On October 4, 2010, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) formally proposed revisions to the Site Remediation Reform Act’s (SRRA) interim rules. The revisions impact two important components of the interim rules: remediation deadlines and vapor intrusion investigations. These technical amendments are based upon stakeholder input and are intended to reduce the burden on the regulated community and New Jersey’s newly minted Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRPs). The rule proposal appeared in the New Jersey Register on October 4, 2010 and can be viewed online. Comments can be submitted until December 3, 2010.

When adopting the SRRA, the New Jersey Legislature created a special enforcement mechanism called “direct oversight.” When a site, phase of the clean-up process or condition at the site warrants “direct oversight,” all of the key decisions – especially remedy selection – are made by NJDEP. In direct oversight the responsible party simply pays the bills – NJDEP makes the decisions. The SRRA also provides that when the responsible party misses a remediation milestone, then NJDEP must exercise direct oversight. N.J.S.A. 58:10C-27.

NJDEP’s pending rule proposal relaxes three important remediation milestones established by the interim rules. N.J.A.C. 7:26C-3.3.:

  • the deadline for submitting preliminary assessment reports,
  • the deadline for immediate environmental concern source control,
  • and the deadline for installing free product removal technology at sites containing non-aqueous phase liquids, (generally to March 1, 2011 at the earliest).

The proposed rule is designed to reduce the risk of triggering mandatory direct oversight because of insufficient time to meet prescribed deadlines.

The second part of the proposed rule amends NJDEP’s long-standing Vapor Intrusion Program. The proposed rule establishes a new class of vapor intrusion investigations (called “Vapor Concern Cases”) and adjusts the way indoor air screening levels are applied as well as certain deadlines for action to respond to vapor intrusion. The vapor intrusion rules remain complex and cumbersome. Nevertheless, these amendments can provide additional time to evaluate the situation and implement mitigation.

These proposed new rules underscore the complex issues presented by the transition of New Jersey’s site remediation process from NJDEP command and control to private oversight by LSRPs. The regulated community should support these rules as well as NJDEP’s general efforts to respond to stakeholder comments. All parties must be mindful that the interim package of SRRA regulations — adopted on an emergency basis in November 2009 — expire on May 4, 2011. The real action will happen in the coming months when the permanent SRRA rule proposal hits the streets.