Environmental liability

Now Available: DNR Publication Guidance: Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (RR-0141)

Following a public comment period and consideration of the comments received, the publication Guidance: Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (RR-0141) 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 DNR publications and forms webpage.

The purpose of this guidance is to provide information about the voluntary party liability exemption (VPLE) which was created by the Wisconsin State Legislature in 1994 when Wisconsin Statues (Wis. Stat.) § 292.15 was enacted to aid in the redevelopment of brownfields properties.

Questions regarding this document may be submitted to Michael Prager at Michael.Prager@wisconsin.gov.

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.

Now Available: Publication RR-0128, Green Team Assistance for Contaminated Properties

The publication RR-0128, Green Team Assistance for Contaminated Properties, 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 about DNR’s Green Team meetings, which are an effective and efficient way for local governments to evaluate options, plan for and work through a brownfield project.

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

Public Input Opportunity Ends Soon for Publication RR-619, Guidance: General Liability Clarification Letters

The public comment period ends next week on October 28, 2021 for the publication RR-619, Guidance: General Liability Clarification Letters.

The document can be found at the RR Program’s Public Notices & Guidance web page under the “Program Guidance” tab. Comments may be submitted through Oct. 28, 2021 to Michael Prager at Michael.Prager@wisconsin.gov or to DNRRRGuidance@wisconsin.gov.

The guidance document describes when general liability clarification letters, as defined in Wis. Stat. § 292.55, may be helpful and how parties can request a general liability clarification letter from the DNR.

Updated VPLE Insurance Fees

The Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE) Insurance fee schedule (RR-661) is now updated and available on the DNR website.

The VPLE program allows a party to conduct an assessment and remedial action of an entire property with DNR oversight to obtain a liability exemption. Insurance is required for VPLE sites where groundwater contamination levels are above enforcement standards and the DNR determines that natural attenuation will restore groundwater quality.

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Calumet County Receives WAM Award for Site Near Chilton

A brownfields cleanup project near Chilton is getting financial assistance in the form of a grant from the Department of Natural Resources.

The financial award comes from the DNR’s Wisconsin Assessment Monies (WAM) program, which provides contractor services worth up to $35,000 for eligible sites. The DNR awarded the grant to Calumet County for the former Stoeger’s Plating Service/T&M Plating Service, LLC site near Chilton.

“DNR is proud to partner with Calumet County as officials work to clean up this property,” said DNR Remediation and Redevelopment Program’s Brownfields, Outreach and Policy Section Chief Jodie Peotter. “Often, the time and expense of looking into potential environmental contamination is daunting for local governments. An award like this can be very helpful to communities that take on the task of redeveloping brownfields.”

The site, located at N3503 Highway 55 near Chilton, was a cheese factory before it was purchased by the Stoeger family in 1971. The Stoeger family ran an antique store until the late 1990s, when they transferred the nearly two-acre property to their sons. The sons operated a plating business at the site for much of the early 2000s. The property eventually became tax delinquent; Calumet County acquired the site through tax foreclosure proceedings in March of last year.

After the county acquired the property, the U.S. EPA completed the removal of 100 drums and other containers of hazardous materials that were left behind when the building was vacated. Potential environmental issues related to the plating business and other historical site uses require additional environmental investigation. The WAM grant for contractor services will help Calumet County investigate whether environmental contamination exists at the property.

Since 2009, the WAM program has now provided more than $2.5 million to 60 communities across the state, partnering to help clean up and redevelop old, often run-down or underused properties that distract from a community’s potential.

Administered by the DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment program, WAM awards provide communities with professional environmental site assessments of properties with known or perceived contamination. The program is funded through a U.S. EPA brownfields assessment grant.

Participation in the WAM program requires minimal effort by local governments. Because there is no local financial match, WAM is an attractive opportunity for communities to gain knowledge of environmental conditions. In many instances, WAM awards are leveraged with other sources of funding to kick-start repurposing efforts on properties that may have been underutilized for many years.

Applications for WAM assistance may be submitted at any time. The DNR uses WAM funding to assess brownfields throughout the state, concentrating on industrial sites and closed, or closing, manufacturing plants. WAM awards are also made for sites that may not have had a history of manufacturing but are in rural areas, racially diverse communities or economically disadvantaged areas.

For more information about WAM or other cleanup award programs from the RR Program, visit the DNR’s WAM webpage or the brownfields webpage.

No Changes to VPLE Review Fee for Fiscal Year 2020

The Remediation and Redevelopment Program has calculated the hourly review fee for sites in the Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE) program.

The rate will not change for this upcoming fiscal year; it will continue to be $105 dollars an hour for state fiscal year 2020 which began on July 1, 2019 and ends on June 30, 2020. This has been the rate since July of 2014.

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New CR30 Subtask Added to PECFA U&C Schedule #25

The Usual & Customary Cost Standardized Invoice –  RR-107a – and Task Reference Guide #25 – RR-107 – have been updated to include a new subtask under Task 5 – Closure Request.

CR30 – P.E. Review and Certification of Closure Materials – provides up to $1,129.60 for professional engineer time to review site file materials, visit the site, make a recommendation on closure, and certify the closure packet.

The subtask also includes any project manager’s time for a site visit and/or discussion with the professional engineer regarding the site.

Please visit the PECFA Reimbursement tab on the Remediation and Redevelopment program’s website for the updated U&C Standardized Invoice and for complete task specifications as outlined in RR-107.


DNR Interim Decision on Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE) Program and Emerging Contaminants

Wisconsin’s Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE) program allows a person to clean up a property and receive an exemption from future liability for historic contamination. Once cleanup is complete, the VPLE Certificate of Completion (COC) provides liability protection for the owner of the property. It is also transferrable to future owners. Since 1995, the DNR has issued 186 COCs. Eighty-three voluntary parties are currently pursuing a VPLE COC.

Recent concerns over emerging contaminants, particularly per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”) chemicals in Wisconsin and nationally have prompted the DNR to evaluate the potential for historical discharges of PFAS and other emerging contaminants at properties enrolled in the VPLE program that are pursuing a COC.

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Environmental Liability Exemptions for Local Governments – Related to Redevelopment

Counties, cities, villages and towns, along with RDAs, CDAs, other local governmental units, can fairly easily obtain environmental liability exemptions, civil immunity, and cost recovery authority in Wisconsin when taking title to unproductive/abandoned industrial and commercial properties.

These protections are explicitly authorized by multiple sections in Wis. Statutes Ch. 292, and are designed to enable local governments to take action to stimulate redevelopment activities at contaminated or potentially contaminated properties when the private market is not providing enough capital and economic activity to achieve the desired level of community improvement on its own.

Remediation and Redevelopment Program staff are available to help local government officials understand and use these robust statutory tools, as well as identify financial assistance opportunities for environmental investigation and cleanup work. The DNR’s Green Team meetings are a good way to get started on your first, or next, redevelopment project.

The DNR publication Local Government Environmental Liability Exemptions in Wisconsin (RR-055) provides an overview of several local government environmental liability exemptions, and lists types of documentation that the DNR typically requests to confirm that the exemption is in effect.