Governor Perdue recently signed into law the Georgia Voluntary Remediation Program Act (VRP Act), which will go into effect on June 1, 2009.

The Act establishes a Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP) designed to encourage the voluntary and timely investigation and remediation of properties impacted by the release of hazardous substances. The VRP Act also serves to make the investigation and clean-up criteria applicable to Georgia’s Hazardous Site Response Act (HSRA) and Hazardous Site Reuse and Redevelopment Act (commonly referred to as the Brownfields Act) more flexible and cost-effective, while continuing to provide for protection of human health and the environment.

The following are key elements of the VRP Act:

Easy entry into the VRP with a $5000 application fee and streamlined corrective action plan (with fee waiver available for small businesses and government entities).

  • VRP provisions take precedence over conflicting provisions and regulations under HSRA and the Brownfields Act, but do not eliminate the liability protection benefits of the Brownfields Act.
  • Effectively overrides Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s (EPD) prior predisposition against institutional controls (e.g., groundwater use restrictions) and engineering controls (e.g., impervious surfaces) as means of protecting human health and the environment under HSRA and the Brownfields Act.
  • Allows for a genuine risk assessment approach to establish appropriate clean-up standards on a site-specific basis.
  • Establishes criteria for more reasonable, cost-effective delineation of contaminants in soil and groundwater than was previously the case.
  • Avoids need to certify to HSRA groundwater standards where a site is listed on Hazardous Site Inventory solely due to soil impacts and vice versa.
  • Compliance with clean-up standards will be determined by average concentrations rather than the prior requirement that each sample meet clean-up standards.
  • The VRP may be used for sites already on the Hazardous Site Inventory or already in the Brownfields Act program.
  • Does not eliminate the need to provide notice to EPD under HSRA and does not eliminate the benefits available to prospective purchasers under the Brownfields Act.

Summary

The VRP Act marks a major milestone in the development of Georgia contaminated site law. It allows for greater flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and common sense in addressing those sites than has previously been available under HSRA or the Brownfields Act.