Voluntary Assistance Program

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A Voluntary Option to Seek Regulatory Oversight of Environmental Cleanup Projects

The Voluntary Assistance Program (VAP) provides staff consultation, project oversight, and technical or environmental report evaluation on projects pertaining to properties contaminated with hazardous substances. The Department of Environmental Health and Quality (DEHQ) utilizes its experience and knowledge of environmental assessment, cleanup, and risk evaluation to facilitate the rapid and cost-effective resolution of soil and groundwater contamination problems. 

Assistance is customized to meet the needs of the applicant.  If a "No Further Action" letter or "Concurrence" letter is desired, the technical information, findings, and recommendations in the reports submitted must demonstrate that human health and the environment are adequately protected.

Examples of Review Projects:

  • Property phase I and phase II reports for lenders and potential buyers;
  • Phase II environmental assessment work-plans, prior to initiating work;
  • Planning/Building Department requirements for review of potential contamination impacts;
  • Release of cleaning solvents from dry cleaning operations;
  • Cleanup of fuel, waste oil, and other chemical spills;
  • Conversion of gas stations to retail facilities (potential petroleum contamination); and
  • Conversion of agricultural to residential land use (pesticide concerns). 

Brownfields

US-EPA defines Brownfields as abandoned, idled, or underused industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived hazardous chemical contamination. DEHQ provides regulatory overview and/or third party concurrence for Brownfield activities.

Site Designation Process

Some environmental cleanup projects can involve several agencies.  The CAL-EPA Site Designation Process allows one agency to act as the administering agency for the entire project, with the ability to issue a Certificate of Completion.  DEHQ can serve as the administering agency through the Site Designation Process. For more information on the Site Designation Process, click on Cal/EPA Fact Sheet.

Conditions of Review

  • The submitted application package should contain all relevant documentation, data, and reports.  The most commonly submitted documents are Work Plans, Phase I Reports, Phase II Reports, and Health Risk Evaluations.  All reports should include data interpretations and recommendations.  Thorough documentation results in faster review.
  • Within five (5) workdays of DEHQ receipt of your complete application, the project will be identified by a DEHQ Record ID and assigned to a DEHQ project manager.  The project manager will establish a global identification number and public record in GeoTracker.
  • DEHQ may refuse to accept an application for technical or legal reasons.
  • DEHQ will notify the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) that the project has been submitted for DEHQ review.  These agencies have 30 days to indicate whether DEHQ may provide oversight.  Upon notification of DEHQ oversight and the signature of the DEHQ Director of Environmental Health, the remedial action agreement will be in effect.
  • DEHQ has the option of referring the project to the DTSC or RWQCB at any time during the review process.  If the applicant is not in compliance with this agreement, e.g., ceases work or requests DEHQ to cease work on a project prior to resolving site contamination issues, DEHQ may refer the case to the appropriate agency for enforcement.
  • All work performed shall be in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements, industry practices, and the current version of the DEHQ Site Assessment and Mitigation Manual.
  • As of January 1, 2022, all applicants are required to comply with the electronic reporting requirements in Chapter 30 (commencing with Section 3890) of Division 3 of Title 23 of, and Subdivision 2 of Division 3 of Title 27 of, the California Code of Regulations.  For instructions and information on uploading required reports and data to GeoTracker, contact GeoTracker@waterboards.ca.gov.
  • A 30-day public notification period is required prior to issuance of the certification letter, and must be sent to DTSC, the RWQCB, the permitting agency, site owners and occupants, and adjacent site owners and occupants.  The notification must be posted on GeoTracker.
  • Upon satisfactory completion of all activities, a "No Further Action" letter or "Concurrence" letter will be issued.
  • A copy of all written DEHQ correspondence will be sent to the applicant and forwarded to the legal property owner.  Project files will be available for public review.
  • All documents containing geologic interpretation and/or contaminant migration interpretations must be signed by an experienced professional with the appropriate California registration or certification.
  • Fees are established by the County of San Diego and invoices are sent monthly to the Financial Responsible Party.  The current billing rate is $227 per hour.  An initial deposit of $4,540 (20 hours of review) is required with application.
  • Staff assistance will not be provided on projects without sufficient funds in the trust account.
  • DEHQ offers expedited review of specific reports with a turnaround time of 10 working days upon written request.  Expedited review will be completed on an overtime basis at 1.5 times the hourly rate and is dependent upon sufficient funds in the trust account and availability of staff to review the reports afterhours.

An applicant may withdraw from the program through written notification. Other environmental agencies will be notified if significant contamination is present and/or the contamination may pose a threat to public health and safety.

How to Apply:

The following items must be submitted for the DEHQ to begin the review process:

Application and Remedial Action Agreement Form 
This form allows the applicant(s) to identify their specific project goals. The form should be signed by the property owner and Financial Responsible Party.

Initial Fee
Include a check for $4,540 payable to County of San Diego. This covers the first twenty hours of staff time on the project.

 

For Further Information:
Program Manager  
Colleen Hines Phone:  858.505.6874
   
Program Facilitator  
Ewan Moffat Phone:  858.505.6856
   
DEHQ Public Records Review Phone:  858.505.6921