Changes to NJ Soil Standards May Require Cleanup to Non-Detect

May 16, 2007
by BRUCE KATCHER
Client Alert Newsletter May 2007

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's ("NJDEP's") long-awaited proposal to set remediation standards for contaminated soil was finally published in the May 7 New Jersey Register, with comments due by July 6. The proposed standards lower the most stringent cleanup levels for many prevalent organic contaminants (e.g., TCE, PCE, benzene) to their practical quantitation limits, meaning that cleanups for these contaminants may have to meet "non-detect" levels. The new standards will replace NJDEP's soil cleanup criteria ("SCC") and include residential and non-residential direct contact and impact-to-groundwater standards for 136 organic and inorganic contaminants. Some standards will not change from the SCC levels, some will be less stringent, and many will be more stringent, making investigations and cleanups more costly.

For contaminants not included on the list for which standards are set, the regulations provide mechanisms for setting interim standards, as well as site-specific alternative standards in limited instances. The ability to use engineering or institutional control remedies is not directly affected by the proposal. The new standards could be applied to pending cases for which a remedial action workplan has not been submitted within six months after the effective date, in some instances will be applied as of the effective date, and may cause some closed cases to be reopened to meet the more restrictive standards.