KDHE/EPA Agreement

Agreement Signed Between KDHE and the USEPA Region VII to Provide Further Assurances to Responsible Parties Addressing Contaminated Sites in Kansas

By: Rick Bean, Chief, Remedial Section

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and Region VII of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) have recently entered into an agreement acknowledging the adequacy of KDHE's Voluntary Cleanup and Property Redevelopment Program (VCPRP) and State Cooperative Program (SCP) for the investigation and cleanup of contaminated sites in the State of Kansas. The agreement is significant for developers, property owners, realtors and bankers. It provides further written assurances that the investigation, cleanup and redevelopment of non-Superfund contaminated sites in Kansas conducted through KDHE oversight meets the requirements established by USEPA. Various parties involved in redevelopment are sometimes reluctant to invest funds on impacted or remediated sites because of concerns regarding potential liability under a federal law, known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. Additionally, overlapping federal/state cleanup authorities act as a costly disincentive for cleanup and redevelopment of these sites. The agreement addresses these potential concerns by clarifying the responsibilities of the respective agencies and providing assurance that USEPA does not anticipate taking any further action once a site is properly addressed under KDHE's oversight.

The VCPRP was implemented in 1997 as an initiative by Governor Graves and is designed for low to moderate priority contaminated sites. There are currently 190 sites participating in the program. The SCP was established in 1991, and is designed for higher priority sites that pose a more significant risk to the public. There are currently over 200 sites participating in this program.

This agreement represents the sixteenth such agreement in the nation. The USEPA has signed the other agreements with cleanup programs in other states. However, the Kansas agreement is the first signed between USEPA and a state agency that recognizes both the Voluntary Cleanup Program and an Enforcement-based Cooperative Program which addresses high priority sites.

The agreement provides written assurance to those parties within one of the above mentioned KDHE-programs that USEPA accepts the actions taken by those parties in addressing their contaminated sites under KDHE's purview. Specifically, USEPA will not take action at a site being addressed by KDHE under the VCPRP or SCP unless:

  1. the site, following the required actions, still presents an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health, welfare, or the environment;
  2. emergency actions are required;
  3. the responsible party does not comply with the approved actions in a timely manner; and
  4. remedial actions are not maintained by the responsible party.

The agreement recognizes KDHE's "No Further Action" letters issued in the VCPRP and the reclassification process utilized in the SCP as final end-points to actions taken at contaminated sites in Kansas. All properties participating in the VCPRP and 151 of the over 200 sites currently in the SCP are covered by the agreement. Contaminated sites or properties addressed outside KDHE's purview will not receive the benefits of the agreement.