Firefighting foam remains on the ground surface following a tanker truck accident.

Not so PFAS: Emerging Contaminants Increasingly a Factor in Due Diligence

A class of emerging containments known as polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, has been getting an increasing amount of attention at all levels of government and the media lately. These human-made substances are described as “forever chemicals” given the way they can linger in the environment for decades without breaking down.

Unfortunately, they can also persist in the human body for long periods of time and are linked to several types of cancer, infertility, thyroid problems and other ailments. In June of 2022, the U.S. EPA issued guidance indicating that PFAS chemicals pose a greater health threat than originally thought.

Chemical companies have been using PFAS compounds to create a variety of products including nonstick cookware, cosmetics, moisture-repellent fabrics and fire-fighting foam. As reported by local media, PFAS was in the foam that was used to suppress the fire on the doomed Spirit of Norfolk harbor cruise ship near ONE Environmental’s Tidewater, Virginia location.

Until recently, PFAS was not necessarily a material issue for those performing due diligence during property transactions. Things began to change in late 2021, when the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) issued a new Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) standard that included guidance on considering PFAS in completing an ESA. The new standard, ASTM E1527-21, officially took effect on January 1, 2022.

In March of 2022, the EPA published a direct final rule to incorporate ASTM E1527-21 into “all appropriate inquiries” (AAI) procedures. However, the EPA did not change reference to the previous standard, ASTM E1527-13, nor did it amend AAI regulation. This means that for now, a commercial property stakeholder can follow either standard depending on their tolerance for risk, past property use, and other factors.

For example, buyers of property where there is low likelihood of historical PFAS use may be willing to assume more risk and follow the faster, less costly ASTM E1527-13 standard. Risk-averse purchasers, especially at properties where PFAS was potentially used at the property, may choose to follow the ASTM E1527-21 standard.

The rules can be confusing, since technically, the inclusion of PFAS in in ASTM E1527-21 is not quite a requirement yet. But the writing is on the wall, and prudent stakeholders would do well to start considering PFAS in their due diligence practices immediately.

ONE Environmental has vast expertise in due diligence processes, supporting clients all over the United States. Our team stands ready to help stakeholders navigate the complexity of the various standards and make the best possible decisions for their requirements.

Seth Manis

Environmental Consultant

An interest in the sciences and a love for the outdoors prompted Seth Manis to study environmental science at Randolph-Macon College, where he also played soccer. He graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and a Biology minor.

“At first I wanted to do something in physical therapy, but then I realized I wanted to major in environmental studies because of the interdisciplinary approach that involves so many scientific backgrounds,” he said.

The fall after graduation, Seth was an Extractions Lead at Air Water & Soil Laboratories, Inc. Today as an Environmental Consultant with ONE Environmental Group, he works with that lab in the sampling he does for clients.

“The company and a lot of firms around the area use that lab regularly,” he said. “It’s cool to have seen both sides in terms of the analytical portion and now the consulting side.”

After a year at another Richmond consulting firm, Seth joined ONE’s Richmond office in July 2022. He enjoys the company vibe, noting, “I like being part of a team where you’re constantly being appreciated by the team. It’s a close-knit environment and inclusive. Everyone wants to do a good job.”

Seth brings experience in due diligence, erosion sediment control, stormwater management, drone work, and industrial hygiene. He holds the following licenses/certifications: AHERA Asbestos Inspector, FAA Remote Pilot, OSHA 40-Hour HAZWOPER, Provisional ESC Inspector, Provisional Lead Inspector License and Provisional SWM Inspector.

Outside of work, Seth and his girlfriend, Susan, enjoy spending time outdoors with their two rescue dogs, Dixie and Ollie. Seth is an avid freshwater angler who regularly competes in fishing tournaments with his father.

