Environmental Contamination

U.S. EPA’s Updated Soil Lead Guidance For CERCLA Sites And RCRA Corrective Action Facilities

On Jan. 17, 2024, the U.S. EPA updated its residential lead screening levels for soil. The updated guidance is a culmination of a years-long effort to strengthen the investigation and cleanup of lead-contaminated soil to protect children from lead exposure. The updated guidance lowers the recommended lead screening levels for direct contact with soil from 400 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg or parts per million) to 200 mg/kg for residential settings and recommends application of 100 mg/kg if additional sources of lead exposure are present (e.g., lead in drinking water, lead paint, etc.). No changes to industrial lead levels are proposed.

The DNR is reviewing the U.S. EPA’s guidance and consulting with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to determine how it may apply in Wisconsin. The DNR expects to have more information soon.

The new guidance is intended to apply to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) sites immediately, and the U.S. EPA is currently working on an implementation plan. If you have specific questions about the application of the guidance to RCRA and CERCLA sites, please reach out to the following DNR contacts:

Now Available: Publication Guidance: Environmental Contamination & Your Real Estate (RR-973)

Following a public comment period, the publication Guidance: Environmental Contamination & Your Real Estate (RR-973) is now posted and available online.

The document can be found here. Additional documents and guidance from the Remediation and Redevelopment Program may be found using the search tools available on the publications and forms webpage.

The purpose of the guidance is to provide information to help property owners understand the impact contamination may have on the market value of their property and the legal obligations they have should the property be sold in the future.

Questions regarding this document may be submitted to Barry Ashenfelter at Barry.Ashenfelter@wisconsin.gov.

EPA Adopts New ASTM Standard For Phase I Environmental Site Assessments

On Dec. 15, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a final action to amend the EPA’s Standards and Practices for All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI) Rule. The new rule allows the use of ASTM International Designation E1527–21, Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process, to satisfy AAI requirements. The rule takes effect Monday, Feb. 13, 2023.

AAI is a process of evaluating the environmental conditions and assessing potential liability for contamination at a property and is completed prior to a property transaction. Satisfying AAI is one of the requirements for the innocent landowner, contiguous property owner, or bona fide prospective purchaser limitations on Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) liability.

The amended AAI rule allows parties acquiring properties to use the most up-to-date industry standard practice for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) to comply with the AAI Rule requirements. It also allows the previous standard practice, ASTM Designation E1527-13, to be used for one year after publication of the rule.

More information about AAI requirements are available on the EPA Brownfields AAI webpage.

Review the Standards and Practices for AAI final rule on the Federal Register.

Vapor Mitigation Update: DNR To Present At DHS Wisconsin Radon Conference Sept. 28, 2022

DNR staff will present at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Wisconsin Radon Conference in Marshfield on Sept. 28, 2022. The DNR’s presentation will include information on the health risks from chemical vapor intrusion, including the similarities and differences between chemical vapor intrusion and naturally occurring radon.

Conference attendees will have an opportunity to refresh their knowledge base on indoor air quality and radon, gain understanding of current and emerging issues and network to improve statewide collaboration. This conference is intended for soil gas mitigators, state and local health departments, contractors, nonprofits and home inspectors.

Environmental consultants who hire soil gas mitigators for environmental cases are encouraged to share this continuing education opportunity with their contractors. There is overlap in both health risks and solutions to mitigate exposure from chemical vapor intrusion and naturally occurring radon.

The DNR values partnering with the DHS and local health departments regarding risks to human health from environmental contamination.

More information on the one-day conference and a pre-conference training opportunity is available here.

E-Pay Now Available for NAR/NFA; Other Updates to 4400-225

Last November the Notification for Hazardous Substance Discharge form (4400-225) was made into a fillable online form on the DNR’s RR program Submittal Portal webpage. This form should be used to report discharges that are identified through laboratory analysis of soil, sediment, vapor, indoor air and water.

The form now allows for payments by credit card for the request of No Action Required (NAR) determination under Wis. Admin. Code § NR 716.05 or a request for No Further Action (NFA) determination under Wis. Admin. Code § NR 708.09.

The form also includes clickable tabs so you can easily navigate to completed tabs without clicking multiple “next” and “back” buttons. This is particularly useful when returning to submit lab reports and navigating to the lab result tab to upload your files.

When submitting a request for an NAR or NFA determination, we encourage you to include the Technical Assistance, Environmental Liability Clarification or Post-Closure Modification Request form 4400-237 and any additional appropriate report(s) with your submittal.

Interstate Technology Regulatory Council Soil Background And Risk Assessment Training Videos Available Now

The Interstate Technology Regulatory Council (ITRC) Soil Background and Risk Assessment (SBR) training videos are now available on the ITRC’s YouTube Channel and showcase a new format for the ITRC short training videos. Two of the videos debuted in the June 2022 Internet-based training.

ITRC released four SBR training videos, which can be viewed in any order:

ITRC trainings help state environmental agencies and others to gain valuable technical knowledge and develop consistent regulatory approaches to protect human health and the environment.


NR 700 Reporting Due Jul. 30

Semi-annual reporting for the period of Jan. 1, 2022 to Jun. 30, 2022 is due by Jul. 30, 2022. Semi-annual reporting is required of responsible parties (RPs) for all open sites, including those sites the DNR formerly classified as “conditionally closed” in the Bureau for Remediation and Redevelopment Tracking System (BRRTS) online database. Consultants may submit these reports on behalf of RPs.

The DNR will send an email with a unique Report Identification (ID) number to contacts of sites listed in the database during the first week of January 2022. If you do not receive an email by Jul. 7, 2022, you can request a Report ID number by submitting the Report ID Request Form.

