The Monitor: A Terradex Blog

U.S. Mayors Report Touts Brownfield Successes; Stays Silent on ICs

Source: U.S. Conference of Mayors

The United States Conference of Mayors recently published “Recycling America’s Land: A National Report on Brownfields Redevelopment.” The report highlighted the successes and benefits of brownfield redevelopment, but stayed silent on the use of Institutional Controls (ICs).  Of course many factors contribute to Brownfield successes but the important role of ICs, and their ongoing stewardship, ought not be overlooked.

Based on a survey of 99 cities, the report found that 1,010 sites had been redeveloped, with 906 additional sites undergoing redevelopment, yielding $309 million of additional tax revenue with the potential for an additional $1 billion in local tax revenues if all brownfields were to be redeveloped.   Redevelopment, the report continued, has thus far provided over 161,000 new jobs, nearly 100,000 of which are permanent.   The US Environmental Protection Agency also reports as to the  benefits of Brownfield redevelopment.

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The Day After the Daycare Webinar – Preventing Another Kiddie Kollege

Terradex wishes to thank the panelists as well as the attendees for their participation in the webinar discussing daycare and the threats posed by contaminated sites.  In the lead up to this webinar, Terradex published a post that sought to provide a fresh look at the progress to prevent the seminal environmental tragedy that unfolded at Kiddie Kollege daycare: children exposed across several years to mercury left in a former thermometer factory converted to a daycare. This webinar follows from a blog post Terradex prepared in September 2010.

From the vantage point of the webinar, progress has been made across four years since Kiddie Kollege.  New Jersey, California, New York and Connecticut shared experiences showing varying approaches.  The USEPA’s participation in the webinar, as well as the attendance by many states, broaden understanding of the threats land contamination can pose to children attending daycare.   A bar is being set toward a national expectation of safety for children at daycare.  A common challenge is the lack of funding for states to meet these challenges. The discussing journeyed through sizing the problem, understanding various state approaches, learning of forthcoming guidance both at the federal and state levels, discovering the limitations of local government zoning as a tool, and appreciating the modes of exposure such as rogue unmapped groundwater plumes and the associated vapor intrusion risk.

Within this post we offer the following:

  • A streaming video of the webinar held on September 28
  • Downloads of the PowerPoint Presentations
  • Links to references identified during the webinar.

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Sept 28th Webinar Invitation – Protecting Children at Daycare From Toxic Contamination – Extending Lessons Learned at Kiddie Kollege Nationally

Join us for a free 90-minute webinar on September 28th, 2010 at 1:30 PM EST (10:30 AM PDT) –

The webinar discussion will focus on experiences and solutions aimed towards preventing the establishment of daycare facilities in areas where environmental contamination could pose risks to children.  The discussion will address progress and challenges since Kiddie Kollege, where a childcare facility was constructed at a contaminated site exposing children to mercury.  Then the discussion will move forward to discuss measures New Jersey instituted to prevent similar occurrences and steps being taken at other states as well as initiatives underway at EPA.  Kiddie Kollege is one of 400,000 daycares nationally vulnerable to toxics from hundreds of thousands of cleanup sites. The facilitated dialogue will remind us of the importance of protecting daycare-age children from toxic contamination,  present efforts and challenges from state childcare licensing and environmental programs, allowing for a dialogue among those working towards solutions. For a more detailed overview of this topic, see the article written on Terradex’s blog, The Monitor.

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States and Locals Gather on the Web to Talk ICs

A little over a week ago, Terradex hosted a web meeting on institutional controls (IC) efforts at state and local agencies, with a particular focus on the use of one call and local and state cooperation. About 15 participants from EPA, state agencies, local government, and academia gave 3-minute overviews of their IC stewardship efforts and then I helped facilitate a question and answer discussion.

Not unlike an ASTSWMO report concludes, I thought the discussion showed that states increasingly focus attention towards IC stewardship and I might even say that a shift of sorts has begun – one that’s evolving with the cleanup site pipeline and slowly shifting more and more towards post-cleanup site management. I don’t know of any that have taken “the leap” yet, but some states mentioned the idea of creating a centralized IC or Long Term Stewardship (LTS) program in their state. Having said that, states also report this increased role could strain their resources.

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Taking Stewardship Underwater By Tracking Dredging Activity

Stewardship services apply beyond our shorelines into harbors, waterways and oceans. Beneath the surface of harbors, rivers and channels are contaminated sediments and  unexploded ordnance (UXO).   A common and disruptive offshore activity is dredging, which can unknowingly disturb these materials – often to unfortunate ends.

Dredging is a regulated activity, and thereby produces records that Terradex can track and locate on maps within our LandWatch service.  When a dredging operation is located near a monitored facility, Terradex can alert regulatory or private party clients. The alerted parties can contact the applicant, and identify any issues associated with dredging at the location of concern. The approach offers parties the chance to prevent an unintended encounter with contaminated sediments or UXO.

