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Community RelationsProviding access to your property

 

Providing access to your property

Introduction

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (Department) has developed this webpage to provide information to property owners and tenants who have been asked for access to their property as part of an environmental investigation or sampling.  It is important to allow the progress of required environmental investigations and to ensure that you and your family are not exposed to environmental contamination. This webpage will help you understand why you are being contacted, what is being asked, and why it is important for you to cooperate in order to protect public health and the environment.

Why is access to my property needed?

Environmental contamination may impact you and your family.  For example, leaking underground storage tanks and other types of spills (discharges) to or below the ground can result in the contamination of soil and ground water. Contamination can migrate from the site where the discharge occurred and impact nearby properties, by contaminating drinking water wells or compromising indoor air quality. Contaminant levels in drinking water and indoor air can exceed those that are protective of human health. Usually, this contamination cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled, and requires sampling and chemical analysis to be measured.

The Department requires Remediating Parties to:

  1. Determine the extent of contamination (delineate contamination);
  2. Protect property owners and tenants that may be exposed to contamination (mitigate/remove exposure); and
  3. Clean up contamination (conduct remediation).

"Remediating Party" is a generic term for a person or entity that either caused a discharge to the environment, is in some way responsible for remediating a discharge, or is someone that is not responsible but is conducting remediation voluntarily.

If a Remediating Party believes that contamination has migrated onto your property, State law and State regulation requires the Remediating Party to request access to your property to conduct an environmental investigation and determine whether the contamination is affecting the people that live or work there. The kind of environmental investigation depends on environmental conditions specific to the site being investigated.

What to expect

You may receive a letter from a Remediating Party or their Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) requesting access to your property to conduct an environmental investigation of a contaminated site. By State regulation this letter must include the following information:

  1. Why the Remediating Party is required to conduct remediation of the contaminated site;
  2. A map showing each area where access is needed;
  3. Why access is needed;
  4. A description of the remediation to be conducted, when work should begin and an estimate of the amount of time it will take to conduct the work; and
  5. A request that the property owner respond in writing within 30 days.

The letter should also include contact information for the Remediating Party and their LSRP, as well as the name, location and the Department Preferred Identification (PI) number of the site undergoing remediation.

State law requires that investigations be overseen by an LSRP. LSRPs are environmental consultants that are licensed by the State of New Jersey who oversee the remediation of contaminated sites for responsible parties in accordance with the Department’s applicable standards and regulations. They are subject to a strict code of conduct established by law and regulation, and their highest priority is to ensure that remediations are protective of public health, safety and the environment.

You can check that the contaminated site that the Remediating Party is investigating is a site that is on the Department’s Known Contaminated Sites list. The PI number is a unique identifier used by the Department for the site (like an account number).

You can also contact your local municipality or health department to verify the legitimacy of the letter, because the Department recommends that they be copied on all access request letters.

Along with this letter, you may receive a questionnaire or form asking for information about your drinking water well or structures on your property. Once you agree to allow access to your property, it is likely that you will be asked to sign an access agreement with the Remediating Party.

The Department recommends that you check the identification of anyone asking for access to your home.

The Remediating Party will collect environmental samples at no cost to you and will provide you with the results. More information about the process is provided below.

What should I expect after I grant access to my property?

  • Drinking Water

    If there is nearby ground water contamination and you use well water for drinking water, access to your property may be required to collect a drinking water sample from your well.

    Once you agree to provide access, sampling will be conducted at no cost to you.

