution

Choosing compliance attainment is a decision that should be guided by environmental remediation experts. This determination is often made by knowing the property’s future use.

The type of development allowed on a remediated site is often tied to the status of the remediated property. In New Jersey, this is determined by the Response Action Outcome (RAO) issued upon completion of the remediation. The three types of RAOs, called an Unrestricted-Use RAO, a Limited-Use RAO, and a Restricted-Use RAO, can dictate what the property can and cannot be used for down the line.

For those looking to sell a remediated property, one with limited uses may make it more difficult to find a buyer. For example, a property with a Restricted-Use RAO means that contaminants may be present on-site indefinitely; consequently, institutions such as residential units or a daycare are not ideal for that site. These types of properties are better suited for warehousing or industrial applications, where a building and parking lots will be placed as a “cap” on top of the soil and the properties would not be occupied or highly trafficked at all hours of the day. On the other hand, a property with Unrestricted-Use RAO status can be used for any purpose as local zoning laws permit. Despite the restrictions this remediation type may pose, however, a compliance attainment is a very valuable tool which the real estate market sometimes overlooks.

Partnering with EWMA on an environmental cleanup

Every remediation project at EWMA begins with a meeting to discuss your goals. By knowing where you want or need to be at the end of the remediation process, we can design a plan that respects your time and money while meeting your objectives and regulatory requirements. This is how we determine if a compliance attainment approach is appropriate for your project.

Whether your property needs soil excavation or your intended use allows for compliance attainment, you can take advantage of our SECUR-IT® fixed-price remediation program as a way to best project short-term and long-term costs. We developed the SECUR-IT program with our clients’ best interests in mind by guaranteeing the price and timeline of soil excavation and the required maintenance to ensure contaminants are kept at bay. Our clients can anticipate their costs, both initially and for upkeep post-completion, with this information in hand. Contact EWMA today to discuss whether your property may be a good fit for a compliance attainment.


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Phone 973-560-1400

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