Navigating PCB Regulatory Challenges
One of the greatest obstacles to remediating and redeveloping contaminated brownfields properties is the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in soil. PCBs are regulated under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and have been since the June 1998 update commonly known as the “Mega-Rule.” Focused on PCB regulations, this update encompassed more than 80 changes and additions to the regulations, including § 761.61 defining “PCB remediation waste” at site cleanups. Within the referenced section, the TSCA clearly defines three remedial options for PCB remediation waste: (1) self-implementing cleanup and disposal; (2) performance-based disposal; and (3) risk-based disposal approval.
However, the legal applicability of the definition of “PCB remediation waste” is often unclear under § 761.50 – Applicability. Uncertainty may be caused by the limited information available about a site, particularly when evaluating the different requirements associated with PCB concentrations and the dates of PCB spills and releases (prior to April 18, 1978 versus between April 18, 1978 and July 2, 1979). Input from an environmental attorney is often recommended, as determining the date of the PCB release is the responsibility of the site owner.
While PCB remediation waste presents many site redevelopment engineering challenges, however, it also provides opportunities for creative solutions. The key is engaging with a firm that understands the complexities of handling PCBs and has experience navigating the regulatory challenges.
Langan’s team of experts works with clients nationwide on projects involving PCBs. The firm recently designed and implemented the consolidation of PCB-impacted soils under a self-implementing cleanup plan using creative interpretations of “high occupancy areas” and “low occupancy areas,” obtaining EPA approval for the solution. For this project, discrete areas of a commercial site used for vehicle parking and roadways fell under “low occupancy,” allowing for on-site consolidation of PCBs from 25 parts per million (ppm) to 100 ppm with a TSCA engineering cap and deed notice. Langan’s solution helped the client save the money associated with transporting the PCBs off-site to dispose of them at a TSCA facility. Additionally, Langan has obtained approval from the EPA in regards to risk-based disposal work plans requesting deviations from self-implementing or performance based requirements. Most recently, the firm submitted plans related to reduced post-excavation sampling frequencies at large excavation areas.
Regardless of a site’s size, location, or history, Langan possesses the expertise needed to help clients successfully manage and reduce environmental regulatory risk, minimize disposal costs, and creatively incorporate remediation into redevelopment projects.
Adam Goldberg is a Project Environmental Scientist in Langan’s Philadelphia, PA office with expertise in environmental investigations and innovative environmental technologies.