    A description of the process is provided below:

    • The person conducting the sampling will work with you to identify the best location to collect a water sample.
    • The sampler will let the water run for several minutes to remove standing water from the system.
    • The sampler will collect the water sample and send it to a laboratory certified by the State of New Jersey for chemical analysis.
    • The sampling analysis will also be sent to the Department to validate the data to ensure that the sample was analyzed correctly.
    • The Remediating Party is required by regulation to send a summary of the results to you, the Department, and your local health department.
    • Depending on the results:
      • No additional sampling may be needed;
      • Additional sampling (monitoring ) may be needed; or
      • A water treatment system will be installed in your home, at no cost to you
      • A person will return to your home to conduct sampling to verify that the water treatment system is working properly
      • The Remediating Party may need to access your property periodically to service the system.
  • Indoor Air (Vapor Intrusion)

    If there is nearby ground water contamination, access to your property may be required to conduct sampling to test for vapor intrusion. Vapor intrusion occurs when fumes from organic contaminants in ground water migrate through the soil, collect beneath the concrete slab of a building and potentially enter the building, affecting the quality of indoor air.

    Once you agree to provide access, sampling will be conducted at your home at no cost to you.

    A description of the process is provided below:

    • The person conducting the sampling will work with you to identify the best location to collect a soil gas sample from under your home, ensuring your flooring and underground utilities are not disturbed.
    • To collect a sub-slab soil gas sample, a small hole (1/2 inch in diameter) will be drilled through the slab of the lowest level of your home (not including crawl spaces.)
    • The hole in the floor will be sealed after sampling is completed.
    • The sampler may also set up air sampling equipment inside (and outside) your home that will collect air over a 24 hour period. The sampler will retrieve the air monitoring equipment the next day.
    • The samples will be sent to a laboratory certified by the State of New Jersey for chemical analysis.
    • The sampling analysis will also be sent to the Department to validate the data to ensure that the sample was analyzed correctly.
    • The Remediating Party is required by regulation to send a summary of the results to you, the Department, and your local health department.
    • Depending on the analytical results:
      • No additional sampling may be required;
      • An indoor air sample, if one was not collected, may be required;
      • Additional sampling (monitoring ) may be needed; or
      • A sub-surface depressurization system (similar to a radon system) may be installed, and/or cracks in the foundation may be sealed- at no cost to you.
        • A person will return to your home to conduct sampling to verify that the treatment system is working properly.
        • The Remediating Party may need to access your property periodically to service the system.

    Learn more about Vapor Intrusion.

  • Delineation of Soil and Ground Water

    To determine how far ground water and/or soil contamination has migrated from the site (delineation), the remediating party may request access to your property to collect ground water and/or soil samples. In this case, only access to your yard may be needed. Some investigations may involve the installation of a borehole that will allow the collection of ground water or soil vapor samples. In some cases, installation of a well may be required to monitor ground water quality over time.  All of these activities would be conducted at no cost to you.

    A description of the process is provided below:

    • The person conducting the sampling will work with you to identify the best location to collect all samples.
    • The sampler will collect the samples and send them to a laboratory certified by the State of New Jersey for chemical analysis.
    • By regulation, a summary of results will be sent to the Department. If you would like a summary of the results to be sent to you, it is recommended that you have language included in the access agreement requiring that the Remediating Party send you the results.

    The Remediating Party should restore your property to the condition it was in before starting this work and any temporary holes drilled in the ground should be sealed at not cost to you.

It’s the Law!

If you do not respond to letters or phone calls from the Remediating Party asking for your permission to access your property, they may try to contact you through your municipality (local health department, or other local official). If you do not respond to these requests for access, State Law (the Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act) requires the Remediating Party to seek an order from the Superior Court to gain access to your property. Nobody wants to do this.

What are your options?  You can say no, but the Department urges you to cooperate with environmental investigations.  It is important to make sure you and your family are protected from environmental contaminants caused by discharges to the environment, and it is important that Remediating Parties be able to cleanup contamination for which they are responsible.

Publicly funded remediation

In some instances, Department staff will contact you directly when a contaminated site is being investigated using public money. Public money is used when no viable Remediating Party has been identified, or when the Remediating Party refuses to perform the necessary work. The Department will take similar steps as a Remediating Party would to determine the extent of contamination and to mitigate (protect) property owners and tenants that may be exposed to contamination.

Who can you call for more information?

You can contact the Remediating Party or LSRP for more information (their contact information should have been included in the access request letter).  You can also call your municipality or local health department for more information.