Reporting of Significant Environmental Hazards

April 1, 1999 Advisory

Public Act 98-134, which recently became effective, concerns the reporting of certain significant environmental hazards by owners of contaminated property. The Act requires, in certain situations, that a technical environmental professional - an individual who collects soil, water, vapor or air samples for purposes of investigating and remediating sources of pollution - and the owner of the property notify the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection ("DEP") of pollution at the property being investigated or remediated.

Specifically, the Act requires the technical environmental professional to notify his or her client and the property owner, within set periods of time:

  1. where discovered pollution is causing or has caused contamination of

    (a) a public or private drinking water source;
    (b) soil within two feet of the ground surface;
    (c) groundwater within fifteen feet beneath an industrial or commercial building;
    (d) groundwater which is being discharged to surface waters;
    (e) ground water within 500 feet in an up-gradient direction of a private or public drinking water well; or
  2. where vapors emanating from polluted soil, groundwater or free product may represent an explosion threat.
Once notified by the technical environmental professional of the contamination or vapors, the owner of the property must then notify the DEP. In some circumstances, if the owner fails to notify the DEP, the client of the technical environmental professional (where the client is not the owner) and the technical environmental professional may have to give the notice.

For each situation where a notification is to be given by the technical environmental professional or the property owner, specific timeframes are established. The reporting timeframes can be as great as 90 days in the case of an owner reporting to the Commissioner the pollution of soil within two feet of the ground surface to as short as two hours in the case of an owner reporting to the Commissioner the presence of vapors in soil or water which pose an explosion threat.

The Act sets forth the type of information which is to be included in the notice. The DEP is required to acknowledge receipt of the notice and that acknowledgement will include a state ment that the owner of the property has up to 90 days to submit a plan to remediate or abate the contamination or condition. Alternatively, the DEP may issue a directive setting forth the action required to remediate or abate the situation.

The requirements of the Act became effective on October 1, 1998. Determinations by a technical environmental professional as of that date can have far-reaching and unanticipated consequences.