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Phase I Environmental Site Assessment FAQs

Do you have questions about Phase I Environmental Site Assessments? You’re not alone. Omni Environmental Group gets a lot of questions about Phase I’s from property owners, property buyers and sellers, as well as from lenders whose primary job is not necessarily environmental due diligence. Below are the most frequent of the Frequently Asked Questions we receive about Phase I Environmental Site Assessments.

What is a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment? A Phase I is a standardized method to evaluate the potential for contamination at a property resulting from a release of petroleum or hazardous materials. Phase I Environmental Site Assessments are usually performed in accordance with the Phase I standard developed and published by ASTM International. The goal of a Phase I is to identify whether “Recognized Environmental Conditions,” as defined in the ASTM standard, are present at a property.

What is a 21E? In Massachusetts, the expression “21E” is used to mean a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment. It’s a reference to Chapter 21E which is the Massachusetts law governing the assessment and remediation of contaminated property.

Why do I want a Phase I? For property buyers and lenders, the Phase I helps to evaluate potential environmental problems and manage risk during the purchase or financing of real estate. This is important because a property owner can be responsible for contamination on their property, regardless of when the contamination happened or whether the contamination was their fault. For property sellers, a Phase I can help reduce a potential buyer’s risk, making a property more marketable.

What is included in a Phase I? A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment generally includes the following elements:

  • reviewing state and federal environmental databases, municipal records, historic maps, street directories and aerial photos;
  • visiting the property to observe the nature of current activities;
  • interviewing parties associated with the property; and
  • preparing a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Report.

What factors affect the cost of a Phase I? The most common factors include the location, size, and complexity of the property, and whether there are environmental reports for the property or abutting properties which need to be reviewed and incorporated into the Phase I report.

What factors affect the turnaround time of a Phase I? The most common factors include the size and complexity of the property, and the availability of government and historic records.

What are the possible outcomes of a Phase I? There are two outcomes of a Phase I:

  1. If no Recognized Environmental Conditions are identified during the Phase I, additional work to further evaluate potential contamination is generally not necessary.
  2. If one or more Recognized Environmental Conditions are identified during the Phase I, then additional work is recommended to further evaluate the potential for contamination. The scope of the additional work will depend on the specific characteristics of the Recognized Environmental Condition and may include things like reviewing additional records or collecting and analyzing soil or water samples.

What are the limitations of a Phase I? The Phase I evaluates the potential for contamination solely based on visual evidence, interviews, and available records. The Phase I does not include soil or water testing. The findings of the Phase I should not be considered scientific certainties, but rather probabilities based on the professional judgment of the environmental professional preparing the Phase I.

We’ve kept the answers to these FAQs brief, only touching on the primary points. If you would like more information, or if you have other Phase I Environmental Site Assessment questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Omni Environmental Group at 978-256-6766 or Info@OmniEG.com.

 

72-Hour Reportable Conditions under the Massachusetts Contingency Plan

In order to protect human health, safety, public welfare and the environment, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) must be notified not more than 72 hours after obtaining knowledge of a release of oil and/or hazardous materials (OHM), which meet the 72-Hour Reportable Condition criteria which are described in the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP; 310 CMR 40.0000).

Some of the most common 72-Hour Reportable Conditions include the following:

