Institutional Controls Information
What is an Institutional Control (IC)?
The Environmental Protection Agency defines an IC as a non-engineered instrument, such as an administrative or legal control, that helps minimize the potential for human exposure to contamination and/or protect the integrity of the remedy.
A simplified definition is: An IC is documentation that informs people about contamination that is present on a specific piece of property and limits activities that could result in exposure to, or the spread of, the contamination.
Why do we use Institutional Controls?
As a state agency with a mission to protect human health and the environment, we have a responsibility to all Alaskans to verify that contamination in the soil and groundwater is documented and cleaned up or effectively managed. We use ICs to minimize the potential for people to be exposed to contamination, and also to ensure that the remedy used to address contamination remains effective.
ICs are also used as a risk management tool to allow for the reuse and redevelopment of a property. We can manage risks at a site by tailoring site cleanups and applying institutional controls according to the site's current and/or future land use. The ICs, such as zoning restrictions, can control exposure to contamination remaining on site while allowing the beneficial reuse of the property.
When are ICs used?
ICs can be applied to a piece of property when contamination is first discovered, in the middle of a cleanup, and when the cleanup work is completed but some contamination remains on site.
What are some examples of Institutional Control requirements?
The responsibilities and requirements for maintaining ICs are explained to property owners and documented on the ADEC Contaminated Sites database where they can be publicly viewed. Depending on the site, they may also be documented in the State land records at the DNR Recorder’s Office, in federal land records maintained by BLM or other agencies, on a federal, state, or municipal lands database, and in some cases, in legal documents like a compliance order by consent, equitable servitude, easement, or a right of way.
Examples of some requirements that may be included in an institutional control are:
- Restricting the use of groundwater
- Requiring advance approval from DEC to transport soil or groundwater offsite
- Inspecting and maintaining fencing or signs to discourage people from entering an area of contamination
- Inspecting and maintaining a cap, such as asphalt, concrete, or other material, over residual contamination
- Prohibiting excavation without prior DEC approval
- Restricting land use to commercial/industrial use only (no 24-hour occupancy)
- Restricting new construction or excavation beyond a certain depth
- Periodic review and reporting to DEC on the requirements to verify that they remain protective.
Here is an illustration showing how contamination on a residential property can lead to exposure risks for people prior to cleanup.
This property has buried drums of hazardous materials that have contaminated the groundwater and indoor and outdoor air. With no cleanup or institutional controls protecting people, they are exposed to contamination from:
- Drinking and bathing in contaminated groundwater
- Breathing contaminated air both inside and outside the home
- Direct contact with contaminated soil and dust
Here is a graphic that depicts the same piece of property after cleanup and placement of ICs.
After remediation of this property, strategic institutional control requirements are used so that people are protected from exposure. A Notice of Environmental Contamination (NEC) document can be placed in the property records which documents the following requirements on this property:
- A containment cap has been placed over the remaining contamination and must be inspected on a regular basis and maintained
- Excavation is prohibited without prior DEC approval
- Periodic review of the requirements will be conducted by DEC to verify that they remain protective
We regularly review and verify that the ICs remain in place, are being maintained and continue to be protective of human health and the environment.
How do I find information about properties with ICs?
The Contaminated Sites database contains information about all properties that have documented soil, surface or groundwater contamination within the state of Alaska. If a piece of property has ICs applied to it, the database site record will have the details.
The database has many different search options and filters including site name, street address, site status, city, borough, and site type. You can also search for a property using the Contaminated Sites Web Map. Once a site is selected from the database search list, the IC/Closure Details section of the property record will show whether there are ICs on the property and, if so, the details including relevant documents issued by ADEC.
What if I want to buy or sell a property with ICs?
Alaska law requires that, during the sale of residential property, any known environmental hazard must be disclosed to a prospective buyer before completing the sale (Alaska Statute (AS) 34.70.010).
If cleanup has been completed and effective ICs are in place, the ICs do not typically hinder property ownership transfers since DEC has determined there is no unacceptable risks as long as the ICs are maintained. Subsequent land owners should abide by any ICs to limit their potential risks and liabilities.
Because the residential property disclosure law reference above only pertains to residential properties, prospective purchasers of non-residential properties are encouraged to hire environmental professionals to perform Phase I/II Environmental Site Assessments (ESA).