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RIDEM Quarterly Business Roundtable Meeting Minutes
September 28, 2000
The director briefed the group on the two bond issues that impact DEM. He mentioned that there is broad support for the Open Space initiative. Trudy Coxe and Bob Gilbane were leading the effort to gain passage of this bond issue. Polls were indicating the public was supportive of the Clean Water bond issue. There were questions raised by the some members of the environmental community about the Providence CSO project, but were generally supportive of the project. Bob Mendoza mentioned that a portion of the bond was to match EPA funding for drinking water issues.
There was some discussion on the amount of bonding authority that was being voted on in the election. The two environmental bonds were competing against other major state initiatives.
Terry Gray met with the Oil institute in June. At the meeting DEM proposed a few minor changes to a consumer brochure that was being developed to advise people about oil line piping in their homes. In addition, DEM and the Oil Institute drafted a letter to the state building code commission. The letter needs to be finalized and Gary Ezvoski agreed to work to get this issue finalized.
Leo Hellested briefed the group on the DEM Interim Policy for Arsenic in Soil. The purpose in developing this policy was to establish an approach for determining soil remedial objectives for arsenic at sites regulated under the Site Remediation Regulations. The policy was adopted to alleviate difficulties encountered at sites at which the concentrations of arsenic exceed existing Method 1 Residential or Industrial/Commercial Direct Exposure Criteria, and to facilitate acceptable and timely advancement of contaminated sites through the site remediation process. The policy was finalized after a number of meetings between staff, the technical sub-committee, and public input.
The policy is based on two extensive background arsenic studies for soil samples collected within the boundaries of the State. The study will allow DEM to distinguish between background, and naturally occurring arsenic levels, and release levels above the acceptable risk range. Arsenic releases are regulated under the Site Remediation Regulations, but naturally occurring soils are not. The RI background study showed that RIís average background concentration for arsenic was significantly lower than levels found in other neighboring New England states.
The Rhode Island arsenic policy is a three tiered approached based on a statistical evaluation of the statewide background data. DEM will continue to require reporting at the current Direct Exposure Criteria of 1.7 ppm. For values between 1.7 ppm and 7 ppm, an evaluation will be required in order to determine whether the observed concentrations at a particular site reflect either a release or a background condition. The requirements for this evaluation reflect the statistical distribution observed in the statewide background studies. In this tiered system the level of documentation and investigation will be lower for sites whose concentration are near the mean and more for sites which are further away from the mean. Previously the same level of documentation and investigation was required at all sites independent of the observed concentration.
Background determinations for concentrations within Tier 1 and Tier 2 will be the responsibility of an Environmental Professional. An Environmental Professional must submit a certification that the site conditions are background. DEM will audit the certifications as appropriate.
In tier three, DEM will assume that arsenic concentrations above 7 ppm will be attributable to a release and will automatically require some level of response action as outlined in the Remediation Regulations. It was noted, however, that DEM would review data from a site that has arsenic concentrations above 7 ppm to determine if the levels are natural occurring.
Questions were raised concerning how DEM determines the action levels for remediation. Were they based on the highest values found at the site or were averages used? Leo Hellested said that DEM usually uses site averages.
DEM was also encouraged to look at surrounding parcels for spills when arsenic levels were in the range of 4-7 PPM, especially when the parcel being evaluated was small.
A general discussion was held on the risks associated with arsenic levels. For example, DEM would treat a site having a natural background of 6 PPM differently than an arsenic spill site where soil levels were measured 5 PPM. The director indicated it was difficult to remediate sites where higher arsenic levels were attributed to natural causes. DEM was trying to be reasonable with its approach and will continue to work with people to resolve this issue.
It was mentioned that DEM was using lead arsenate as a marker for releases. DEM was encouraged to publish other parameters for releases. Leo Hellested indicated that we could evaluate other compounds for inclusion in the policy in the future. He also said that DEM has reviewed arsenic levels in soil data from two studies and both results were similar, but we would review other data if it were provided to DEM. Since this is an Interim Policy, DEM will be reviewing the policy in about six months.
There was a general comment that remediation at small sites could cost one hundred thousand dollars. The major cost incurred is for soil removal. Clients also do not understand the DEM policy concerning the differentiation of naturally occurring arsenic from levels caused by spills.
A comment was made that it was taking DEM too long to issue a Certificate of Compliance and to review consultantís studies. Leo indicated that under the Interim Policy, DEMís goal is to review only five percent of the site remediation studies where arsenic soil values were less than 7 PPM. This should speed up the process for these cases. The question was asked about the length of time needed to review cases where soil levels were greater than 7 PPM. Staff indicated that it would certainly take longer than thirty days. Increased staffing levels should help in getting to a decision point sooner in the process.
