Thanks to South Florida’s hot real estate market and impressive growth rates, a dwindling supply of properties are available for development in the area. The Atlantic Ocean limits South Florida’s development options to the east and Florida Everglades to the west. Due to these supply limitations, developers seek to redevelop contaminated landfills, golf courses, and agricultural land. Environmental due diligence is essential to the successful redevelopment of these types of properties. Depending on the property’s size and the extent of the contamination, redeveloping contaminated properties can cost upwards of a million dollars.
Typically, developers will have to deal with contaminants like ammonia at a landfill redevelopment project, arsenic at a golf course redevelopment project, or pesticides at agricultural redevelopment projects. In some cases, remediation and assessment using the standard or “default” cleanup target level (CTL) can stop a project from proceeding. However, before abandoning the project, developers should consider the potential for establishing alternative cleanup target levels (ACTLs) for the site’s contaminants.
Several technical strategies are available to developers considering redeveloping contaminated properties to reduce overall costs and expedite the construction schedule. Costs associated with managing material above a default CTL can include disposal of contaminated material, importing clean fill, and delays to permitting and construction schedules if an environmental regulator determines your assessment is incomplete.
Understanding Default Cleanup Target Levels
Environmental regulators use a range of tools to develop default CTLs. Default CTLs can be based on complex equations that consider toxicity and exposure assumptions such as ingestion rates, body weight, age, and exposure levels. Soil properties are also considered. In some cases, human health may not even be the determining factor in calculating a default CTL. Rather, a particular contaminant’s environmental impact on the local ecosystem may be what determines its default CTL.
While default CTLs are useful tools to formulate remediation strategies on a broad range of sites, default CTL values will be overly conservative for other sites. More explicitly, some sites’ present and future use and exposure characteristics are so different from the assumptions used to calculate the default CTLs – that the default CTL does not accurately correspond to the risk associated with the proposed sites’ use. In such cases, explore the development of an alternative cleanup target level (ACTL).
Establishing Alternative Cleanup Target Levels
With the right approach, a site ACTL could provide significant cost savings while maintaining regulatory compliance. But buyers beware; choose your environmental consultant carefully. The consultant should understand the site-specific factors that affect the calculation of the ACTLs. Often, a knowledgeable consultant has a good idea of the outcome even before investing the client’s time and money pursuing the alternative.
Cost and Schedule Benefits
To illustrate cost and development time-savings, consider a simple example of arsenic-contaminated soil at a residential development. Suppose there are no other reuse options available for the contaminated material, and the material must be disposed of at a landfill. Given 100,000 cubic yards (cy) of contaminated material at a disposal cost of $60 per cy, we estimate 6 million dollars in disposal costs, not including importing clean fill. However, if the site is an age-restricted residential community, certain exposure assumptions could be modified to calculate a much higher ACTL for arsenic. The soil would no longer be regulated as contaminated, and costs associated with disposal, imported material, and soil tracking are eliminated. Soil that was considered contaminated based on the default CTL is now clean based on the ACTL.
Let us look at a more complex example. Consider the case of a site contaminated with dieldrin, a common pesticide found at golf courses and agricultural properties. A leachability ACTL recalculates the default leachability of a particular soil contaminant. A leachability ACTL uses site-specific soil chemical and physical properties, such as soil organic matter content, bulk density, and annual average soil moisture content, and determines a more realistic risk profile associated with soil that could potentially leach contaminants into the groundwater. With an ACTL above the default CTL, remediation may not be necessary, or the site may not require a deed restriction, or ongoing costs associated with monitoring of the groundwater or operation of a remediation system could be eliminated, making the completed project more attractive to potential buyers.
Developing ACTLs is a careful, thoughtful strategy that an experienced environmental consultant can propose based on the site’s unique conditions. The developer’s financial objectives and schedule and the property end-use must be carefully considered to develop a thorough redevelopment approach. The use of an ASCTL could mean the difference between a project that is financially infeasible and one that is attractive and profitable.
About the Author: Troy Schick, PE, specializes in stormwater and groundwater management and voluntary remediation of properties, including brownfields and former landfills. Troy uses his experience at SCS Engineers and education as an Environmental Engineer and Environmental Manager with field inspection, sample collection, documentation, and project management to benefit Florida communities. Troy is available for consultation at tschick@scsengineers.
