NJDEP Proposes Major Revisions to Remediation Standards

April 8, 2020
Bruce S. Katcher

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Site Remediation Program (SRP) published extensive proposed revisions to the remediation standards in the April 6, 2020 New Jersey Register. The proposal can be found here.  Generally speaking, the major proposed revisions are as follows:

  • Impact to groundwater (IGW) soil remediation standards. NJDEP is proposing to convert the current non-codified site-specific approach based on NJDEP guidance to a system of codified soil and soil leachate levels by promulgating the levels contained in the guidance, subject to revisions made in the proposal, as enforceable IGW soil remediation standards. 
  • Replacement of direct contact soil remediation standards. The current rules contain residential and non-residential direct contact soil remediation standards set at the more stringent of the ingestion-dermal human health-based criterion or the inhalation human health-based criterion (or the PQL) for each use scenario.  Under the proposal, these will be replaced with separate soil remediation standards for the inhalation exposure pathway and the ingestion-dermal exposure pathway for both residential and non-residential scenarios, requiring both pathways to be addressed. New definitions of “residential” and “non-residential” are also added.
  • Indoor air vapor intrusion screening levels to become remediation standards. Although the indoor air vapor intrusion screening levels contained in NJDEP’s vapor intrusion guidance have long been treated as the virtual equivalent of regulatory standards, that status would be formally changed under the proposal pursuant to which they would become indoor air remediation standards, subject to revisions made in the proposal, for both residential and non-residential use scenarios. 
  • Alternative remediation standards. The process for setting these standards is modified to include procedures for developing alternatives to the new standards which are not addressed in the existing regulations.
  • New constituents and increases and decreases in standards. NJDEP has added several new constituents to the list of standards (e.g., soil standards for 1,4 dioxane and extractable petroleum hydrocarbons) and removed others (e.g., soil standards for benzo[ghi]perylene and phenanthrene).  In addition, there are several increases and decreases in standards versus existing standards, including some that are more stringent by at least an order of magnitude (e.g., the cobalt and ethylbenzene soil standards and the 1,1-Dichloroethene VI standard).  The latter would trigger a re-evaluation of closed cases and possible remedial action adjustments to meet the new standards.  Ongoing remediations may also be affected depending on their status.
  • No change to groundwater and surface water remediation standards. These standards will continue to track the groundwater quality standards and the surface water quality standards, respectively.

Comments on the new regulations were originally due by June 5, 2020 however on April 8, NJDEP extended the comment period by 60 days until August 5, 2020. If the Department holds a public hearing (anticipated, but not guaranteed in light of COVID issues), the comment deadline will be extended until after the hearing is held.

We are evaluating the proposed changes and developing chemical-specific information on the extent of these changes and how they could affect site investigations and cleanup.  In the meantime, please contact us if you have any questions concerning how these changes will impact your specific remediation project or have an interest in assembling comments on the proposed changes.

Please contact Bruce Katcher (484-430-2320), John Gullace (484-430-2326) or Nicole Moshang (484-430-2324) with questions of a legal nature or our technical consultants Darryl Borrelli (484-430-2302), Mike Nines (484-430-2350) or Will Hitchcock (484-430-2356) with questions of a technical nature.