Cleanup Programs

July 29th, 2015

OSFM fines owner record $610,000 for UST violations

Failure to follow underground storage tank (UST) regulations can be osfmcostly, as a gas station owner in Silvis, IL recently discovered.

Baldev Singh was fined $610,000 for multiple violations by the Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM). This judgment is the largest ever awarded to the OSFM against an individual owner of a UST facility.

The Rock Island County Circuit Court issued a Default Judgment Order on July 14, 2015 after Mr. Singh failed to appear to defend himself against the lawsuit filed by OSFM.

The ‘Jack and Jill’ gas station ceased operations sometime in late 2011.  OSFM first issued a notice of violation in 2012 for regulatory deficiencies regarding the two USTs.  Then in 2013, OSFM ordered the remaining gasoline from its tanks to be emptied and the USTs to be upgraded or removed.  When Mr. Singh did not comply with either notice of violation, OSFM filed a lawsuit against him in May 2014.

“Gasoline tanks left unattended with remaining fuel pose a significant risk to the public,” said Deputy Director Les Albert. “The Office of the State Fire Marshal remains vigilant in its mission to ensure the protection of lives and property.”

In a separate case, OSFM was also recently awarded a $365,000 judgment against another UST owner who did not properly remove their out-of-service USTs in Oakwood, IL.

The State of Illinois has been cracking down on UST violations.  If your facility receives a notice of violation from OSFM, do not ignore it.  Failure to address the violations can result in significant fines and penalties.  While the cases above are among the higher fines assessed, OSFM is more routinely penalizing UST owners $50,000 – $100,000, plus the cost to correct the violations.

If you need assistance with your UST violations, contact Nancy Valenta at nvalenta[at]gabenv.com or 773-486-2123.



July 15th, 2015

Wisconsin abruptly ends cleanup funding via PECFA

wisconsin dnrWisconsin’s 2015-2017 budget will not include any funding for the state’s tank clean-up fund, Governor Scott Walker surprisingly announced on Sunday.  The budget sent to him by the Wisconsin Senate included a planned sunset of the Petroleum Environmental Cleanup Fund Award (PECFA) reimbursement program to releases reported prior to July 1, 2017 and claims received prior to July 1, 2020.

Gov. Walker’s line-item veto, however, abruptly sped up the end of the cleanup program.  Any tank owner with a current PECFA project must submit their reimbursement claim for their clean-up expenses by July 20, 2015 – a mere 8 days after the budget was signed into law.  “The program has existed for a sufficient time that its primary purpose has been completed,” stated Gov. Walker.

PECFA was created in the late 1980s to help pay for the clean-up of contamination caused by leaking underground storage tanks (USTs) and aboveground storage tanks (ASTs).  It is funded by a tax added to all petroleum products sold.  It is unclear at this time what will happen to the remaining money in the PECFA fund once the final reimbursement claims are paid.

Any Wisconsin tank owner who has a release in the future will no longer be able to seek assistance from the State to handle the contamination.  The environmental clean up requirements remain in place.   This sudden end of the PECFA fund will hurt individuals and small business owners who lack the resources to respond adequately on their own to a leaking tank.

Over its 25+ year history, PECFA provided more than $1.5 billion in funding to help clean up more than 16,000 sites.  As of September 2014, there were still more than 1,000 clean-ups in process throughout Wisconsin according to U.S. EPA data.  Additionally, there are nearly 73,000 known tanks in use or temporarily out of service in the state – and possibly as many as 200,000 additional unregistered tanks.

Gov. Scott Walker’s budget message, veto summary

May 19th, 2015

It’s TACO Tuesday!

All cleanup programs in the state of Illinois are based on TACO limits, but not everyone knows exactly what TACO IEPA-logomeans – or why it makes cleaning up your property easier.

TACO is an acronym for “Tiered Approach to Corrective Action Objectives.”  Prior to the implementation of TACO standards in the mid-1990s, the Illinois EPA (IEPA) took a “one size fits all” approach to cleaning up contaminated properties.  All sites, regardless of their location, use, contaminants, etc., had to be cleaned up to the same standards.

