Gelman Science Frequently Asked Questions
EPA Role in Cleanup
1. What are EPA and Michigan Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s (EGLE) roles at the Gelman site?
While the state of Michigan conducts cleanup work at many sites under state programs, cleanups under EPA’s Superfund program are an option to address contaminated hazardous waste sites that are on the federal National Priorities List. Once EPA and a state agree that addressing the contamination under the federal Superfund program is the best option, eligible sites can be listed on the NPL. EPA will not generally proceed with listing a site on the NPL absent a formal state request.
On April 12, 2021, EGLE requested that EPA reinitiate assessment of the Gelman site for NPL listing. The next step in that process is the site inspection, for which EPA will be the lead agency. Based upon the site inspection, EPA will assign a preliminary score to the site, pursuant to EPA’s Hazard Ranking System procedures. Sites with scores greater than 28.5 move to the next phase of the NPL listing process. Once a site is proposed to the NPL, listing determinations are made by EPA after considering comments and input from all appropriate stakeholders.
2. Does EPA have a position on the current negotiations with EGLE and Gelman on the consent judgment?
It is EPA’s position that it is in the interest of all parties and stakeholders that Michigan and Gelman Sciences, Inc. continue to work together to monitor and control the site releases consistent with Michigan’s enforcement requirements. However, EPA is not a party to the state’s consent judgment, which defines the requirements of the state-lead cleanup. EPA is not a part of the ongoing negotiations. As a result, EPA has not, in the past or currently, taken a position in the state court litigation involving the Gelman Sciences, Inc. site. Though EPA believes it necessary for cleanup under a state consent judgment to continue, EPA has not taken a position on the specific terms of the consent judgment and cannot dictate its terms. If EPA pursues listing the site on the NPL, EPA will not require that the state court litigation end or the terms of the consent judgment be changed.
3. Will the state’s consent judgment end if EPA takes the lead in cleanup?
EPA can proceed with NPL listing while the state litigation and enforcement work continues. EPA is not a party in the state's action and cannot dictate its terms, even if EPA pursues listing the site on the NPL. If the Gelman Sciences, Inc. site is listed on the NPL, at that time, EPA would become the lead enforcement agency and would coordinate with Michigan on how to smoothly transition the enforcement lead to EPA.
4. Can this site be moved to a federal-lead cleanup without the state’s support?
It is EPA’s policy to obtain state concurrence before proposing sites to the NPL and to maintain close coordination with state partners. Without state support, EPA would only proceed through the NPL listing process during exceptional circumstances, such as when a site clearly poses an imminent threat to human health or the environment.
5. Who will ultimately decide what EPA will do next?
Ultimately, EPA Headquarters would decide whether to propose the site to the NPL, with support from EGLE and input from EPA’s Region 5 office. Once a site is proposed to the NPL, EPA considers comments and input from all appropriate stakeholders before a site is listed on the NPL.
EPA’s Cleanup Process
6. What is the status of listing the Gelman site on the National Priorities List?
The Gelman Sciences, Inc. site is not currently on the NPL. The site is now under evaluation as a possible NPL candidate.
EPA completed some steps necessary for potentially listing the site on the NPL. In 2016, EPA received a petition to evaluate the site for potential inclusion on the NPL. In response to this petition and in coordination with EGLE, EPA conducted a site preliminary assessment to gather and assess site data to determine data gaps. In this assessment, the site was determined eligible for further consideration as an NPL candidate. At that time, upon completion of the preliminary assessment, Michigan requested that EPA stop the NPL evaluation and that the state continue addressing the site contamination under its own enforcement authority.
In April 2021, EGLE requested that EPA reinitiate the evaluation needed to consider the site for the NPL listing process and EPA accepted the request.
EPA’s NPL listing process is a series of evaluations that move closer to potential NPL listing with each step (see figure on Superfund Site Assessment Process below). The evaluations used in the NPL listing process are limited in scope and intended to collect the necessary information required to determine eligibility for placement of a site on the NPL. These assessments are not intended to fully characterize the nature and extent of contamination associated with a site. A comprehensive investigation that evaluates the extent of contamination and the risks a site poses to human health and the environment is conducted during a remedial investigation. A remedial investigation is part of the remedial cleanup process that occurs after a site is added to the NPL. EPA estimates that it will take approximately three years to complete the NPL evaluation process for the Gelman site.
When EPA evaluates a site for NPL listing, there is no guarantee that the site will be listed on the NPL. For example, the proposed listing can be challenged in court, preventing EPA from adding the site to the NPL. If the Gelman Sciences, Inc. site is listed on the NPL, at that time, EPA would become the lead enforcement agency and would coordinate with Michigan on how to smoothly transition the enforcement lead to EPA.
7. EGLE requested that EPA pursue NPL listing of the Gelman site. What comes next?
On April 12, 2021, EGLE requested that EPA reinitiate the process of assessing the Gelman site for potential inclusion on the NPL. As a result, EPA will begin the site inspection, the next step in the NPL listing process. As an initial step, EPA will review existing data to determine whether there is a need for additional sampling and develop a site inspection workplan as necessary.
