New Legislation Will Ensure Thorough Locally-Conducted Environmental Cleanup

Friday, February 8, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), chair of the Assembly Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials Committee, introduced legislation to establish a state certification program for local health officers who oversee the cleanup of contaminated sites to ensure that they have the necessary expertise to carry out these responsibilities in a manner that is protective of public health and the environment.

There are currently thousands of contaminated sites across the state riddled with recent or historical pollution, including pesticide manufacturing facilities, rail yards, ports, dry cleaners and refineries. The types of pollutants encountered at these sites include hazardous chemicals from solvents, heavy metals, and petroleum.

Generally, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) and the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) coordinate to determine the extent and type of contamination, and the processes and standards for the proper remediation of these sites.  However, when the state identifies a responsible party for the contaminated site, that responsible party may contract directly with a local health officer to conduct the cleanup. In these cases, there is no oversight by the state to ensure the cleanup is done to any specific standards, nor is there assistance from the state to support the local health officer’s efforts.

“These local health agencies may be overseeing complex contaminated sites that include contamination of groundwater and/or surface waters, and which can pose a significant threat to public health and the environment if not properly cleaned up. AB 432 will empower local health officers with the knowledge and standards they need to get the cleanup done sufficiently, and enable the state to have that assurance.” said Assemblymember Quirk.

AB 432 is modeled after the State Water Board’s existing program for certifying local agencies to oversee the cleanup of sites contaminated by leaking underground storage tanks, which requires local agencies to be certified by the State Water Board before overseeing the cleanup.

AB 432 has not yet been referred to policy committee.