Solar Ready CCR Site Closures Help Energy Companies Move Toward a Sustainable Future
Electricity is the one big energy source that can be free of carbon emissions. You can make it from the sun. You can make it from the wind. Tap the heat of the Earth, hydropower. While all utilities are moving in a sustainable, environmentally friendly direction, Aliant Energy stands out for making progress and keeping rates reasonable for consumers.
At the recent USWAG Workshop on Decommissioning, Repurposing & Expansion of Utility Assets held October 2019, Eric Nelson presented on the opportunities for solar generation at closed CCR sites and provided an overview of civil and geotechnical considerations when redeveloping closed sites as solar generating assets. His presentation demonstrated these considerations through the use of a case study.
SCS Engineers has assisted Alliant Energy with the design and/or construction of multiple coal combustion residual (CCR) surface impoundment closures. Two of the completed closures are the former Rock River Generating Station in Beloit, Wisconsin, and the M.L. Kapp Generating Station in Clinton, Iowa.
Both sites were closed by incorporating Alliant Energy’s vision to create “solar ready” sites. The Rock River site is now home to just over 2 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) generating capacity, which was developed on the footprint of the now-closed on-site landfill and ash ponds. Although no solar assets have been developed at the site, the M.L. Kapp ash pond closure represents another opportunity for Alliant Energy to repurpose a closed ash pond for clean power.
Two additional closure designs are in process that incorporates similar elements, making them available for future solar generating asset development.
Eric J. Nelson, PE, is a Vice President of SCS Engineers and one of our National Experts for Electric Utilities. He is an experienced engineer and hydrogeologist.
Even the simplest impoundment closures come with design challenges. It is a challenge to navigate project constraints, whether technical, regulatory, or financial, to design and implement an effective closure strategy. Cost often helps to determine the “balance” between project constraints when the future end use of a closed CCR surface impoundment or the property it occupies is undefined. When a post-closure end use is defined, finding balance among project constraints to best serve that future use provides rewarding challenges.
SCS Engineers has navigated this balancing act on impoundment closure projects during generating facility decommissioning. Through a presentation of case studies, you can learn how this team has approached ash pond closure planning and execution where the future use of the impoundment site ranged from undefined to the home of a new solar photovoltaic installation. Examples also include potential future industrial use or property sale.
Case studies will highlight how geotechnical, hydrological, regulatory, or simple physical constraints have influenced the design and implementation of CCR surface impoundment closures.
EUEC 2019 in San Diego, February 25-27, 2019. Conference details here.
Creosote is a toxic chemical that has been commonly used as a wood preservative for over 50 years. It acts as a pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide and has been used widely in both land and marine applications.
Studies have indicated that pilings and other artificial structures provide possible environmental benefits, such as habitat for invertebrates, roosts for birds, and a spawning location for certain fish species (e.g., herring). However, far more studies have indicated potential harm from treated structures. It is documented that pilings will leach the most during the first two years after installation after which leaching declines significantly.
The Norfolk Riverfront area has been developed since at least 1887, and the use of treated pilings can be presumed. The majorities of the pilings are presumed to
have been installed over two years ago and are therefore beyond the 2-year timeframe for significant leaching. Pilings that are shown to be in good condition and with a viable use as part of the development effort can remain in place with little effect on the surrounding environment.
This paper discusses the City of Norfolk’s waterfront brownfield redevelopment and the importance of understanding and developing an approach for the managed disposal of creosote pilings. The guidance is based on strategies approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other noted expert sources such as waterfront municipalities, published white papers, and peer-reviewed publications.
Other environmental groups are hard at work in the region. Lynnhaven River NOW, is one organization working with residents, businesses, and community leaders who are restoring and protecting Virginia Beach waterways.
Learn more here: http://www.lynnhavenrivernow.org/
Historic fill is common on properties that were once rural and have become prime redevelopment sites as communities expanded. The fill may include contaminated materials like foundry sand, ash, demo and construction debris, and even municipal waste. In the past, these materials were used to fill wetlands or change the grade of the property before initial development. Today regulations have evolved, and state agencies require property owners to manage these materials appropriately during redevelopment. Also, particular types of historic fill are often not robust enough to structurally support your new building.
There are many different kinds of fill materials – each with different physical properties and different potential contaminants. Knowing what is on your property before you start designing the site layout, and certainly, before you start digging, will help you plan your project to save time and money, and to receive state agency approval.
