Once OER receives the field data for the project, a Remedial Action Work Plan Scoping Session is usually conducted within two or three days. This meeting, commonly conducted by conference call with the project team, will assess the field data and the proposed building design and property use, and will establish a conceptual cleanup plan for the project. It is at this point—usually less than three weeks from the initial meeting—that the requirements for cleanup are fully established and the developer can estimate the cleanup schedule and budget. With this information, a decision is made on whether the project will be enrolled in the VCP. Also, once the conceptual cleanup plan has been established, it can be easily memorialized in a Remedial Action Work Plan. To summarize, the time required to conduct an initial Pre-Application meeting with OER, complete the environmental field work, and establish a conceptual cleanup plan is usually less than three weeks.
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Applying for the NYC Voluntary Cleanup Program
Once a volunteer decides to enroll in the VCP, four documents are required to formally apply: a Remedial Investigation Report, a Remedial Action Work Plan, a VCP Application, and a VCP Agreement. Each of these documents has a well-defined template, or boilerplate, that simplifies preparation and enables predictable navigation of the NYC VCP. In addition, OER encourages use of ‘comps’—documents from comparable projects that have already been approved and enrolled in the program—to guide document preparation. OER often edits documents directly instead of preparing lengthy comments and critiques, simplifying review and speeding approval. If other changes are needed, they are made in a cover letter or ‘stipulation list’ that acts as a rider to the original document, simplifying the review process. If negotiation is required, it is conducted in face-to-face meetings that usually result in final document approval. Taken together, these approaches can make the NYC VCP one of the most timely and responsive cleanup programs in the country. The NYC VCP is also a paperless program and all documents are submitted digitally, speeding submittal and review, and conserving valuable resources.
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Remedial Investigation Report
The Remedial Investigation Report (RIR) is prepared based on the environmental field data generated during the field work and provides information required to document contaminant distribution and behavior on a property and establish the basis for selection of an appropriate remedy. The basic goals of the Remedial Investigation Report for a property include:
- identify all potential sources of contamination based on investigation of past uses;
- define the nature and extent of contamination in all media both laterally and vertically;
- perform a human health exposure assessment;
- assess contaminant fate and transport including the existing and potential impacts on groundwater, soil and soil vapor; and
- produce data of sufficient quantity and quality to support the development of a Remedial Action Work Plan.
The RIR is developed in a manner consistent with existing guidance for implementation of voluntary cleanup in New York State. OER provides a template for the RIR that gives detailed guidance for the structure and content of the document. Contact OER to obtain a template. The RIR is usually submitted to OER with the application for enrollment in the NYC VCP.
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Remedial Action Work Plan
The Remedial Action Work Plan (RAWP) describes the remedial actions that are necessary to render a site protective of public health and the environment for the intended use. There are four categories of intended use for a site:
- unrestricted (cleaned up to the highest standard that enables to be used for any use without restriction)
- restricted residential (highest use of site is residential and some contamination is left onsite requiring some controls)
- restricted commercial (highest use of site is commercial and some contamination is left onsite requiring some controls)
- restricted industrial (highest use of site is industrial and some contamination is left onsite requiring some controls)
To render a site protective for its intended use, the NYC VCP uses New York State soil cleanup standards and alternative cleanup tracks established by NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC). Parties should contact OER for more information about cleanup requirements.
The RAWP is subject to a 30-day public comment period that begins shortly after submission of the plan to OER. Like the RIR, the RAWP is developed in a manner that is consistent with existing guidance for the implementation of voluntary cleanup in New York State. OER will provide you with a template for the RAWP. See the Forms and Templates page for more information.
The RAWP includes a remedial alternatives analysis that provides a basis for the proposed remedial action, and explains why the remedial action is protective of public health and the environment for the intended use. The RAWP also includes a remedial work schedule, a Health and Safety Plan, a description of all Engineering and Institutional Controls (if contaminants are left behind after completion of construction) and an explanation of site management requirements that make sure that any remaining contamination does not pose any exposure risk in the future.
The Remedial Action Work Plan also includes a Community Protection Statement that summarizes community protections to be implemented during the remedial process. It summarizes such issues as the community air monitoring plan, all odor, dust and noise control measures, hours of operation, and other good housekeeping practices that will be implemented at each NYC VCP site. This is an important document because it addresses the most common public concerns and builds confidence within the community. The Community Protection Statement is written in easily understandable, non-technical language so that community members are able to understand why they will be safe when the work to be performed. It is also translated into five of the most commonly spoken languages in NYC so it can be more accessible to all community members.
Upon completion of the remedial action, the volunteer submits a Remedial Action Report (RAR) to OER. Contact OER to obtain a RAR template. The RAR typically includes documentation showing that the remedial action has been achieved and a description of Engineering and Institutional Controls.
Engineering Controls and Institutional Controls. Engineering Controls and Institutional Controls are physical and non-physical controls commonly used to enable long-term management of residual contamination at remedial sites after completion of the approved remedial actions. If Engineering Controls and Institutional Controls are part of a site cleanup plan, the RAR will describe the mechanisms that will be used to maintain and inspect these controls—usually in a Site Management Plan.
Site Management Plan. All Engineering and Institutional Controls are managed under a Site Management Plan (SMP) submitted as part of the RAR. The Site Management Plan provides for periodic inspection of the Engineering and Institutional Controls to ensure that the remedy remains protective for the long term. OER approves the SMP and RAR prior to issuance of the Notice of Completion.
Completion of the NYC VCP occurs when a Notice of Completion is issued to the volunteer by the Director of OER. This occurs after OER has determined that all remedial requirements defined in the RAWP have been achieved and documented in an OER-approved Remedial Action Report. Upon issuance of the Notice of Completion, a volunteer is eligible for liability protection and a NYC Green Property Certification for the property.
Liability Protection from Government Enforcement
At the time that the Notice of Completion is issued to the volunteer, the City of New York pledges that the volunteer has no further environmental liability to the City with respect to the enrolled site, subject to certain conditions. This liability protection is assignable to the volunteer’s successors and assigns who take title to, develop, or otherwise occupy the site, provided such parties adhere to the requirements of the Voluntary Cleanup Agreement. Furthermore, under an agreement with New York State, the volunteer will also receive liability protection from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) in the form of a statement that the NYS DEC has no further interest in the enrolled property and does not plan to take enforcement or require remedial action under CERCLA or the State Environmental Conservation Law.
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Citizen participation is an important component of the NYC VCP. The following steps are included in the Citizen Participation Plan:
Document Repositories. Document repositories make the principal documents produced during the remedial program available so that the RAWP and Community Protection Statement are accessible for review. OER has established an online repository for document maintenance to simplify this process.
Public Notice and Public Comment. A Site Contact List is prepared for each project that is used to inform the public of important project information and invite public comment on the RAWP. The Site Contact List includes owners of on-site and adjacent buildings and residences, administrators of nearby schools, hospitals and day care centers, the local Community Board, and elected officials. Members of the public can request to be added to the Site Contact List. A fact sheet is sent at three times during the remedial program: at the start of the project announcing availability of the RAWP for comment, at the start of the remedial action, and at the end of the remedial action. Fact sheets contain descriptive project summaries, updates on recent and upcoming project activities, repository information, and OER contact information. Final review of work plans by OER will consider all public comments and OER will not approve work plans until the public comment period has been completed.