Winterize Remedial Systems to Protect Project Objectives

snowy-winter-pine-tree-branches-snow-free-stock-photoGone are long, sunburned work days in the field. They have been mercilessly, cruelly replaced by short and grey days of shivering in insulated overalls while coaxing a few more readings from a dying PID’s dimly lit screen. Site-specific Health & Safety Plans no longer warn of dangers associated with heat stroke and wasp nests; but rather, frostbite, hypothermia and slick ice. Remediation system trailers have become refuge from the cold…places to steal periodic warmth from motorized equipment as it whines and screams to keep it for itself.

Winter-time O&M visits are many times fraught with troubles directly associated with seasonally cold temperatures, which threaten to shut our systems down. Although we are not unaccustomed to handling system down-time due to mechanical fault, the problem in winter becomes a matter of restarting. Most commonly, water recovery tanks freeze solid. Special design and O&M considerations are often called for in colder climate regions where winter temperatures average below freezing. The degree to which these measures are necessary is dependent upon the winter severity in the region where the system is required to function. For example, in mid-latitude North American states such as Kentucky or Tennessee, nighttime freezing temperatures are common during winter months, but average daytime temperatures may hover near or above freezing. In these types of areas, a layer of insulation in the system building or trailer walls may be necessary. Coupled with warmth emanating from operating remediation equipment, this is enough to ensure operable temperatures. In more northern areas, auxiliary heaters will be necessary. In extreme cold areas, remediation system are many times shut down entirely for winter to avoid the losing battle of keeping systems up and running.

There are other measures that can be taken to help make wintertime O&M visits a bit less miserable:

  1. Make sure that you know exactly where system wells are located. Drive a stake or flag or collect precise GPS coordinates to make sure that you can find them once snow falls.
  2. Replace gaskets in well vaults before winter sets in to help keep water out that will be solid blocks of ice when you return on a bitter cold day.
  3. System well vaults that are located in parking lots or streets will likely be repeatedly subject to snow plow blades. Make sure that well pads and vaults are in good condition with no vertical lips or protrusions that may catch the edge of a snow plow blade. There are ways of installing well pads that can help with this. Most cold-weather drillers know how.
  4. System equipment itself should be maintained more frequently during winter to keep bearing grease fresh, filters clear and pump diaphragms in good shape. Malfunctions in this equipment will be the end of your remediation season.

It is common that remediation work is performed by consultants or contractors based on an assumption that contaminant mass removal will continue non-stop during seasonal changes. Any interruptions to that may mean significantly extended remediation time-frames and budgetary repercussions. The cold, harsh reality is that winter is here and remediation systems need to be prepared. Focus, however, on the warmth of the cup of coffee that you will be offered you as you are congratulated on reaching remedial objectives on time and on budget.

About the author:
mainjeffEnvironmental Expert

Jeff Carnahan, L.P.G.

Jeffrey Carnahan is a Vice President and the Director of Technical Services at EnviroForensics, Mr. Carnahan holds a M.S. in Geology and is a Licensed Professional Geologist (LPG) with 17 years of environmental consulting and remediation experience.  Mr. Carnahan’s expertise has focused on the investigation and interpretation of subsurface releases of hazardous substances for the purpose of evaluating and controlling the risk and cost implications to his clients.  While managing sites ranging in size from retail gas stations and dry cleaners to large manufacturing facilities, Mr. Carnahan has amassed extensive experience working with releases of chlorinated solvents within voluntary and enforcement cleanup programs for various State agencies and the U.S. EPA.  In his role as Director of Technical Services, Mr. Carnahan leads, supports and encourages the entire EnviroForensics team of experts as they guide their clients through the process of turning environmental liabilities to assets.

EnviroForensics is an environmental engineering firm specializing in soil and groundwater investigation and remediation and vapor intrusion assessment and mitigation. EnviroForensics has all have the tools available to us to perform the highest caliber science in the market today, which allows designing and implementing clever, innovative and effective solutions to PCE and TCE contamination. EnviroForensics® has pioneered and perfected the utilization of Comprehensive General Liability insurance policies as a resource to pay for the high costs associated with soil and groundwater investigations, remediations, and legal defense. 


