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Voluntary Cleanup Program

Should I Join the VCP?

Under the state’s cleanup law, you have several options for cleaning up a contaminated site and achieving regulatory closure.   This page helps you determine whether you are eligible to join the VCP and whether the VCP is the best option for you.  

Am I eligible to join?

You are eligible to join the VCP unless:

  1. Ecology is supervising the cleanup of the site under an order or decree (WAC 173-340-515(2));  

  2. Ecology is negotiating an order or decree for the cleanup of the site (WAC 173-340-515(2)); or

  3. Ecology determines the site is too complex to be managed under the VCP, which is designed for simpler sites and more routine cleanups.  When making this determination, Ecology will consider several factors, including whether the site involves:

    • Significant or immediate threats to human health or the environment.
    • Multiple releases that have commingled.
    • Media other than soil or groundwater.
    • Multiple parcels of real property.
    • Unreasonable restoration timeframes.
    • Significant public interests.

    For example, the following types of sites are typically too complex to be managed under the VCP: landfill sites, sediment sites, and sites involving area-wide groundwater contamination.

    If Ecology determines your site is too complex for the VCP, you are welcome to proceed with independent remedial actions.  If you are interested in entering into an Agreed Order or Consent Decree with Ecology, please contact the Section Manager for region where your site is located. 

Eligibility does not guarantee entry into the VCP.

Should I join?

The answer to this question is site-specific and depends on several factors.  Before deciding to join, consider the following benefits and limitations of the VCP.  And if you have any questions or want help deciding how to proceed, please do not hesitate to contact Ecology before applying.

Benefits

  1. Control and flexibility.

    Unlike cleanups conducted under Ecology supervision, you control:

    • The scope of your cleanup.

      You determine the scope of the cleanup, not Ecology.  This may be important if you intend to clean up only a portion of the site.

    • The schedule of your cleanup.

      You determine the schedule of the cleanup, not Ecology.  This may be important if you intend to sell or redevelop contaminated property.

    • The nature and extent of Ecology's involvement, and therefore your costs.

      Under the VCP, you determine the nature and extent of Ecology's involvement.  By controlling Ecology’s involvement, you also control your costs.

      For example, you determine whether to request opinions throughout the cleanup process or only when the cleanup has been completed.

  2. Opinion on cleanup.

    Unlike cleanups conducted strictly independently, you can obtain opinions from Ecology on the sufficiency of your cleanup. 

    Such opinions may facilitate various property transactions.   For example, the opinions may help you sell or redevelop your property or obtain loans where your property is used as collateral.  The benefit of such opinions is derived from Ecology's role as:

    • Regulatory agency.

      As the agency charged with enforcing the state cleanup law, Ecology can provide an opinion that is authoritative and meaningful.

      For example, a lending institution may ask that you obtain a No Further Action (NFA) opinion from Ecology before providing you a loan where the contaminated property is used as collateral.

    • Neutral third party.

      As the agency charged with protecting human health and the environment, Ecology can provide an opinion that is objective and impartial.

      For example, both a buyer and seller can agree to defer to Ecology’s opinion on whether further action is necessary at the hazardous waste site.

Limitations

  1. Opinion does not settle liability with the state.

    Liable persons are strictly liable, jointly and severally, for all remedial action costs and for all natural resource damages resulting from the release or releases of hazardous substances at the Site.  An opinion does not:

    • Change the boundaries of the Site.
    • Resolve or alter a person’s liability to the state.
    • Protect liable persons from contribution claims by third parties.

    To settle liability with the state and obtain protection from contribution claims, a person must enter into a consent decree with Ecology under RCW 70.105D.040(4).

  2. Opinion does not determine substantial equivalence.

    An opinion does not determine whether the independent remedial action performed at the Site is the substantial equivalent of an Ecology-conducted or Ecology-supervised remedial action.  Such determinations are made by a court.  See RCW 70.105D.080.

Again, if you have any questions or want help deciding how to proceed, please do not hesitate to contact Ecology before applying.

May I request a free consultation before joining the VCP?

YES. You may request a free consultation before joining the VCP. In fact, we encourage you to talk to us before applying. We can discuss your different options and help you decide whether the VCP is the best option for you.

Depending on your experience and interest, we can also discuss:

  • The cleanup law.
  • The definition of the site.
  • The scope of your cleanup project.
  • The cleanup process.
  • The cleanup requirements.
  • The reporting requirements.

However, we will not provide site-specific technical assistance during the free consultation. To obtain such assistance, you must enter the VCP.

The free consultation is usually limited to one hour.

Who should I contact at Ecology to request a free consultation?

You should contact the VCP Unit Manager in the region where the hazardous waste site is located. For contact information, go to the following VCP web page: Contacts.

What if I have a heating oil site?

Ecology will no longer accept heating oil sites into VCP. It was determined that the review of independent remedial actions at heating oil sites can be more efficiently conducted under the Pollution Liability Insurance Agency’s (PLIA’s) Heating Oil Technical Assistance Program (HOTAP).  For more information, please contact PLIA at pliamail@plia.wa.gov or 1-800-822-3905.

This page last updated July 31, 2017