What are they?

Institutional Controls (ICs) are any non-physical means of enforcing a restriction on the use of real property that limits human or environmental exposure, restricts the use of groundwater, provides notice to potential owners, operators, or members of the public, or prevents actions that would interfere with the effectiveness of a remedial program or with the effectiveness and/or integrity of site management activities at or pertaining to a remedial site (i.e., environmental easements, deed restrictions, discharge permits, site security, zoning restrictions, covenants, etc.).

ICs are generally administrative and legal tools that do not involve construction or physically changing the site. In many site cleanups, ICs help reduce the possibility that people will come in contact with contamination and may also protect engineering controls from damage. The use of ICs is not a way “around” treatment, but rather part of a balanced, practical approach to site cleanup that relies on both engineered and non-engineered remedies.

ICs are normally used when there is a limit to the activities that can be left onsite and when there is a limit to the activities that can safely take place at the site (i.e,. the site cannot support unlimited use and unrestricted exposure) and/or when cleanup equipment remains onsite. ICs are often used throughout a site cleanup, including when:

  • contamination is first discovered (i.e., to protect people from coming in contact with potentially harmful materials while the contamination is being investigated);
  • cleanup work is ongoing (in some cases it may take many years to complete cleanup); and,
  • some amount of contamination remains onsite as part of a cleanup remedy.

ICs are rarely used alone to deal with contamination at a site. Typically, ICs are part of a larger cleanup solution and serve as a nonengineered layer of protection. ICs are designed to keep people from using the site in a way that is not safe and/or from doing things that could damage the engineering controls, thus, potentially jeopardizing protection of people and the environment. For example, an IC may be necessary at a former landfill to notify the community and guard against excavators digging through a clay barrier that is meant to stop rainwater from entering the landfill.

Engineering Controls (ECs) include any physical barrier or method employed to actively or passively contain, stabilize, or monitor contamination, restrict the movement of contamination to ensure the long-term effectiveness of a remedial program, or eliminate potential exposure pathways to contamination. Engineering controls include, but are not limited to, pavement, caps, covers, subsurface barriers, vapor barriers, slurry walls, building ventilation systems, fences, and access controls.

What ICs/ECs are planned at the site?

At this site, environmental easements will be placed on the property. The placement of an environmental easement, an example of an institutional control, provides an effective and enforceable means of encouraging the reuse of a site at a level that has been determined to be safe, while ensuring the ongoing performance of operation, maintenance, and/or monitoring requirements. The CAMUs (Corrective Action Management Unit areas), cover system, inspection and maintenance requirements, and enhanced groundwater extraction and treatment are examples of engineering controls required for this remedial project.

A Site Management Plan will be issued once the remedy is completed (an Interim Site Management Plan will be in place throughout the remedy). These documents will include an Institutional and Engineering Control Plan which will identify all use restrictions and engineering controls for the site and detail steps, and media-specific requirements necessary to ensure all institutional and engineering controls remain in place and are effective (e.g.., an excavation plan, provisions for future remediation and investigation, specific controls for areas dedicated to passive recreation use, provisions of remedial system optimizations). These documents will also include a Monitoring Plan (to assess the performance and effectiveness of the remedy) and an Operation and Maintenance Plan (to ensure continued operation, maintenance, optimization, monitoring, inspection, and reporting of any mechanical or physical components of the remedy).

How are ICs determined?

The best combination of ICs will be used to be protective of human health and the environment. One key challenge is that ICs are often implemented, monitored, and enforced by various levels of federal, state, tribal, or local governments. Therefore, it is critical to make sure there are enough IC safeguards and overlaps so that no significant risk to human health or the environment or damage to the remedy can occur.

Will ICs hinder the reuse of the site?

In many ways, ICs can help return a site to a safe and productive reuse. ICs can identify possible uses for a site and communicate use limitations to present and future users. For example, a site may be fit for industrial reuse, but not for residential development. To determine the appropriate types of ICs, the future use of the land is taken into account. For this reason, the appropriate mix of ICs is key. The objective is to provide reasonable assurance that the site remedy will remain protective over time while being consistent with the site’s future use. In most cases, the ICs can help shape the reuse of the site to one that is suitable, safe, and positive for the community.

Site Management

A Site Management Plan defines how a site is to be managed and monitored once the remedy is completed to ensure the effectiveness of the remedy is maintained. The document includes an Institutional and Engineering Control Plan (which will identify all use restrictions and engineering controls for the site and details, steps, and media-specific requirements necessary to ensure all institutional and engineering controls remain in place and are effective), a Monitoring Plan (to assess the performance and effectiveness of the remedy), and an Operation and Maintenance Plan (to ensure continued operation, maintenance, optimization, monitoring, inspection, and reporting of any mechanical or physical components of the remedy).

