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The Path(way) to Reinvestigation: MassDEP Revisits Closed TCE Sites

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (“MassDEP”) recently proposed to reopen closed waste sites based on available data that suggests levels of trichloroethylene (“TCE”) may exceed current United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) toxicity values.  While the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) has not yet proposed a similar endeavor, it is worth following which states follow MassDEP’s lead.

In 2014, MassDEP updated its imminent hazard standards for TCE in indoor, soil, and groundwater to reflect current EPA values.  Remedial action pursuant to the new MassDEP cleanup standard is triggered by a lower level TCE concentration in residential and occupational indoor air spaces.  MassDEP screened closed waste sites for groundwater concentrations exceeding the new TCE standard and identified from these sites, 200 of priority with the potential to cause imminent harm.  To date, MassDEP has neither contacted nor taken any enforcement action against the previously closed property owners.  It is presumed however, that if current TCE levels exceed the new, lower standards, MassDEP will ask that groundwater and indoor air are again tested to determine the presence of a vapor intrusion pathway.

TCE and tetrachloroethylene (“PCE”) are two commonly used solvents in the dry cleaning and parts degreasing industries.  Unfortunately, both are common contaminants found in New Jersey soil and groundwater.  As the science around TCE, PCE, and other volatile organic compounds continues to improve, reinvestigation of previously impacted and currently closed sites may become commonplace at both the federal and state levels.  Also, with EPA taking an increased look at vapor intrusion, owners of once closed properties may find themselves reopened to certain legal obligations and liabilities.

The attorneys at Lieberman & Blecher, P.C. are experienced in handling cases involving TCE and PCE contamination and exposure.  If you are encountering issues with contaminated media, please feel free to call our office today.

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