EnviroForensics Assists Hoosier Environmental Council & Blackford County Concerned Citizens Group to Identify Heavy Metals in Surface Soils in Hartford City and Montpelier, IN


The County of Blackford has experienced alarming statistics in cancer and other serious health ailments cases in recent history. For 2003-2007, Blackford County’s cancer rate was higher than any other County in Indiana, and it is still within the top percentile. In 2009, Blackford County Concerned Citizens (BCCC) formed when local residents that have grown up and/or lived in Blackford County most of their lives aimed to address the high rates of cancer and neurologic diseases cases within Blackford County. Their primary mission is “to improve the quality of life of Blackford County’s residents by reducing the incidence of diseases, primarily through citizen action, and advocating to have diseases investigated.”

In 2014, the BCCC partnered with the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) and other environmental specialist organizations to evaluate if there’s a link between existing contamination and the serious illnesses. That’s where EnviroForensics stepped in. Alongside EnviroForensics, Pine Environmental Services, Inc., SCS Environmental Contractors, Inc. and Envision Laboratories, Inc. generously donated their time and resources to help the BCCC and HEC with these investigations.

The HEC reports that Blackford County has a long history of industrial operations that produced hazardous waste, such as lead oxide and arsenic, which could be a contributing factor to current health concerns among its residents. In the 1900s, there were glass factories that used arsenic and lead oxide in their process. Lead oxide was used to enhance the look and make the glass easier to melt. Arsenic helped clear the glass of bubbles and discoloration. However, both lead oxide and arsenic are toxic heavy metals that are harmful to human body nervous system, especially young children. Arsenic is a known carcinogen; exposure is often associated with an increased risk of cancer of the lung, bladder, kidney and skin. Some studies have suggested that it also has an association with colon, prostate and liver cancers.

Since there were no handling or waste disposal regulations for materials containing these toxins  in the early 20th century, hazardous materials and waste often were haphazardly discarded, resulting in contaminated soil. The toxins typically concentrated near the ground surface where chances of  human exposure through direct contact is most likely.

During the HEC study, EnviroForensics assisted in evaluating historical resources to identify the precise locations of these historical industrial operations.  HEC identified numerous old glass factories and gained access for testing soils at three (3) locations for the presence of lead and arsenic. EnviroForensics devised a Sampling and Analysis Plan that included collecting up to twenty, 2-foot long soil cores per Site for analysis of lead and arsenic.  On April 17, 2015, Darci Thomas and Michele Murday of EnviroForensics spent the day at the three (3) Blackford County locations collecting soil cores, and geocoding each sample location by GPS.  The sampling was completed courtesy of SCS Environmental Contractors, Inc. using a track-mounted direct-push coring machine.  A total of 42 soil cores were collected and brought back to the EnviroForensics warehouse for preparation to be analyzed with an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) instrument, courtesy of Pine Environmental Services, Inc.  The following week, as a quality control measure, 16 soil samples were selected for laboratory analysis of lead and arsenic by Envision Laboratories, Inc., per U.S. EPA SW-846 Method 6010B.  All data was recorded on spreadsheets and maps were produced for each property with all corresponding sample locations.  All of the raw data was then provided to HEC for further analysis and consideration.

HEC presented preliminary findings to the BCCC at a local meeting on April 25, 2015. In June, HEC released further results in a press release, reporting that soil samples from Montpelier and Hartford City’s Southside Elementary School contained about the same levels of arsenic and lead as soil generally does in that part of Indiana. But, “A few deposits of arsenic and lead were found at Hartford City’s baseball field, high enough to exceed Indiana’s residential standard, but well within the standard for recreational fields.”

“Dr. Indra Frank, environmental health project director with the Hoosier Environmental Council, said that while levels are acceptable according to state standards, they are high enough to exercise caution when at the baseball fields. Dr. Frank recommends parents do a few simple things to limit exposure to the soil:

·       Don’t let children get the soil in their mouths
·       After spending time there, wash your hands and children’s hands
·       Wash clothes that have soil on them (like baseball uniforms)
·       Leave shoes that have been to the site at the door, don’t wear them into your home

“Dr. Frank indicated that while sports are fine at the site, the Hartford City property that has the Babe Ruth field should not be used for housing or growing food crops in the future unless the soil is remediated.  Additional soil tests are planned to better define the locations of the heavy metals.”