  • Nonaqueous phase liquid (OHM that is present in the environment as a separate phase liquid) is identified at a thickness equal to or greater than ½ – inch in a groundwater monitoring well, excavation, or subsurface structure, which is situated more than 30 feet from an occupied residence, school, daycare, or child care center.
  • OHM which is detected in soil or groundwater during an underground storage tank (UST) removal or closure, at concentrations equal to or greater than 100 parts per million by volume, referenced to benzene, using a headspace screening methodology, and the sample was obtained within ten feet of the UST and more than two feet below the ground surface.
  • The detection of OHM in groundwater which is located within the Zone I protection area for a public water supply well (generally within 400 feet) or within 500 feet of a private water supply well, at concentrations equal to or greater than Reportable Concentrations for groundwater category RCGW-1. Groundwater category RCGW-1 has the most stringent groundwater standards since groundwater from these areas are used, or have the potential to be used, as a drinking water source.
  • UST tightness testing results, from either a single wall UST or the inner or outer wall of a double wall UST, which indicate that a leak may be occurring from the UST at a rate equal to or greater than 0.05 gallons per hour.
  • A Condition of Substantial Release Migration exists. The following scenarios are considered a Condition of Substantial Release Migration:
    • Releases of NAPL to surface water, buildings, or underground utilities;
    • Releases of OHM to the ground surface or vadose zone (subsurface soil where groundwater is not present), that is likely to impact groundwater if actions are not taken quickly to contain or remove the OHM;
    • Releases of OHM to groundwater that will migrate, or have the potential to migrate, more than 200 feet per year;
    • Releases of OHM to groundwater that have been detected, or are likely to be detected, within one year in water supply wells, surface water bodies, or a public water supply reservoir;
    • Releases of OHM to groundwater or the vadose zone, that have affected, or have the potential to affect, indoor air quality of a occupied residence, school, daycare or child care center.

The MassDEP must be notified by telephone not more than 72 hours after obtaining knowledge of the 72-Hour Release Condition. The following information must be provided to the MassDEP during the telephone conversation:

  1. The name and telephone number of the caller
  2. Location of the spill
  3. Date and time that the spill occurred
  4. Type of Reportable Condition (i.e. 72-hour)
  5. Type of OHM (i.e. gasoline, chlorinated solvents, etc.)
  6. Source of OHM (i.e. where did the OHM come from?)
  7. Description of the release
  8. Contact information of the owner/operator of the source of OHM
  9. A description of the initial actions taken in response to the release (referred to as Immediate Response Actions in the MCP)
  10. Names of the involved parties (federal, state or local government agencies that have been notified and have responded to the spill)

Following notification by telephone, a Release Notification Form must be submitted to the MassDEP within 60 days. The information required for the Release Notification Form is similar to the information provided to the MassDEP during the initial notification.

If a 72-Hour Reportable Condition exists, actions must be taken immediately to assess, cleanup and/or contain the release. These actions are referred to in the MCP as Immediate Response Actions and are required in the event of a 72-Hour Reporting Condition in order to reduce the risk of harm to health, safety, public welfare and the environment. Immediate Response Actions will be discussed in future blog posts.

If you need more information regarding 72-Hour Reportable Conditions, or if think you may have a Reportable Condition, please contact Omni Environmental Group’s Licensed Site Professionals (LSPs) at 978-256-6766 or Info@OmniEG.com.

 

Two-Hour Reportable Conditions under the Massachusetts Contingency Plan

As discussed in the previous blog post titled “Reportable Conditions under the Massachusetts Contingency Plan”, a Two-Hour Reportable Condition is the most time critical Reportable Condition described in the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP; 310 CMR 40.0000). The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) must be notified of Two-Hour Reportable Conditions in order to protect human health, safety, public welfare and the environment.

Some examples of Two-Hour Reportable Conditions include the following:

  • A sudden spill, or a threat of a sudden spill, of oil and/or hazardous materials (OHM) to the environment, which is greater than, or is likely greater than, a specified quantity (referred to in the MCP as a Reportable Quantity; such as more than 10 gallons of gasoline, transmission oil, and/or waste oil; more than 55 gallons of vegetable oil; or more than 1 pound of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)) and the spill likely occurred within 24 consecutive hours or less;
  • A spill of any amount of oil which results in a sheen on a surface water body;
  • The detection of OHM which exceeds a specified concentration (called a Reportable Concentration) in a private drinking water supply well;
  • A spill of any amount of OHM, even if present for a short amount of time, which poses, or could pose, a significant risk of harm to health, safety, public welfare and/or the environment (referred to in the MCP as an Imminent Hazard);
  • A spill of OHM that is greater than, or likely is greater than, the respective Reportable Quantity and has occurred, or is likely to have occurred, within 24 consecutive hours or less, that is indirectly released to the environment by entering a stormwater drainage system; and
  • A spill of any amount of OHM that is indirectly released to the environment by entering a sanitary sewer system.

