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Thread: Environmental standards for residential development?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    May 2005
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    New Town
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    Environmental standards for residential development?

    Hi All,

    I have a professional question that falls outside of my planning knowledge. I am looking at a project near my work and home that is proposing a zone change from a formerly industrial site (lumber related industries) to residential townhouses. The applicant has submitted a letter from the state environment department's underground petroleum storage tank division stating that remediation has been completed and cites a number of reasons why (differnet monitoring devices, etc.). That is the extent of information provided as far as contamination and cleanup at the site which was known for serious airborn and ground pollution.

    The organization I work for has developed sites on adjacent tracts and we did produce additional documentation from the state environment department related to groundwater contamination. The current applicant has not produced any such document and we have concerns that they are trying to skirt this issue in their application. I have left three messages in the last week with the state environment department, but have not received a call back so I am trying to educate myself as best I can otherwise.

    My questions are:

    1) are there different standards of remediation required for residential versus industrial use? Are there names for these (I see things like tier 1, 2, 3, etc but don't really know what they mean) that are likely to translate from state to state? I want to be able to ask them "have you done a XXXX assessment on the site?" but I need to knwo what I am talking about.

    2) if someone was doing what I describe above in your municipality, do you know what sort of documentation would be required to allow residential development on a formerly contaminated industrial site?

    I realize some fo this information is likely to be state or city-specific, but I thought I would cast my net and see what I catch.

    Thanks for any help you all can provide!
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Tarf's avatar
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    Jul 2011
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    Encinitas, CA
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    Just some thoughts...

    If by monitoring you mean monitoring wells, then the state is already monitoring water quality per state standards (which probably are based on CWA standards).

    While it varies from state to state, in CA, if the Department of Toxic Substances Control clears the site, then the site is considered clean for all development.

    I've dealt with this on a project that had a former landfill (non-hazardous) on-site. Once DTSC cleared it, the site was good to go (subject to whatever conditions, including continued groundwater well monitoring). And this was for a residential project to be sited on the former landfill that was capped in place.

    Granted, I don't know your state, and other than CWA requirements, these things vary from state to state. For example, I don't know if your state environment department monitors for CWA standards, etc.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    For a little more context, the underground storage tank document states that an air sparge/soil vapor extraction system was operated for three years and then removed (properly). Also, that ground water monitoring tested petroleum hydrocarbon below state standards for 8 years and soil borings were done. The borings revealed that "only minor concentrations of vadose zone hydrocarbon contamination remains at the site. Based on Tier 1 analysis, the remaining minor contamination does not pose a threat to ground water, human health or the environment."

    What I can't tell from this is whether these determinations would be different for residential development than for continued industrial use. Again, I don't know if anyone outside of my state and city could really speak to this, but I thought I would throw it out there and see what I get. The community spent many years from the 1960s through the 80s forcing this issue of continued contamination at the site. Now that many of the industries have left, the land is being looked at for new purposes. But many residents are concerned both about the possibility of unsafe conditions as well as the slippery nature of the developer (who they feel would not be above slipping this through without the proper due dilligence).

    Thanks for the input!
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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