A typical site inspection takes about a year to complete. Once the site inspection report is approved, it will be made available to the public. As part of this evaluation, EPA will score the site under the Hazard Ranking System with available information. Scores are considered preliminary and are only released to the public when a site is no longer eligible for NPL listing or when a site is proposed for NPL inclusion. At the conclusion of the site inspection, sites with scores greater than 28.5 are eligible to move to the next phase of the NPL listing process.
EPA will keep the public informed with regular updates to its Gelman site website and with public meetings, as appropriate. Throughout the site inspection process, EPA will coordinate closely with EGLE on site-related activities and communications.
During the site inspection, work will continue under the current state consent judgment. Among other actions, this judgment requires operation of a groundwater containment system and monitoring of the contaminant plume.
8. What is the purpose of a CERCLA site inspection in the NPL listing process? Does the site inspection involve the collection of additional data?
The CERCLA site inspection is a screening activity to gather information to support a site decision regarding the need for further Superfund action. It includes the review of available information/data and may include the collection of additional field data. It is not the objective of a site inspection to define the full extent of contamination or the risks posed by site contamination. Full characterization of contamination and risks at an NPL site occurs during the remedial investigation, which is initiated after a site is on the NPL.
Additional information on the CERCLA site inspection process and other Superfund site assessment activities can be found at the following link: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-site-assessment-activities
9. What were the results of EPA’s preliminary assessment conducted in 2016?
In the preliminary assessment, EPA evaluated historical and recent site data which indicated that the site posed a potential threat to drinking water resources. The site was determined eligible for further consideration as an NPL candidate. At that time, Michigan did not request that EPA pursue NPL listing for the site. Michigan requested to continue to address site contamination under state enforcement authority, and as such, EPA did not continue further NPL evaluation.
In April 2021, EGLE requested EPA to reinitiate the evaluation process to consider the site for the NPL listing process. EPA accepted the request and will do so in cooperation with EGLE.
10. What steps would EPA take if Gelman Sciences, Inc. were to become a Superfund site? How long would those steps take?
Once a site is on the NPL, EPA negotiates with potentially responsible parties to have them conduct a remedial investigation and feasibility study. The remedial investigation documents the nature and extent of site contamination, and the feasibility study evaluates cleanup options. The timeline for these negotiations varies, but it usually takes several months to a year.
After the remedial investigation and feasibility study are completed, EPA selects a cleanup plan (or remedy or remedial action) for the site, and documents that selection in a record of decision. The timeline to conduct these steps is circumstantial and can range from a few years to much longer. At the Gelman site, EPA could incorporate appropriate cleanup requirements of the state consent judgment into the EPA selected cleanup plan. Once EPA determines the site remedy, the next step is to negotiate with the potentially responsible parties for a federal consent decree for the potentially responsible parties to conduct remedial design and remedial action. At that time, appropriate cleanup plan components of the state consent judgment could be incorporated into the federal enforcement consent decree. The timeline for design and cleanup work at an NPL site is highly variable, and can take from a few years to several decades. At more complex sites, such as Gelman Sciences, Inc., EPA can evaluate segments of the site to identify and implement interim cleanup actions early in the process, followed by additional interim action(s), and a final cleanup action.
At any time, EPA may use Superfund removal enforcement authorities to quickly address imminent and substantial endangerment to public health or the environment.
EPA is not familiar enough with the existing Gelman site information/data to opine whether it would be useful to expedite the Superfund study/cleanup process.
11. What cleanup standards would EPA use?
EPA cleans up NPL sites to levels that provide long- and short-term protection. When there is promulgated federal standard that applies to the cleanup, EPA incorporates that standard into the cleanup. If there is a promulgated state standard that applies to the cleanup that is more stringent than the federal standard, EPA incorporates the state standard into the cleanup. The more stringent number is the lower of the two numbers. There is not a federal drinking water standard for 1,4-dioxane. Michigan currently has 7.2 ug/L as the drinking water standard for 1,4-dioxane.
12. Would EPA support a groundwater containment cleanup remedy or a remedy that requires treatment?
EPA cannot answer this question until the site is evaluated under the Superfund process, as described above. If groundwater cleanup is determined to be necessary at an NPL site, EPA expects to return usable ground waters to their beneficial uses wherever practicable, within a timeframe that is reasonable.
EPA Community Involvement
13. How will EPA involve the community in this process?
Both the Agency and the community benefit from well-designed and executed Superfund community involvement activities that fully engage the community. Although there are no formal requirements for community involvement during the site assessment process, it is important to consider community interests early, when site activities commence. However, this need for early outreach and understanding is balanced by the fact that many sites are screened out of the Superfund program and will have no continuing EPA involvement.
EPA recognizes the current interest in upcoming NPL site evaluation activities and is committed to working with the community as we move throughout the process. Public discourse and feedback from stakeholder groups has helped EPA improve our public communication and our decisions. EPA will develop engagement strategies integrating what we learn from those exchanges now and in the future. Currently, EPA has a website where updates and documents will be posted and has assigned a community involvement coordinator, Diane Russell, to serve as the communities’ point of contact for questions and calls. As site assessment activities take place, EPA will post information on our website and use other outreach methods as appropriate to update the community about activities. More formal public comment opportunities will be available if EPA proposes to list the site to the NPL. EPA will communicate with the community if, and when, those or other opportunities are available.
For more information about EPA’s Superfund community involvement during site assessment, please refer to Chapter 3, page 26 of the 2020 Superfund Community Involvement Handbook.