Table Of Contents
Synonyms for Illinois SRP Program
In other states the SRP might be called VAP (Voluntary Action Program) or VCP (Voluntary Cleanup Program). It’s important to know that the SRP program is Illinois specific and is voluntary.
Alternative Illinois Programs for Contaminated Properties
In Illinois, there are multiple cleanup programs, but most properties fall under two main regulatory programs; SRP and LUST (Leaking Underground Storage Tank).
Before we get too deep into this, it should be noted that the SRP and LUST program apply to very specific types of contamination, and in the case of LUST, a specific method of contamination (leaking tank). There are things your property can be contaminated with that are not regulated by IEPA (such as road salt or acid and alkali contamination). There are also use types, such as residential, where the same contaminate that would be regulated for industry is not regulated for residential (like home heating oil tanks).
Difference Between SRP and LUST Program.
The differences between the SRP program and the LUST program are;
- SRP is a voluntary program.
- There is no funding from state budgets to clean your property in SRP
- LUST requires you had a regulated tank which was underground. If your contamination doesn’t fit the profile of what’s covered by the law, you can’t enter this program.
- The LUST budgets are empty, the funds have been raided by politicians. You will most likely not be able to find a consultant to work for you if your project is in the LUST program.
How Long Will the SRP Program Take?
The speed with which an environmental consultant can get a property through the SRP program is very difficult to predict. There are several factors that affect the swiftness with which an NFR can be obtained. Many factors are out of the control of the environmental consultant.
The fastest you might be able to complete a project and receive a NFR is 6 months. In order to set your expectations, a realistic timeframe for the projects we see is a little over 1 year to get an NFR. However, (also to set your expectations), we have experience with a project in DeKalb Illinois which took 15 years to complete.
What are the factors that affect the speed of getting an NFR.
Caseworker Personality – When you enter the SRP program you are assigned a caseworker from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). The caseworker assigned can greatly affect the speed of your SRP project. The personalities, years of experience, and willingness to work with the environmental consultant affect the process. Environmental remediation is partially science, partially art with some good decision making and hard work thrown in. Because we are familiar with the pool of caseworkers we work hard to meet or exceed their expectations and tailor our solutions appropriately.
Caseworker Workload – The IEPA caseworkers are working on more than one project at a time. Sometimes they are seasonally understaffed. Sometimes they are chronically understaffed. Understaffing reflects in more cases per caseworker and expands the time to completion. Workload can affect how responsive the caseworker is to the environmental consultant’s phone calls and/or emails.
Case Complexity – Every SRP project is unique and some of them are really involved sites. It’s understandable the IEPA or a consultant would want to go slow in order to get things done right on a complex job. In addition, we are ultimately talking about health and human safety. Everyone from the state to your consultant, the general public and you as an entrepreneur has an interest in lowering risk, liability and the health risk effects of contamination.
Why Be in the SRP Program at All?
Have you ever played the game Monopoly®, seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or the movie Poltergeist? The NFR can be likened to a ‘Get out jail free card’,
or a ‘Golden Ticket’ The NFR ultimately says, ‘This house is clean’. The NFR is beacon of light that will let anyone know that the property was investigated and/or remediated in accordance with the highest regulatory authority, the IEPA. The main reason we see projects enter the SRP program is because without an NFR letter some properties are un-financeable or they are considered blighted.
If you own a property with contamination, you will eventually want to sell it. When that time comes the buyer will typically need bank financing. The bank will likely require a Phase I ESA as a condition to lend. The Phase I ESA may find a concern which will be escalated to a Phase 2 ESA. That step in the process will confirm the presence of contamination.
At that point, one of several things can happen:
- The sale is dead.
- Any hope of a future sale is dead.
- The buyer drops the asking price by a shocking amount and offers to clean the property.
- The seller offers to clean the property to close the sale.
- The buyer buys the property without a loan, takes responsibility for the contamination.
- The property turns into a brownfield.
What goes into the cost of an NFR in the Site Remediation Program?
There are three major components to the costs associated with getting an NFR in the SRP program.
State Regulatory Agency Costs – When you open a SRP project the State of Illinois will charge you an application fee and for the time and project management costs associated with getting your property through the program. They charge by the hour, just like lawyers. Your costs will reflect the level of complexity of your project and the amount of review it takes to check the necessary boxes. These costs can be as little as $2,500 to over $20,000.
Environmental Consultant Costs – As you can imagine, there’s an enormous amount of science, planning, execution, and paperwork involved in a SRP project. Environmental Consultants also bill hourly. We try to offer budgets and manage client’s expectations but there are wild cards involved in SRP projects that are hard to predict before you start.
Investigation & Laboratory Costs – Your project can be a small plume of contamination in a small area of impermeable clay or a large plume of contamination traveling through sand, floating on top of groundwater. The size and scope of the investigation drives the budget for the lab work and sampling.
