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Indiana Department of Environmental Management


Chapter 7: Table of Contents

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Chapter 7 - Section III: What Is the Role of State Government/IDEM?

State Cleanup

  • Purpose:
    • Responsible for the management of long-term remediation, or clean-up, projects that are not being addressed by the federal Superfund program or any other IDEM program.
  • Process:
    • Site referral
    • Site prioritization
    • Investigation report
    • Remedial work plan
    • Community relations plan
    • Agreed order, cleanup agreement
  • Opportunity for Public Participation:
    • Public notice
    • Public comment period
    • Public meeting
    • In sites with substantial threat to public health and the environment:
      • Remediation work plan placed on public notice
      • Public comment period
      • Note: Sites that represent a lesser threat to human health or the environment may have fewer public participation opportunities.

IDEM’s state cleanup section works to mitigate all risks to human health and the environment through the investigation and remediation of sites.

Sites that are not being remediated under federal cleanup programs may be addressed by the state cleanup program, which relies on establishing the liability of a potentially responsible party to conduct or assume the costs of the actual cleanup activities. If no responsible party can be identified, cleanups may be conducted by IDEM and paid for by the Indiana Hazardous Substance Response Trust Fund. However, unlike Superfund, state cleanups can target petroleum pollution as well as hazardous waste or hazardous substance contamination. Examples of state cleanup sites could include facilities such as petroleum terminals and refineries, abandoned landfills, former lead smelting and battery recycling sites, and other types of industrial sites, or smaller sites with abandoned storage tanks, waste tire piles, or drums of hazardous waste. State cleanups are conducted or monitored by staff from the IDEM Office of Land Quality's Remedial Services branch.

The two (2) types of sites that qualify as state cleanups are:

  1. State cleanup sites: Those sites that have received a notification of a release, at which time the site or release will be prioritized under the priority ranking system, which is a method to assess the potential risk to public health and the environment.
  2. Immediate removal sites: Those sites requiring time critical removal of contaminants that pose an immediate and substantial threat to the public health and the environment. Usually these health or environmental dangers must be resolved within six months. The immediate removal program only addresses the removal of immediate danger, not the full-scale cleanup of a site.

Circumstances vary from site-to-site regarding the actual levels of contamination at the site, the level of public interest in the site or to the proposed method of cleanup. The state cleanup program generally follows IDEM's Risk-Integrated System of Closure when addressing state cleanup sites.

Beginning a State Cleanup Project

To move a site through cleanup, the state cleanup program project manager works as closely as possible with the responsible party. The responsible party must submit an investigation report to IDEM detailing the extent of contamination. They additionally must provide a remediation work plan detailing how the cleanup will proceed. If necessary, the project manager may write an agreed order. By signing the agreed order, the responsible party formally acknowledges responsibility for the site and demonstrates its acceptance of financial responsibility for the cleanup. If the responsible party will not accept the terms of the agreed order, legal action by IDEM may follow. Once a cleanup agreement is in place, work can proceed at the site. Frequently, the responsible party or its contractor performs the site cleanup work, with oversight from IDEM state cleanup staff.

Public Participation Opportunities

RISC requires that IDEM prepare a formal community relations plan and conduct other public notification and public participation activities. The community relations plan should include plans to: conduct community interviews, provide an information repository, and ensure the public has the opportunity to view and comment on the proposed remediation work plan. The community relations plan also requires IDEM to hold a public meeting regarding the plan. The record of decision, which finalizes the remediation work plan, will include responses to all public comments. The record of decision does three things: it describes the technical limits and goals of the selected remedy; it serves as the legal document certifying the remedy was selected in accordance with the requirements of Superfund and the national contingency plan requirements; and is a public document that provides a single comprehensive source of information about the site and the remedy.

Some sites are smaller or are seemingly of lesser public interest, which means IDEM generally follows the RISC requirements based on the circumstances of the individual site, and takes into account the level of public interest demonstrated for that location. During the course of each cleanup project, state cleanup staff will be in contact with the local county health department, and may seek input from local elected officials, community leaders and other Hoosiers who express interest in the project.

If a site poses a substantial threat to public health and the environment, or if there is community interest, the site project manager may place the proposed remediation work plan on public notice by announcing in a local newspaper where the plan may be viewed, and where interested residents may submit comments during the announced comment period. IDEM may also establish an information site at a local library where interested residents may come throughout the cleanup process to view the investigation report, the proposed remediation work plan, the agreed order, responses to any public comments, the record of decision, quarterly progress reports on the cleanup, information on the completion of the cleanup, and any other information included in the administrative record, which comprises the complete history of the site and site-related activities.

