Site Assessment & Cleanup
Funding Mechanisms for Cleanup Sites
Funding and Other Assistance Available for Site Characterization and Cleanup
There are five main types of funding mechanisms for sites in the Site Cleanup Program (SCP). They are as follows:
- Voluntary Cleanup and Funding
The majority of SCP sites are voluntary cleanups where the responsible party (RP) voluntarily performs the investigation and cleanup by entering into the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) cost recovery program.
Via the authority provided in the California Water Code Sections 13267, 13304 and 13365, the SWRCB set up the cost recovery program so that reasonable expenses incurred by the SWRCB and
Regional Boards in overseeing water quality matters can be recovered from the Responsible Party. For a site to be placed in the cost recovery program, a Responsible Party must first be identified. The Responsible Party agrees to and signs an acknowledgement form stating their intent to pay oversight bills;
in return, they receive help from Regional Board staff in cleaning up the site to regulatory standards. An account is set up for water board staff charges, cost recovery invoices are issued quarterly to the Responsible Party. A responsible party is a person or entity who is willing to pay the Regional Board oversight costs.
It does not identify one as the originator of the pollution, or an owner of the property.
- Obligatory Cleanup and Funding Via the Issuance of a “Cleanup and Abatement Order”
Sometimes, a cleanup and abatement action is taken by the Regional Board to bind a Responsible Party to clean up the release. California Water Code Section 13304 authorizes the SWRCB to issue a “cleanup and abatement order” (CAO) requiring a discharger to cleanup and abate waste, “where the discharger has caused or permitted waste to be discharged or deposited where it is or probably will be discharged into waters of the State and creates or threatens to create a condition of pollution or nuisance.” In cases where a CAO is issued, the Order provides the basis for reimbursement of SWRCB and Regional Board oversight costs. The process of reimbursement is similar to the Voluntary Cleanup cost recovery program discussed above.
- Funding of Cleanup using the Cleanup and Abatement Account (CAA)
There is a third type of cleanup site overseen by the Site Cleanup Program where funding for site cleanup and oversight is obtained from the CAA. The CAA is funded by monies: (a) appropriated by the Legislature; (b) contributed to the CAA by any person and accepted by the SWRCB; (c) collected as part of criminal penalties and all moneys collected civilly under any proceeding brought pursuant to any provision of Division 7 of the California Water Code; and (d) recovered pursuant to California Water Code Section 13304. The State Water Board, the Regional Water Boards, and any public agency with the authority to clean up waste or abate the effects of a waste on waters of the state may utilize the account. Generally, CAA funds are provided for the emergency cleanup or abatement of a condition of pollution where there are no viable responsible parties available to undertake the work.
- Site Cleanup Subaccount Program (SCAP)
The SCAP is a relatively new funding program established in 2014 by SB 445 (Hill, 2014). It allows the State Water Board to issue grants for cleanup projects that address the harm or threat of harm to human health, safety, and/or the environment from polluted surface water and/or groundwater.
- Funding using Grants and Loans for Brownfield Sites
Brownfields are underutilized properties where reuse is hindered by the actual or suspected presence of pollution or contamination. Cleanup and redevelopment of these sites benefit the environment and communities by eliminating pollution and contamination problems, allowing economic growth, and revitalizing neighborhoods. Refer to the SWRCB Brownfields Website for the various grant and loan programs that are available to help assess and cleanup brownfield sites in California.