July 12, 2001

MTCA revisions take effect Aug. 15

Department of Ecology

On Feb. 12 after five years of collaboration with public and private groups, the Washington State Department of Ecology adopted revisions to the Model Toxics Control Act cleanup regulation.

The Model Toxics Control Act is an initiative passed overwhelmingly by voters in 1988. It established cleanup levels, standards and processes for contaminated sites in Washington state.

The purpose of the revisions is to make the rules easier to understand, consistent with new scientific information, include recommendations from advisory boards and reflect agency policies.

Ecology worked for five years on revisions, using advice from the Policy Advisory Committee and other groups representing Ecology, local government, environmental groups, legislators, large and small businesses, insurance, the agricultural community and scientists.

The updated rule reflects changes to a number of issues, such as applications for natural attenuation. There were also additions to the rule to address issues of concern to the public, such as model remedies for commercial gas stations.

The revisions will be effective on Aug. 15. This decision was made to allow six-months for work to begin on key policies issues that have been identified and to begin training/educating Ecology staff, the regulated community, consultants and the general public.

Ecology identified a list of actions that are of the highest priority and demanded additional time between adoption and implementation.

Some of the issues of greatest interest include remedy selection, terrestrial ecological evaluations and creation of a citizen technical advisor position.

  • Remedy selection: Remedies are how to do a cleanup. The changes provide more information on how to use natural attenuation methods for cleanup, such as dispersion, degradation and absorption. Attenuation is the process that makes a contaminant less concentrated.

  • Terrestrial ecological evaluation procedure: The proposal includes a new procedure for evaluating potential threats from soil contamination to plants and animals, and for establishing cleanup levels that protect the ecosystem. For industrial and commercial properties, cleanup levels are based on protection of wildlife (birds and mammals). For all other land uses, they are based on protection of birds, mammals, plants and ecologically important functions of soil biota that affect plants or wildlife.

  • Citizen technical advisor: The new rule authorized Ecology to develop a citizen technical advisor pilot program. This program provides technical assistance to citizens who are not potentially responsible for cleanup, on the Model Toxics Control Act and remedial actions occurring under the Act. Criteria for selection of the ombudsperson program were developed by representatives from industry, citizens groups and Ecology. A three-year review will be conducted by an advisory committee comprised of representatives from industry, citizens groups and Ecology.

These issues and others will serve the interests of the environmental community, business community and Ecology site managers.

For more information on the cleanup regulation, visit Ecology’s Web site at

Caitlin Cormier is a public information officer at the state Department of Ecology specializing in waste issues.

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