This regulatory climate changed as cleanup programs across the U.S. continued to mature.  Environmental agencies realized that cleaning up an industrial property that was only going to be used for a parking lot was a lot different than cleaning up a former gas station to become apartments.  Remediation objectives became risk-based and site-specific.

Today, TACO takes into account three main components to determine environmental risk:

  1. Contaminant(s) – ie: chemicals
  2. Exposure route(s) – eg: air, drinking water, etc.
  3. Receptor(s) – eg: people, plants, or animals

Through both the Site Remediation Program (SRP) and Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) program, environmental consultants such as Gabriel conduct a site investigation consisting of soil, groundwater and/or vapor testing.  Once these results are analyzed for each of the above components, the environmental consultant can work with the IEPA project managers to determine the best way to clean up the property.  The three most common risk management tools are:

  1. Active remediation – eg: contaminated soil removal; bioremediation; chemical remediation; etc.
  2. Engineered barriers – eg: asphalt parking lot, concrete floor, building control technologies (BCTs), etc.
  3. Institutional controls – eg: drinking water restriction, commercial/industrial use restriction, etc.

Once a property owner has satisfied the applicable program requirements and documented that the contaminants had either been reduced below TACO standards or controlled through engineered barriers or institutional controls, the IEPA will issue a No Further Remediation (NFR) Letter.

These TACO standards mean that you’ll often be able to clean up your property with less expense and hassle, which promotes progressive reuse of contaminated property.

If you have more questions about how the TACO regulations work, contact John Polich, P.E. at jpolich[at]gabenv.com or 773-486-2123.

May 7th, 2015

UST Fund Available to New Property Owners

Prior to 2006, any individual, partnership or corporation who bought a property in Illinois with an existing Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Incident would not be eligible to access the UST Fund to complete the clean-up of the site.  Only the original owner/operator of the tanks and Incident were eligible.

Effective January 1, 2006, however, Illinois EPA amended its rules to allow new property owners this same access to the UST Fund.  This rule change was intended to encourage redevelopment of brounderground storage tankwnfields and other potentially contaminated sites.

UST Fund

The State of Illinois maintains a UST Fund to help investigate and clean up eligible leaking tanks through the Illinois EPA’s LUST Program.  Tank owners finance this UST Fund with a $0.003 per-gallon motor fuel tax and an $0.008 per-gallon environmental impact fee.  Since its inception in 1989, this UST Fund has reimbursed tank owners more than $800 million in site investigation and clean-up costs.

Tank owners are assessed a deductible for each Incident ($5,000 / $10,000 / $15,000 / $50,000 / $100,000), depending on the date of tank registration and date of LUST Incident.  Most site investigation and clean-up costs above that amount should be eligible for reimbursement from the UST Fund if activities are conducted in accordance with plans and budgets approved by the Illinois EPA.

If you have questions about how to transfer UST Fund eligibility to a new owner, contact Nancy Valenta at 773-486-2123 or nvalenta[at]gabenv.com.

More information about this new owner eligibility can be found on the IEPA’s Public Act 94-0274 webpage.

More information about how Gabriel can help you with LUST closure can be found on our LUST Services webpage.

May 4th, 2015

Gabriel is considering launching a webinar series. We need your feedback.

webinar clipartDue to the popularity of our ongoing seminar series, Gabriel is considering launching a webinar series on various environmental issues.  We understand that not everyone can easily join us in person at our Chicago headquarters.

Would you be interested in attending free webinars hosted by Gabriel?  We welcome your opinions in the quick 7 question survey below:


Thank you for your feedback. We will keep you posted on topics and dates for upcoming webinars, depending on results of the survey.

Survey will close May 8th, 2015.

April 1st, 2015

Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Spotlight: Government Records Review

During the course of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment, Gabriel reviews government records from a variety of federal, state, local, and tribal agencies.  We will review all pertinent records available, including, but not limited to: underground storage tanks (USTs); hazardous materials stored, used or disposed; environmental violations; building permits; occupancy permits; fire inspection records; construction permits; demolition permits; and closure projects.

