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Underground storage tank leaks may lead to development delays and costly clean-ups

Earlier this month, multiple sources reported an oil leak at a redevelopment site in Haddonfield, New Jersey. According to the Borough of Haddonfield’s press release dated January 6, 2021, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) conducted a site visit to a property that is currently in the process of redevelopment. The NJDEP informed the Borough immediately and stated that the leak was likely due to the excavation of an underground storage tank (“UST”) that occurred in late December. The excavation was conducted as part of the redeveloper’s due diligence period. The redeveloper is working on a remediation plan in accordance with NJDEP regulations. At this time, it is unclear what, if any, the environmental impacts of the leak are. The NJDEP is still actively investigating the situation.

New Jersey law generally categorizes USTs into two categories, “unregulated” and “regulated,” for which different regulations apply. USTs are divided into these categories depending on the substance they hold, their size, and their use. Many of these regulations require that any installation or removal of, or work done on, a UST must be done either by or under the direct supervision of a licensed professional. (N.J.A.C. 7:14B et seq.) This is because UST leaks can have major environmental impacts, including threats to drinking water and other public health risks. Contaminants can also damage the property where the leak occurs as well as seep to neighboring properties, contaminating them as well. If an individual discovers a UST leak and/or contamination on their property, it is mandatory to report these findings to the NJDEP.

These leaks can also lead to costly remediation projects, even for those not at fault for the contamination. Remediation is often needed before development of a property may proceed. Buyers of both residential and commercial properties should be sure to use the due diligence period provided during the purchase process to take appropriate action to determine the existence, if any, of USTs on the property they are seeking to purchase. The NJDEP also provides financial assistance and grant programs for certain qualifying individuals performing site remediation due to UST leaks. For more information on these financial assistance programs, visit https://www.nj.gov/dep/srp/finance/.

Sources:

Borough of Haddonfield Press Release
https://patch.com/new-jersey/haddon/oil-leak-reported-former-bancroft-property-haddonfield
https://www.njpen.com/njdep-investigates-oil-leak-at-former-bancroft-site-in-haddonfield/
https://www.nj.gov/dep/srp/bust/epact.htm

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