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Voluntary Assistance Program

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Excavator operating deep within excavation.

A Voluntary Option to Seek Regulatory Oversight of Environmental Cleanup Projects

The Voluntary Assistance Program (VAP) provides staff consultation, project oversight, and technical or environmental report evaluation and concurrence (when appropriate) on projects pertaining to properties contaminated with hazardous substances. Assistance is customized to meet the needs of the applicant.

The Department of Environmental Health will utilize its experience and knowledge of environmental assessment, cleanup, and risk evaluation to facilitate rapid and cost-effective resolution of contamination issues. 

If a County "closure letter" or "concurrence" letter is desired, the technical information, findings, and recommendations in the reports must demonstrate that human health, water resources and the environment are adequately protected.

Examples of Review Projects:

  • Property phase I and phase II reports for lenders and potential buyers;
  • Phase II environmental assessment work-plans, prior to initiating work;
  • Planning/Building Department requirements for review of potential contamination impacts;
  • Release of cleaning solvents from dry cleaning operations;
  • Cleanup of fuel, waste oil, and other chemical spills;
  • Conversion of gas stations to retail facilities (potential petroleum contamination); and
  • Conversion of agricultural to residential land use (pesticide concerns). 

Brownfields

U.S.E.P.A. defines Brownfields as abandoned, idled, or underused industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.  See the SAM Brownfields Home Page for more information.

Site Designation Process

Some environmental cleanup projects can involve several agencies.  The CAL-EPA Site Designation Process allows one agency to act as the administering agency with the ability to issue a Certificate of Completion.  DEH can serve as the administering agency. For more information on the Site Designation Process, click on Cal/EPA Fact Sheet and Questions and Answers for AB 2061.

Conditions of Review

  • Allow a minimum of 30 days for DEH to review the initial documents.
  • DEH may refuse to accept an application for technical or legal reasons.
  • The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) will be notified of the DEH review.
  • All reports and project files submitted to this program will be available for public review.
  • Copies of all DEH correspondence will be forwarded to the legal property owner.
  • Reports containing geologic interpretation must be signed by an experienced professional with the appropriate California registration or certification.
  • Fees are established by the County of San Diego and billing is done quarterly. All bills must be paid within 30 days of issue. The current billing rate is $142 per hour. 
  • Staff assistance will not be provided on delinquent accounts.
  • Upon satisfactory completion of all activities, a "closure letter"  or "concurrence" letter will be issued.

An applicant may withdraw from the program through submittal of a written notification and payment of accrued fees. The file will remain available for public review. Other environmental agencies may be notified if significant contamination is present.

How to Apply:

The following items must be submitted for the DEH to begin the review process:

Application Form
This form allows the applicant(s) to identify their specific project goals. The form should be signed by the property owner or the applicant(s) agreeing  to pay for DEH services.

Initial Fee
Include a check for $1,420; payable to County of San Diego. This covers the first ten hours of work, which typically includes setting up the project file and initial document review.

Reports
The submitted package should contain all relevant documentation, data, and reports. The most commonly submitted documents are Workplans, Phase I Reports, Phase II Reports, and Health Risk Evaluations.  All reports should include interpretations and recommendations.  Thorough documentation results in faster review

Environmental Assessment Listing

The DEH maintains an extensive listing of environmental assessment files available for public review. Most files are associated with underground storage tank release investigations. Voluntary Assistance Program files are also included. Inclusion of files on this listing does not necessarily mean significant contamination is present.

The list is available by clicking on Environmental Assessment Listing.  A printed listing can be purchased by calling (858) 505-6921.  A copy is also available for review during regular business hours.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:

Voluntary Assistance Program Coordinator
Nasser Sionit
Phone: (858) 505-6795
Facsimile (FAX): (858) 505-6848 
DEH Public Records Review
Joyce Ellman
(Appointment Required)
Phone: (858) 505-6921
Facsimile (FAX): (858) 505-6891
Other DEH ServicesSite Assessment Duty Specialist
Phone: (858) 505-6808