What’s an Average Cost of a SRP Project?
You should expect the average cost of an SRP Project to be $20,000. In reality, things could be much worse but don’t expect them to be much better. It’s worth noting the SRP project budget is a stand-alone budget. Meaning; by the time you’re ready to start your SRP Project, you may have already spent $2,000 for your Phase I ESA and $4,000 to $11,000 for the Phase II ESA. It should be noted that most consultants will tailor the Phase 2 ESA investigation as if it will be the beginning step of entering into the SRP, so you’re already a step ahead and won’t have to repeat any investigations.
Strategies for Keeping Costs Down on SRP Projects.
Experienced Environmental Consultant – The best strategy for keeping costs down when doing a SRP program project is to hire an experienced environmental consultant. Good consultants know the caseworkers at the IEPA and understand their expectations based their experiences with previous projects. It can’t be overstated how important having a deep understanding of the expectations of the state regulatory agency is to minimize the time and costs associated with a project.
Good consultants will have a deep and probing conversation with you regarding your goals and how to achieve them. We employ a lot of strategy to help minimize cost while meeting timing expectations.
Keep reading, some of our strategy playbook is below.
Comprehensive NFR -vs- Focused NFR
Comprehensive NFR – A comprehensive NFR covers all the possible contaminants regulated by the state. If a comprehensive NFR is possible, it’s a good way to go because it’s essentially a full pardon for the property. Sometimes it’s not necessary. Sometimes it’s not cost effective.
Focused NFR – A focused NFR outlines the specific contamination that the NFR covers. This often has the effect of driving down the laboratory costs for the project. It should be noted that this type of NFR does not alleviate all liability. For example, if the Focused NFR is obtained for only gasoline contaminants, it will not cover dry-cleaning contaminants if they are someday found on the property. You will still be liable for the dry-cleaning contaminants and will have to get a NFR that will cover them.
Submit to the IEPA all at once? Or piecemeal?
Good, experienced consultants know the expectations of the IEPA and understand the regulations deeply. To keep costs down, if we know we have an impacted site, we can start collecting data for the SRP submission while doing the Phase II ESA. The idea is to keep trips to the site, “mobilizations” as we call them, to a minimum. Each mobilization is a large piece of a project cost and if we have scientists and drill rigs on site for the Phase II ESA, we might as well make good use of the time to collect the data for potential enrollment into the SRP if we think it’s going to be necessary.
We compile that data before we ever get on the radar screen of the IEPA or get assigned a caseworker and we submit it as a finished project on day one.
This method has the potential to save time and money but comes with certain unpredictable risks. Caseworker personality is a wild-card. If the caseworker nitpicks the project they can send you back to do more investigation. There’s no other option than to do the work and resubmit.
You can also go through the program piecemeal. With this method your consultant collaborates with your caseworker at every step of the project. This is a longer, slower, potentially more expensive way to get a project done but is a good method with more complicated projects where missing the expectations of the caseworker would mean costly remobilizations.
It’s important to note that working with the people at any government agency is always a roll of the dice.
How Do You Remediate Contamination to Get an NFR through the SRP Program?
We get this question all the time. My property is contaminated. How do you actually fix the contamination?
The Agency’s have several tools in the toolbox to “fix” contamination to meet the regulatory closure. Not always required to closure a site , but these tools are called “Controls”. Each of these methods is situation dependent. Which one is best for you depends on the results of the long talk I mentioned earlier about your objectives with the property.
Types of Institutional Controls
Engineered Barrier – Engineered barriers are frequently used to contain contamination in place. A good example of a typical engineered barrier is a parking lot over the top of contaminated soil. The hardscape controls exposure to the contamination (i.e. ingestion, inhalation)
Other engineered barriers include capping contamination with a layer of clean soil, injecting a grout wall to prevent movement, or putting a building on top it.
Highway Authority Agreement – This is an agreement between the Remedial Applicant, IEPA, and any roadway authority (state, county or city), where contamination has migrated or has the potential to migrate under a roadway, and agree to leave it in place. The highway authority is made aware of the potential exposure to the contamination and can therefore protect its workers during future work.
Land Use Control – Depending on the levels of contamination with regard to TACO, a limitation to future uses can be added to the title of a property ensuring it won’t be used for residential, day care or hospital uses in the future.
Groundwater Use Restriction – Limiting future uses of potable water on the property is a method for eliminating the risk of exposure through groundwater ingestion. Several municipalities already have in place ‘Groundwater Ordinances’ prohibiting the installation or use of wells as a potable water source. For the City of Chicago, the IEPA it’s called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which, if you’re in the marketing department is always followed by “SE!!” and then the whole Mickey Mouse Club theme song.