On October 1, 1993, new rules went into effect which largely "privatized" the cleanup of contaminated sites in Massachusetts. This approach was adopted to enable (and compel) the private sector to take more responsibility for remedial obligations, and to free up agency staff to address the most pressing public health and environmental threats facing the Commonwealth. Under this system, most sites are investigated and cleaned up with little or no up-front MassDEP involvement.

The idea behind this approach is to use limited government resources in a manner which achieves the greatest environmental benefit. Three important elements constitute the underpinnings of this program:

  • Comprehensive Regulations - Detailed procedures and requirements on how to clean up sites in the privatized system are contained in the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP). These rules specify the process that should be followed to evaluate and document site conditions and needed remedial activities (see Regulatory Process and Standards ). Because MassDEP is not overseeing response actions at most sites, a number of documentation and submittal "check in" points have been stipulated, so that all will be aware of the progress that is being made (or not being made) at every site. There are also extensive requirements on when and how to notify local officials and the public on conditions and actions of particular concern, including opportunities and mechanisms for the public to become more involved in any site by requesting a Public Involvement Plan. It is important to note, however, that while the regulations specify how clean a site needs to be for a particular use, they do not specify how to demonstrate or achieve this level of cleanliness - this is something that must be decided on a case-by-case basis by Licensed Site Professionals, in conformance with the performance standards specified in the MCP, and subject to possible future audit by MassDEP.

  • Licensed Site Professionals (LSP)s - Just as most building codes require the use of a Registered Professional Engineer to interpret, apply, and document compliance with structural design standards, the Massachusetts Contingency Plan requires the use of Licensed Site Professionals (LSPs) to evaluate and oversee the remediation of contaminated sites. Similar to Professional Engineers, LSPs are licensed and policed by a state board (independent from MassDEP). To qualify and practice as an LSP, a person must possess a minimum number of years experience and/or specialized training and education in environmental assessment and/or cleanup, and must abide by specified standards of practice. The required use of LSPs attempts to ensure a minimum level of competence, ethical conduct, and professional accountability in a privatized process. A list of LSPs and other relevant information can be obtained from the Board of Registration of Hazardous Waste Cleanup Professionals

  • MassDEP Audit and Oversight Programs - While the agency has delegated considerable authority to the private sector to oversee the cleanup of contaminated sites, it has by no means removed itself from the process, nor absolved itself from the responsibility of ensuring that all contaminated sites in Massachusetts are adequately assessed and cleaned up. To meet its obligations in this regard, MassDEP performs four important oversight functions:

    • Oversight of Immediate Response Actions - BWSC staff perform limited, short-term oversight of emergency and/or time-critical pollution situations. Once the site has been sufficiently stabilized, further assessment and cleanup actions may then be delegated solely to a Licensed Site Professional.
    • Audits - To "keep people honest", the agency performs both random and targeted inspections and audits on assessment and cleanup activities at sites being addressed by the private sector without direct MassDEP oversight. The nature of these audits range from screening and/or focused reviews, to formal, detailed, and comprehensive evaluations of conducted activities.
    • Enforcement - In cases where responsible parties have failed to meet their assessment and cleanup obligations, MassDEP undertakes a variety of enforcement actions to penalize past performance, and ensure adequate responses in the future. These actions range from the issuance of a Notice of Non Compliance to the issuance of orders and/or penalties, and for particularly egregious cases, seeking imprisonment and criminal penalties.