In 2013, the EPA issued an amendment to the ASTM E1527-05 to reflect “evolving practices and a higher level of rigor.” While the most recent standard is encouraged, there is no law mandating that it must be used. E1527-05 may still be used in place of the updated standard because the EPA has not removed 2005 references in AAI regulations. This allows users to choose between the two standards because they can still refer to older references in the regulation literature. The changes made in the ASTM E1527-13 provide more clarity for those performing site assessments and require a higher standard from environmental professionals to ensure that all assessments are as thorough and rigorous as possible.
One of the key changes in the E1527-13 from E1527-05 is the definition of Recognized Environmental Conditions (RECs). Previously, the definition focused on the presence of hazardous substances. The updated definition now exclusively focuses on releases of hazardous substances to the environment, which is much more closely aligned with AAI regulations. The AAI regulations are focused on the identification of hazardous releases, which is the crux of the updated definition.
Another major change in the E1527-13 is the definition of “Historical” and “Controlled” Recognized Environmental Conditions (HRECs and CRECs). The updated standard defines HRECs as applicable to sites that are cleaned up to an unrestricted residential use standard and defines CRECs as applicable to sites that are cleaned up to a risk based corrective action standard. One caveat about the term CRECs is that it means the REC should be controlled but not necessarily is controlled. This includes remediated historical releases by risk based corrective action standards. There is a requirement in place for users to provide consultants with information about environmental liens, use limitations, and identifying activity. However, this requirement is usually overlooked, which necessitates the definition and use of the term CREC.
Some other changes include the addition of a definition for vapor migration, more rigorous regulatory reviews of environmental professionals and their work, and previously encouraged user responsibilities shifting to become required. Vapor migration is defined as “the movement of hazardous substances or petroleum products in any form,” and this was included in the updated standard because it is a “potential source of release.” These alterations reflect stricter standards that the EPA expects of site assessment reports.
As the first Phase I reports under the E1527-13 start to trickle in, the costs haven’t been found to increase with vapor migration pathway evaluations and regulatory file examination. This provides evidence to environmental professionals that the updated standard should be used in place of E1527-05. However, there has been some confusion, especially with the new definitions of HREC and CREC. Problematically, HREC is probably obsolete because it is rarely appropriate for urban site clean up; however, the definition exists and professionals must decide if previously defined HRECs still meet the current definition or if a site meets the definition of CRECs. This confusion and the fact that there is no requirement to use the updated standard has led to sporadic user compliance with E1527-13.