These records help us determine if hazardous substances or petroleum products are currently or were previously located on the site.

Case Study

Recently, Gabriel was conducting a Phase I ESA at an auto repair facility in Chicago.  The current owner/occupant did not have any knowledge of USTs on the property.  osfm

However, during a search of Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) and Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) records, it was discovered that three tanks were installed at the property between 1972 and 1979, prior to the current owner purchasing the property.  The previous owner had operated the property as a gas station in addition to the repair shop, so a diesel tank, gasoline tank and used oil tank had been installed.

None of these tanks had any record of removal, which means there is a strong likelihood that the tanks are still on site and possibly leaking due to their age and material.

If you have questions about how Gabriel uses government records reviews in our Phase I research, contact Natalie Neuman, Group Leader Assessment Services, at 773-486-2123 or nneuman[at]gabenv.com.

March 26th, 2015

When to conduct vapor sampling

When working to get a No Further Remediation (NFR) letter through the Illinois EPA’s Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) program, an investigation of three pathways of concern must be conducted: soil, groundwater, and vapor.  IEPA has required soil and groundwater evaluations for over 20 years, but they only recently started requiring vapor intrusion assessments.

Because vapor assessments are not required for all LUST Incidents, IEPA has published a flowchart to help determine when soil gas sampling is necessary:


Gabriel’s Project Managers work with the Illinois EPA’s LUST division to determine the appropriate sampling for each specific site, including if this indoor inhalation exposure route must be investigated.

The Site Remediation Program (SRP) also requires the investigation of vapor in certain circumstances, but because the contaminants of concern vary greatly within the SRP program, they don’t have a similar flowchart established.  Each site is addressed on a case-by-case basis.

If you have any questions about vapor assessments or a specific site, contact John Polich at 773-486-2123 or jpolich[at]gabenv.com.

February 25th, 2015

Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM) Overview Course

Gabriel is pleased to sponsor the upcoming Certified Hazardous Materials IHMM logoManager (CHMM) Overview Course at DePaul University.

This course provides a thorough overview of the major topics and concerns in hazardous materials management.  Completion of this course will enable attendees to take the CHMM exam, satisfy training requirements, enhance their competence in the profession, and get updated information.

This three-day course will be taught by approximately 25 hazardous materials management professionals who will cover the following topics:

  • Hazardous Waste Treatment Technologies
  • Environmental Law & Regulation Overview, including Liability and Compliance
  • Industrial Toxicology
  • Chemistry of Hazardous Materials, Proper Laboratory Practice and Data Validation
  • RCRA
  • RCRA Corrective Action
  • Hazardous Waste Storage
  • Storm Water & Oil Pollution Prevention Act
  • Management of Underground Storage Tanks
  • Clean Water Act (CWA) & Safe Drinking Water Act
  • National Contingency Plan/Worker Right-to-Know
  • Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)
  • OSHA Requirements Pertaining to Hazardous Materials Management
  • Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA)
  • Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA) and Hazardous Waste Transportation
  • The Clean Air Act (CAA) and 1990 Amendments
  • Radiation Principles
  • Facility Environmental Audits and Environmental Site Assessments
  • Waste Minimization and Pollution Prevention
  • Superfund:  The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) with 1986 Amendments (SARA)
  • Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act of 1986 (EPCRA)
  • Environmental Management Principles & ISO 14000
  • NEPA
  • Incident Response
  • Hazardous Waste Treatment Storage and Disposal
  • Oral Sample Examination


Comprehensive 3-Day Overview Course
March 25 – 27, 2015
8:30 am to 5:00 pm daily

Registration Deadline: March 1, 2015

Cost for course $595

Groups of three or more from the same organization receive a 10% discount.  Alliance of Hazardous Materials Professionals (AHMP) attendees for recertification receive a 25% discount.