If a Two-Hour Reportable Condition exists, the MassDEP must be notified by telephone as soon as possible and within two hours of when the person accountable for the spill (referred as the Responsible Party in the MCP) obtains knowledge of the condition. The following information must be provided to the MassDEP during the telephone conversation:

  1. The name and telephone number of the caller
  2. Location of the spill
  3. Date and time that the spill occurred
  4. Type of Reportable Condition (i.e. two-hour)
  5. Type of OHM (i.e. gasoline, vegetable oil, or PCBs)
  6. Source of OHM (i.e. where did the OHM come from?)
  7. Description of the release
  8. Contact information of the owner/operator of the source of OHM
  9. A description of the initial actions taken in response to the spill (referred to as Immediate Response Actions in the MCP)
  10. Names of the involved parties (federal, state or local government agencies that have been notified and have responded to the spill)

Following notification by telephone, a Release Notification Form must be submitted within 60 days to the MassDEP. The Release Notification Form is available on MassDEP’s website. The information required to fill out the Release Notification Form is very similar to the information provided to the MassDEP during the initial notification.

If a Two-Hour Reportable Condition exists, actions must be taken immediately to assess, cleanup and/or contain the spill. These actions are referred to in the MCP as Immediate Response Actions. Immediate Response Actions are required in the event of a Two-Hour Reporting Condition to reduce the potential risk of harm to health, safety, public welfare or the environment. The concept of Immediate Response Actions will be discussed in future blog posts.

If you need more information about Two-Hour Reportable Conditions, or if think you may have a Reportable Condition, please contact Omni Environmental Group’s Licensed Site Professionals (LSPs) at 978-256-6766 or Info@OmniEG.com.

 

Reportable Conditions under the Massachusetts Contingency Plan

The Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP; 310 CMR 40.0000) is the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s (MassDEP’s) regulation regarding the assessment and cleanup of oil and/or hazardous materials (OHM) spills and releases to the environment. One of the most fundamental elements of the MCP is the concept of Reportable Conditions. Reportable Conditions are those conditions which, if met, require notification to the MassDEP within specified timeframes. There are three types or levels of Reportable Conditions; Two-Hour Reportable Conditions, 72-Hour Reportable Conditions, and 120-Day Reportable Conditions. We’ll briefly discuss each of these three conditions below.

Two-Hour Reportable Conditions are the most time critical Reportable Conditions. Some examples include:

  • A sudden spill of OHM which exceeds a specified quantity (called a Reportable Quantity; such as more than 10 gallons of oil);
  • A spill of any amount of oil which results in a sheen on a surface water; and
  • The detection of OHM which exceeds a specified concentration (called a Reportable Concentration) in a private drinking water supply well.

72-Hour Reportable Conditions are also time critical, but considered less time critical than Two-Hour Reportable Conditions. Some examples include:

  • A measurement of 100 parts per million or greater of total volatile organic compounds, as measured with a photoionization detector, in soil around an underground storage tank that has been removed;
  • An OHM release to the soil or groundwater that has resulted or has the potential to result in the discharge of vapors into a school, daycare, or a residence; and
  • The detection of OHM which exceeds a Reportable Concentration within 500 feet of a private drinking water supply well or within the Zone I protective radius of a public drinking water supply well.

120-Day Reportable Conditions are the least time critical of the three categories of Reportable Conditions. Some examples include:

  • The detection of a hazardous material in soil or groundwater at a level which exceeds its Reportable Concentration;
  • The detection of oil in groundwater at a level which exceeds its Reportable Concentration; and
  • The detection of oil in soil at a level which exceeds its Reportable Concentration where the volume of contaminated soil equals two cubic yards or more.

If a Reportable Condition exists, the MassDEP must be notified of the condition within the specified timeframe.

