Understanding Soil Management Plans

Cleaning up contaminated properties can take a long time and incur great expense. In most cases, complete cleanup is not feasible and is cost prohibitive. As a result, residual contamination may remain and institutional controls, such as an environmental restrictive covenant (ERC) are applied to the property. These restrictions are used to manage risks and control potentially completed exposure pathways. The increasing acceptance and use of ERCs has allowed for flexibility with closures, thus facilitating redevelopment activities.  However, these environmental restrictions must be recognized prior to redevelopment or construction activities. A common restriction is that soil disturbance cannot be performed without following a site-specific Soil Management Plan (SMP). Although SMPs are becoming a common restriction with risk based closures, there is currently no US EPA guidance on what constitutes an approved SMP. 

What Should a SMP Identify?

SMPs are necessary to control any potential exposure pathways at a Site where residual soil and/or groundwater contamination is present and allowed to remain in place.  Each SMP will be different because the SMP should be tailored to Site-specific conditions.  SMPs should, at a minimum, identify the following:

  • Define the area and extent of residual contamination left in place;
  • Outline the baseline health and safety provisions that are necessary to prevent potential exposure; and,
  • Provide plans to characterize, monitor, and manage any exposed impacts pursuant to Federal, State, and Local law.

What Should Be Included in a SMP?

SMPs need to effectively communicate the above information to the contractors and site personnel prior to the soil disturbance/development activities begin. A SMP should contain the following, to be approved by a regulator:

  • Site background information
  • Details on the remaining impacts left on-Site
  • Summary of proposed work
  • Organizational structure and management responsibilities
  • Health and safety provisions
  • Planned excavation activities
  • Dewatering activities, if shallow groundwater is present
  • Soil and groundwater screening/monitoring procedures
  • Stockpile management procedures
  • Decontamination plans for personnel and heavy equipment
  • Waste characterization, transport, and disposal protocol
  • Record keeping procedures
  • Other restrictive covenants
  • Odor control plan (if necessary)
  • Dust control and monitoring plan (if necessary)

Although SMPs will vary based on the site location and specific residual impacts, the most important objective is to prevent potential exposure to any on-Site workers, neighbors, and/or Site visitors during redevelopment activities.

When Should a SMP Be Prepared?

SMPs are commonly produced before any construction occurs as part of the redevelopment process.  As such, the SMP can be written specifically for the proposed construction activities.  It is often times difficult to write a SMP during the closure process since future redevelopment activities may be unknown at that time.

Conclusion

With the increase in risk based closures, the use of ERCs on properties are becoming commonplace.  When residual soil and groundwater contamination is left in place, an ERC will typically require a site-specific SMP before any soil disturbance can be performed. Although there is no US EPA guidance on what constitutes a SMP, it should include enough information to identify and manage the impacted areas in order to control the risks and prevent exposures.

For more information on soil management plans, sign up to attend the webinar on April 15, 2020.

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