Since changing its approach to vapor intrusion two years ago, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has yet to finalize its vapor intrusion policy. As reported here, based on new studies, DEP is concerned that vapor from chemicals in groundwater – which can rise through soils and make its way into buildings – is more harmful than previously thought. Sites of concern are, for example, properties formerly used for dry cleaning operations, as well as surrounding properties. Accordingly, DEP dramatically reduced acceptable levels of certain chemicals found in groundwater, and notified approximately 600 property owners across the state that they must take steps to address vapor intrusion under the new requirements. These steps have cost property owners millions of dollars collectively, and hundreds of thousands of dollars individually.
DEP is now saying it hopes to finalize the vapor intrusion policy by year’s end. Meanwhile, for the hundreds of property owners who thought their properties had achieved regulatory closure years ago, important issues like financing, retention of tenants, and the stigma that their properties are “dirty,” hang in the balance. While reasonable minds may differ about the wisdom of a particular environmental regulation, most would agree that uncertainty – like that caused by the lack of a final policy – is unfair. Here’s hoping those reasonable minds can craft a workable solution to this vexing issue sooner rather than later.