Environmental Issues With Land
Jan. 30, 2023
If you have recently received a “no further action” letter from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), it is important to understand what the letter means and how it affects your property. A "no further action" letter is a letter issued by the NJDEP indicating that they have completed their review of the environmental condition of a property and have determined that no further investigation or cleanup is necessary.
Department of Environmental Protection
The DEP in NJ stands for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). Established on April 22, 1970, it is the third state in the US to combine environmental activities into a single, unified agency. It is responsible for managing the state's natural resources and addressing issues related to pollution. With a staff of over 2,850, the DEP is headquartered at 401 East State Street in Mercer County and can be contacted by telephone at (609) 777-3373 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The DEP's major goal is to ensure the cleanliness of the air quality by enforcing air-pollutant standards imposed by the federal EPA. It also monitors and sets standards for the state's fresh, marine, and ground waters, and provides rules and information concerning wetlands, coastal, and stream/floodplain encroachment programs. In addition, the division of Parks and Forestry manages the forests, educates the public, and preserves the diversity of the trees within the forests. The Division of Fish and Wildlife works towards protecting and managing the state's fish and wildlife populations.
Environmental law in New Jersey is regulated by the Division of Land Use Regulation, which provides permits and other approvals that may be required during Final Design. Prior to any purchase or development of land, it is important to determine if the property is regulated by the Division of Land Use Regulation. The Department offers a mapping tool, GEOWEB, which can help you locate the property  and figure out if the site you are considering is within any of the geographic regions with special rules governing activities in Special Areas.
Environmental Site Inspection
Before purchasing property in New Jersey, it is important to consider environmental testing, as this can identify potential issues that can cost a lot of money to repair. This type of testing can include mold, lead, and asbestos tests . Additionally, home inspections are also recommended , as they can help buyers save money on repair costs in the long run. Inspectors typically cover electric systems, heating systems, central air conditioning systems, internal plumbing, ceilings, walls, floors, windows, doors, foundations, and structural components . Additionally, additional tests may be recommended based on the initial inspection.
Potential contamination issues in commercial land premises include:
Contamination of soil and groundwater due to leaking underground storage tanks
Leaching of toxins from landfills and dumpsites
Contamination of soil, surface water, and groundwater due to agricultural runoff or improper manure storage and handling
Accidental spills of hazardous materials during transportation and storage
Accidental or intentional dumping of hazardous materials
Contamination of soil and groundwater due to improper disposal of hazardous materials such as solvents, paints, and oils
Contamination of soil and groundwater due to leaking septic tanks
Migration of contaminants from industrial sites due to improper storage and handling practices
Contamination of surface water due to industrial wastewater discharge
Contamination of soil and groundwater due to previous industrial activities, such as mining and milling
A Phase I Environmental Site Inspection is an examination of a property to identify potential environmental contamination. It includes a review of historical records, an inspection of the site, and interviews of adjacent property owners or occupants. The aim is to determine if there is a potential for hazardous materials or hazardous wastes on the property that could harm human health or the environment.
A Phase II Environmental Site Inspection is an on-site investigation of a property to determine the nature, extent, and distribution of any contaminants present. It typically involves collecting soil, groundwater, and soil gas samples, as well as other tests such as vapor intrusion and air monitoring. The results of this inspection are used to assess the potential for contamination and to determine the necessary next steps for remediation or site closure, if necessary.
No Further Action Letter
A no further action letter (NFA) is an official notification that the NJDEP has determined that the contamination at a property does not constitute a public health risk, and that no further action is required to clean up or investigate the site. It does not mean that the property is free from contamination or that the contamination is completely eliminated. Rather, it means that the NJDEP has determined that the levels of contamination on the property are not high enough to pose a health risk.
The NFA is a critical part of the redevelopment process and is required in order for a property owner to move forward with any proposed redevelopment. The letter is evidence that the NJDEP has conducted an adequate investigation and found that no further action is necessary. The letter also provides property owners with a sense of assurance that any environmental contamination issues have been addressed and remediated.
The NFA should be kept on file with the property owner and should be presented to potential buyers or tenants at the time of sale or lease. The NFA also serves as evidence that the NJDEP has completed their review of the property, and that the environmental condition of the property is acceptable.
No further action letters are a critical part of the redevelopment process, as they provide property owners with a sense of assurance that any environmental contamination issues have been addressed and remediated. For this reason, it is important that property owners understand what the letter means and how it affects the redevelopment process.