The Report ID number uniquely identifies the activity you can report, the reporting period and verifies the person using the Report ID is authorized to submit the report. If you have any questions, please contact Tim Zeichert at Timothy.Zeichert@wisconsin.gov or 608-219-2240.

State law requires semi-annual reports from people who meet the definition of a responsible party in NR 700. Property owners, such as local governments that have an exemption under Wis. Stats. §§ 292.11(9)(e) or 292.23, and lenders that have an exemption under Wis. Stats. § 292.21 for specific properties are not required to submit a semi-annual report for those exempt properties under state law.

Sites formerly classified by the DNR as “conditionally closed” are open sites that have not been granted case closure and, by definition, have remaining action(s) needed (e.g., properly abandoning monitoring wells or investigative waste needing to be removed).

Semi-annual reporting for sites formerly classified as “conditionally closed” should indicate what actions are being taken to complete the remaining actions.

The next reporting period is from Jul. 1, 2022, to Dec. 31, 2022.

U.S. EPA Releases New Health Advisory Level for PFAS

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an updated Health Advisory Level (HAL) for four perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) compounds.

We appreciate the EPA’s ongoing work to assess PFAS contamination in the environment. Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources and Department of Health Services will continue to coordinate a review of EPA’s advisory levels to assess how it will impact prior recommendations.

At this time, for sites where there has been a discharge of PFAS to the environment, the HALs are not cleanup standards, but may be one factor considered when developing case-by-case remedial objectives based on site-specific information.

The issuance of these HALs by the EPA acknowledges the significant health risks associated with PFAS and reinforces that efforts taken to reduce the level of PFAS in drinking water will reduce risks to human health.

Earlier this year, Gov. Evers launched a voluntary sampling program for municipal public drinking water systems. This program – which communities may still register for here – enables leaders and residents to gather data about PFAS in their drinking water.

Wisconsin expects to receive more than $800 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds to provide loans and grants to communities working to treat and mitigate exposure to PFAS.

PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals used for decades in numerous products, including non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays and certain types of firefighting foam. These legacy contaminants have made their way into the environment in a variety of ways, including spills of PFAS-containing materials, discharges of PFAS-containing wastewater to treatment plants, and use of certain types of firefighting foams.

Visit the Wisconsin DNR website to learn more about measures undertaken to mitigate PFAS contamination in Wisconsin, including creating and implementing the PFAS Action Plan.

DHS Publishes “TCE in the Workplace” Fact Sheet

When environmental contamination presents potential human health risks, the Wisconsin Department of Natural resources (DNR) works closely with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and local health departments.

In February 2022, DHS published TCE in the Workplace, a fact sheet on health concerns associated with trichloroethylene (TCE) in various work environments. TCE in the Workplace helps workers understand the health risks where TCE is being used in a facility and may be helpful during vapor intrusion investigations. It is available in English, Spanish and Hmong.

The fact sheet includes suggestions to keep workers safe, as well as workplace guidelines for exposure limits by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and the DNR.

The DHS fact sheet TCE in the Air is also available to assist with communicating the health risks of TCE in situations when contamination has the potential to cause vapor intrusion in nearby structures (e.g., residences, day cares). Since publication, the DNR, DHS and environmental consultants have been providing TCE in the Air to off-site property owners to educate them about the health risks associated with TCE while working to gain access, perform vapor intrusion investigations and install mitigation systems. TCE in the Air is available in English and Spanish.

Links to the fact sheets are available under the “Health” tabs on the DNR’s Vapor Intrusion Resources for Environmental Professionals and Vapor Intrusion webpages.

Site-specific questions regarding vapor intrusion in Wisconsin should be directed to the assigned DNR Project Manager. General questions can be directed to the contacts listed on the DNR’s Vapor Intrusion Resources for Environmental Professionals webpage.

Interstate Technology Regulatory Council Comprehensive Vapor Intrusion Mitigation Training June 2 and 14

The Interstate Technology Regulatory Council (ITRC) will offer online, comprehensive vapor intrusion training based on recent, technical guidance from the national group.

The upcoming live webinars will cover the purpose and use of the Dec. 2020 comprehensive web-based series of technical resources for Vapor Intrusion Mitigation.

Staff from the DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment Program participated in the development of both the technical resources and training.

The training consists of a series of eight modules on the sections listed below and will be presented over two, two-hour sessions:

  • Thursday, June 2, 2022 (noon to 2 p.m. CST)
  • Tuesday, June 14, 2022 (noon to 2 p.m. CST)

Environmental professionals are encouraged to register and participate.

A link to the ITRC’s web-based document is posted on the DNR’s Vapor Intrusion Resources for Environmental Professionals website under the “Guidance and Forms” tab. This document includes an interactive directory that includes 10 fact sheets, 16 technology information sheets, and four checklists, covering the following topics specific to vapor intrusion mitigation:

  • Conceptual site model
  • Public outreach
  • Rapid response and ventilation (for acute risk)
  • Active mitigation
  • Passive mitigation
  • Remediation and institutional controls
  • Design considerations
  • Post installation considerations
  • Operation, maintenance and monitoring/exit strategy
  • Emerging technology

While the documents are designed to assist state regulators, they also serve to raise awareness with environmental consultants and other industry professionals.

The online sessions will be repeated on Nov. 3 and 15, 2022. If watching the training through on-demand video playback is preferred, you can find the same vapor intrusion trainings here.

Site-specific questions regarding vapor intrusion in Wisconsin should be directed to the assigned DNR Project Manager. General questions can be directed to the contacts listed on the DNR’s Vapor Intrusion Resources for Environmental Professionals website.