Top ten environmental conditions that derail transactions - Part 2 - by Frank Ricciardi

November 03, 2017 - Owners Developers & Managers
Frank Ricciardi,
Weston & Sampson Engineers, Inc.

Part 1 appeared in the October  6, 2017 issue of NEREJ.

Presence of Demolition Debris:  A common practice in historic redevelopment projects was to fill in the basement of a structure with the demolition debris from the remainder of the building (including asbestos containing material, lead paint, and other impacted building materials as discussed above). Typically, this practice was not recorded on as-built drawings and often is an unwelcome and costly discovery during construction. The appropriate removal of this material will require personnel trained to handle hazardous materials and off-site disposal at a significant cost. A thorough assessment program and research into the history of the site can possibly mitigate this situation and the resulting costly change order. 

Presence of Wetlands or Other Permitting Requirements: Development projects must include a thorough review of the applicability of potentially applicable and required permits. This includes compliance with wetlands regulations, historic structures, rare and endangered species, and conditions that require NEPA/MEPA compliance. The discovery of these conditions during development can often derail a project and require significant funds and time to address. Allowing time in the project schedule to address permitting is essential for a successful project.

Dewatering Impacted Groundwater: Dewatering of impacted groundwater can often be time consuming to obtain appropriate permits (NPDES Remediation General Permit or sanitary sewer permit). These permits require an application and groundwater analytical data that will determine discharge criteria for the constituents of concerns. Frequently, treatment systems are required to achieve these criteria which can be costly, especially if dewatering flow rates are high. If inadequate groundwater assessment is conducted during the design phase, management of impacted groundwater will be very costly and will delay the construction schedule.

Deed Restrictions on Property: An environmental deed restriction (such as an Activity and Use Limitation in Massachusetts, Activity and Use Restriction in New Hampshire) restricts access/exposure to impacted materials that remain on properties. Typically, these restrictions require the preparation of a soil management plan and health and safety plan by the contractor if the construction activities encounter the restricted material. A deed restriction is often one of the most effective tools to address residual levels of contamination by allowing them to be left on site and therefore reducing the cost of cleanup while still protecting human health and the environment. Similarly, for redevelopment, developers should research the property/deed history to see if there are pre-existing deed restrictions. That way, future site use and construction can accommodate or address residual contamination without resulting in inadvertent exposure to contamination for construction workers or nearby residents/workers and compliance issues with regulators. 

These conditions can be successfully managed/mitigated with proper planning, due diligence, design investigations, property condition assessments and an experienced professional design team. Budgeting for the appropriate completion of these investigations may cost more in the early phases of the development process but could save significant costs during construction and eliminate a future liability for the owner and/or tenants. 

Frank Ricciardi, PE, LSP, vice president, EGE program manager, at Weston & Sampson, Peabody, Mass.

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