Soil-testing transparency bill advances

TRENTON – A bill that would help developers deal with unforeseen problems of soil contamination cleared the Senate Environment and Energy Committee today.

This bill, S3007, sponsored by Sen. Christopher Bateman, (R-16), Somerville, would address the cost of testing and removing contaminated soil from a site targeted for improvement under local public contracts.

The bill was approved unanimously.

Bateman said contractors are often unsure of potential soil problems when they place a bid on a project, and this bill would create better transparency for them.

Supporters, including the Building Contractors Association, pointed out that other benefits would include reduced litigation, fewer change orders, and bids based on more accurate information.

Opponents, including the N.J. League of Municipalities, expressed concern that some kind of dollar threshold be established, and suggested that allowances could be included for a project developer to handle the costs and work of potentially tainted soil.

There was a concern registered by Chairman Sen. Bob Smith about what actually will be tested for, which departments have to be included, and whether some more rulemaking has to be done before this bill progresses.

The bill states that “Any plans that involve the removal of soil from the site would be required to include a statement provided by a laboratory using sampling methods approved by the Department of Environmental Protection specifying the level of contamination of the soil that has been found at the site of the project, or in lieu of a statement, a line item allowance, which shall be a good faith effort on the part of the contracting unit to reasonably estimate the total cost of testing the soil and, if found to be contaminated, the cost of disposal of the contaminated soil.”

The Assembly version, A3633, was passed in the lower chamber in June.

Soil-testing transparency bill advances