There were concerns raised from the consultants of the regulated community that DEM is not adequately staffed in this area. The problem was exacerbated with the recent staff changes in the division.
DEM responded that a new staffing plan has been proposed that balances the work being done with state and federal funding. Additional staff should now be available for Brownfields issues and EDC projects.
DEMís current site remediation process allows a lot of judgement in the decision making process. This is a double-edged sword, especially when there is staff turnover. Previous decisions could be revisited and there is time lost in the re-review process. In order to add certainty to the process, Gary Ezvoski suggested that DEM personnel should prepare case status memos before they leave their position.
The inspection guidelines were distributed to the Business Roundtable. DEM should have these Guidelines finalized by the next meeting of the Business Roundtable.
There has not been a lot of progress on finalizing this policy. Absolute time lines are problematical especially with complicated cases that may involve litigation. DEM is looking at a statistical approach where goals may be expressed in X % of enforcement cases being resolved within Y Days. This approach may be a better way to track enforcement cases. It is anticipated that an alternative will be ready for discussion at the next Roundtable meeting in January.
The Auto Body Certification Program is being designed to provide a simpler and more useful way to regulate the auto body repair sector. The certification program will cover training requirements, hazardous waste management, air quality concerns, occupational health and safety, and pollution prevention techniques in a question and answer format that will allow any auto body shop to determine its compliance status. A certification form, along with a guidance manual, that includes all of this information will be mailed to all auto body shops in the state. The Department will then be able to use this information to perform statistical analysis that measures compliance rates and to determine where best to focus its assistance and compliance efforts. This initiative is being viewed as a first ever regulatory and assistance partnership involving state environmental and health departments, a state university and a vocational training institution. This partnership is designed to result in an environmentally measurable compliance program.
The draft handbook will be ready for stakeholder input in early November.
Ron Gagnon was asked to update the group on the Environmental Audit legislation. Ron said the draft document has been finalized and the group is looking for legislative sponsors for the bill.
The issue of Project XL programs had been discussed in previous meetings. Beverly Migliore prepared a grant application for Rhode Island to participate in the EPA National Performance Track program. This concept allows the state to recognize facilities whose environmental performance exceeds minimal compliance. It will establish a partnership of participants dedicated to achieving high levels of environmental protection with greater efficiency, and will provide a solid foundation upon which we will structure our compliance efforts.
DEM is applying for a grant that would allow the agency to investigate activities that support or hinder efforts to promote environmental excellence. We will investigate the feasibility of larger scale rewards, such as insurance discounts, lower utility rates etc., in exchange for a measurable commitment to maintain specific environmental performance criteria. The concepts of Environmental Leadership, Business Advocacy and Environmental Mentoring will be used to promote this performance.
DEM will be looking for input on the kinds of incentives that would be useful to the regulated community; the potential companies or categories of industry that would benefit from the approach and the environmental metrics that could be used to determine success. If anyone is interested in discussing this proposal, Beverly Migliore can be contacted at 222-4700 X7503.
Warren Angell gave a brief presentation of his functions as head of the information management section in DEM. He mentioned that the Kyran permit streamlining effort would result in a more efficient operation of DEM permitting processes that will allow concurrent reviews of applications. DEM will be moving to increasing our presence on the Internet to make us more a customer-friendly agency by offering more on-line services.
The group discussed the issue of an expanded role of environmental professionals in DEMís application processes. DEM was encouraged to look at privatization of some DEM functions, although no specific recommendations were made at the meeting. With respect to our waste remediation program, it was thought that there are not enough sites to merit Rhode Island to adopt a Massachusetts approach. In addition, participants thought it was difficult to keep up with all the licensing requirements of the states. A licensing program would not be a viable option unless there was reciprocity between the state programs. Tom Getz mentioned that it was not DEMís intention to license or certify professionals, but rather look at programs where professionals certify their work as being accurate and DEM would audit their work product.
The participants agreed that we should discuss energy issues at the next meeting. It was expressed that the increasing cost of energy has ramifications on environmental programs and this topic should be explored at the next meeting in January.
Last monthís survey results were quickly discussed. In general, the survey indicated the group felt comfortable with the existing format and meeting interval of the roundtable, the agenda was meeting expectations and the handout material was very useful. We could improve the meeting by having greater access to DEM staff prior to the meeting.