Paige Davis, PE

Project Manager

Environmental Engineer Paige Davis joined ONE Environmental Group in July 2022. Since graduating from Mercer University, she has had a hand in every aspect of environmental consulting and looks forward to overseeing multiple projects for ONE. Paige is a PE, licensed in Georgia and Alabama.

The Cleveland native moved to Cumming, Georgia, with her family for high school after her father accepted a job there. Excelling in math and science led her to major in environmental engineering at Mercer University. “It was a chemistry-based program, and my brain is very analytical,” Paige said.

She interned at her previous company, an environmental consulting firm in Macon, before being hired full time in 2013. She transitioned to ONE shortly after she and husband Brad relocated to Alpharetta, Georgia, an easy distance for visiting her parents and younger siblings.

“I like working for a smaller company where the focus is quality work and developing quality employees,” Paige said. “One of the reasons I left my previous company was it was acquired by a big corporation. The corporate lifestyle is really not my thing.”

Paige and Brad have one daughter, Piper, who will turn 2 later this year. Her offbeat hobby is creating balloon garlands, an idea that started when she made her first for her sister’s bridal shower. She also had fun making another for Piper’s first birthday. That fills the creative niche for Paige, who considered interior design at a young age before realizing she was a better fit for engineering.

Aaron Bottoms

Environmental Consultant II

Aaron Bottoms recently ONE Environmental Group’s Richmond office, where he embraces the diversity of a role that includes due diligence, erosion sediment control, drone surveying, water sampling and renewing permits. 

Aaron dreamed of being a professional musician as a music major with a concentration in trumpet classical performance at VCU. His excellence on trumpet earned him a spot on The Peppas, the VCU pep band that travels nationally for athletic events. Despite his passion, Aaron didn’t want to commit his entire life to making a career in the music industry. He transitioned into an entirely different path, going to work at an environmental recovery company. 

“Working with hydrocarbon and oil spills, cleaning up hoppers and coal tunnels — it was a messy, dirty, hot job,” he said. “It took me about a year until I found a more rounded position in the environmental field where I could split my time between the office and the outdoors.” 

Aaron worked with several ONE team members, who are now his peers, at his previous position as an environmental specialist for a mineral mining company.  

“There are a lot of young people in the company who I can talk with and relate to and just enjoy being around,” he said. “That’s what originally drew me to ONE.” 

Aaron and his wife, Allison, are newlyweds and avid animal lovers. They have two dogs, a black Labrador Retriever named Bella and a chocolate Lab, June, who doubles as Aaron’s hunting companion. They also own a former feral kitten named Littlefoot that Aaron rescued, and a three-legged kitty named Theo that Allison rescued.  As an outdoors enthusiast, Aaron operates a YouTube channel that focuses on hunting and is preparing to launch a second that will review outdoor gear. 

An old disused factory, abandoned and in ruins, with a smashed roof and a chimney. Tall weeds invade the building. Concept of economic bankruptcy. Cloudy sky. Italy, Foligno, Umbria.

What Can Brownfields Do For You?

At the most basic level, brownfields are idle tracts of land that are either contaminated or believed to be contaminated. Abandoned factories, gas stations, dry cleaners and railyards are just a few examples of the nearly half a million brownfield sites in the U.S. currently.

Expansion or redevelopment of a brownfield may be challenging because of the real or perceived presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or other contaminations. These sites, despite often being in prime locations, may sit dormant for years as the barriers and costs related to cleanup may exceed the redeveloped site’s value.

However, there are many advantages to cleaning up and reinvesting in brownfield sites. In addition to boosting the local tax base and facilitating job growth, redeveloping a brownfield site utilizes existing infrastructure and takes the development pressure off undeveloped land.

The good news is that many state governments are actively encouraging remediation and restoration of brownfields by removing barriers and offering incentives and assistance whenever possible.

For example, the Commonwealth of Virginia implements a brownfield restoration and land renewal policy though programs administered through the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) and other agencies.

