Significant revisions to the remediation standards (N.J.A.C. 7-26D) were adopted by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) on May 17, 2021. The rule includes:
- A six-month phase-in period ending on November 17, 2021, except when the numeric standard has decreased by more than an order of magnitude.
- Impact to Groundwater, Soil Leachate, and Vapor Intrusion/Indoor Air screening criteria are now legally enforceable standards rather than screening levels.
- Two exposure pathways for the Direct Contact Soil Remediation Standards have been developed: Ingestion-Dermal and Inhalation. As before, the most stringent standard must still be applied, but consideration of both exposure pathways is now required.
- Formal standards have been promulgated to include soil and soil leachate for migration to groundwater, indoor air, and groundwater, in place of interim standards.
- “Residential” and “non-residential” uses are now defined, adding more certainty for risk assessment.
- Practitioners should keep in mind that the new Remediation Standards may form the basis for regulatory or even mandatory time frame extensions.
Important revisions were also made to the actual numerical Soil Remediation Standards. Several previously unregulated compounds were added and more conservative standards for several compounds were developed for both residential and non-residential soil exposure pathways, while some compounds were completely removed from regulation. As stated above, where a standard was lowered by an Order of Magnitude, the new standard is not subject to the phase-in period outlined in the rule. This requires immediate revaluation of ongoing remediation projects, since the remediation scope could be drastically altered midstream, or for sites where a Remedial Action Permit is in place. One compound that may trigger re-openers of completed remediations, particularly for gasoline storage sites, is the inhalation standard for ethylbenzene for both residential and non-residential scenarios, where the standards decreased by more than 2 orders of magnitude.
In addition to the revisions to the Remediation Standards, NJDEP also revised the Vapor Intrusion Guidance and released the Alternate Remediation Technical Guidance for both soil exposure pathways and the pathways for migration to groundwater and vapor intrusion.
- The VIG was updated to include revised vapor intrusion screening levels for groundwater and soil gas in addition to the promulgation of enforceable indoor air standards. Again, several compounds have lower screening levels, screening levels for some compounds are less stringent and several were deleted from regulation altogether. Changes to these screening levels have implications for which contaminants of concern will initiate a vapor intrusion investigation and determine whether a subsurface pathway to indoor air is present.
- The new methods and guidance for calculating Alternative Remediation Standards using a risk-based approach may alleviate the necessity to implement engineering controls, which could, in some circumstances, eliminate the long-term financial and inspection obligations associated with Remedial Action Permits.
NJDEP has created a new web page for information about the new Remediation Standards (https://www.nj.gov/dep/srp/guidance/rs/). It includes the new rule, proposal and adoption packages, phase-in and order of magnitude guidance, basis and background documents, and guidance documents for developing Alternative Remediation Standards.