Download the VAP fact sheet [.PDF]
Benefits of the VAP
Ohio recognized the need to remove the environmental and legal barriers that stalled redevelopment and reuse of contaminated properties. Now anyone can undertake a cleanup project and be assured it meets environmental standards without direct oversight from Ohio EPA. The VAP minimizes governmental red tape and maximizes resources and expertise in the private sector. If someone wants to clean up a piece of property, it may be done following specific standards developed by Ohio EPA.
Certified Professionals and Laboratories
The VAP maximizes resources and expertise in the private sector by utilizing qualified, experienced professionals such as engineers and scientists who are certified by Ohio EPA. These certified professionals (CPs) are responsible for verifying properties are cleaned up to the levels required by the program rules. The detailed program rules allow these qualified professionals and the volunteer that he or she represents to do the work without ongoing Agency involvement.
Ohio EPA operates a certification program to ensure that only environmental professionals with the appropriate qualifications and experience are licensed as CPs. In addition, to help ensure high-quality work, CPs must meet annual continuing education requirements and be recertified by Ohio EPA each year. Information about CPs can be found here: http://epa.ohio.gov/derr/volunt/certification/cpapp.aspx
To ensure high-quality laboratory data, Ohio EPA also certifies laboratories that test environmental samples that support voluntary cleanups. Before any certification is issued, Ohio EPA conducts an evaluation of the laboratory’s documents and staff in order to determine its qualifications for certification. This evaluation includes a detailed technical review of all laboratory documents associated with an application and an on-site inspection to assess analysts’ skills and knowledge in conducting the analyses. Information about certified laboratories can be found here: http://epa.ohio.gov/derr/vap/pro_lab/labs.aspx
No Further Action Letter
When a CP determines after site investigation and any necessary cleanup that the property meets the standards contained in the program rules (OAC Chapter 3745-300), he or she can prepare a No Further Action (NFA) letter. This document describes the environmental problems found at the site, how those environmental problems were investigated and how the site was cleaned up.
The NFA letter includes a Phase I property assessment report that contains information concerning the CP’s investigation of the historical and current uses of the property. This information allows the CP to determine whether or not there is a reason to believe that a release of hazardous substances or petroleum has or may have occurred at the property.
If there is reason to believe a release has occurred and the site may be contaminated, a Phase II property assessment is then conducted. The Phase II assessment includes collecting soil, ground water, surface water and sediment samples from the site as necessary. The Phase II assessment ensures that all potential contaminants identified in the Phase I assessment are adequately evaluated and compared to the appropriate VAP cleanup standards. If the Phase II assessment indicates that cleanup standards are met and the site is protective of human health and the environment, the CP will determine that the voluntary cleanup is completed and prepare the NFA letter.
If the Phase II assessment indicates that more action is needed to meet the standards, additional remedial activities will occur to make the site protective of human health and the environment. Remedial activities may include things such as soil removal, ground water treatment, barriers to the contamination such as a clay or asphalt cap, or placing limitations on future use of the property.
If volunteers want assurance that U.S. EPA will also not ask for additional cleanup, they need to implement the additional steps outlined in the agreement negotiated by Ohio EPA and U.S. EPA. These additional steps include direct oversight of investigation and cleanup activities by Ohio EPA and opportunities for public review of site documents as they are produced by the volunteer. For details regarding the memorandum of agreement track, see: http://epa.ohio.gov/portals/30/vap/docs/MOA%20Track.pdf
Through technical assistance, Ohio EPA can assist volunteers with any questions they have regarding their participation in the VAP. Since the VAP relies on user fees to help support the program, volunteers must pay for the Agency’s assistance. Although some volunteers receiving technical assistance submit NFA letters, many volunteers conduct work in accordance with Ohio EPA’s advice but do not submit an NFA letter. Even if a volunteer does not submit an NFA letter, VAP rules and technical assistance can be used for cleanup and redevelopment of those properties.
Covenant Not to Sue
If the volunteer wants a legal release from Ohio, the certified professional submits the NFA letter to Ohio EPA for review. VAP technical staff reviews NFA letters submitted to the Agency to determine if program standards are met and that the site is protective of public health, safety and the environment. When cleanup requirements are met, the director of Ohio EPA issues a covenant not to sue. This covenant protects the property owner or operator and future owners from being legally responsible to the State of Ohio for further investigation and cleanup. This protection applies only when the property is used and maintained in the same manner as when the covenant was issued. A list of all the NFA letters received by the Agency and their status can be found here: https://epa.ohio.gov/portals/30/vap/docs/Complete NFA Summary with Current Status.xlsx
A covenant is recorded in the county recorder’s office and transfers with the title of the property to a new owner. Restrictions on how a property may be used are filed along with the property’s deed in the county recorder’s office before a covenant is issued by Ohio EPA. When a covenant is issued or denied by the director, a notice is published in the local newspaper to inform nearby residents and other interested parties. Covenant issuances and denials can be appealed to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission.
