Written by Stephen R. Henshaw, President & CEO, EnviroForensics
As seen in the November 2014 issue of Cleaner & Launderer
“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.