Since the 1990s, the Environmental Company of the State of São Paulo (Cetesb) has been working to define the management procedures of contaminated areas. In 1999 and 2001, the environmental agency released the first and second versions, respectively, of the Contaminated Areas Management Manual.

The first manual was the result of the Technical Cooperation Project between Cetesb and GTZ, a German government agency, and had as its primary objective to define the methodology for identifying, managing, and rehabilitating contaminated areas.

The guidelines provided for in the manual drafted by Cetesb were not limited to the state of São Paulo. They influenced the enactment of environmental legislation on the subject, contributing to the creation of a robust legal framework throughout the country.

In the State of São Paulo, since 2009, State Law No. 13,577/09 has been in force, which is currently regulated by State Decree No. 59,263/13 and provides for guidelines and procedures for the protection of soil quality and the management of contaminated areas. The legal text is directly linked to the technical guidelines established by Cetesb in its manual.

Recently, in 2017, Cetesb issued Board Decision No. 038/2017/C, which establishes the current technical requirements on:

  • the approval of the procedure for the protection of soil and groundwater quality;
  • the procedure for the management of contaminated areas; and
  • guidelines for the management of contaminated areas to be followed during environmental licensing proceedings.

To keep up with the progress of the legislation, as well as the technology involved in the subject, Cetesb updated the manual, having released its third version on April 8, 2021. An initiative of Cetesb's Environmental Board for the Management of Contaminated Areas, the manual was released in digital format and is available on the environmental agency’s website.

The new manual is the result of a joint effort by several stakeholders, such as representatives of the industrial sector, financial institutions, universities, and technical consultants that make up the Chamber. Multidisciplinarity contributes to the drafting of a robust document encompassing subjects related to the performance of the different agents involved in the management of contaminated areas.

The manual also refers to European and North American practices to guide procedures for investigating contaminated areas. For this reason, it is expected that the document will continue to be used as a reference in other states of Brazil, as was already the case with previous versions.

In the third edition, Cetesb’s foresees to publish 83 sections, distributed in 16 chapters. In April, some chapters were already released, which deal, among other aspects, with the history of management of contaminated areas in the state of São Paulo, the applicable methodology, the annotation of existence of contaminated areas in the property’s registry, the procedure for managing critical contaminated areas, the identification of areas with potential for contamination, and the survey of information for the preliminary evaluation, such as existing information and fieldwork. The remaining chapters will be published throughout the year, and their full release is expected to be completed by October 2021.

In addition to updating the information contained in the other versions, the new chapters will address current and relevant topics, such as (i) investigations and risk assessment of contaminated areas; (ii) the drafting and implementation of the intervention plan; (iii) monitoring for closure; (iv) the issuance of the Rehabilitation Term for Declared Use; and (v) instruments, including guiding values, the State Fund for the Prevention and Remediation of Contaminated Areas (Feprac) and environmental education.

At the launch event of the manual, Cetesb highlighted that the management procedures of contaminated areas should consider as reference the Board Decision No. 038/2017/C and the manual. In case of absence of information, the technical standards of the Brazilian Association of Technical Standards (ABNT NBR) may be used, as long as it is applied according to the board's decision and the manual. If the board’s decision or the manual do not provide specific guidance, the Environmental Board for the Management of Contaminated Areas will decide the applicable procedures.

The disclosure of the updated manual evidence Cetesb's commitment to the subject, playing an essential role in standardizing the procedure for managing contaminated areas not only in the state of São Paulo, but throughout Brazil.