The ASTM E50 task group met on April 18, 2012 to discuss revisions to ASTM E1527-05, Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process. The E50 task group consists of environmental consultants, lenders, attorneys, USEPA, and other interested parties. ASTM E1527-05 was last revised in 2005, and according to ASTM bylaws, standards must be updated and reissued every eight years to avoid sun-setting and becoming invalid. The task group was formed in 2010 and has issued two revised versions for subcommittee voting since that time. In the most recent draft, the task group has proposed several changes to ASTM E1527-05, which include:
- Clarifying when Agency File Reviews should be conducted. An “Agency File Review” consists of a search and review of files maintained by local, state, or federal regulatory agencies and typically provides information about regulatory activities (e.g., permits, notices of violation, inspections, No Further Action determinations), correspondence with regulators, soil and/or groundwater contamination, assessment and remediation activities, and other background information on the property. As part of the E50 task group efforts, Environmental Data Resources Inc (EDR®) surveyed Environmental Professionals (EPs) in January 2012 and concluded the following:
- 32% of the time, EPs “always” visit agency offices to review files.
- 28% visit agency offices “very often” to review files.
- 33% visit agency offices “occasionally” to review files.
- 7% visit agency offices “rarely” to review files.
EDR® also determined that factors such as distance to regulatory offices, ease of file access and review, and associated costs impact EPs’ decision as to whether to include “Agency File Reviews” in the Phase I ESA process. Therefore, the E50 task group is developing language to clarify when Agency File Reviews should be performed and to provide guidance to EPs in exercising professional judgment and determining whether “Agency File Reviews” are reasonably ascertainable.
- Introduction of a new term, “Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition,” which would address past contamination to soil and/or groundwater that had been previously remediated. A CREC would differ from a Historical Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) and a REC. The CREC could be used as a classification of a site, for example, that has been issued a Certificate of Completion (COC) under the WV Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP) or a leaking underground storage tank (LUST) site that has used the risk-based closure option under WV’s Uniform Environmental Covenant Act (UECA) to obtain a No Further Action (NFA). At such sites, soil and groundwater remediation has been completed, but residual contamination is still present and the site has an activity and use limitation (AUL), e.g., land use covenant (LUC). Because the site is closed, an EP may currently classify this as a HREC under ASTM 1527-05. However, a site that has been closed with a LUC in place is more of a concern than an HREC where no contamination or AUL remains, since closure under WV’s VRP or UECA may impose ongoing/future obligations to the former owner of the property.
- Reference to ASTM E2600-10, Vapor Encroachment Screening Standard, which would recognize vapor plumes as another source of contamination that should be covered during the Phase I ESA process.
The E50 task group will revise its most recent draft, based on the negative votes and comments that were received regarding the previous draft. A revised draft of the ASTM 1527 Standard is anticipated to be submitted to the main ASTM committee ballot this fall, with a final version of the E1527 Standard being published during 2013, pending USEPA approval and an update to the CERCLA All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI) Rule.
This article was authored by Greg Tieman, Acacia Environmental Group LLC. For more information on the author see here.