Written by Stephen R. Henshaw, President & CEO, EnviroForensics

As seen in the November 2014 issue of Cleaner & Launderer

PDF Version

“How clean is clean”, has been a phrase that has been debated for decades.  It is used in reference to determining the degree to which a site that is contaminated by chlorinated solvents such as PCE (Perc) and TCE, needs to be cleaned up and remediated before the site is deemed to be free of environmental encumbrances.   Commonly this clean up level is based on concurrence from the regulatory agency overseeing the site. When the regulatory agency determines that cleanup levels have been satisfactorily demonstrated, they will issue a No-Further-Action (or equivalent) letter.  But not all site closures are equal, nor in the best interest of the property owner.

I want to tell you this because obtaining site closure may not avail a property owner with property that can be marketed and utilized to its fullest value, even constricting future land uses.  I want to tell you this because most people are so afraid of the environmental contamination that their focus is on getting the site closed.  By putting the site closure focus ahead of the future value may leave a property owner with a long-term management problem and an under preforming asset.  If property owners do not think about the future land use and long-term monitoring requirements of a property, they could be restricted to use the property for a specific land use (e.g. industrial or commercial) by way of a deed restriction that is placed on the property for generations to come.  The property owner could be required to manage contamination left in place by having to ensure that the deed restriction is enforced. They could be required to maintain the operation and maintenance of a vapor mitigation system for as long as twenty to thirty years after site closure.  They might even find that a bank is not willing to lend on the property, restricting the use of the property as collateral for fear of future changes in the law or potential future third party personal injury or property value claims.


6 Necessary Steps to Securing A Thorough Environmental Site Investigation


Several reasons may prompt the need for conducting environmental site investigations. Sale or refinancing of a property/business will require a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA). These ESAs recommend further evaluation of recognized environmental conditions (RECs) to determine potential risks and liabilities. This can be very costly and reveal the obligation for even costlier remediation. Sudden and accidental releases of chemicals from industrial facilities such as machine shops, dry cleaners, plating operations, or many other industrial operations can also bring regulatory notice for action.

The investigation of environmental conditions is critical and therefore needs to be conducted methodically and thoroughly so that liabilities and risks are properly evaluated and mitigated. Without this there can be significant financial exposure for property owners and potential health risks for occupants of neighboring commercial and residential neighboring properties. Here are the necessary steps to securing a thorough investigation of environmental conditions.


1. Review Your History and Your Surrounding Properties
Review of former business uses at your Site, along with past and current operational areas. This will help determine where chemicals of concern may have been used. This is important not only for your property but for properties near you that may impact your property.

2. Line up Your Defense
Defense wins championships, so start building your team. Gather all information you have on insurance assets (quotes, policies-new and old, checks, letters, bills, etc.). Organize a file of agency inspections and correspondence that may have occurred. Hire a qualified environmental consultant and seek counsel from an experienced environmental defense attorney. Continue to keep up with the regulatory reporting requirements with each step conducted below.

Learn how we can help you uncover funds to offset environmental costs through insurance archeology

3. Build a Conceptual Site Model (CSM)
This is an ongoing process that depicts characteristics of a site (largely environmental conditions of soil, groundwater and soil gas) and the processes by which contaminants may move from source areas to receptors. With each step of investigation and remediation, this CSM is tested, proven and/or refined.

4. Define Nature and Extent
Through a combination of strategic testing of soil, groundwater and soil gas, the CSM is refined by assessing Site Conditions physically and chemically to understand what contaminants are present in those media. This process is referred to as defining the nature (what chemicals and how concentrated) and extent (migratory pathways and distribution) of contamination.

5. Evaluate Risks
Regulating Agencies provide guidance on what are unacceptable concentrations for chemicals, evaluated under specific exposure scenarios. This is where expert interpretation is necessary to evaluate potential risks the contaminants present to exposed or potentially exposed populations. The continuum of exposure pathway to receptor is a key concept to identify where unacceptable risks (e.g. harm to human health and the environment) exist.

6. Remediate Appropriately
Conducting the first five points thoroughly will help in the determination and design of the most appropriate method of remediation. If there are (or will be in the future) completed pathways of exposure, those pathways need to be eliminated.  This is often most productively done by removing the source (or sources) of contamination to both a manageable size and level, such that remaining exposure pathways to receptors are at acceptable risks levels.

Learn more about our site investigation and remediation services.

EnviroForensics Mitigates Dry Cleaner Pollution for Wisconsin Based Company

Neon thank you signTeamwork by Klinke Cleaners, Wisconsin DNR and Wisconsin environmental consultants Enviroforensics keys successful dry cleaner cleanup

The success of Enviroforensics’ cleanup of a busy Wisconsin dry cleaning site may be summed up in one word: teamwork. In this case, a three-pronged project involving Klinke Cleaners — a familiar business in southern Wisconsin — the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and Enviroforensics, Inc.

