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Letter of the Law

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by James H. Arneson

How clean is clean? This is a question that industry and environmental agencies ask when considering the process of environmental cleanup or remediation of a contaminated site.

Missouri is in the process of developing a new program designed to address this question. The program is called Cleanup Action Levels for Missouri. CALM is intended to encourage remediation at voluntary cleanup sites.

It was designed to make the cleanup of these sites less time-consuming and encourage bringing these idle pieces of property back into productive use.

CALM is a risk-based cleanup level program. In January 1996, the Department of Natural Resources met with an industry joint task force to develop the program. A draft CALM Guidance Document was issued by the DNR in March 1997.

The draft was then submitted to industry for comment. The comment period ends in April 1998.

In the event there are not significant changes to the CALM Guidance Document, it could be effective as early as June 1998.

The process of cleanup under CALM involves site assessment, site classification and a determination of the appropriate tier that the cleanup action will fall within.

There are three tiers of cleanup levels established under the CALM Guidance Document.

Once the appropriate tier is determined, a remedial action plan is designed to comply with the requirements for that tier.

Tier 1 requires the least agency involvement, and Tier 3 requires the most agency involvement.

Selection of which level under which to proceed involves an assessment of the type and concentration of contamination present and the characteristics of the site. After the cleanup is complete, it is submitted to the DNR for final approval.

After approval, the DNR will issue a No-Further-Action letter.

The DNR looks at this program as a common-sense approach to remediation.

Industry sees some problems with CALM. Guidelines recommended by the Department of Health have been used to assess human health exposure. This has resulted in cleanup levels that are considered by industry as unrealistically low.

The purpose of CALM is to simplify remediation and take a common-sense approach to cleanup guidelines. Remedial action plans are to be considered on the basis of risk exposure rather than only on the level of contamination present at the site.

By considering routes of exposure, methods of transportation and potential receptors, remedial action plans could be developed which rate the route of exposure and potentially eliminate the risk involved.

Whether this program will address current problems in remediation of sites remains to be seen.

A lot will depend upon how the DNR revises the draft cleanup action levels for Missouri in response to the comments it receives from industry and other interested entities.

(James H. Arneson is a practicing attorney with the Springfield law firm of Miller & Sanford. Information and opinions expressed in the "Letter of the Law" column should not be construed as legal advice. For counseling on specific legal situations, please consult an attorney.)

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