My cell phone rang during my early morning commute. It was my colleague calling from down in the Bay Area where she's doing some training. She has a client who's emailing her two Phase I reports for a two building office property somewhere south of Seattle. The client needs a review of these reports and needs to discuss them this morning. He also wants to know if we can pull together a Phase I report of this property in less than a week. My colleague is tied up with training and needs to hand this off to me. The minute I get into my office the phone rings and it's the client. My computer is still booting up. I tell him give me an hour to review these reports and I'll get back to you with my 10,000 foot view. I head straight for the executive summaries and conclusions.
The site had been a power company service center before its current development as an office property. Of course, the power company had had a vehicle maintenance building, tanks, and a utility pole storage yard. The tanks were pulled and some excavation of contaminated soil had occurred. They had put in some monitoring wells, one well had contamination greater than cleanup but a month later had less than cleanup. Everything had checked out at less than cleanup levels for soil and groundwater but with still some "residual contamination left in place at less than cleanup levels" whatever that means. Both reports indicated that the remedial actions had been performed under the Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP). Gee, when you go through the VCP you usually end up with a "no further action" determination, or not. Neither Phase I report indicated whether an NFA was pursued. The Phase I reports did not mention whether the monitoring wells were still present or whether they were appropriately decommissioned. The Phase I reports did not indicate whether the tanks had been removed with appropriate sampling data and documentation submitted to Ecology. Both Phase I reports classified the remedial actions as a "de minimis condition" even though the site was still listed by Ecology as a contaminated site.
I gave the client a rundown of my findings, that my gut feeling was that the site was probably "clean" but the paper trail was weak and some loops needed to be closed. He asked me why the other consultants didn't raise these concerns. Well, I'm not a mind reader but I do look for the things that can come back to bite you. So why wasn't a no further action determination pursued?
By the way Mr. Client, we can have a "red flag memo" to you by next Tuesday. He's going to get back to me.