Voluntary cleanup and the Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE)
Any individual, business or unit of government that conducts an environmental investigation and cleanup of a contaminated property, while following state requirements and with the oversight of DNR staff, can receive an exemption from future environmental liability for historical contamination. This liability exemption applies to the release of hazardous substances that are sampled during the site investigation.
The Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE) is implemented by the DNR and described in § 292.15, Wis. Stats.
Jan. 3, 2019
Recent concerns over emerging contaminants, particularly per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), in Wisconsin and nationally have prompted the DNR to evaluate the potential for historical discharges of PFAS and other emerging contaminants at properties enrolled in the VPLE program that are pursuing a certificate of completion (COC). Based on these concerns, the DNR has concluded that the risk of a PFAS release cannot be ruled out at a VPLE property without confirmation testing.
The interim decision is to offer a voluntary party a COC for the hazardous substances that are investigated after all the VPLE requirements have been met. COCs will not be awarded that cover substances that were not investigated but could be discovered in the future.
This interim decision does not affect properties that have already received a certificate of completion.
More information about this change is available in this RR Report article.
The voluntary party liability exemption is an elective environmental cleanup program. Interested persons who meet the definition of "voluntary party" are eligible to apply. A voluntary party is any person who submits an application and pays all the necessary fees. The voluntary party can be the company that owned and operated a facility or it can be a new purchaser.
Most properties that have had a discharge of a hazardous substance are eligible for VPLE. Some properties are excluded from the VPLE process, as described in s. 292.15(7), Wis. Stats. Specifically, properties with the following are NOT eligible:
- a property that is listed or proposed to be listed on the Superfund National Priorities List;
- a solid waste facility or site that is an approved facility as defined in s. 289.01(3), Wis. Stats. (these are typically larger landfills);
- a hazardous waste treatment, storage or disposal facility that first began operation after the voluntary party acquired the property;
- a licensed hazardous waste treatment, storage or disposal facility operated on the property before the date on which the voluntary party acquired the property and that is operated after the date on which the voluntary party acquired the property; and
- any hazardous waste disposal facility that has been issued a license under s. 144.441 (2), Wis. Stats., or s. 289.41 (1m), Wis. Stats., or rules promulgated under those sections, for a period of long-term care following closure of the facility.
- List of "approved facilities" that are NOT eligible for VPLE
- To check if your site is an ineligible hazardous waste site, you should check the Solid and Hazardous Waste Information System (SHWIMS).
In addition, some sites may not be eligible to participate or to complete the VPLE process due to technical issues associated with the environmental cleanup at the site. Properties with waste sites (e.g., a landfill) must obtain a ch. NR 726, Wis. Adm. Code, site closure in order to receive the VPLE protections. It must do so without the reliance on any active remedial system to ensure compliance with environmental and public health standards, such as active treatment or collection systems relating to groundwater, leachate or gas.
VPLE cleanup standards
Properties cleaned up through the VPLE process must conduct the environmental investigation and response actions in accordance with the same cleanup standards as any environmental cleanup conducted in Wisconsin. For more information see the Cleanup Overview page and the Cleanup Rules and Laws page.
- VPLE Frequently Asked Questions (RR-057)
- Obtaining DNR Approval Prior to Use of Imported Soil and Other Fill Materials on Voluntary Party Liability Exemption Sites, Wis. Stats. §292.15 (RR-041)
- Voluntary Party Remediation and Exemption from Liability (RR-506)
Application and Fees
To participate in the Voluntary Party Liability Exemption process, you must submit a completed application form (Form 4400-178) to the regional DNR office. Enclose a $250 application fee, payable to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and all required attachments with your application.
Within 30 days of receiving your letter of eligibility, you must send the DNR an advanced deposit of $2,000 for properties less than one acre and $4,000 for properties one acre or larger. If the cost of the hourly oversight fees is less than the advance deposit, you will receive a refund from the DNR. These fees are used to cover the DNR oversight costs. If oversight fees are greater than the deposit, the voluntary party will be billed quarterly.
Please submit a separate application for each property. A property is the area of real property included in a VPLE application, made up of a legally identifiable parcel or legally identifiable contiguous parcels created in compliance with applicable laws.
For state Fiscal Year 2020 (July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020), VPLE oversight and technical review is billed at a rate of $105 an hour.
VPLE insurance for natural attenuation
Parties seeking the VPLE for sites using natural attenuation must take part in the DNR's insurance program.
Current VPLE sites
There are 73 properties currently in the VPLE program.
- List of properties currently in the VPLE process (updated 11/12/19)
Completed VPLE sites
As of Sept. 28, 2018, 192 sites have completed their cleanups and received a certificate of completion (COC).
- List of properties that have received COCs (updated 11/12/19)
For site-specific questions: