For this Phase I assessment, Vieau Associates, a division of GZA, applied the ASTM Standards E1527 and E2247 to assess a 30-year-old permitted mine operation encompassing 1,363 acres. At-surface aggregate crushing operations comprised just a fraction of the land area encompassing an extensive network of underground limestone mine tunnels reaching hundreds of feet deep. Of interest were chemicals associated with packaged emulsion explosives and detonators, dewatering discharges and wastewater effluent, and heavy equipment maintenance. Wastewater from dewatering was contained in impoundments prior to discharging into surface waters; associated contaminant loads in wastewater and sediment posed varied risks under applicable RCRA, CWA and CERCLA regulations. Numerous large fuel tanks, including some located deep in the mine tunnels, and waste generation from a large maintenance shop represented more routine areas of interest. A unique element to our analysis was having to take into account over 1.5 square miles of public rights-of-way and privately owned rural residential, commercial, and agricultural land use activities at the surface and above the mine’s subsurface mineral rights area.
Regulatory compliance and NPDES permitting records afforded crucial and unique lines of inquiry in connection with environmental risks. The Vieau team differentiated permitted air emissions, wastewater discharges and waste disposals from what otherwise might be construed as potential releases within the ambit of Superfund enforcement – enabling all vested parties to distinguish between in-scope and out-of-scope risks posed to the owner/operator as well as to the lender’s security interests.
Putting regulatory compliance issues and environmental impacts into proper context enabled the parties to the transaction to better understand their risk exposures and formulate a clear and pragmatic agreement for financing and risk mitigation.