  • For a Two-Hour Reportable Condition, the MassDEP must be notified by telephone within two hours of when the Responsible Party obtains knowledge of the condition.
  • For a 72-Hour Reportable Condition, the MassDEP must be notified by telephone within 72 hours of when the Responsible Party obtains knowledge of the condition.
  • For a 120-Day Reportable Condition, the MassDEP must be notified through the submission of a Release Notification Form within 120 days of when the Responsible Party obtains knowledge of the condition.

The Responsible Party is the person or entity who is required to notify the MassDEP. The Responsible Party is often the party responsible for the spill, or the owner of the property where the spill occurred or where the contamination was detected. If notification to the MassDEP is required, the Responsible Party is also required under the MCP to conduct additional assessment activities and, if necessary, remedial or cleanup activities until the risk to human health and the environment are below acceptable standards.

This blog post is a brief summary of the three types of Reportable Conditions and a few examples of spills or releases which meet the criteria of each type of Reportable Condition. There are additional criteria for each of the three Reportable Conditions. Omni Environmental Group will provide further information about Two-Hour Reportable Conditions, 72-Hour Reportable Conditions and 120-Day Reportable Condition, along with required MCP response actions, in future blog posts.

If you need more information about Reportable Conditions, or if think you may have a Reportable Condition, please contact Omni Environmental Group’s Licensed Site Professionals (LSPs) at 978-256-6766 or Info@OmniEG.com.

Do Your Due Diligence – The Importance of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

We recently came across a blog post on EDR’s commonground web site illustrating the importance of conducting a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (Phase I ESA) as part of the due diligence process during a real estate transaction.  The post describes a property owner that found out, long after purchase, their property was a potential source of a chlorinated solvent plume.

The blog post was written by Bill Wagner, an attorney at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP whose practice area includes environmental law.  We’ve excerpted a portion of his blog post below.

“…Before purchasing the property in 1995, the buyers reviewed three reports (all prepared four years prior), including a Preliminary Site Assessment, a Subsurface Investigation Report, and a Preliminary Structural Evaluation. They also physically inspected the property, walked the streets, spoke with local business owners, and consulted with a financial consultant regarding the past use and history of the property. But, what they did not do was retain their own environmental professional to perform a Phase I ESA.

(EPA Photo/Kasia Broussalian)

(EPA Photo/Kasia Broussalian)

A dry cleaning business called Miller’s Dry Cleaning had operated at the site from 1959 until 1971, but had a street address of 110 North Willis Street. During the construction of the commercial building at 520 North Main, the area known as 110 North Willis became part of the northern portion of 520 North Main. The plaintiffs’ expert said this fact was discernable by reviewing old Sanborn insurance maps. However, there was no evidence that M&M [the buyer] had ever looked at the Sanborn maps or otherwise knew of the presence of the dry cleaning business at 110 North Willis.

Dry cleaning businesses, like Miller’s Dry Cleaning, commonly used tetrachloroethylene (also referred to as perchloroethylene, perc, or PCE) in their operations. Old dry cleaning businesses are notorious for releases of PCE into the environment, often through no fault or intent of the business owners. Solvents like PCE are known to travel quickly to groundwater and migrate offsite…”  Read More

In this case, PCE in ground water was discovered in the surrounding area by a state agency.  One thing lead to another and our hapless property owner was identified as one of the sources of the PCE and was sued to help pay for the cleanup. Because they failed to perform their own Phase I ESA and instead relied upon four year old reports that they weren’t entitled to rely upon, the property owner, at best, had to defend themselves against a lawsuit, and, at worst, would be responsible for a potentially costly cleanup. Both outcomes could have been avoided with proper due diligence.

All too often we see property buyers who don’t want to perform a Phase I ESA.  Or we see property buyers (and sometimes even lenders) perform the Phase I ESA merely to “check off a box” on the due diligence checklist and proceed with the purchase or loan in spite of potential issues identified during the Phase I process. The common reasons are that the due diligence process costs too much or it takes too much time. But as you can see from Bill Wagner’s blog post, the lack of adequate due diligence can be far more costly with the liability reaching back many years.

