PCB (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) Soil Remediation

Posted on July 31st, 2012

JM Sorge, Inc. (JMS) was retained by a property owner in Union County, New Jersey to complete the clearance of their property under the New Jersey Industrial Site Recovery Act (ISRA). An earlier investigation conducted by others identified polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) contamination in the onsite soil at concentrations above 50 ppm. Due to the high concentrations of PCBs, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that a Self-Implementing Cleanup and Disposal Plan (SIP) be submitted and approved before remediation of the PCB waste can commence.

As indicated in the NJDEP Technical Guidance on Coordination of NJDEP and USEPA PCB Remediation Policies:

The USEPA Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) provides federal PCB remediation policy that must be coordinated with Site Remediation Program policy during PCB remediation projects. This coordination often will allow for and in fact require permanent remediation of PCBs dependent on future use and concentrations detected. The TSCA regulations also known as the “Final PCB Rule” or the “Mega Rule” dealing with the remediation of soil as “bulk remediation waste” are principally found in 40 CFR 761.61(a – c). TSCA does not regulate PCBs at concentrations less than 1 ppm. Above 1 ppm PCBs, TSCA stipulates a range of self-implementing cleanup levels based upon future high and low occupancy scenarios that are identified in 40 CFR 761.61 (a) 4. These self-implementing remediation scenarios fall within PCB soil contamination ranges from 1 to 100 ppm. Where concentrations above 100 ppm are present or where the occupational use requirements will not be met, risk-based disposal approval proposals must be submitted to the USEPA and a written response must be received before proceeding.

It is important to note the low and high occupancy self-implementing cleanup criteria are differentiated by the anticipated future use exposure time frame, by an individual not wearing dermal and respiratory protection, for more or less than an average of 6.7 hours/week. Self-implementing PCB remediation requires a minimum 30-day advance written notification by the party conducting the remediation to the USEPA Regional Administrator and other involved regulatory agencies. The party submitting the notification may assume that the proposed remediation is acceptable if the Regional Administrator does not respond within 30 calendar days of receiving the notice.

TSCA Self-Implementing Criteria In Defined High Occupancy Areas – PCBs may remain between 1 and less than or equal to 10 ppm with a cap. This would be applicable to residential, unrestricted use or other uses where occupancy will exceed an average of 6.7 hours/week.

TSCA Self-Implementing Criteria In Defined Low Occupancy Areas – Where occupancy will not exceed an average of 6.7 hours/week, PCBs up to 25 ppm may remain without engineering or institutional controls. PCBs may remain at between 25 and 50 ppm when access is restricted by fencing and warning signs are provided. PCBs may remain at levels between 25 and 100 ppm when appropriately capped (note no fencing required). 40 CFR 761.61(a)7 defines a cap as being a minimum of 6” of asphalt or concrete (or similar material), or 10” of compacted soil. The TSCA cap requirements may be somewhat different than that required by the Site Remediation Program in terms of other geotechnical properties. A consultant or responsible party proposing to cap a PCB contaminated site should state that their proposal is in compliance with 40 CFR 761.61(a)7 to cover any potential additional EPA geotechnical requirements.

Site Remediation Program policy does not recognize these occupancy and concentration based scenarios and requires a deed notice above 0.2 ppm and a cap when PCBs exceed 0.2 ppm or 1 ppm residential/non-residential scenarios, respectively. Where post-excavation sampling is being conducted to assure attainment of Site Remediation Program/TSCA soil cleanup criteria, the guidance provided in N.J.A.C. 7:26-6.4(a) must be followed. Note that when EPA is directly involved in a PCB cleanup they may have additional sampling and post-excavation PCB sampling requirements.

JMS performed an onsite soil investigation to further characterize the PCB contamination. Following that investigation, a SIP was submitted to the EPA. JMS is currently waiting for final approval by the EPA. The EPA has previously approved SIPs submitted by JMS for sites in Harrison, NJ and Belle Meade, NJ.

The following is a link to the USEPA guidelines for PCB remediation waste (see 761.61).

The following is a link to some of the SIP approvals previously issued by the EPA Region 2 (NJ and NY).

The following is a link to the NJDEP guidance on the coordination of NJDEP and USEPA PCB Remediation Policies.


James McGarry, PE

Project Manager

Get In Touch