This includes the Virginia Brownfields Restoration and Economic Redevelopment Assistance Fund (VBAF) established by Virginia code to provide grants or loans that promote the restoration and redevelopment of brownfield sites and address environmental obstacles to reuse.

Grants are available to localities and authorities for site assessment and planning (up to $50,000 as of 2022), as well as remediation (up to $500,000).

Brownfield programs can also include liability relief and tax incentives.

For example, in Georgia, the state’s Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfield Revitalization Act (Georgia Brownfield’s Program) allows for the redevelopment or use of contaminated properties while protecting the buyer from future liability related to previous contamination. Eligible parcels classified as brownfield property are also assessed at 40% of fair market value for ten years, creating significant property tax savings.

In North Carolina, a brownfield landowner is entitled to the partial exclusion for the first five taxable years after qualifying improvements have been completed.

How ONE Can Help

Skilled environmental service providers like ONE Environmental stand ready to help localities more quickly and easily take advantage of funding opportunities, liability relief and tax incentives related to brownfields.

For example, the ONE team helped the City of Fredericksburg, Virginia win EPA assessment grants worth a total of $400,000. The ONE team won the competitive bid to assist them with management and performance of the assessment grants. The Fredericksburg Brownfields Program has been responsible for assessing over 46 acres of property.

ONE used grant funding to complete Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) on many sites, reviewing historical documents and regulatory databases about former site use. Additional assessment was performed at the sites, such as asbestos-containing material inspections, limited Phase II ESAs including ground penetrating radar studies and soil and groundwater sampling, and delineation sampling to determine the extent of contamination.

The Fredericksburg Brownfields Program has been responsible for assessing over 46 acres of property, leading to a planned redevelopment for a mixed-use property and a second property planned for reuse as a multi-family residential property.

There are many brownfields redevelopment success stories but navigating state codes and the details of each program can be daunting. Localities, prospective land buyers and other stakeholders would do well to engage experienced environmental service providers like ONE Environmental for assistance.

Avoiding Trouble with TRI Reporting

Industrial facility operators are subject to a myriad of reporting requirements from state and federal government related to toxic and hazardous chemicals.

One of those important requirements is the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program, which was created to be a resource to provide communities with information about toxic chemical releases and pollution prevention activities reported by industrial and federal facilities.

The TRI is a key component of the Emergency Preparedness and Community-Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) which was signed into law in 1986 following several deadly industrial disasters involving chemical releases. These days, tens of thousands of companies file TRI reports for more than 600 different chemicals each year.

Is Your Facility Subject to TRI Reporting?

Generally, any facility that manufactures, processes, or otherwise uses toxic chemicals specified under EPCRA Section 313 must submit a TRI report to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) each year by July 1.

There are four criteria that determine if a facility must report:

  • It is located in a “covered sector” defined by NAICS codes.
  • It employs 10 or more people full-time.
  • It works with a chemical listed on the toxics release inventory.
  • The TRI-listed chemical exceeds its threshold in a given year.

When an industrial facility meets all four criteria, it is subject to TRI reporting, which is some of the most time-consuming annual reporting that a facility will undertake.

Among other challenges, the roster of TRI-listed chemicals can change from one year to the next. That list currently includes more than 700 individual chemicals in 30 different categories.

Terminology can also be tricky. TRI reporting may be referred to as EPCRA Section 313 reporting, SARA Section 313 reporting, Form R reporting, or Form A reporting.

ONE Environmental Can Help

ONE Environmental has significant experiencing helping industrial operator clients wade through the complexity and comply with TRI reporting requirements. This includes analyzing the client’s facility to accurately determine whether a TRI report filing is required and verifying the exact federal and state environmental requirements that apply to the client’s locations.

The ONE team can also prepare and file TRI reports on a client’s behalf, thus reducing the risk of errors or omissions that can lead to penalties.

Visit the Services page on the ONE Environmental website to learn more about TRI and other types of reporting and compliance offerings that can save time and deliver peace of mind.