How Much Do You Know About the New MassDEP UST Regulation?

On January 1, 2015, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) promulgated a new regulation for underground storage tanks (USTs). The regulation (310 CMR 80.00) addresses design/construction/installation, registration, operation, maintenance and inspection of UST systems used to store petroleum and hazardous substances.

The new regulation transfers a large portion of the UST regulatory framework from the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services (DFS) to MassDEP. The DFS regulation covering USTs (527 CMR 9.00) was rescinded on January 1, 2015.

What Tanks Are Covered?

The requirements apply to tanks that are more than 10% underground and which contain petroleum or a hazardous substance covered under the U.S. Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation Liability Act.

A smaller number of requirements apply to farm and residential tanks with a capacity less than 1,100 gallons and which store motor fuel for non-commercial purposes or store heating oil for consumptive use on the premises.

UST installation

Completing the installation of new UST sumps and piping

 

What’s New in the Regulation?

The following are some of the more significant revisions made by the MassDEP in their regulation which were not in the DFS regulation. This is by no means a complete list of revisions.

  • New UST installations must be inspected by the UST system designer or the designer’s designee before the excavation is backfilled and owners/operators must keep specified records of UST system installations which occur after January 2, 2015.
  • Pressurized piping systems must include automatic line leak detectors by      January 2, 2016.
  • Tanks using submersible pumps that do not have a turbine sump must install a turbine sump by January 1, 2019, or when the tank top is upgraded (whichever is earlier).
  • Replacement and new spill buckets around fill pipes which are installed on or after January 2, 2015 must have a minimum capacity of five gallons and must pass a tightness test when they are installed, to ensure that the bucket is liquid tight.
  • New or replacement ball float valves cannot be used as a primary overfill prevention device after January 2, 2015. Ball float valves installed before January 2, 2015 may continue to be used as the primary overfill prevention device until the valve is replaced.
  • Owners/operators of UST systems must respond to failed tests and failures discovered during inspections of UST components.
  • Financial responsibility requirements now apply to UST systems holding hazardous materials, as well as to systems holding petroleum products.
  • Third-Party Inspection reports must be submitted to MassDEP by the UST system owner/operator every three years (rather than by the Third-Party Inspector as was required by the DFS) and if a Third-Party Inspection identifies non-compliance with one or more regulatory requirements, the submittal must include a plan to return to compliance.
  • The MassDEP will “red tag” UST systems (i.e., prevent the delivery of petroleum or hazardous substance) that are found to lack specific components that are key to preventing leaks and responding to releases. These key components are spill buckets, overfill prevention equipment, corrosion protection and leak detection equipment.

Single Wall Steel Tanks

Single wall steel tanks must be removed from the ground or permanently closed in-place by August 7, 2017. This is not a new requirement; it was in the DFS regulation as well. Single wall steel tanks used to store heating oil for consumptive use on the premises do not need to be removed by August 7, 2017.

UST removal

A single wall steel UST being removed

Regulatory Grace Period

According to the MassDEP, “To assist Owners and Operators to maintain compliance under the new regulations, MassDEP will exercise enforcement discretion until April 30, 2015 regarding the new UST and Stage I regulations….This 120 day ‘grace period’ will allow time for the regulated community to learn about and implement new requirements, establish appropriate procedures and best practices at facilities, and arrange for any necessary upgrades to equipment.”

If you need more information about the changes in the UST regulations, please contact Omni Environmental Group at 978-256-6766 or Info@OmniEG.com. We’ll help you learn what you need to know.

Top 5 MCP Acronyms (and MCP isn’t one of them)

The Massachusetts Contingency Plan (acronym alert: MCP) is the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s (another acronym: MassDEP’s) regulation which describes the requirements for assessing and remediating spills and releases of oil and hazardous materials (another one: OHM!).

Being both a government regulation and very long (the PDF version is 613 pages), it is just chock-full of long, repetitive phrases just waiting to made into fun little acronyms by connoisseurs of the trade.