  • Who Writes the Plan: Tecumseh Redevelopment, Inc.
  • Who Approves the Plan: DEC & DOH
  • Plan Highlights:
    • Identify all use restrictions (for example, areas of the site proposed for passive recreational use and areas restricted for commercial use);
    • Outline of institutional and engineering controls (for example, soil cover) and maintenance requirements thereof;
    • Include provisions to establish and maintain access agreements where it’s necessary to inspect and/or perform future work;
    • Include a Soils Management Plan, outlining requirements if the property owner intends to disturb soils beneath the established cover system;
    • Require periodic inspections to ensure the remedy remains in place and continues to be effective in the protection of public health and the environment;
    • Outline steps necessary to track property ownership changes to ensure new owners get notifications and reminders; and,
    • Provide contact information for NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), NYS Department of Health (DOH), and Tecumseh Redevelopment, Inc.

The following link includes a template for a Site Management Plan which would be used as a starting point to develop a specific plan for the former Bethlehem Steel Site:

Cover System(s) and Capping

Capping involves placing a cover over contaminated material such as landfill waste or contaminated soil. Such covers are called “caps.” Caps do not destroy or remove contaminants. Instead, they isolate them and keep them in place to avoid the spread of contamination. Caps prevent people and wildlife from coming in contact with contaminants.

How does it work?

A cap isolates and prevents the spread of contamination in several ways. For example, it can:

  • Stop rain and snowmelt from seeping through the material and carrying contaminants to the groundwater;
  • Keep storm water runoff or groundwater from carrying contaminated material offsite or into lakes and streams.
  • Prevent wind from blowing contaminated material offsite;
  • Control releases of gas from wastes containing or producing “volatile” chemicals (those that evaporate); and
  • Keep people and wildlife from coming into contact with the hazardous material and tracking contaminants offsite.

What is involved in the design of the cap?

The cap design selected for a site will depend on several factors, including the types and concentrations of contaminants present, the size of the site, the amount of rainfall the area receives, and the future use of the property. Construction of a cap can be as simple as placing a single layer of a material over lightly contaminated soil to placing several layers of different materials to isolate more highly contaminated wastes. For example, an asphalt cap might be selected to cover low levels of soil contamination on a property whose future reuse requires a parking lot. A cap for a hazardous waste landfill, however, might require several layers, including a vegetative layer, drainage layer, geomembrane, and clay layer. The following are some of the options for caps:

  • Asphalt or concrete: A layer of these materials can serve as a parking lot or building slab foundation.
  • Vegetative layer: A top layer of soil planted with grass or other vegetation can help prevent soil erosion and make the area look more natural and attractive.
  • Drainage layer: A layer of sand and gravel, often containing rows of slotted pipes, is built to collect and drain any water that makes it through the top layers of a cap.
  • Geomembrane: A sheet of strong plastic-like material is used to prevent downward drainage of water and upward escape of gases.
  • Clay: A layer of compacted clay also can help prevent the downward drainage of water.

How long will it take?

Building a cap can take a few days up to several months. Construction may take longer when:

  • The contaminated area is large;
  • The design of the cap is thick or complex; and/or
  • Supplies of clean topsoil, clay, or other cap materials are not available locally.

Caps can be effective for many years when they are properly maintained. They are maintained for as long as the contaminated materials remain in place.

Is capping safe?

When properly built and maintained, a cap can safely keep contaminated material in place. A cap will continue to isolate contamination as long as it does not erode or develop cracks or holes that allow water to reach the contaminated material. Regular inspections are made to make sure that the weather, plant roots, and human activity have not damaged the cap. Also, groundwater monitoring wells are placed around the capped area and periodically sampled to help determine if leaks occur.

How might it affect me?

Residents and businesses close to a site may see increased truck traffic as cap materials are brought to the site. Construction of the cap may involve bulldozers, backhoes, and other noisy equipment, and some soil may need to be excavated for use in the cap. Dust from excavation and construction can be controlled by spraying water or covering stockpiled materials with tarps. No fugitive dust emissions will be tolerated and to this effect the agencies will ensure the implementation of an approved Community Air Monitoring Plan (CAMP) that requires continuous upwind and downwind air monitoring during all excavation, soil handling and backfilling activities (for more information, refer to the Public Health section).

Why use capping?

Capping is the traditional method for isolating landfill wastes and contaminants. It sometimes is used to address large volumes of soil or waste with low-levels of contamination. Caps made of asphalt or concrete, or even a layer of soil planted with grass, can allow some sites to be reused. Caps have been selected for use at many Superfund sites across the country.

Financial Assurance

Financial Assurance is a financial instrument provided by an entity to ensure that funds are available for timely environmental cleanup should an owner or operator be unable or unwilling to perform required environmental actions. Businesses or individuals that obtain a permit or registration requiring financial assurance are responsible for obtaining and maintaining a financial assurance mechanism in accordance with agency rules.

What are the types of financial assurance?

The types of financial assurance mechanisms available and required language for each are set out by agency rules. Examples include trust funds, surety bonds, letter of credit, and insurance. Although these mechanisms have names that are commonly used within the financial industry, their format and language are different.

What is the amount of financial assurance?

The amount of financial assurance will be determined by the remedial and post remedial obligations and associated costs.