Saturday, May 5, 2018

Lessons learned as NJ cuts backlog of enviro cleanup cases

Nine years into a program to cut down on New Jersey’s overload of chemically contaminated sites, the results have been impressive

John Oberer
John Oberer is a Licensed Site Remediation Professional, vice president with GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc., and a former president of the NJ Licensed Site Remediation Professionals Association.
May 7 will mark the ninth anniversary of New Jersey’s adoption of a Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) program aimed at reducing a giant backlog of environmental remediation cases in the state while ensuring protection of human health and the environment. At the birth of the LSRP program almost nine years ago, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) had a backlog of more than 20,000 cases with more new cases pouring in every day.
This Op-Ed was published in NJ Spotlight on May 4, 2018
Drawing on aspects of a similar program in Massachusetts, in May 2009, the Legislature enacted, and then-Gov. Jon Corzine signed into law, the Site Remediation Reform Act. Its core mission was to empower a group of state-certified and -licensed remediation professionals to take remedial actions through to conclusion, without having to ask the NJDEP for sign-offs every step of the way.
The results have been enormous. In the coming weeks, the state’s LSRPs will issue their 12,000th Response Action Outcome certification, or RAO. After decades of inaction, delay, and indecision on remediating sites contaminated with hazardous and toxic chemicals, New Jersey is seeing comprehensive progress, thanks to a strong cadre of LSRPs who bring deep qualifications to the work —and are held to the highest standards of responsibility and ethical conduct.

Lessons learned

We’ve learned a lot in New Jersey about the positive impact that can be achieved when government gives the private sector the tools and accountability to take charge of remediating contaminated sites. I’d cite four particularly important lessons:

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