Here’s Omni Environmental Group’s top 5 MCP acronyms:

#5  PSNC – This is a new acronym, just added when the MCP (acronym) was revised earlier this year.  No clear consensus has developed whether it’s sounded out as            P-S-N-C or pronounced “p-snick or “persnick”.  We’re pulling for p-snick.  Either way, this is what every client wants sooner rather than later – a Permanent Solution with No Conditions.

#4  ADD – Not attention deficit disorder but Average Daily Dose.  It’s the OHM                    (! acronym) that you’re exposed to, like it or not.  It’s one of the many, many calculations that are part of a site-specific risk assessment.  Oddly, it’s sounded out as A-D-D and not just pronounced “ADD” as in “what’s your ADD?”.

#3  RAM – Not as in battering and not as in the male companion of a ewe (which, by the way, is the only time the word ewe will appear in an Omni Environmental Group blog).  It’s the ever popular Release Abatement Measure – an expedited path to performing remediation at a site.

#2  URAM – A Utility Related Abatement Measure and a close cousin of the RAM.  Pronounced you-RAM, it’s just fun to say.  It’s used to allow utility contractors to address contamination they encounter during the installation of, what else, utilities with a minimum of fuss and bother.

And our #1 favorite MCP acronym:

MOHML – Pronounced “molema” although variations exist.  No one spells it out              M-O-H-M-L.  It would be easier just to say the Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Materials List which is what it stands for.  These are the concentrations and quantities of OHM (! again) which, if spilled or detected at a site, will make the MCP (!) regulation apply to you.  You want to be less than the MOHML.  Needless to say (although we will anyway), if you’re not less than the MOHML, contact Omni Environmental Group immediately.

We hope you enjoyed our favorite acronyms of the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (no acronym this time).  There’s more than enough acronyms in the environmental consulting field that this will be an occasional feature of the Omni Environmental Group blog in the future.  And yes, feel free to acronym us as OEG if you want.

If you have a favorite environmental acronym that you want to nominate,  leave a comment below or contact us at Info@OmniEG.com!

Sunday Night Quotes

 

“What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”

Henry David Thoreau

“Everything we personally own that’s made, sold, shipped, stored, cleaned, and ultimately thrown away does some environmental harm every step of the way, harm that we’re either directly responsible for or is done on our behalf.”

Yvon Chouinard

“People ‘over-produce’ pollution because they are not paying for the costs of dealing with it.”

Ha-Joon Chang

 

 

 

An LSP’s Opinion: Background – What is it Good For?

In the new and improved June 2014 version of the Massachusetts Contingency PlanEnvironmental regulations like the MCP(MCP), the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) revised the definition of “background”. Background is now defined as “those levels of oil and hazardous material that would exist in the absence of the disposal site of concern, including both Natural Background and Anthropogenic Background.”

But what does this really mean and why is it significant?

First – A Few More Regulatory Definitions

The revised MCP introduces the following new terms: Natural Background, Anthropogenic Background and Historic Fill.

Natural Background means “those levels of oil and hazardous material that would exist in the absence of the disposal site of concern, are ubiquitous and consistently present in the environment at and in the vicinity of the disposal site of concern, and are attributable to geologic or ecological conditions.”

Anthropogenic Background means “those levels of oil and hazardous material that would exist in the absence of the disposal site of concern and which are:

  1. attributable to atmospheric deposition of industrial process or engine emissions and are ubiquitous and consistently present in the environment at and in the vicinity of the disposal site of concern;
  2. attributable to Historic Fill;
  3. associated with sources specifically exempt from the definitions of disposal site or release as those terms are defined in MGL c. 21E and 310 CMR 40.0006;
  4. releases to groundwater from a public water supply system; or
  5. petroleum residues that are incidental to the normal operation of motor vehicles.”