Ohio EPA audits at least 25 percent of the properties taken through the VAP annually to ensure that sites have been properly addressed and that CPs and laboratories performed work properly. All documents related to the voluntary action may be examined by Ohio EPA during an audit. During the audit, Ohio EPA may also conduct on-site sampling to verify compliance with cleanup standards. Volunteers may lose their covenants if problems identified in an audit are not corrected. CPs and laboratories who have conducted work under the VAP may be civilly or criminally penalized for violating agreements and falsifying or withholding information.
All information provided to Ohio EPA about sites in the VAP is available to the public. This includes all the information provided by companies asking for technical assistance before submitting an NFA letter, and all the documentation included in an NFA letter, as well as all Agency comments. At any time during the NFA letter review process, the public can request and receive any cleanup document from Ohio EPA. In addition, each NFA letter must include a list of all the data, information and documentation relied on to conduct the voluntary action, even if the data is not included as part of the NFA letter submittal. This information is also available to the public upon request.
Though the law protects the volunteer from having any of this documentation used in any civil or administrative proceeding, it does not allow the volunteer to claim any of the information produced in connection with a voluntary action to be confidential or to alter any of the public’s rights to receive access to these documents.
For more information about the program, visit the VAP web page or contact Kelly Kaletsky or call (614) 644-2304.
Download the fact sheet [.PDF]
Ohio’s Voluntary Action Program (VAP) was created to give businesses and property owners a way to investigate possible environmental contamination due to hazardous substances or petroleum releases, clean up the property if necessary and receive a covenant not to sue (CNS); that is, a release from the State of Ohio that no more cleanup is needed.
The VAP maximizes resources and expertise in the private sector by using qualified, experienced professionals such as engineers and scientists certified by Ohio EPA as certified professionals (CP). To ensure high quality laboratory data, Ohio EPA also designates qualified laboratories as certified laboratories (CL) to test environmental samples which generate data used to support environmental cleanups.
The objectives of this fact sheet are to describe who may qualify as a CP and to explain what documentation must be submitted by a professional seeking to participate in the VAP.
A person must meet the following criteria to be eligible to become a CP. The individual must:
- hold a bachelor’s degree from a recognized school in biology, chemistry, an appropriate area of engineering, geology, hydrogeology, toxicology, environmental sciences, the scientific sub-disciplines of public health, hazardous waste management or other equivalent curriculum acceptable to Ohio EPA;
- have eight years of professional experience related to cleanup work. Of the eight years, three years must have been spent as a supervisor or project manager. A relevant master’s degree can substitute for up to one year of experience, and a doctorate can substitute for up to two years;
- possess good moral character, as testified to by references under affidavit;
- possess the professional competence and knowledge to perform the tasks required of a certified professional; and
- take the initial training offered by Ohio EPA within one year prior to submitting a certification application.
A person wishing to be considered for participation in the VAP must submit the following information and documentation by affidavit:
- completed application with signed affidavit;
- original transcripts of degree from a recognized educational institution;
- six completed reference forms;
- documentation of attendance at the initial training; and
- record of payment of the initial professional certification fee, as established in OAC 3745-300-03.
The application and documentation must be mailed to:
Voluntary Action Program
Ohio EPA / DERR
50 West Town Street, Suite 700
P.O. Box 1049
Columbus, OH 43216-1049
In addition to the application requirements, a person wishing to participate in the VAP as a CP must submit a payment of $2,500 payable to:
Treasurer, State of Ohio
The payment should be sent to:
Office of Fiscal Administration
P.O. Box 1049
Columbus, OH 43216-1049
Location of Application/ Rules
Visit the VAP Certified Professional webpage to view or download the application package:
The rules are available here:
The VAP program technical guidance compendium can be found here:
For more information, contact:
If you are looking to purchase a property that may be contaminated, you will want to have an environmental site assessment(s) performed by an experienced environmental consultant. Environmental site assessments are typically conducted in phases, and are used to determine whether a site is contaminated or not. A Phase I environmental assessment is a review of all the records and knowledge associated with the property’s historical record to see if there is the potential for the presence of contamination. If the Phase I indicates there is a potential for contamination, then the assessment of the site proceeds to the next phase. A Phase II involves sampling of the site and will help determine: the extent of contamination; the types and probable sources of contamination the level of risk to humans and the environment associated with the contamination and whether the contamination needs to be cleaned up.
Performing these phased environmental site assessments will give you information to help you determine what kind of additional costs you will incur before you finalize the property purchase. In the case of a property that is contaminated, you want to find out how much it is likely to cost to clean it up before you buy it. An environmental site assessment that meets the requirements of the All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI) rules (for more information on AAI, visit U.S. EPA's Brownfields website); can limit your liability under the federal Superfund law. In addition, an environmental site assessment conducted in accordance with Ohio EPA’s Voluntary Action Program (VAP) rules can be used as part of a no further action letter (NFA) when requesting a covenant not to sue (CNS) from the state. A VAP CNS, issued by Ohio EPA after a property completes a VAP cleanup, releases the owner (and anyone else with an interest in the property) from any future requirements to conduct additional investigation and cleanup on the property. For more information about the VAP, visit the Voluntary Action Program web page.