Schools Program: Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I know I need to involve the Department?
Education Code section 17078.54, subsection (c)(1)(A) [ http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=17001-18000&file=17078.52-17078.66 ], and section 17268 [ http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=17001-18000&file=17260-17268 ] require toxic substances review of new construction or modernization, not exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (Ed. Code, § 17268, subsec. (c)), of K-12 school facilities when school districts, county offices of education, and charter entities (collectively known as local educational agencies (LEAs)) seek state funding pursuant to the Leroy F. Greene School Facilities Act of 1998 (Ed. Code, tit. 1, div. 1, pt. 10, ch. 12.5) [ http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/calawquery?codesection=edc&codebody=&hits=20 ].
School sites that will not use state funds for acquisition or construction, including those being developed by project proponents other than school districts, may voluntarily participate in the school environmental review process.
The school district is responsible for the project and contracts with consultants to provide environmental services. As the client paying a consultant, a school district should be involved in the environmental review process to ensure consultant services are commensurate with costs. Additionally, as the party responsible for the project, it is important for school districts to actively participate in the environmental review process. School district responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
DTSC will provide review, approval and oversight of the environmental review process. To facilitate this, all documents submitted to DTSC should be prepared in accordance with federal, state and local requirements, guidance and advisories. Additionally, all documents should be complete, factual, accurate and suitable to support public record. This includes provided objective conclusions and recommendations supported by environmental assessment or investigation results. Quality assurance/quality control measures should be employed for all documents prior to submittal to DTSC review. This should allow for efficient project review, approval and oversight that will result in time and cost savings for the project.
3. What are the roles and responsibilities of agencies involved in obtaining state funding for new construction or modernization for school sites?
4. How can the environmental review process be streamlined or expedited?
5. What is partial site approval and how is it obtained?
Partial site approval allows construction to proceed on portions of a site not affected by hazardous materials. In accordance with Education Code, section 17213.2, subsection (f) [ http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=17001-18000&file=17260-17268 ], construction may proceed on portions of a site that DTSC determines are not affected by the release or threatened release of hazardous materials or presence of naturally-occurring hazardous materials if all of the following conditions apply:
Further, a district may not occupy a school building until DTSC certifies that the response action has been completed.
Step One: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment
1. Am I required to complete a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment?
A school district can elect to skip submittal of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment and proceed directly to a Preliminary Environmental Assessment (Ed. Code, § 17213.1, subsec. (a) [ http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=17001-18000&file=17260-17268 ]). Although, submittal of a separate Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is not necessary when proceeding directly to a Preliminary Environmental Assessment, the information required for a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment should be submitted as background information before the scoping meeting. DTSC typically recommends the district go directly to the Preliminary Environmental Assessment process if industrial, commercial, agricultural, or other land uses may have adversely impacted the property.
2. Once I submit a Phase I to DTSC for review, how long before I receive a determination?
DTSC is required to review and approve Phase I Environmental Site Assessments within 30 calendar days after receiving the assessment, proof of environmental assessor qualifications, and fee. However, if the assessment is not complete and DTSC requests additional information, DTSC is required to review and approve the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment within 30 calendar days after receiving the requested information (Ed. Code, § 17213.1, subsec. (a)(2) [ http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=17001-18000&file=17260-17268 ]). Additional information requested by DTSC can be provided by telephone or electronically (Ed. Code, § 17213.1, subsec. (a)(3) [ http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=17001-18000&file=17260-17268 ]).
3. What is a Phase I Addendum?
The Phase I Addendum includes results of sampling and analysis, limited to results of lead in soil from lead-based paint or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in soil from electrical transformers that is submitted to the Department along with or after the submittal of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment for the site.
If DTSC concurs with the findings of a the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment that the only recognized environmental conditions associated with the site are lead in soil from lead-based paint or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in soil from electrical transformers, results of sampling and analysis for these issues can be submitted as part of the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment in a Phase I Addendum, rather than a Preliminary Environmental Assessment. Sampling and analysis must be conducted in accordance with the procedures for sampling for lead in soil from lead-based paint (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 22, div. 4.5, ch. 51.5, § 69105 [ http://ccr.oal.ca.gov/ ]) and sampling for PCBs in soil from electrical transformers (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 22, div. 4.5, ch. 51.5, § 69106 [ http://ccr.oal.ca.gov/ ]). DTSC can be consulted during development of sampling strategies. Additionally, please notify DTSC prior to sampling activities.
Step Two: Preliminary Environmental Assessment
1. How long does the Preliminary Environmental Assessment process take?
Time to complete the Preliminary Environmental Assessment process varies depending on the history of the site and surrounding land use (for example, a nearby gasoline station had a release that could have impacted the property). Typically, the Preliminary Environmental Assessment process from agreement execution through determination is approximately six months. DTSC requests that the district submit a project schedule integrating school district milestones or deadlines, consultant activities and DTSC review and approval time frames to keep the project on track.
