Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluroalkyl substances (PFAS) and other emerging contaminants are becoming increasingly important for real estate transactions. Several states have adopted or proposed health guidelines or Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for PFAS in their state. States with adopted limits include CA, CT, CO, MN, NC, NH, NJ, and VT; and states with proposed limits include IL, MA, MI, and NY. You can track bills by state here.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are focusing their attention on these contaminants. The WDNR recently issued letters to more than 3,000 responsible parties listed with open cases on the DNR’s Bureau for Remediation and Redevelopment Tracking System (BRRTS) requesting they review PFAS use at open sites. Read a sample of the DNR letter.
With WDNR’s increasing focus on PFAS, a lack of sufficient due diligence, which includes evaluations for PFAS, could lead to significant additional liability for property purchasers, developers, and lenders. In addition, a lack of sufficient assessment could lead to a delay in case closure even after responsible parties have addressed all other contaminants and potential exposure pathways at a site. A sufficient assessment for PFAS will depend on site-specific factors and should carefully consider the associated risks and liabilities.
For real estate buyers, owners, developers, lenders, brokers, and contractors the potential presence of PFAS at a property presents significant liabilities that need to be incorporated into due diligence procedures and safe work plans. The investigation and remediation of sites with PFAS contamination can be expensive, and the WDNR is working to define enforceable cleanup goals for soil and groundwater.
PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their inability to be broken down in the environment. Due to the very high toxicity of PFAS, the proposed groundwater standard is extremely low – in the parts per trillion, which is more than 100 times lower than the groundwater standards for other well-known toxic contaminants such as benzene from gasoline or tetrachloroethylene commonly used at dry cleaners and industrial facilities.
PFAS are found in a wide variety of products, including nonstick coatings (e.g., Teflon), water-repellent coatings used on clothing and food packaging, fume suppressants, and firefighting foams. Potential sources of PFAS include many types of manufacturing and processing facilities, locations where firefighting foams have been used, metal plating facilities, wastewater treatment plants, and many more.
PFAS systems can treat and clean sources and remediation solutions by environmental engineers can bring properties back to life; safe to build and live on.
Did you know Wisconsin has more than 80,000 properties with a history of contamination or remediation? What if you could transform even the most challenged property into a center of economic prosperity? You can with three well-established reimbursement programs.
The Petroleum Environmental Cleanup Fund Award (PECFA) program is administered by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and is funded by a petroleum inspection fee. PECFA has provided funding for investigation and cleanup of petroleum contamination from petroleum product storage systems at tens of thousands of properties in Wisconsin since it started in the 1980s.
The WDNR estimates there are more than 100 eligible, enrolled sites that have stalled and are at risk of not being reimbursed for eligible costs. If you have an open PECFA project, and especially if you have a stalled PECFA project, act now or you may lose your funding. The program is closed to new applicants and will sunset on June 30, 2020. No claims will be accepted after this date.
The Agricultural Chemical Cleanup Program (ACCP) provides financial assistance for agricultural chemical investigations and cleanups to property owners and people who have caused or own/control spilled agricultural chemical(s). Companies that apply for ACCP funds include ag-chem cooperatives, ag-chem transport companies, farm enterprises, and other ag-chem suppliers and users. Cleanup costs can be reimbursed at 75% of eligible costs between the deductible and the $400,000 discharge site maximum with a proposed increase to $600,000 per site maximum in the Governor’s 2017 budget. To qualify, you typically need a site investigation and remediation by a professional engineer and hydrogeologist.
The Dry Cleaner Environmental Response Fund (DERF) provides financial protection for Wisconsin dry cleaner owners if contamination occurred from their operations. The program began in 1997 and is funded by fees on dry-cleaning receipts and the solvents used in the dry-cleaning process. The maximum award is $500,000 per facility. DERF is closed to new applicants; however, eligible owners can still receive reimbursements for site investigation and remediation activities. The estimated reimbursement time is two to three years from claim submittal.
Thousands of Wisconsin property owners have used PECFA, ACCP, and DERF to address contamination on their properties. Contact SCS Engineers to learn how you can use these programs to ease your redevelopment costs.