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Protecting 6,000,000 Children In Daycare From Toxic Hazards of Cleanup Sites

Image of ChildMix 400,000 daycares with 550,000 cleanup sites nationwide, and the vision takes shape for a national daycare screening service to vigilantly protect 6,000,000 children  from inadvertent exposure to toxics.  This effort started after 2006 on the failings at Kiddie Kollege, where children attending daycare were exposed to high mercury levels. The childcare facility occupied the same building that ten years earlier had been a thermometer assembly factory.  The site’s environmental problems were known to environmental agencies but were lost in the site investigation backlog. Progress at the state-level, coupled with work by the  United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), provides the basis of a national daycare screening service. This post to The Monitor describes the progress made in New Jersey, as well as different approaches taken in California and New York toward an efficient state-wide daycare screening service. Terradex has been a technology provider introducing DaycareWatch as a state screening tool.

This post draws upon a presentation by Terradex to the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO) at their State Superfund Managers Symposium held on August 10 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Terradex plans a web conference on September 28, 2010 (tentative) to overview various state and federal approaches to daycare safety – we invite your participation and interest using the signup link.

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Helping West Virginia Screen One Call Excavation Tickets at Cleanup Sites

In both a progressive and unique move, the West Virginia DEP joined the state’s call-before-you dig, or “One Call” center to help screen for improper excavations at about 100 of the state’s environmental covenant sites.   The process requires a daily review of excavation tickets at or near these site which, in turn, allows DEP to alert excavators prior to contact with the area controlled by the covenant: engineered controls are protected, excavators avoid impact with hazardous substances, and residuals are not improperly disposed.

While powerful, the process can be time consuming – requiring a manual process of geocoding and comparing to environmental site locations. Furthermore, as usage of covenants increase within West Virginia, the review burden on DEP will also increase. Recently, as part of an informal collaboration, Terradex brought its One Call screening tool to help West Virginia DEP streamline the process.   Once every hour, the Terradex process reads each ticket, generates a dynamic Google Earth map that, in turn, feeds into West Virginia’s existing map of environmental sites, allowing for a quick identification of excavation conflicts.  Because excavation tickets come in with varied location precision, the Terradex process also records the “geocoding precision,” allowing for a quick gauge of location accuracy (they’re usually pretty good). The Google Map below shows a sample excavation ticket (the shovel placemark) near a site with multiple environmental covenants on parcels.  The sample shows how the excavation can be  readily viewed against the hazard (the exclamation point) described in the environmental covenant. Clicking on the shovel shows the excavation details, and clicking on the covenant accesses the covenant.

Center of map

Learn More: West Virginia Excavation Clearance Review Guide

EPA Cleanup Proposal Relies on Institutional Control Monitoring

A recent EPA cleanup proposal directly recognizes what many have come to accept as a given – cleanups need institutional controls (ICs), monitoring of ICs is a critical component of cleanup remedies, and private sector landwatch services make monitoring effective.

Del Amo Superfund Site

Proposed Remedy Relies on IC Monitoring

Recognizing the key role of IC monitoring, EPA’s June 2010 “proposed plan” for a Southern California Superfund site sets forth a preferred cleanup alternative for soil contamination at a 280-acre commercial/industrial tract.  The soil cleanup, engineering control, and IC strategy relies on long term monitoring of institutional controls, stating  “institutional controls, caps, and building engineering controls would be monitored in perpetuity to ensure effectiveness.”

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Learning Lessons from a Personal Encounter with a Failing Groundwater Recovery System

Groundwater overflowing from a recovery well at a main entrance to the University Club.

Children playing patty-cake in the discharge of the discharge of a remediation recovery well: this article reveals first-hand challenges to landowners and responsible parties when a remedial piping fails.  As the task group chair for ASTM’s Continuing Obligations Guide, Terradex’s Bob Wenzlau shares his personal encounter with a failed remedial system, the difficult to report the failure, and the lessons learned as all involved parties made improvement to both the physical system as well as communication protocols. The incident provides lessons learned toward the upcoming guidance for landowner continuing obligations.

While the release later proved to have dissolved volatile organics below drinking water standards, it generated several lessons for maintenance and communication at long-term cleanup sites, especially those with off-site migration.

What were these lessons learned?  Off-site landowners are not sophisticated toward duties associated with recovery wells, emergency contact information should be up to date, permanent labeling on well heads is essential, the fire department should be informed of recovery systems, and the integrity of mechanical systems degrade across the years.   This a a brief summary of the story, and how these lessons were learned, and how they can be applied to upcoming guidance by ASTM for continuing obligations at  contaminated properties.

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Terradex Wins Patent “Method and Apparatus For Monitoring and Responding to Land Use Activities”

View Patent
Seven years ago, we created a new methodology for increasing the effectiveness of institutional controls, and as of June 29, 2010 this innovation is protected by a patent.

So what led to the patent?  Failed approaches led to a new idea.  We knew a duty existed to monitor safe use of contaminated sites, but whose duty is it? First, we tried providing institutional control (IC) tools to the city for their implementation. We were inspired by the approach taken by the City of Emeryville, and thought to leverage that method to other cities.  The Emeryville  web database describes institutional controls that could be viewed by planners.  However, after numerous visits to other local governments, we learned the hard way that most cities had other higher priorities. Except for cities dominated by brownfields, cities could not afford the time to track ICs. Ultimately, a venture capitalist challenged Terradex to take control of the process of making ICs effective. Any business must control its value proposition.  This challenge sparked the innovation of Terradex’s LandWatch. Read More »