It is no secret that controversy has surrounded Ohio's Voluntary Action Program since its inception. Depending on whom you ask, it's too weak, too stringent, or too slow. As environmentalists, we have serious concerns with the lack of Ohio EPA oversight, lack of public participation, and contaminated groundwater.
We grew weary of not knowing the true impact the VAP was having on the cleanup of contaminated sites, so we chose to study the VAP. We did this, not to assign blame, but to identify the VAP's weaknesses in order to help the Governor, the Director of Ohio EPA, and the General Assembly to make needed repairs.
Last summer, we spent an entire month buried in the VAP archives. We read virtually every sheet of paper in the stacks. We carefully reviewed all the computer files in the VAP, and we interviewed current and former staff. We believe we understand the state of Ohio's VAP program - how it works and how it doesn't.
Some suggest that we should throw this program out along with Ohio EPA. We don't share that view. We believe this program can be rescued and reformed so that it protects our health, our water, our private property rights and still give the opportunity for property owners to voluntarily clean up and redevelop their property.
The report we are releasing today includes 9 recommendations for reform based on the documented facts. Each of these recommendations is critical to cleaning up Ohio's contaminated sites. But, don't just take our word for it. In the back of the report, you will find a CD ROM that includes scanned images of thousands of pages from OEPA's VAP archives. You will find the Ohio EPA databases and more. Draw your own conclusions. We believe the data stands on its own and makes a clear case for reform.
The Ohio EPA has a list of over 1,800 sites throughout the state with known or suspected contamination. A few have been cleaned up over the years, but most have not.
Our report details the status of the 111 sites that had reported to OEPA when we completed our review in August. 57 of the 111 have been granted Covenants Not to Sue by the state. And only 14 of the 111 sites were found on the state's list of 1,800. Other states have done much better. Minnesota has over a thousand sites in their voluntary cleanup program. New Jersey has over 2,000.
It's time to fix the VAP.
The Director of Ohio EPA should use the upcoming 5-year review of the VAP rules to make the needed administrative changes. The Governor and the General assembly should impanel a workgroup to investigate the legislative changes necessary to correct the VAP and to ensure that Issue 1 money going to the cleanup of contaminated sites is wisely spent.
Bruce Cornett, Director
Green Environmental Coalition
PO Box 266, Yellow Springs, OH 45387