Before You Buy
The more you know about the property and the earlier you know it, the better prepared you will be to make decisions about how best to protect yourself from potential environmental liabilities and prepare for the environmental and geotechnical issues that historic fill can cause. Since every property is unique, the first thing you need to do is gain a thorough understanding of the property’s history and past use. Invest in a comprehensive Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA). Consider it a starting point for clues about the possible types and amounts of historic fill which may be present on the property.
If the results of the Phase 1 ESA warrant it, conduct a Phase 2 ESA and geotechnical study to collect soil, fill, groundwater, and soil vapor samples. The Phase 2 ESA and geotechnical studies will help you understand if fill and contaminants are present and the best options for addressing them during the development planning stage.
Historic fill on a property is no longer the impediment to development that it once was. Take these steps to get ahead of potentially contaminated historic fill, and keep your project on time and budget.
By testing early, performing a proper geotechnical evaluation, and incorporating design adaptations where needed, you can successfully develop projects with historic fill within your schedule and without breaking your budget.
SCS professionals are available to answer questions or concerns you may have pertaining to commercial, residential, or private development on brownfields – we provide remediation, brownfields, and Environmental Due Diligence services nationwide. Contact or one of our experts.
About the author: Ray Tierney
Ray Tierney, PG, is a Vice President of SCS Engineers and one of our National Experts on Sustainability. He has 30 years of experience in environmental and sustainability engineering and has helped a wide range of organizations control and reduce their legacy environmental impacts and liabilities, lower their costs, obtain grants and permits to expand, and implement cost-saving practices. Ray serves the Midwest region and projects throughout the U.S.
JohnTabella, PG, LEED AP®, is SCS Engineers National Expert for Environmental Due Diligence and for Federal Services. In this capacity, he oversees all aspects of environmental services opportunities and projects primarily throughout the eastern seaboard and supports on opportunities and projects throughout the U.S.
Floyd Cotter specializes in solid waste management projects. His project work involves all areas of solid waste management including planning, permitting, transportation, landfill design, construction, and monitoring. Floyd is also experienced in general civil engineering, construction oversight, environmental site assessments, closure and post-closure plans, and permit and contract document preparation. Floyd is located in the Central region.
Randy Bauer has nearly 3 decades of experience conducting environmental site assessments, subsurface investigations, groundwater monitoring programs, soil and groundwater remediation, and geotechnical investigations at industrial hazardous waste and solid waste facilities. Randy is available to answer questions on the western seaboard.
SCS’s environmental services supporting COMM22, a mixed-use, mixed-income redevelopment project in San Diego will be recognized at Environmental Industry Summit XV
When the Environmental Business Journal (EBJ) presents its 19th annual Business Achievement awards this March, SCS Engineers will receive an award of Project Merit: Redevelopment, for its investigation and design program for COMM22, a multi-family residential development by BRIDGE Housing.
COMM22 is a mixed-use, mixed-income, transit-oriented development built on a former bus maintenance facility. SCS addressed several issues including underground storage tanks and the testing of fill soils. The firm’s pre-construction characterization and three-dimensional data analysis resulted in time and budget savings.
“Our remediation effort on this property ensured that human health and the environment were protected as cost-effectively as possible,” said Dan Johnson, vice president of SCS. “Affordable housing is important to San Diego communities and we applaud the work of BRIDGE Housing and the collaboration it takes to create urban projects like this.”
BRIDGE Housing Corporation, a leading nonprofit developer of affordable housing, creates and manages a range of high-quality, affordable homes for working families and seniors. Since it was founded in 1983, BRIDGE has participated in the development of over 16,000 homes in California and the Pacific Northwest.
More award-winning redevelopment projects of interest:
Sensitive natural resources include but are not limited to the following: Threatened and Endangered (T&E) species and their habitats, wildlife refuges, wetlands, and tribal burial grounds. These are areas where federal or states have identified protected resources. SCS Engineers has the expertise and credentials to perform surveys for clients with projects requiring the identification of these sensitive resources, along with the regulatory permitting with specialization in threatened and endangered species, wetlands, and critical habitats.
Development and construction often occur near or within areas identified as sensitive natural resources. Responsible developers identify sensitive resources near or within their proposed project area as part of their development plans because protecting our nation’s natural resources is important. The protection of sensitive natural resources is the basis of the Federal Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and National Historical Preservation Act. Projects under consideration in sensitive areas require special permits; without which projects can be shut down causing costly contractor delays and schedule disruptions. Post-permitting and the associated fines can be severe, so even if you are not a conservationist, it makes good sense to complete the permitting process before breaking ground.
