Since Oregon began administering the federal leaking underground storage tank program in 1988, over 7,475 petroleum releases have been reported to the
Department of Environmental Quality. Approximately 6,625 of these releases have been cleaned up, leaving 850 active sites. As DEQ must focus its
efforts on environmental priorities, (e.g., sites with significant groundwater
contamination), some of these sites are simply not being addressed by DEQ and
are part of a backlog of sites needing closure, or “no further action” letters
Federal funding for Oregon's Leaking UST program provides a minimum
program to carry out the federal requirements, as well as the Oregon public and
legislative mandate to protect human health, safety and the environment from
leaking petroleum UST’s. The bulk of these resources are spent on high priority
sites. Federal and state law also requires that DEQ recover all reasonable costs
associated with a cleanup project, including our oversight costs.
Because of the large number of sites needing cleanup and DEQ oversight, a
prioritization system is needed to adequately address these sites and make best
use of limited DEQ staff resources. This system creates three categories of
sites. They are:
- high environmental priority sites;
- responsible party priority
- responsible party cleanup without DEQ oversight.
High Environmental Priority Sites - We Contact You
If your site is a high environmental priority, you can expect to hear from
us. As mentioned above, DEQ is focusing its limited resources primarily on those
sites presenting the greatest risk to human health, safety, and the environment.
To make this determination, DEQ uses a prioritization system to determine the
risk the site poses. As one high priority site is completed or is determined to
be lower environmental priority, the next highest priority site is selected for
work. Currently, DEQ oversight and payment of oversight costs is done informally
without any written agreement between the responsible party and DEQ. For these
sites, as long as the cleanup is progressing and the responsible party continues
to pay our oversight costs, no change in this arrangement will occur. For sites
where the informal arrangement is not working, DEQ may require the responsible
party to conduct cleanup and enter into a formal agreement with DEQ as part of
an enforcement action. When a site is no longer a high environmental priority,
DEQ may decide not to actively provide oversight. A responsible party can
request that DEQ continue providing oversight by signing a voluntary agreement.
The agreement will allow us to more effectively schedule our resources.
Responsible Party Priority Sites - You Contact Us
This option is available for those responsible parties who wish to proceed
with cleanup and need DEQ signoff (e.g., to sell their property, obtain
financing or insurance, etc.). The responsible party must sign a voluntary
agreement requesting DEQ oversight and agree to pay oversight costs. The signed
agreement should be sent to the appropriate regional office. These sites are
handled on a first come, first serve basis and there may be a waiting list. The
agreement is used as a tool for assigning sites to a project manager for review.
Not signing the agreement does not release you from an obligation to pay
oversight costs or to conduct cleanup. A “no further action” letter will be
issued when all regulatory requirements have been met.
You are required to proceed with site investigation/cleanup and to comply
with all regulatory requirements, (including all reporting requirements and
payment of any oversight costs), even if you don’t sign up for priority review.
You must also carefully weigh the fact that over time DEQ requirements may
change, so waiting for your site to work its way up DEQ’s priority list does
carry some risk. To minimize this risk, you should carefully follow all DEQ
guidance associated with the UST Cleanup Rules. Eventually, your site will be at
the top of our priority list and we will work on it. We expect that if a
competent service provider or consultant carefully follows the rules and the
guidance, there should be no unexpected surprises when your site comes up for
The following are some questions we are frequently asked:
What is cost recovery?
Oregon law (ORS 465.330) requires DEQ to recover all reasonable costs
associated with the investigation and cleanup of contaminated sites from the
responsible party(s). A responsible party is usually the owner or operator of
the facility or property. However, under certain situations, previous owners or
operators or anyone who by his or her acts or omissions causes, contributes to,
or worsens the contamination may be considered a responsible party. If this
situation applies to you, you may wish to seek legal counsel.
What DEQ costs will be assessed?
DEQ oversight costs include both direct and indirect costs. Direct costs
include DEQ staff time (such as reviewing reports, preparing correspondence,
technical assistance, site inspections, enforcement actions, etc.), sample
analysis (if we need to collect samples for compliance purposes), and other
costs specific to your cleanup project. Direct costs may also include the cost
of DEQ using its contractor to respond to an emergency or to investigate and
clean up the contamination when the responsible party is unwilling to do so.
Indirect costs are those general management and support costs of DEQ’s cleanup
program and are applied as a percentage of the direct personal services. The
average hourly rate, including indirect costs, is in the range of $166 to $187.
When will I be invoiced?
Invoices are generally sent about the third week of the month, after any time
has accrued during the previous month. Payment is expected within thirty
days of receipt. For sites with a signed agreement, or high priority sites that
have been working cooperatively with DEQ, DEQ provides a “no further action”
letter when it is demonstrated that the cleanup requirements have been met and
all outstanding invoices have been paid. If you have a property transaction
pending with a specific closing date, it may be possible to receive an estimate
of your final billing amount in order to expedite closure of your site. An
estimate is generally somewhat higher than actual charges; refunds are issued
within 45-60 days.
If you have any questions concerning the cost recovery process or your
invoice please feel free to contact Dawn Ismerio at 503-229-5812. Should you
have any questions regarding the specifics of the investigation or cleanup
activities at your site, please contact the appropriate regional office. When
contacting us, please refer to the site with the DEQ file number (file number is
located on the invoice and on all correspondence to you) and the site