Long-term Stewardship of Contaminated Sites, Vapor Intrusion Mitigation and Monitoring Fit the Requirements

Written by Stephen R. Henshaw, President & CEO, EnviroForensics

As seen in the December 2014 issue of Cleaner & Launderer

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The latest wrinkle in the cleanup process of sites contaminated with chlorinated solvents (PCE and TCE) is in understanding how long the site, and those sites downgradient, will need to be monitored when complete contaminant removal is not possible and potential human exposure remains. Generally speaking, the more contamination left in place, the longer the site will need to be monitored. I want to tell you this because the cleanup costs that will be generated for your site, will be greatly affected by two things; 1) the removal of contaminated soil and groundwater in the source area and 2) the long-term monitoring requirements (how many locations need to be monitored and for how long). If you are not aware of these two big issues, you are not looking at the full picture and you could be unwittingly reviewing cleanup cost estimates that may have been prepared using the old “bait and switch”.

Let me make no bones about it, the environmental consulting industry is highly competitive and like many purchases consumers make, price is a large factor when you select a consultant to clean up environmental contamination. Nowhere is this price more susceptible to variation than in asking for the consultant to give a true site closure cost estimate. The most important thing to understand about what I am telling you is that you know to ask the hard questions about the provided cost to closure and don’t get caught up in hearing what you want to hear. Consultants don’t enjoy being the bearer of bad news and they realize that they might be competitively shopped, especially if the provided costs are higher than the party paying for the contamination expects. Consequently, the consultant may try to soft pedal the remediation costs. I refer to this as, “telling people what they want to hear”. I see this all the time, particularly when insurance companies are responsible for paying for the cleanup. Continue reading “Long-term Stewardship of Contaminated Sites, Vapor Intrusion Mitigation and Monitoring Fit the Requirements”

HOW CLEAN IS CLEAN MAY DEPEND ON HOW CLEAN YOU NEED IT TO BE

Written by Stephen R. Henshaw, President & CEO, EnviroForensics

As seen in the November 2014 issue of Cleaner & Launderer

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“How clean is clean”, has been a phrase that has been debated for decades.  It is used in reference to determining the degree to which a site that is contaminated by chlorinated solvents such as PCE (Perc) and TCE, needs to be cleaned up and remediated before the site is deemed to be free of environmental encumbrances.   Commonly this clean up level is based on concurrence from the regulatory agency overseeing the site. When the regulatory agency determines that cleanup levels have been satisfactorily demonstrated, they will issue a No-Further-Action (or equivalent) letter.  But not all site closures are equal, nor in the best interest of the property owner.

I want to tell you this because obtaining site closure may not avail a property owner with property that can be marketed and utilized to its fullest value, even constricting future land uses.  I want to tell you this because most people are so afraid of the environmental contamination that their focus is on getting the site closed.  By putting the site closure focus ahead of the future value may leave a property owner with a long-term management problem and an under preforming asset.  If property owners do not think about the future land use and long-term monitoring requirements of a property, they could be restricted to use the property for a specific land use (e.g. industrial or commercial) by way of a deed restriction that is placed on the property for generations to come.  The property owner could be required to manage contamination left in place by having to ensure that the deed restriction is enforced. They could be required to maintain the operation and maintenance of a vapor mitigation system for as long as twenty to thirty years after site closure.  They might even find that a bank is not willing to lend on the property, restricting the use of the property as collateral for fear of future changes in the law or potential future third party personal injury or property value claims.

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CHOOSING AN ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANT FOR YOUR UNIQUE SITUATION

Written by Stephen R. Henshaw, President & CEO, EnviroForensics

As seen in the September 2014 issue of Cleaner & Launderer

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I recently changed real estate agents after he was unsuccessful selling a unique piece of property. I was forced to go through a process of determining what I did or didn’t do that got me to the point I was at and to evaluate what I wanted in the person representing me. Let me say that my agent is a good guy, and I liked him a lot. He seemed to have experience with the local market; good integrity and I believe he had my best interest in mind. Down deep however, I didn’t feel like he was the right guy for my unique situation. My unique situation was that my house was nice, but not great. It had an in-law unit that was not connected to the upstairs, it needed some work and it lacked any real pizzazz. What this property did have was a fantastic view, but a buyer had to first get up to the house to see the view. In the end I felt that my original broker didn’t have the right ideas to sell my unique situation.

