Pennsylvania Finalizes New Vanadium Cleanup Standards

November 10, 2023
Thomas M. Duncan, Esq. and MGKF Technical Consultant Will Hitchcock
MGKF Special Alert

On November 11, 2023, notice will be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin finalizing a rulemaking that will significantly increase the vanadium cleanup and clean fill standards in Pennsylvania.  The notice can be found here.  The rulemaking will update the vanadium toxicity information used to calculate cleanup standards in the Act 2 cleanup program as well as the Clean Fill Concentration Limits used in PADEP’s Management of Fill Policy.  The updated toxicity information will result in significantly higher soil and groundwater standards for vanadium and is expected to provide relief and cost savings for many remediation and construction projects in Pennsylvania, while continuing to ensure adequate protection of human health.  The following table compares the current vanadium standards to the new vanadium standards established in the rulemaking.

Vanadium Standards

The current vanadium standards are based on the use of lower-confidence toxicity information that resulted in a reduction in residential soil standards to a level below the naturally occurring vanadium content of most Pennsylvania soils.  As a result, remediators and land developers have had to manage significant amounts of unimpacted, clean soil as contaminated, regulated material for the past several years.  Some relief was provided in February 2022 when PADEP issued guidance adopting a Regional Background Concentration of 129 mg/kg under the Management of Fill Policy, based on soil data and statistical analysis provided by our firm.  However, the guidance was intended to be temporary until PADEP updated the vanadium toxicity information through the forthcoming rulemaking.

The updated toxicity value that Pennsylvania will now use for vanadium is based on a higher-confidence source of information – EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System – which is used by EPA toxicologists and risk assessors.  The rulemaking will therefore provide greater consistency between remediation projects and risk assessments in Pennsylvania and those performed in other states.  Through our firm’s participation in Pennsylvania’s Cleanup Standards Scientific Advisory Board (“CSSAB”), we first identified the wide disparity between the vanadium toxicity information used in Pennsylvania in contrast to other states.  We researched and presented several technical and regulatory solutions to the CSSAB, one of which was ultimately selected and forms the basis of this rulemaking.  This much-anticipated regulatory change is the result of years of effort and collaboration between attorneys and technical consultants within our firm, the CSSAB, and PADEP.

When the rulemaking is published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, remediators and land developers can begin using the updated vanadium standards immediately.  If you would like to better understand how this change will impact your remediation or land development project, please contact Tom Duncan or Will Hitchcock at our firm.