Pacific Studies Center ( lsiegel@igc.apc.org )
Tue, 22 Jul 1997 14:28:31 -0700 (PDT)


The recent expedited approval of well abandonment at a Mountain View,
California Superfund site raises important questions for brownfields
redevelopment. In this instance, the change to reliance on other
groundwater monitoring wells appears to be sufficiently justified, but
the process that allowed the change could create problems at lower
profile sites.

In this case, Netscape - the company that provides an Internet browser
by the same name - is building its first real corporate campus within
the Middlefield-Ellis-Whisman study area, an amalgamation of three
separately listed Superfund (National Priorities List) sites. Before
construction, there were a number of monitoring wells on the property,
in support of the cleanup effort.

To allow Netscape to build on that parcel, the responsible parties
sought and received permission from EPA to close out several of those
wells and instead to utilize samples from other wells in the area. EPA
quickly approved the request.

Though the TAG (technical assistance grant) consultant to the Silicon
Valley Toxics Coalition received copies of all relevant documents in a
timely fashion, members of the community at large were not aware of
what was going on until after the fact. However, in retrospect, the
decision appears to be scientifically sound.

My question, in the broader Brownfields context, is what opportunity
does the public have (particularly where there is no TAG) to review
changes in the operation and maintenance of a remedy. Will the economic
pressure to redevelop quickly lead to unwise shortcuts in the long-term
functioning of the remedy?