Enviroforensics’ team of environmental experts cleaned decades-old pollution from under Klinke Drycleaners on University Avenue near the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison. For several weeks, workers drilled for soil samples, captured vapor samples (including from two area homes) and installed a vapor mitigation system under the building. All this was done without disrupting Klinke workers and customers and those of other nearby businesses.

“We hardly noticed,” says Katrina Sprang, manager of Ancora Coffee, a cafe sharing Klinke’s building.

The pollution is no longer a danger to the environment, and it will not return thanks to continued monitoring and Klinke’s conversion to modern drycleaning solvents. Remediating the site is a triumph of forward-thinking technology developed over the years by Enviroforensics.

The project started when the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources cited Klinke Cleaners, asking the company to examine the ground beneath its University Avenue store in Madison.

As a leading small business owner, Rich Klinke keeps abreast of his company’s 21 stores and their impact on its communities. He also monitors the changing state and federal regulations affecting drycleaners. He is a board member of the Wisconsin Fabricare Institute (and president in 2007-2008) and is a former president and board member of the Wisconsin DNR Drycleaners Environmental Response Fund (DERF). Klinke was ready when the WDNR made its request. He called Enviroforensics to find and root out the pollution.

Registered geologists Wayne Fassbender and Brian Kappen of Enviroforensics’ Waukesha office headed the Enviroforensics team. Fassbender points out that residue of old drycleaning solvents — such as PERC (Perchloroethylene) — is a known pollutant. Many drycleaners — including Klinke — are switching to more environmentally-friendly solvents, including DF-2000. The willingness and resources to remove old pollutants varies from company to company.

“Rich Klinke was ready and willing to tackle the problem,” says Fassbender. “The challenge was to remove the threat of vapor intrusion into the dry cleaners and, in one case, an adjoining coffee shop/cafe, and also remove the threat to groundwater.”

As the soil and vapor sampling progressed, contamination was found in soil beneath the building Klinke owns on University Avenue. The impacts were significant enough that vapors were accumulating beneath the building slab in amounts exceeding WDNR screening levels. Luckily, the soil contamination did not migrate to the groundwater table.

Enviroforensics enlisted help from an expert mitigation contractor, Vapor Protection Services (VPS) to address the vapor intrusion concerns. A sub-slab depressurization system (SSDS) was installed to mitigate sub-slab vapor concentrations and protect the building’s occupants from exposure to indoor air contaminants via vapor intrusion. Fassbender says the system includes a “slotted piping below the slab — in a gravel bed — to collect vapor. The vapor is pulled up above the roof line (by a fan) and vented out. A monitoring device is installed; the slab is under negative pressure to collect vapor in the below-slab system.”

The WDNR approved Klinke Cleaners for a DERF grant to begin the work. It issued a site closure for the University Avenue location in September of 2014. “Site closure” is a regulatory term indicating that no further environmental remediation is needed. The only condition to closure is to maintain and operate the SSDS until such time as the risk of vapor intrusion is no longer present.

Ask the geologists:

Wayne Fassbender, P.G., P.M.P.
Senior Project Manager


Brian J. Kappen, P.G.
Project Manager




Klinke Cleaners LogoThe headquarters building of Klinke Cleaners is located at the site of the Klinke family’s first business — Klinke Hatcheries — that Maurice and Trudy Klinke opened in the 1930s. The Klinkes pioneered coin-op laundries and self-serve drycleaners in the 1950s and 60’s, and opened their first full-service drycleaners in Madison in 1969. Now, the third generation of the Klinke family operates 21 drycleaning locations in greater Madison and Milwaukee.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources inspects and supervises cleanup of pollution sites relating to small businesses. Its Small Business Environmental Assistance Program helps businesses deal with federal and state regulations. The Drycleaners Environmental Response Fund (DERF) is targeted to assist drycleaners with the expense of remediating soil and groundwater pollution.

Enviroforensics investigates and cleans soil, groundwater pollution and assesses and removes harmful vapors that may intrude into commercial workspaces. Its affiliate company, PolicyFind, Inc., locates old insurance policies that may help business owners pay for extensive pollution abatement and control. Enviroforensics is based in Indianapolis and handles projects in Wisconsin through the company’s Waukesha office.