When considering a project in potentially sensitive ecological areas, SCS Engineers recommends a constraint analysis be performed. The analysis will determine if the proposed project location is within wetlands, critical habitat, threatened and endangered species range, and other potential constraints. If it is, SCS recommends that a site assessment is performed and initiate agency consultation to protect the sensitive resources.
Both the permitting process and the preliminary ecological assessments are not difficult but do require credentialed specialists. SCS has geologists, hydrologist, hydro-geologists, and environmental compliance professionals nationwide. SCS Engineers even has credentialed biologists for specialized threatened and endangered species monitoring and assessments for several species that include but not limited to the American Bury Beetle, Arkansas Shiner, Arkansas Darter, Topeka Shiner, Neosho Mucket Mussel, Rabbitfoot Mussel, Northern Longear Bat, and Indiana Bat in the Central U.S.
About the Author: Vaughn Weaver
Vaughn Weaver has over 20 years of environmental services experience with a strong background in water quality and bio-monitoring and is currently a senior field technician at SCS in our Wichita office. He provides project assistance to a diverse team of environmental professionals made up of geologists, hydrogeologists, engineers, chemists, and biologists. His responsibilities include surveying project sites, mitigation monitoring, well sampling and monitoring, and report writing for clients.
In addition, he has 15 years of water quality experience with National Pollution Discharge and Emissions Systems (NPDES) for point source and non-point source permits. Vaughn is also a Certified Wetland Delineator – USACOE.
East Alton Defense Area Rehabilitation Project Receives Illinois Governor’s Affordable Housing Champion Award. SCS Engineers provides environmental services that help move redevelopment project forward. – Congratulations RISE!
Mark Stroker, Director of Real Estate Development, RISE St. Louis, informed the SCS Engineers team about the honor, saying he felt “a great deal of pride and appreciation that Emerald Ridge was selected by IHDA [Illinois Housing Development Authority] as the Champion’s Award winner for excellence in affordable housing development for 2016.”
Mr. Stroker went on to tell the SCS team that, “It is an extraordinary honor and represents a long and collaborative effort… This was a tough project and wouldn’t have been possible without all of your help.” He attended the Illinois Governor’s Conference in late March 2016, where he accepted the award and discussed the project with conference attendees.
In his notification to Mr. Stroker about the award, Benjamin Fenton, IHDA’s Housing Coordination Services Manager, explained that three nominees are chosen for this award every year for distinguished developments, initiatives, or programs in affordable housing. The nominees stand out for their commitment to serving the Annual Comprehensive Housing Plan focus areas and one or more of the State’s Priority Populations, and for having positive impacts on the community in which they are located.
Before it was redeveloped, The Emerald Ridge Development was known as the “Defense Area,” and it consisted of 18 one- and two-story multi-family buildings containing approximately 80 apartments. The Defense Area was built by the Federal government as temporary housing in the early 1940’s to accommodate workers at the nearby Olin ammunition plant during the war effort. After the war, these barracks-style buildings were not dismantled as originally planned but were sold off to private owners. Over the years, they were re-sold multiple times, and the condition of most of the buildings became more and more deteriorated, in addition to being constructed with asbestos-containing materials and lead-based paints.
Residents were temporarily relocated, and the old buildings were demolished and replaced with 46 newly constructed, high-efficiency single-family homes. The residents who lived in the area when the redevelopment project commenced were given the opportunity to rent homes in the new development, and some accepted. The rechristened Emerald Ridge Development is located in the Village of East Alton, Illinois, and the new single-family homes are affordable to families earning 60% of the Area Median Income, which includes nearly two-thirds of the residents of East Alton.
Services that SCS Engineers provided at the site included lead and asbestos abatement sampling and specifications, asbestos abatement management, subsurface investigation for a Phase II ESA, NESHAP demolition inspections, and two Phase I ESAs to assess the property for potential environmental impairments, to satisfy IHDA requirements, and to satisfy the CERCLA requirements to qualify for landowner liability protection.
Stephanie Hill, SCS Project Director, said: “I am honored to be part of the RISE team that brought so much value to the community.” Ms. Hill offered special thanks to Randy Homburg, SCS Geologist and Project Manager, for his work on this redevelopment project, and to the other SCS team members who performed the environmental site assessments.