5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign
Criteria for Case-by-Case Groundwater Restriction Ordinance
Overview: The 5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign supports the repeal of the Groundwater Restriction Ordinance on the basis that it is bad environmental policy, it is bad for human health as it allows potential exposure to toxic chemicals, and it compromises the rights of (non-polluting) property owners.
To learn more about the ordinance and why the Campaign wants it repealed, click here.
Case-by-Case Ordinance: The Champaign City Council has the option of repealing the city-wide Groundwater Restriction Ordinance (Champaign City Council Bill No. 2007-138) and replacing it with a Groundwater Restriction Ordinance that would be used on a case-by-case basis, as it is requested by polluters or corporations responsible for toxic contamination clean-up.
A case-by-case ordinance would require the evaluation of each requested use of the Groundwater Restriction Ordinance individually to determine if its use is appropriate and allowable.
The need for criteria: In order for proper evaluation to occur, the City of Champaign would have to establish criteria to guide the usage of the ordinance. These criteria must rely on the evaluation of environmental testing data, on-site and off-site geologic and hydrologic conditions and numerous other factors.
The 5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign believes that a case-by-case ordinance would place a tremendous amount of responsibility and undue burden on the City of Champaign, City staff and City resources to responsibly evaluate each potential use.
If the City of Champaign ultimately decides to absorb this burden, then the 5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign advocates that the following criteria be used for evaluating whether or not the City of Champaign should allow a business or individual to invoke the City’s case-by-case groundwater restriction ordinance for the purpose of site remediation:
1. The ordinance should not be allowed for use in a residential area.
Contamination found in a residential area poses a greater risk of exposure to toxic chemicals through different pathways. The remediation objectives (levels at which chemicals must be at, or under) are more stringent in residential areas because the receptors (those that could be exposed to contamination) spend more time in that location.
2. The ordinance should not be used if the chemicals associated with the site can vaporize.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and even some metals, like mercury, can vaporize and enter homes through a process called vapor intrusion. The ordinance, if used, could allow contamination to be left in place without any sort of official assessment of the threat of vapor intrusion.
3. The ordinance should not be used if surface water or groundwater can carry the contamination to other locations.
The use of the ordinance could allow for contamination to be left in place for long periods of time. If the contamination is acted upon by surface or subsurface water flow, it could be pushed into areas where new pathways for exposure could develop.
4. The ordinance should not be used if the contamination is found in groundwater at depths that encounter sub-surface structures.
Contamination found in groundwater at depths that can encounter basements, crawlspaces, etc., could create a situation were contamination can enter homes and establish a pathway of exposure.
5. The ordinance should not be used if the business or individual that is requesting the use of the ordinance has not provided the City of Champaign with environmental testing data.
In order to assess whether or not the groundwater ordinance should be used, the City of Champaign must have knowledge of where the contamination has been found and the subsurface geology that is relevant to understanding the migration of contamination.
6. The ordinance should not be used in areas where “high-risk receptors” are present.
“High risk receptors” refers to vulnerable or at-risk populations such as children, the elderly, or individuals with compromised immune systems. Schools, parks, nursing homes, medical facilities, day cares, and other relevant institutions are areas at which high-risk receptors congregate. High-risk receptors have the potential to be more heavily affected by contamination at smaller concentrations.
The 5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign also believes that residents who may potentially be adversely affected, and the community, have a right to know when the use of a groundwater ordinance is being requested, as well as implemented. The request should be publicly noticed and public comment should be invited.
In addition, if granted the use of the ordinance, timely notice to all businesses and homes in relevant radius of the site should be required. Leaving contamination in place does affect the property values of homes in the vicinity. The public has a right to know if and when their property or their health could be affected by the use of the ordinance.