Historic Fill means “Fill Material that based on the weight of evidence and consistent with the Conceptual Site Model:

  1. was emplaced before January 1, 1983;
  2. may contain, but is not primarily composed of, construction and demolition debris, reworked soils, dredge spoils, coal ash, wood ash or other solid waste material;
  3. was contaminated with metals, hydrocarbons, and/or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons prior to emplacement, at concentrations consistent with the pervasive use and release of such materials prior to 1983;
  4. does not contain oil or hazardous materials originating from operations or activities at the location of emplacement;
  5. is not and does not contain a generated hazardous waste, other than Oil or Waste Oil;
  6. does not contain chemical production waste, manufacturing waste, or waste from processing of metal or mineral ores, residues, slag or tailings; and
  7. does not contain waste material disposed in a municipal solid waste dump, burning dump, landfill, waste lagoon or other waste disposal location.”

Why Should I Care About Background?

Every hazardous waste site has some “background” concentrations of oil or hazardous materials, be they naturally occurring (Natural Background) or the result of human activities (Anthropogenic Background). The type and amount will vary depending on the site but at the very least, every site has concentrations of metals which meet the definition of Natural Background.  Sites in urban areas tend have a wider range of contaminants at higher concentrations which meet the definition of Anthropogenic Background.

Under the MCP, if site contaminants meet the above definition for either Natural Background or Anthropogenic Background based on documented lines of evidence, then those contaminants do not need to be included in the risk characterization for the site. As a result, the calculated risk to human health will be lower which, in turn, increases the likelihood of achieving a Permanent Solution for the environmental case. In short, documenting elevated background concentrations can make it significantly easier to achieve closure of the environmental case.

An Example of Using Background

Installing soil borings, looking for background

Sampling for background

An automobile salvage facility was a listed disposal site under the MCP as a result of elevated concentrations of petroleum. A soil sample collected to characterize excavated petroleum-contaminated soil for off-site disposal contained an arsenic concentration above its associated Reportable Concentration which, as a consequence, required additional response actions under the MCP.  Subsequent soil sampling found elevated arsenic concentrations in soil were ubiquitous and consistently present both horizontally and vertically across the site.  Samples of bedrock, which was located near the ground surface at the site, also found elevated concentrations of arsenic were ubiquitous and consistently present in bedrock across the site.

Based on multiple lines of evidence, the arsenic was determined to represent Natural Background. The arsenic would have represented a significant risk to human health if it was included in the risk characterization.  Because the arsenic met the definition of Natural Background and no longer had to be included in the risk characterization, the calculated risk to human health was reduced to a point where the environmental case could be closed.

Need more info?

If you need more information about how the new background definition might affect your site, please contact Omni Environmental Group’s Licensed Site Professional (LSP) at 978-256-6766 or Info@OmniEG.com.

“An LSP’s Opinion” is an occasional feature here in the Omni Environmental Group blog where we talk about the Massachusetts Contingency Plan along with the roles and responsibilities of Licensed Site Professionals.

An SPCC Primer in 969 Words

What is SPCC?

SPCC means Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure.  The SPCC regulation is issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 40 CFR 112.  The SPCC regulation contains requirements for oil spill prevention, preparedness, and response to prevent oil discharges to navigable waters and adjoining shorelines.

What facilities need an SPCC Plan?

When evaluating if a facility needs a SPCC Plan, there are many different factors that come into play.  Let’s start with a few of the basics.

In order to need an SPCC Plan, all the following criteria must be true:

  • The facility or part of it is considered non-transportation-related;
  • The facility is engaged in drilling, producing, gathering, storing, refining, transferring, distributing or consuming oil;
  • The facility could reasonably be expected to discharge oil in harmful quantities into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines; and
  • The total aboveground oil storage capacity is greater than 1,320 gallons or the total underground oil storage capacity is greater than 42,000 gallons of oil (the storage capacity does not include containers less than 55 gallons, permanently closed storage capacity, motive power containers, or exclusive wastewater treatment containers).

What is Considered a Navigable Water Under SPCC?

One of the above criteria requires the potential for oil discharge to a “navigable water”.  A navigable water is defined by the 1972 Clean Water Act as the following:

  • Interstate waters;
  • Intrastate lakes, rivers, and streams which are utilized by interstate travelers for recreational or other purposes; or
  • Intrastate lakes, rivers, and streams from which fish or shellfish are taken and sold in interstate commerce.