Sites that represent a lesser threat to public health and the environment, and for which there is little or no perceived public interest, may have the cleanup activity moved forward with fewer public process activities. However, in such instances, interested residents may still become involved in the process of planning and conducting the cleanup.

If at any time you are interested in any action undertaken by the state cleanup program but are unaware of a formal public participation process such as the one described above, you have a right to contact the state cleanup program immediately at (317) 234-0361, fax (317) 234-0428. IDEM will respond by providing you with access to any public records you request regarding the site.

Completing a state cleanup

Upon the successful completion of remediation at a site, a no further action letter will be issued to the responsible party. Sites that receive a no further action letter will no longer have a priority ranking.

Cleanup program eligibilities

The responsible party (site owners or past owners, operators or past operators) of sites addressed by the state cleanup program also has the option of participating in the Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP) [PDF], rather than moving forward with a cleanup under the state cleanup program. However, participation in the VRP is only open to those sites that are not the target of any enforcement action or pending enforcement action. Sites being addressed by the state cleanup program also may be eligible for inclusion in the Natural Resources Damage Program. Currently there is no state funding, such as grants or loans, available from the state cleanup program.


  • Purpose:
    • Remediation of properties where redevelopment is complicated due to actual or potential environmental contamination.
  • Provides:
    • Site assessment & remediation grants
    • Low-interest loans
  • Opportunity for Public Participation:
    • No official public participation process
    • Applications providing solid economic and/or community redevelopment plans and community support are rated more highly during scoring

The Indiana Brownfields Program (IBP) is administered by the Indiana Finance Authority, and IDEM project managers provide technical environmental oversight. A brownfield is a property where redevelopment is complicated due to actual or potential environmental contamination. Because the potential environmental liability of these properties is unknown, prospective buyers are often unwilling to assume the risk of undetermined cleanup costs and the properties remain idle. Brownfields may be contaminated with hazardous substances or petroleum, and these sites are frequently overgrown, run down, or otherwise neglected, projecting an air of decay and blight which may be viewed as undesirable for redevelopment.

Handled appropriately, brownfields can become assets as opposed to liabilities. The redevelopment of brownfield sites benefits communities by rejuvenating neighborhoods, increasing the tax base, mitigating threats to human health and the environment, and reducing blight. Successful redevelopment is the result of local champions who identify opportunities and embrace partnerships. The IBP is one partner that can work one-on-one with communities and other stakeholders to explore available state and federal assistance to address specific liability and funding issues to facilitate brownfields redevelopment.

What services does the Brownfield Program provide?

The IBP offers environmental site assessment and remediation grants and low-interest loans. Utilizing state and federal funds, the IBP is accountable to the public and incorporates different mechanisms and resources to provide meaningful opportunities for public participation.

Public Participation Opportunities

Although there is no actual public notice or comment period required for the selection of financial assistance recipients (although awards of state funds are approved at open meetings of the Indiana Finance Authority Board), applications providing the best overall demonstration of a plan for economic and/or community development and which demonstrate solid community support will receive more and have the best chance of being selected for funding.

While public notices and/or meetings are also not required for assessment/remediation activities undertaken at brownfield sites (unless federal funding is being utilized), the IBP provides assistance for projects/applicants that demonstrate active efforts to engage the community in brownfield redevelopment in general, in the project that is the subject of the application and to applicants that have identified and reached out to local partners necessary for the project to succeed. The IBP also solicits public input regarding any U.S. EPA grant proposals it submits, as well as proposed incentives/initiatives using federal funding, as necessary and appropriate through its listserv, Web page, and various stakeholder partners.

Regarding public access to information, the IBP maintains project files in addition to utilizing IDEM’s Virtual File Cabinet or via the Indiana Brownfields Program site. For more information about the public participation processes associated with the Indiana Brownfields Program, please contact (317) 234-0235.

Voluntary Remediation Program

  • Purpose:
    • Provides a mechanism for site owners, operators or potential purchasers to voluntarily enter into a remediation agreement
  • Process:
    • Application – fee of $1,000
    • Voluntary Remediation Agreement
    • Facility Investigation
    • Remediation Work Plan
    • Completion – Covenant Not to Sue
  • Opportunity for Public Participation:
    • All applications are confidential prior to sighing Voluntary Remediation Agreement
    • Remediation Work Plan placed on public notice
    • 30-day public comment period provided for Remediation Work Plan
    • Public hearing may be held if deemed appropriate

The Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP), established by the state legislature in 1993, provides a mechanism for site owners, operators, or potential purchasers to voluntarily enter into an agreement with IDEM to clean up contaminated property. Participation in VRP can facilitate the sale and reuse of industrial and commercial properties.

Basic Requirements for the Voluntary Remediation Program

The application fee for the Voluntary Remediation Program is $1000, and IDEM may take up to 30 days to make a decision regarding whether an applicant is eligible to participate. Incomplete applications are returned, although applicants may resubmit a complete application.