As I thought about what I was looking for in a broker, I thought about the challenges that small business owners deal with when they are choosing an environmental consultant to represent them for their unique situation. There is arguably no bigger issue for a small business owner to deal with than the issue of environmental contamination and liability. Businesses and savings have been lost because the environmental contamination and liability were so expensive. That being said, choosing the right environmental consultant is an extremely important decision. But as important as this decision is, more times than not, a small business owner selects an environmental consultant one of the following ways: 1) the consultant is a referral from a friend or an associate; 2) the consultant was selected because he happened to be in close proximity; or 3) the consultant was perceived to be the least expensive.

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Remediation of PCE and TCE in Impacted Soil and Groundwater Requires Teamwork and Coordination

Written by Stephen R. Henshaw, President and CEO of EnviroForensics

As Seen in the May 2014 issue of the Cleaner & Launderer

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Cleaning up soil and groundwater contamination from a release of chlorinated solvents, such as tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE) can be a time consuming and complicated process.  That’s why it is so important for you to build the right team to represent you during this process.  That team should understand what your business plans are and your schedule for implementing those plans.  Dealing with environmental contamination is a crossroads of where you have been and where you are going with your business and your future.  It can be an opportunity that forces you to make decisions that you may not have considered, like, “What do I want to do with the business? What about the property?”  If you don’t develop the right team, you could spend a great deal of money addressing the cleanup without having a road map as to what to expect.  If you do not have the right team you could have business interruptions from drilling activities, and face a parade of activities that seem never ending.  With the right team, you don’t need to become an expert on environmental matters – that’s what you have them for. They’re the experts and they communicate with you so you know what’s going on without needing to take chemistry classes. You should be able to focus on your business, while your team focuses on how to move your project through the site closure process.

The most important thing to understand about this concept of building the right team, is that the team must represent the outcome that you desire, within your expectations, and the team that you rely on needs to be strong enough to give you the truth and their best professional opinions, even when the news is bad.  The second most important point is that your team needs to have a good working relationship with one another.  Your consultant and your attorney need to be on the same page as to the Site Closure strategy.  Depending on the business owner’s future plans, site closure strategies might vary significantly.  Your strategy might be to sell your business, but while the property is being remediated, you can’t.  You may own the property and want to refinance it, but most banks are reluctant to loan on the property as long as it is impaired.  You may have no immediate plans to change your business at all and you just want to control the outflow of cash while you focus on growing your business.  These are all different business scenarios that I’ve seen and they all directly affect the site closure strategy. Continue reading “Remediation of PCE and TCE in Impacted Soil and Groundwater Requires Teamwork and Coordination”

RISK BASED SITE CLOSURES SHOULD INCLUDE REMEDIATING THE SOURCE AREA

Written by Stephen R. Henshaw, President and CEO of EnviroForensics & PolicyFind
As Seen in the March 2014 issue of the Cleaner & Launderer

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The environmental remediation industry has been in full swing for the last 35 years, but it has only been in the past few years that the regulatory agencies have come to accept risk-based closures as a practical cleanup strategy. In the recent past, cleanup criteria was established for hundreds of individual chemical constituents for soil, surface water and groundwater. The cleanup criteria was based on the toxicological risks assigned to each of the chemical constituents and then further divided into different land-use scenarios (e.g. residential, commercial, wetlands, etc.)

This process made it easy for people to know what the target cleanup objective would be. That is not to say that there was not frustration over the toxicological science that was used to establish the cleanup criteria, but, because the closure numbers were laid out on a table, it made the discussion with the regulatory agencies black and white.

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