Pennsylvania’s Cleanup Standards – Are More Changes on the Way?

January 15, 2019
Darryl D. Borrelli
MGKF Special Alert - Pennsylvania Forecast 2019

2018 saw significant changes to Pennsylvania’s cleanup standards (Statewide Health Standards (SHS)) for several contaminants including aldrin, beryllium, and cadmium.  The changes were prompted by PADEP’s review of the methods by which their standards are calculated and to reflect accurate information on the toxicity of these chemicals.

For those involved in site remediation, the changes were mostly welcomed as the cleanup standards were substantially increased for two metals that are commonly naturally present in Pennsylvania soils at concentrations exceeding the former cleanup standards.  The revisions brought a significant reduction in the standard for aldrin; however, this pesticide is found infrequently at most sites.

Other metals that are commonly found in Pennsylvania soils at concentrations exceeding their current PADEP cleanup standards, such as vanadium, are also in need of a review by PADEP to ensure the accuracy of the basis for the establishment of their cleanup standards.  The natural presence of these metals, especially at residential developments, complicates the site remediation process and often is confusing to the public.  Because proposed changes to Pennsylvania’s Management of Fill policy will soon incorporate the SHS, having reliable standards, especially for naturally occurring metals, will greatly simplify the process for site cleanup and redevelopment efforts.

Given the national focus on emerging contaminants, especially per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), questions have arisen about whether Pennsylvania will develop cleanup standards for these compounds in the absence of national standards.  Unlike other states, Pennsylvania does not establish independent toxicologic data upon which cleanup standards can be based.  Under the Land Recycling and Environmental Remediation Standards Act (Act 2), PADEP must look to a hierarchy of toxicological data sources, including those published by California, for establishing standards and making recommendations for new standards to the Environmental Quality Board.  We think it is unlikely that the process will occur in calendar year 2019; however, PADEP will likely lay the groundwork for such standards this year for potential adoption in 2020.