Current Status of Voluntary Cleanup Program

August 4, 2016

The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) serves hundreds of applicants working toward a No Further Action (NFA) determination for contaminated sites.  Ecology budget cuts and staff attrition have left over 200 sites enrolled in the VCP without a Project Manager, and minimal staff at Ecology Regional Offices to address the increasing number of sites entering the VCP.

Ecology hosted a meeting on July 27, 2016 to present the current status of the VCP, and to introduce interim measures that will be taken until a budget request is approved for the 2017-2019 biennium allocating the staffing needed to provide VCP applicants with an opinion in the customary 90-day period.  Until then, a 6- to 12-month waiting period is anticipated for assignment of an Ecology Project Manager and provision of an opinion, under best-case conditions.

KEY POINTS FROM THE JULY 2016 ECOLOGY MEETING

    • Applications must meet all  VCP submittal requirements and request an opinion to be considered for enrollment in the VCP.  Ecology will create an online waiting list of backlogged sites for the Northwest Regional Office by September 2016.  This office includes the Seattle metro area to the Canadian border, and has the largest backlog of VCP sites.
    • Ecology will no longer admit a "complex" site into the VCP.  Examples of a complex site include a site with:  surface water and/or sediment impacts; complex mixtures of multiple contaminants; commingled contaminant plumes and/or multiple aquifers at risk; and multiple affected parcels and potentially liable parties.  Complex sites are explained further in the  meeting slides.  These sites may need to enter into a legal agreement with Ecology for oversight (formal program).
    • Limited resources are available from Ecology for formal oversight of cleanups being performed under an Agreed Order or a Consent Decree.  Clients attempting to obtain formal oversight by Ecology should be prepared for similar delays or non-acceptance of their site, leaving no current option for pursuing an NFA determination.
    • Ecology has created a series of  checklists for remedial action plans and reports.  Adherence to checklist requirements is necessary for admittance into the VCP.


THE BOTTOM LINE

The VCP is substantially overloaded and is operating in crisis mode, working with available resources until adequate VCP funding has been restored.  You can help by expressing your concerns about VCP staffing needs to your local legislative representative or senator or the governor’s office.

Farallon Principals continue to work with Ecology, and can answer your questions about changes in the VCP that may affect your project [Link to People page].  For frequently asked questions regarding VCP changes, see the VCP Workshop Frequently Asked Questions PDF here.


For more information, please contact Farallon's regulatory experts:

Clifford T. Schmitt
Principal Hydrogeologist and Co-Founder
(425) 295-0801
Jeffrey Kaspar
Principal Geologist and Member
(425) 295-0808