Overseeing Site Cleanup
DTSC is committed to establishing and implementing protective and consistent cleanup programs and standards that can serve as a model for California and the nation. An estimated 90,000 properties throughout the State - including former industrial properties, school sites, military bases, small businesses and landfills - are contaminated, or believed contaminated, with some level of toxic substances. Some of these are "brownfields," sites that often sit idle or underused, contributing to both urban blight and urban sprawl.
DTSC cleans-up or oversees approximately 220 hazardous substance release sites at any given time and completes an average of 125 cleanups each year. An additional 250 sites are listed on DTSC's EnviroStor database of properties that may be contaminated. Expediting cleanups is an important goal of the program, and a series of "Brownfields" initiatives support that effort. The Voluntary Cleanup Program and the California Land Reuse and Revitalization Program encourage responsible parties to clean-up contaminated properties by offering economic, liability, or efficiency incentives. DTSC also encourages property owners to investigate and clean-up contamination if found, through a combination of low-interest loans. The Investigating Site Contamination and Cleanup Loans and Environmental Assistance to Neighborhoods (CLEAN Loans) Programs provide loans to investigate and clean-up urban properties. At present, funding for the Loan Program is extremely limited, but in 2001, DTSC received 11 loan applications for $7.9 million. The State Superfund covers sites for which there are no cleanup options through the responsible party and which threaten the people or the environment of California.
Additionally, DTSC works to ensure that all new, existing, and proposed school sites are environmentally safe. State laws require all proposed school sites that will receive state funding for purchase or construction to go through DTSC's environmental review. This process ensures that new school sites are uncontaminated, or if previously contaminated, that they have been cleaned-up to a safe level. Last year, DTSC assessed, investigated, or cleaned up more than 450 different school sites in California to ensure that the State's need for new schools is met and children are fully protected.
California has one-third of the closing military bases in the country and more than 1,000 former defense sites. DTSC is currently investigating, cleaning-up, or providing technical assistance at more than 160 current or former military installations statewide. This task presents some unique challenges including addressing residual unexploded ordinance, chemical and biological munitions, and otherwise toxic substances that remain on the property.
DTSC's Emergency Response Program provides immediate assistance during sudden or threatened releases of hazardous materials. Trained responders clean-up illegal drug labs, working with law enforcement agencies to remove toxic chemicals at roughly 2,000 labs per year. They have participated at more than 10,000 labs since 1995. They also clean-up hazardous substance spills related to off-highway transportation and natural disasters. DTSC crews are ready to go into an illegal drug lab, a train derailment site, or an earthquake-damaged area to remove dangerous substances before people are injured.
In addition, DTSC continues to have lead responsibility for cleanup and enforcement at several high profile federal Superfund sites including Casmalia Resources and Stringfellow. DTSC provides day-to-day operation at these sites from the Stringfellow on-site Pre-Treatment Plant, groundwater extraction wells and other containment systems to the monitoring and treatment systems.