2. What happens when chemicals are found at the school property?
As part of the Preliminary Environmental Assessment, chemicals detected on the property are evaluated using a human health risk screening process. Based on results of the risk evaluation, DTSC may issue a further action requirement for the property. This may involve further investigation and cleanup of contamination.
3. How much does a Preliminary Environmental Assessment cost for DTSC oversight?
DTSC costs for a Preliminary Environmental Assessment varies depending on the size and complexity of the property being evaluated. A cost estimate based on information provided on the Environmental Oversight Program (EOP) application is developed and presented with the agreement so the district may review estimated costs prior to entering into the agreement.
4. How do I enter into the Preliminary Environmental Assessment process?
There are two ways to enter into the Preliminary Environmental Assessment process. The district may submit a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment for DTSC to review and approve. DTSC will then determine whether a Preliminary Environmental Assessment is required based on current and historical land uses. If the district knows that there is potential contamination on the school site, the district may go directly to the Preliminary Environmental Assessment process by completing an Environmental Oversight Program (EOP) application to enter into an Environmental Oversight Agreement (EOA) with DTSC (Ed. Code, § 17213.1, subsec. (a)(4)(B) [ http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=17001-18000&file=17260-17268 ]).
5. Do I need to distribute a public notice prior to field sampling? To whom?
School districts are required to provide a notice to residents in the immediate area prior to commencement of work on a Preliminary Environmental Assessment utilizing a format developed by DTSC (Ed. Code, § 17210.1, subsec. (b) [ http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=17001-18000&file=17260-17268 ]).
DTSC suggests that “immediate area” be considered as the area in the line of sight of the proposed project site. DTSC is interpreting the intent of this requirement is to provide residents in the vicinity of the proposed project with advance notice of field work such as drilling, sampling, and other environmental data collection activities. DTSC suggests that the notice should be mailed so that it is received by the residents no less than three to five days in advance of field work. DTSC will coordinate with the district in determining the level of community interest and notification warranted or appropriate and will make available an approved generic notice upon request.
Step Three: Response Action
1. Who prepares the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) documents for response actions (removal or remedial)?
CEQA does not apply to additional investigations or evaluations such as Supplemental Site Investigations or Feasibility Studies.
Approval of a Removal Action Workplan (RAW) or Remedial Action Plan (RAP) is considered a discretionary action. As a result, DTSC is required to comply with CEQA when approving either a RAW or RAP.
As the lead agency approving a proposed response action, DTSC prepares the appropriate CEQA documents. DTSC will coordinate with the school district to obtain site-specific information to be included.
Applications and Agreements
1. What agreement do I need?
An agreement between the school district or project proponent and DTSC is necessary to pay for DTSC oversight costs of environmental assessment, investigation or response for a proposed school property. The most common agreements and respective applicability listed below.
(1) Response Action may include Supplemental Site Investigation, Removal Action Work Plan, Feasibility Study or Remedial Action Plan.
2. How do I obtain an agreement?
Complete an application for either the Environmental Oversight Program (school district) or Voluntary Cleanup Program (other project proponents). Applications must be signed by an authorized representative of the school district or project proponent. Submit the completed application to:
Ms. DelMar will prepare and forward the appropriate agreement for review and signature. Then, the project will be assigned to a project manager who will contact the school district or project proponent to schedule a scoping meeting.
3. After I submit an application, how long before work on the project begins?
Within 15 days after receipt of an application, the DTSC Oversight Agreement Coordinator will forward two original agreements to the school district or project proponent for signature. The school district or project proponent reviews site-specific information to ensure accuracy and signs both originals and returns them to DTSC for execution. Upon execution, DTSC will forward a fully executed original to the school district or project proponent.
Concurrently, a project manager will be assigned and will contact the district or project proponent to schedule a scoping meeting. An executed agreement is required for DTSC to begin oversight for a project.
For additional information please refer to Environmental Oversight Agreements, School Property Evaluation and Cleanup Division – February 2002
4. Once an agreement is entered into, can it be terminated?
An Environmental Oversight Agreement (EOA) or Voluntary Cleanup Agreement (VCA), may be terminated for any reason by either party (DTSC, school district or other project proponent) after giving 30 days written notice to the other party.
A School Cleanup Agreement (SCA) may be terminated by the school district after giving 30 days written notice to DTSC and if at least one of the following conditions applies.
Consultant Qualifications and Selection
1. What are the requirements for consultants? Who is a qualified consultant?
The requirements for consultants conducting environmental assessments, investigations or response actions for proposed school properties are specified in section 17210, subsection (b) in the Education Code [ http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=17001-18000&file=17260-17268 ] in the definition for environmental assessor. The requirements are summarized below and any registrations should be current.
2. How do I select a consultant to conduct assessments, investigations or response actions?
The following are some recommendations for selecting a consultant.
Chatsworth Regional Office
Cypress Regional Office
Sacramento Regional Office – Cal Center
Fees and Payment
1. When do I have to submit money for payment of DTSC oversight?
The Phase I Environmental Site Assessment should be sent to the Phase 1 Coordinator:
Last revised: May 6, 2006