NJDEP Amends Site Remediation Standards

Via a New Jersey Register notice published on May 17, 2021, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has amended the remediation standards that govern all cleanups in the state. It is the most sweeping revision of the standards since they were first adopted in 2008.

NJDEP proposed the amendments in April 2020 and held a virtual public hearing on July 21, 2020. During an extended public comment period, NJDEP received more than 270 public comments on its proposal. The proposal itself was preceded by a series of stakeholder sessions stretching back to 2014.

The rulemaking makes significant changes to the remediation standards, including:

  • The creation of separate residential and non-residential soil remediation standards for the ingestion-dermal and inhalation exposure pathways; formerly, the applicable standard was the more stringent of the two, but now both pathways will need to be considered.
  • The adoption of new soil remediation standards for the migration to groundwater exposure pathway, replacing the former site-specific approach based on NJDEP guidance with enforceable standards.
  • The adoption of new standards for soil leachate (for the migration to groundwater exposure pathway) and indoor air (for the vapor intrusion exposure pathway); the vapor intrusion standards replace the former screening levels based on NJDEP guidance.
  • The tightening of some standards and the loosening of others.
  • The creation of new standards for some contaminants (e.g., 1,4-dioxane and extractable petroleum hydrocarbons) and the elimination of other standards that could no longer be scientifically justified (e.g., carbazole and phenanthrene).

Perhaps of greatest importance, the new standards for some contaminants (e.g., the new standards for benzaldehyde and ethylbenzene and the vapor intrusion standard for 1,1-dichloroethene) are more stringent than the old standards by a factor of 10 or more. That change will require additional sampling and perhaps additional remediation, even at “closed” sites pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:26E-5.1(d)4 in NJDEP’s Technical Requirements for Site Remediation. This requirement will apply in many cases to any site that is the subject of a “final remediation document,” such as a No Further Action letter or a Response Action Outcome, issued prior to November 17, 2021, six months after the effective date of the new standards. The “trigger” for the required Order of Magnitude evaluation for “closed” sites will be either the biennial certification for sites with engineering and/or institutional controls, or a site’s “re-entry” into the site remediation process via, for example, the triggering of the Industrial Site Recovery Act. NJDEP has already updated a number of guidance documents and will provide training on the new remediation standards in June.

The new standards are effective immediately, but there is a six-month phase-in period for certain standards at sites or areas of concern where remedial action workplans or remedial action reports have been approved or certified, but no final remediation documents have been issued.

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