In simpler terms, if a facility has the potential discharge to a larger body of water, it is most likely navigable.  If a facility has the potential discharge to a small body of water (brook, roadside ditch or wetland) and that water eventually runs to another larger body of water, the smaller body of water is likely considered navigable.  A facility doesn’t have to be right next to the body of water either.  If the oil discharge could reach the water body via a storm drain or other mechanism, the facility meets the above “reasonably expected” criteria.

What is Considered Oil Under SPCC?

It is also important to understand that oil, as it’s defined in the regulation, comes in many different forms including:

  • Petroleum Based Oils – Gasoline, diesel fuel, motor, heating, aviation fuels, and hydraulic fluid;
  • Non Petroleum Oils – Animal-based, vegetable, biofuels, seed, nut, fruit and kernel; and
  • Oil Containing Products – Oil-based paints, thinners and inks, petroleum-based parts, and roofing tar

 What are the 3 Types of SPCC Facilities?

If a facility needs an SPCC Plan, it will be classified into one of 3 types of facilities:

  • A Non-Qualified Facility.
  • A Tier I Qualified Facility; or
  • A Tier II Qualified Facility.

The significance is that the allowed method of preparing an SPCC Plan for each type of facility is different.  An SPCC Plan for a Tier I qualified facility the simplest to prepare, followed by an SPCC Plan for a Tier II facility with an SPCC Plan for a non-qualified facility the most time-consuming to prepare.  It is also important to note that if the facility is a farm, there are a number of exceptions to the regulations above.

The following table contains the criteria to classify facilities into Tier I Qualified Facilities and Tier II Qualified Facilities.

If the facility total aboveground oil storage capacity is 10,000 gallons or less…
And… And the facility has… Then the facility is a:
In the three years before the SPCC Plan is certified, the facility has had no discharges to navigable waters or adjoining shorelines as described below:

  • A single discharge of oil greater than 1,000 gallons, or
  • Two discharges of oil each greater than 42 gallons within any 12-month period.
No individual aboveground oil containers greater than 5,000 gallons; Tier I Qualified Facility: 
Complete and self-certify Plan template (Appendix G to 40 CFR part 112) in lieu of a full PE-certified Plan or other self-certified SPCC Plan.
Any individual aboveground oil container greater than 5,000 gallons; Tier II Qualified Facility:
Prepare a self-certified Plan in accordance with all applicable requirements of §112.7 and subparts B or C of the rule, in lieu of a PE-certified Plan.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency

If a facility doesn’t meet the criteria of a Tier I or Tier II Qualified Facility because it has more than 10,000 gallons of aboveground petroleum storage or it has had oil spills that meet the above criteria, then it is a Non-Qualified Facility.

What are the Types of SPCC Plans?

Tier I and Tier II Qualified Facilities have the option to prepare “self-certified” SPCC Plans. What that means is that:

  • You are familiar with the SPCC requirements;
  • You have visited and examined the facility;
  • The Plan has been prepared in accordance with accepted and sound industry practices and standards and with the rule requirements as described above;
  • Procedures for required inspections and testing have been established;
  • The Plan is being fully implemented;
  • The facility meets the qualifying criteria;
  • The Plan does not deviate from rule requirements except as allowed and as certified by a PE; and
  • Management approves the Plan and has committed resources to implement it.

Tier I facilities can prepare an SPCC Plan using a relatively simple template provided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Tier II facilties must prepare an SPCC Plan in accordance with all applicable requirements of §112.7 and subparts B or C of the rule.  However, the plan does not need to be certified by a Professional Engineer.

A Non-Qualified Facility needs an SPCC Plan prepared in accordance with the applicable requirements of §112.7 and subparts B or C of the rule and the SPCC Plan must be certified by a Professional Engineer.

Need More Information?

If you need more information about SPCC Plans, please contact Omni Environmental Group at 978-256-6766 or Info@OmniEG.com.  Also visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s SPCC website.