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Historical Recognized Environmental Condition (HREC)

A Historical Recognized Environmental Condition (HREC) refers to a past release that has been remediated to below “residential” standards and given regulatory closure with no use restrictions. HREC is defined by ASTM in the E1527-21 standard as “a previous release of hazardous substances or petroleum productsaffecting the subject property that has been addressed to the satisfaction of the applicable regulatory authority or authorities and meeting unrestricted use criteria established by the applicable regulatory authority or authorities without subjecting the subject property to any controls (for example, activity and use limitations or other property use limitations). A historical recognized environmental condition is not a recognized environmental condition.”

The HREC category is distinct from the Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition (CREC), which applies to sites that have received regulatory closure but are still subject to controls.

The determination of whether an environmental condition is a recognized environmental condition (REC), CREC or HREC lies with the environmental professional, and depends upon how the condition impacts the current or future use of the property.

The term Historical Recognized Environmental Condition is sometimes improperly used. “HREC” is not intended to refer to an environmental concern that was caused by a historic activity and still represents a current environmental concern. For example, take a site that was previously used as a dry cleaners from the 1950s to 1970s and is currently contaminated from the former dry cleaning operations. The former drycleaners would be considered a REC even though the dry cleaning was a historic activity, rather than an HREC, because the site is still currently contaminated. If the contamination had been remediated, given regulatory closure, and is not subject to controls, then the former drycleaners and contamination could be considered an HREC.

The new ASTM 1527-21 definition for HREC includes a discussion for further clarification:

“Discussion—Identification of a historical recognized environmental condition is a multi-step process that shall be reflected in the report’s Findings and Opinions section(s), as described in 12.5 and 12.6, including the environmental professional’s rationale for concluding that a finding is a historical recognized environmental condition:

  1. When determining whether a recognized environmental condition has been “addressed to the satisfaction of the applicable regulatory authority or authorities and meeting unrestricted use criteria established by the regulatory authority or authorities,” the environmental professional shall review reasonably ascertainable documentation and relevant data that demonstrate that unrestricted use criteria established by the applicable regulatory authority or authorities was met.
  2. A past release that qualified as a historical recognized environmental condition may no longer qualify as a historical recognized environmental condition if new conditions or information have been identified such as, among other things, a change in regulatory criteria or a subsequently identified migration pathway that was not previously known or evaluated. As noted, the report’s Findings and Opinions section(s) shall include the environmental professional’s rationale for concluding that a condition at the subject propertyis or is not currently a recognized environmental condition or a historical recognized environmental condition.”

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