Once an application has been accepted, the applicant must enter into a Voluntary Remediation Agreement with IDEM that identifies the obligations of both the applicant and IDEM. VRP participants are expected to cooperate with IDEM and must adhere to certain standards with respect to the investigation of the extent and nature of contamination, as well as IDEM’s evaluation, recommendations of remedial actions and the level of cleanup required.

Applicants also must agree to reimburse IDEM for costs incurred in reviewing work plans and reports, and for oversight of the cleanup itself. IDEM will provide the applicant with an estimate of its review and oversight costs within the voluntary remediation agreement. The $1,000 application fee is applied to IDEM’s oversight cost. Agreement also sets deadlines for the completion of milestone tasks and establishes a schedule for payments to IDEM.

As the program is voluntary, all applications are confidential and are not part of the public record until IDEM and the applicant both sign the Voluntary Remediation Agreement. However, once the voluntary remediation agreement is in effect, all information and documents related to the project become part of the public record.

Beginning the remediation project

After the voluntary remediation agreement is signed, the applicant prepares and submits a series of work plans and reports for IDEM's review, and copies are made available at the "local repository," such as the public library in the affected county. Before IDEM can approve a remediation work plan, a complete copy must be placed on public notice and have a 30-day public comment period. During that 30-day period, interested parties may also view the plan online on IDEM’s Virtual Filing Cabinet.

Notification of the public

The remediation work plan must include a community relations plan [PDF]. The community relations plan requires that Voluntary Remediation Program participants must identify adjacent property owners, occupants, neighborhood organizations, and sensitive community institutions such as child care facilities or senior citizen facilities. Sample public notices are provided to IDEM, and mailed to those identified as interested parties. Additionally, local government, newspapers, and the location for the remediation work plan are identified. Finally, appropriate signage is provided for each entrance at the cleanup site.

To do its part to implement the community relations plan, IDEM will place a copy of the remediation work plan at the public library and/or other repositories, notify affected government officials, publish a notice requesting comments, and set a public comment period of at least 30 days. In addition, IDEM may hold a public hearing if at least one request is made during the public comment period and IDEM agrees that a hearing is appropriate.

Beginning the cleanup process

Once IDEM has approved the remediation work plan, cleanup work may begin. The site owner or operator must notify IDEM within 60 days of approval that he or she intends to proceed with implementation of the plan, as some participants may not support the recommended cleanup plan and opt to drop out of the program. Participants must submit regular written reports to IDEM, and IDEM Voluntary Remediation Program onsite staff also will oversee the cleanup. The standards for what constitutes a clean site and a completed cleanup project are based on a combination of performance and quantity standards outlined in the Voluntary Remediation Program's 1996 Resource Guide [PDF] and the IDEM RISC (Risk Integrated System of Closure) document.

Completing the cleanup project

When the cleanup work is completed, the Voluntary Remediation Program participant must submit a remediation completion report. The completion report contains a summary of the projects, and results of sampling to confirm that cleanup criteria have been met. Final samples from the site will be tested by both IDEM and the participant to confirm that the site cleanup meets required cleanup levels. Once the cleanup has been successfully completed and payments to IDEM have been made for oversight costs, IDEM's Commissioner will issue a certificate of completion and the Governor's office will issue a covenant not to sue. These documents provide the participant and any future landowners with an assurance that the voluntary cleanup has been performed properly and that their future liability is limited.

Cleanup program eligibilities

Facilities at which a cleanup already has taken place may still participate in the Voluntary Remediation Program. However, such facilities would have to meet the same cleanup levels as other participants before a certificate of completion and a covenant not to sue could be issued.

Underground Storage Tanks (UST)/Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (LUST)

  • Purpose:
    • Assess risks and oversees prioritized cleanups associated with releases from underground storage tanks
  • Owner/Operator:
    • Notifies IDEM of release within 60 days and submits report
    • Submits a corrective action plan to cleanup any contamination
  • Opportunity for Public Participation:
    • Public notified of releases
    • Public meeting, if requested or public interest is high

IDEM’s LUST section is responsible for protecting human health and the environment through assessing risks and overseeing prioritized cleanups associated with releases from underground storage tanks.

Handling Leaks from Underground Storage Tanks

Underground storage tanks are large containers placed underground to hold liquids such as petroleum products and industrial chemicals. IDEM closely regulates underground storage tanks because leaking tanks can easily contaminate soil and ground water. Above ground storage tanks that contain petroleum products are regulated by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security Division of Fire & Building Safety and the U.S. EPA.

Within 24 hours of detecting a suspected or confirmed release from an underground storage tank, the owner and/or operator must:

  1. Report the suspected or confirmed release to IDEM;
  2. Take immediate action to prevent any further release; and,
  3. Identify and eliminate any fire, explosion, or vapor hazards.

Some of the other measures the owner/operator must take are to prevent further releases into the environment, and to the extent possible, prevent further migration (movement away from the tank site) of any released material. For more information on what to do if you think your home might be affected by a leaking underground storage tank, visit IDEM's Web site.

The cleanup of materials released from an underground storage tank is referred to as a “corrective action” (not to be confused with a RCRA corrective action). Within 60 days of a release from an underground storage tank, the owner/operator must submit an initial report to IDEM. This report must include information about where and how much contamination is found in the soil and ground water as well as an analysis of potential movement and exposure to people or the environment.

Investigating the environmental impact

The investigation generally includes the collection and testing of soil and groundwater in the area of the leak or spill. Generally, one or more additional further site investigations are necessary to fully determine the full extent of the contamination. Afterward, the owner/operator must submit a corrective action plan in order to clean-up any contamination of the soil and groundwater caused by the release. IDEM will approve the corrective action plan only after determining that it will adequately protect human health and the environment. Afterward, the owner/operator will carry out the cleanup plan and notify IDEM on their progress. The cleanup must continue until contamination is reduced to a safe level.

Public participation opportunities

Before 1988 there were nearly 600 leaks and spills reported each year; however, since all old tanks were either closed, replaced or upgraded between 1988 – 2000, only about 200 new leaks are reported each year. At the end of 2008, there were approximately 2,600 active leaking underground storage tank sites in Indiana. Program rules require that IDEM notifies those who are directly affected by the release and the planned corrective action to. Since July 1, 2007, all new releases and spills of petroleum at these facilities are reported to the county health department in which the release occurred and subsequently published in the local newspaper.

IDEM’s Leaking Underground Storage Tank project managers have the flexibility to determine how to best meet that notice requirement. In many instances, there may be no potentially affected persons. In instances where there is any imminent danger of exposure, and depending on the number of potentially affected persons, members of the public may be notified by personal contact by field staff or by letters to individual households. Site release information and IDEM decisions concerning the corrective action plan are always available for public inspection upon request through IDEM’s Virtual File Cabinet.

The IDEM Leaking Underground Storage Tank project manager also may hold a public meeting if there is significant public interest. If a public meeting is held, Leaking Underground Storage Tank staff generally will informally record comments and, if possible, respond directly to any questions asked at the meeting. All IDEM records for these sites may be viewed in the IDEM Virtual File Cabinet. For specific questions about sites in your area, email "LeakingUST at" or call (317) 232-8900.

Emergency Response to Hazardous Material Releases/spills

Every year, IDEM receives approximately 3000 calls to its 24-hour toll free Emergency Spill Line at (888) 233-7745. IDEM’s emergency response staff react to incidents that are considered immediate major threats to the environment and health. Dispatched day or night and in any weather, the IDEM emergency responders protect their fellow Hoosiers and our environment. Because unexpected or accidental releases occur, IDEM’s Office of Land Quality maintains a highly-trained, skilled team of emergency responders to provide immediate response at the site of a release that has the potential to affect Indiana’s land or water quality.

The Emergency Response Section’s primary role is to facilitate spill response actions from persons and corporations experiencing spills to soil and water. The section may also request assistance from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Coast Guard for large scale releases of petroleum or hazardous substances such as from pipelines or river barges and during releases of toxic gasses that require long term monitoring or evacuations. Ten IDEM responders are located throughout the state, based in IDEM’s offices in Indianapolis, South Bend, Merrillville, and Petersburg.

At the site of a release, staff assess the incident and provide technical assistance to the responsible party concerning the requirements for containing and stopping a release and outline clean-up requirements. Responders provide oversight to ensure responsible parties meet clean-up requirements. Often, responsible parties must hire specialized contractors that are able to perform a spill response. Emergency responders will oversee efforts from several hours to several days depending on the severity and environmental impact of the accident. If a responsible party is unable or unwilling to conduct a spill response IDEM emergency response staff may expend state funds to conduct a clean-up and cost recover from the responsible party at a later date.

The emergency response staff also work to minimize the potential for immediate harm to Hoosiers and the environment by providing assistance to other response agencies involved at the scene. This includes local fire departments, county emergency management agencies, and county health departments. IDEM emergency response staff also work closely with DNR and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. Emergency response staff also regularly hand off projects to other IDEM programs such as LUST after a spill response has been completed but long term remediation remains to be performed.

Non-emergency calls and other concerns can be directed to IDEM at (800) 451-6027. IDEM provides a quick reference sheet that provides specific contact information in the event of a spill or material release.