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According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a "brownfield site" is a real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. After EPA established its Brownfields Program in the mid-1990s to promote the redevelopment of sites that were orphaned or abandoned due to actual or perceived environmental contamination, many states adopted voluntary cleanup programs (VCP) to oversee the assessment and remediation of brownfields and to encourage redevelopment of these sites by developers that had no involvement in the former site operations that may have resulted in contamination. A chief incentive for enrolling a site into a voluntary program is the issuance of a certificate of completion, something akin to a closure letter indicating no further action is required by the state, and something most lenders require before agreeing to loan money for redevelopment of contaminated sites.
Underground storage tanks (USTs) are used at numerous commercial and residential properties to store fuels and oils for refueling and maintaining vehicles and equipment, providing emergency back-up power, and for on-site heating systems. USTs may be used to store hazardous chemicals or other products, but petroleum storage tanks are by far the most common and are the focus of this article. Due to the nature of the stored substances, the volumes of liquid typically requiring storage, as well as the limited available space on most properties, it often becomes necessary to install storage tanks below grade. A UST is defined by Federal regulations as a tank that stores a regulated substance which has 10% or more of the system's volume—including the tank and associated piping—below the ground surface. Typical USTs vary in size from 550 gallons up to 50,000 gallons in capacity and can be found almost anywhere and everywhere including gas stations, automobile dealerships, commercial office buildings, industrial plants, colleges/universities, hospitals, and residences, just to name a few examples. Standard USTs are horizontal cylinders constructed of fiberglass, steel, and/or a composite material (e.g. fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP), carbon fiber wrapped around a steel liner). USTs are often considered a necessary evil based on the environmental liabilities associated with their presence on a property.
On a recent project involving excavating a trench, Apex personnel suspected that the utility mark-out done by the state had mismarked a few lines. Acting on their hunch, Apex's crew hand dug around where the mark out was, as well as where they thought the line should be. The utility line was in the spot that was unmarked and a utility interruption was successfully avoided.
While providing remediation project oversight for an excavation and stream-channel restoration project at a former manufactured gas plant (MGP) site, Apex had to deal with a utility vault approximately 4 feet deep and accessed by removing a cover for an approximately 3 foot by 3 foot opening.
As a contractor, establishing a solid reputation with regulatory communities is very important to ensure a long and profitable relationship. Apex was enlisted as the contractor of record for two former underground storage tank release sites under the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC). Each site had been in various stages of investigation or remediation for a period of approximately 15 years. Previous contractors had been unable to remediate the sites to applicable OCC standards.
In a recent blog post my colleague Michael Wolf penned an article about the upcoming changes to the ASTM E1527 Standard, Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process. With that being reported, we wanted to take the opportunity to expand on the presence of the ASTM standards and discuss some of the complimentary standards that exist within the ASTM library. As a voting member on the D18 Soil and Rock Committee and the E50 Environmental Assessment, Risk Management and Corrective Action Committee, I have the fortunate and unique perspective of how the ASTM standards are formulated. Each standard is meticulously prepared by committee under the direction of a committee chairperson and then peer reviewed by voting members of that committee. As such, the standards are developed with a vast amount of experience and expertise in the chosen area. With that kind of expertise behind each standard, the standards can be used as an industry guideline for projects that may not be under any type of regulatory scrutiny.