After all assessment and remediation (if necessary) is complete at a site, periodic monitoring of groundwater (and soil gas and indoor air in some cases) will be conducted for a minimum of one year to confirm that contaminant levels are stable or decreasing. Site closure is a process including the preparation of a Risk Management Plan to detail the conditions for closure and land-use controls that will be used to manage risk at the site, a public comment period and the filing of notices.
After all assessment and remediation (if necessary) is complete at a site, periodic monitoring of groundwater (and soil gas and indoor air in some cases) will be conducted for a minimum of one year to confirm that contaminant levels are stable or decreasing. If contaminant levels are not stable, multiple years of monitoring may take place before the site is ready to begin the closure process.
When monitoring shows contaminant levels are stable or decreasing, a risk assessment will be completed. The risk assessment uses all data collected at the site to evaluate current or future potential risks to human health or the environment posed by leaving the remaining contamination in place. Typically, it will take two to six months to complete the risk assessment depending on the complexity of the site. In some cases, it is necessary to collect additional data to complete the risk assessment that may delay the evaluation.
Some situations that may prevent site closure until conditions change include:
- Contaminant concentrations exceed North Carolina surface water standards (in creeks, streams, lakes, etc.) which cannot be remediated.
- Contaminant concentrations exceed risk-based standards on properties other than the dry-cleaning site and land-use restrictions cannot be put in place to manage risks.
- Contaminant concentrations are not stable and must be monitored further.
- Property owners of the dry-cleaning site are not the petitioner in the DSCA program and do not agree to land-use restrictions needed to manage risk.
If the results of the risk assessment show that the site poses no unacceptable risks, then the closure process begins with the preparation of several documents.
Examples of the key documents that are required for closure are provided below.
Risk Management Plan (RMP)
The RMP is a summary of all assessment and remediation (if necessary) activities conducted at the site and the results of the risk assessment evaluation. The RMP details the conditions for closure and the land-use controls that will be used to manage risk at the site. Example documents that will used to notify the public and interested parties are included in the RMP.
Notice of Dry-Cleaning Solvent Remediation (NDCSR)
The NDCSR is a legal document that will be filed with the county Register of Deeds. The NDCSR contains the legal description of the property, describes the contamination on the property, specifies the land-use restrictions that apply to the property and the responsibilities of the property owner. For properties with groundwater contamination only, a NDCSR is filed to notify property owners of an existing state law that prohibits the installation of wells in contaminated groundwater.
Survey Plat Map
A surveyed map of any affected property will be filed with the county Register of Deeds along with the applicable NDCSR.
Amended Assessment and Remediation Agreement (AARA)
When the petitioner entered the DSCA program, they signed an Assessment and Remediation Agreement (ARA). The AARA is an amendment which will be sent to the petitioner for signature that outlines the responsibilities of closure.
The RMP generally takes 3-6 months to prepare, review, edit and review depending on the complexity of the site and workload. When the RMP is approved by the DSCA program, the NDCSR and survey plat of the dry-cleaner property will be sent to the property owner (who may also be the petitioner) for signature and the AARA will be sent to the petitioner (who may also be the property owner) for signature. When these signed documents are returned to the DSCA program, a 30-day public comment period will be announced in a local paper near the dry-cleaning site and all interested parties will be notified.
If the groundwater contamination has extended onto any adjacent properties, a notice will be placed on the deed of those properties to notify property owners that there is an existing state law that prohibits the installation and use of contaminated groundwater. These property owners are notified and given a 60-day period to appeal the decision to place this notice on their deed. When the 60-day appeal period is over, if there are no appeals or the appeals have been resolved, the documents (AARA, NDCSR and survey plat) that were previously signed by the petitioner and/or property owner will be signed by DEQ. The NDCSRs and survey plats will be filed with the Register of Deeds in the county where the properties are located. Once these documents are recorded, a No Further Action letter is prepared for the site, completing the closure process.
Since the DSCA program is risk-based, contamination that has been determined to not pose any unacceptable risk to human health or the environment will be left in place when the site is closed. To ensure that this contamination will not pose a risk under current property use or any potential future property use, land-use restrictions (LURs) are used to manage potential risk. At a minimum, the property where the dry-cleaner is located or was located in the past, will have LURs. The necessary LURs are discussed in the Risk Management Plan (RMP) and are spelled out in the Notice of Dry-Cleaning Solvent Remediation (NDCSR) that is filed with the county Register of Deeds. The property owner at the time of closure (whether they are the petitioner or not) must agree to the LURs and sign the NDCSR and survey plat that specifies the LURs to be filed. The LURs are determined for each specific site based on the contamination and site conditions and are not generally known until the risk assessment and RMP are completed. Some of the LURs that are commonly used for risk management can be found in the example NDCSR.
Annual Certification of Land-Use Restrictions
One of the conditions set out in the Notice of Dry-Cleaning Solvent Remediation (NDCSR) is the submittal of an Annual Certification of Land-Use Restrictions form by the property owner by January 31st of each year. This form verifies that the NDCSR remains recorded at the Register of Deeds’ office and that the land-use restrictions (LURs) are being complied with.
Sale of the Property
As specified in the Notice of Dry-Cleaning Solvent Remediation (NDCSR), the property owner must notify DEQ within fourteen (14) calendar days of the effective date of any sale or transfer of the property. This notification must include the name, business address and phone number of the person buying the property and the date of sale.
Construction or Redevelopment
If the site is undergoing construction or redevelopment, make sure that all land-use restrictions (LURs) are being complied with. For example, it may be necessary to notify DEQ if groundwater is exposed, if contaminated soil will be exposed or moved, if a vapor intrusion risk will be created or if a surface cover over contaminated soil will be removed. Contaminated soil that is left in place by the DSCA program after closure must be properly managed by parties conducting construction or redevelopment. If a property owner has any questions about construction or redevelopment on the property after closure, they are encouraged to contact the DSCA program for assistance.