DePaul University
McGowan South Room 401
1110 W. Belden Ave.
Chicago, IL  60614

Offered by:
DePaul University
Department of Environmental Science and Studies
in cooperation with the Chicago Chapter of the Alliance of Hazardous Materials Professionals
Gabriel Environmental Services


For registration and other information, visit margaretworkman.weebly.com/chmm-course-information


For Further Information:
Margaret Workman
DePaul University

(773) 325-7445

Course Content
Steven Sawyer, CHMM
Gabriel Environmental Services

(773) 486-2123

Institute of Hazardous Materials Management

(301) 984-8969


January 22nd, 2015

Innocent Vacant Lot? Or Contaminated Superfund Site?

Occasionally we get Phase I orders from developers or others interested in purchasing a vacant lot, and they wonder why they are spending money on the environmental assessment when there is barely anything to inspect. No building or structures. No visible signs of drums or fly dumping. Just a standard urban lot, waiting for development.

economy plating siteSometimes this innocent looking vacant lot can actually be masking an environmental problem. Take, for example, a vacant lot located on a busy stretch of Elston Avenue, just south of Fullerton. Nothing on this property indicates that there are any potential issues – just weeds and a chain link fence. A less-savvy investor may purchase the property for cash  without any environmental due diligence and think they’re getting a steal. What they’re actually getting is an EPA Superfund site.

The Economy Plating site was first cited in 2009 by the Chicago Department of Environment for its hazardous waste violations, and then referred to U.S. EPA when the owner could not conduct cleanup activities on his own. EPA found 195 drums and 12 chrome plating vats holding hazardous chemicals. Several containers were leaking and holes were found in the ceiling and walls of the basement. Markings indicated that the containers held potentially dangerous and harmful substances, such as chromic acid, hydrochoric acid, and methyl acetate.

EPA officials coordinated the removal, disposal and clean up of these hazardous materials, including the demolition of the building and excavation of impacted soil and groundwater. Their total cost for these clean-up activities and testing was over $800,000. economy plating drums

Analysis from the site after the cleanup was completed shows that the site is now clean to commercial standards, so a developer would be free to build any commercial or industrial structures on the site. Residential units or other sensitive uses (such as a day care or school) would not be advised, however, due to the former use of the site and any remaining contamination from the hazardous materials.

Without having done a Phase I on the property prior to purchasing the property, the developer may not know about any of these environmental concerns and land use restrictions. Furthermore, the new owner would also be responsible for any remaining contamination on the property or that migrated to neighboring sites, including the cost of any future testing, cleanup or lawsuits. Spending a little bit of money on a Phase I now could save this potential developer a lot of money and headaches in the future.

November 19th, 2014

Why are dry cleaners often listed as a REC?

Dry cleaning machine from the 1960s

Dry cleaning machine from the 1960s

When conducting a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment, Gabriel’s Environmental Professionals (EP) know that when we find evidence of a current or past dry cleaner on site, we need to pay extra attention.

Dry cleaners raise a red flag for us due to the chemicals they use to clean the clothing (chlorinated and/or petroleum solvents) and historic poor housekeeping practices.  It was not uncommon for used solvents to be dumped out the back door before there were stricter environmental regulations.  Chemicals were often spilled around the machines, and rarely were the shops equipped with spill containment equipment as they are now required to have.

Contamination caused by dry cleaners can impact soil and groundwater, as well as cause vapor migration and intrusion issues.  Studies have shown that approximately 75% of all dry cleaners have some level of contamination.

As a result of these factors, EPs often list the former or current presence of a dry cleaner as a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) in a Phase I.  While not every dry cleaner has serious contamination, it is generally prudent to investigate areas both inside and in the back of the building.

“‘Taken to the cleaners’ can have a particularly disturbing connotation for owners, sellers, and lessors of real estate,” says environmental attorney Lawrence Schnapf.

To learn more about the key risks posted by dry cleaners and strategies for managing these risks, download “Dry Cleaners: the Environmental Scourge of Commercial Real Property,” from Mr. Schnapf’s website.

If you have specific questions about dry cleaning contamination for a property you own or are considering purchasing, contact John Polich at jpolich[at]gabenv.com or 773-486-2123.