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Environmental Health

Hazardous Waste - Voluntary Remedial Action Program

Effective on January 1, 1996, State law authorized a responsible party and a local health or environmental health agency to enter into a written agreement for the supervision of the cleanup of a simple waste release. The law established a cleanup oversight program which allows a local health agency to supervise the remedial action taken at a site, set up cleanup goals at a site and issue a letter or other document that certifies that the cleanup goals have been met.

In response to the State legislation, the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) has implemented a program to protect human health, cleanup the environment and return property back to productive use. Corporations, real estate developers and local and state agencies entering into a voluntary cleanup program agreement with DPH will be able to restore properties quickly and efficiently, rather than having their projects compete for the limited resources of the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) along with other low priority hazardous waste sites.

As of September 2013, the San Francisco Maher Ordinance San Francisco Health Code Article 22A, was expanded to include many sites previously covered under the VRAP program. Properties with potential subsurface chemical contamination that require a grading or building permit may be regulated under the San Francisco Maher Ordinance, Article 22A of the San Francisco Health Code. The Maher Ordinance covers areas with current or historical industrial use or zoning, areas within 100 feet of current or historical underground tanks or filled former Bay or creek areas and areas within 150 feet of a current or former elevated highway. Sites and areas covered per the Maher Ordinance are shown as shaded areas on the linked map. The DPH Maher program is further described on the SFDPH Maher webpage. The Maher Program Application link is provided in the side bar.

How to Create a Voluntary Remedial Action Plan

There are four steps to the process:

  1. Eligibility and Application
  2. Negotiating the Agreement
  3. Site Activities
  4. Certification and Property Restoration

For sites contaminated by sources other than underground storage tanks (USTs) that meet the Voluntary Remedial Action Program criteria, the corrective action process should be similar to that defined by the California Code of Regulations, Title 23, Article 11. Responsible parties and their consultants should consult with DPH concerning any site-specific corrective action requirements.

The written remedial action agreement must specify the testing, monitoring and analysis the responsible party will carry out to determine the type and extent of the contamination, specify the remedial actions that will be taken and establish the cleanup goals to be accomplished.

The responsible party must agree to meet the cleanup goals that DPH determines necessary.

The California Water Code and the California Health and Safety Code require those responsible for the release of hazardous substances to take all necessary corrective action to remedy (cleanup) the release. Under these laws, responsible parties may include:

  1. Present and past property owners, lessees, renters or operators of property or equipment where a hazardous substance was located or used, and/or,

  2. Present and past dischargers, generators, storers, treaters, transporters, disposers and handlers of hazardous substances.

Local Agency Voluntary Remedial Action Program’s Responsibilities:

Based on available information, San Francisco Department of Public Health may agree to supervise a remedial action if the agency has adequate staff resources, technical expertise and capabilities to adequately supervise the remedial action.

San Francisco Department of Public Health will provide written notification to DTSC and the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) at least 10 days before entering into a remedial action agreement.

Upon completion of the project, DPH may provide the responsible party with a letter or other documentation that certifies that the cleanup goals in the written agreement were completed.

Cost for San Francisco Department of Public Health staff time expended on oversight of site assessment and remediation activities (including report review, meetings and onsite inspections) will be billed to the responsible party.. An initial payment will be required at the time the "Application for Assistance" form is submitted (See current fees for such work - Fee Schedule of Licenses, Permits, Fines & Service Charges).

Sites That Cannot Be Accepted Into the Voluntary Remedial Action Program

  1. Sites that involve complex hazardous substance or hazardous waste releases that are more appropriately handled by a state agency.
  2. Sites listed pursuant to Health & Safety (H&S) section 25356 with a written remedial action agreement with a site
  3. Sites subject to a DTSC order or enforceable agreement pursuant to H&S section 25355.5 or 25358.3 or a site where DTSC has initiated an action pursuant to section 25355
  4. Sites subject to a DTSC corrective action order issued pursuant to sections 25187 or 25187.7
  5. Sites subject to a RWQCB cleanup and abatement order issued pursuant to section 13304 of the Water Code
  6. A facility that is subject to the requirements of section 25200.10 or 25200.14.