In an interview with EnviroForensics, Dr. Frank says residential sites near the baseball fields should also be tested, and she thanked EnviroForensics for what she called “a tremendous service to Blackford County.”

EnviroForensics is honored to have been asked to be part of such an important study, and we look forward to continued participation in support of HEC and the people of Blackford County, Indiana.

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. EPA Issues Final Vapor Intrusion Guidance

VIStampFollowing years of delay, the USEPA finally issued its Final Vapor Intrusion Guidance documents late last week, approximately 13 years after its draft was released.  The draft guidance was issued in 2002, back when vapor intrusion exposure concerns were just beginning to emerge as part of the Federal Corrective Action Program.  Subsequently, vapor intrusion was identified as a major exposure concern at many environmental sites where volatile organic compounds had leaked into the soil and groundwater.  Migrating upward or laterally through soils and utility corridors, toxic vapors associated with industrial degreasers, dry cleaning solvents and gasoline have the potential for penetrating buildings, and invading the breathing air of nearby residences and workers.  Major advances in the sciences of vapor intrusion exposure toxicology and vapor fate and transport rendered the EPA’s 2002 guidance virtually useless during the past several years.  As the regulated industries across the nation, and public potentially exposed community, have awaited the Final Vapor Intrusion Guidance, many State regulatory agencies developed and adopted their own program guidance using the state of the science at the time of their publication dates.  Many other agencies opted to await the EPA’s Final Guidance.  With this recent release of the Final VI Guidance from the USEPA, the entire environmentally regulated community, the potentially exposed populations, the State regulatory agencies, and consulting scientists will be anxiously assessing its contents. Although drafts of the Final document have already been issued and public comments have been considered by the EPA, one can be certain that much effort will be spent in the coming months to realign current Vapor Intrusion assessment and mitigation practices with the new guidance.

Check back with this blog often for the latest Vapor Intrusion developments, and follow our Director of Technical Services, Jeff Carnahan on Twitter (@JeffCarnahan1) for technical VI and risk communication issues.

EnviroForensics Completes Investigation; Begins Remediation Stage of Former Evansville Dry Cleaner Project

photoWe are happy to report that another one of our projects has entered the beginning stages of remediation for one of our valued clients. EnviroForensics has been conducting an environmental investigation at the former Harvey Cleaners of Evansville, Indiana since due diligence efforts at a nearby property uncovered contamination coming from the former Harvey’s operations.  The owner of the former Harvey’s Cleaners has been working alongside the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), and EnviroForensics, to determine the breadth of the problem.

Subsurface investigation activities, initially requested by the IDEM in 2010, identified the release of hazardous materials to the subsurface at the site.  Additional site investigation activities were performed by EnviroForensics under the direction of IDEM, and the data revealed that the historic dry cleaning operations had impacted not only the soil, but also the groundwater beneath the building.  The assessment to determine the precise source and extents of the contamination was recently finalized, and a strategy to clean-up the site was put into action this month.

Soil excavation was selected as the primary remedial option to definitively and efficiently remediate the release of these chemicals to the soils, and will have a positive effect on the low level of groundwater impacts.  Demolition of the vacant building was determined to be a necessary step in order to gain access to the impacted soils beneath the building’s foundation. The demolition of the building began in earnest this week.  The remediation efforts are being funded using insurance assets of the former Harvey’s Cleaners and are being completed at no additional cost to the owner of the former business. This summer’s remedial action will ultimately lead to site being granted regulatory closure by the IDEM, which will then release the property for beneficial reuse.

The Steps You Should Take if Environmental Investigation and Remediation are Inevitable

For nearly 20 years, EnviroForensics has been one of the industry’s leading environmental engineering firms. In that time, we’ve often seen how our clients can feel worried, and perhaps even overwhelmed, when environmental investigation and remediation becomes necessary.  They ask us:

  •  What does remediation mean for our business?
  •  What are our legal concerns?
  •  How will we pay for all of this?

The regulatory process of cleaning up contamination can be daunting and scary if you find yourself in need of responding to environmental problems. Fortunately, we’re on your side to help make the process go as smoothly as possible. Here’s where you need to begin:

1)      Be Proactive – If you suspect remediation is required, maintaining as much control of the process as you can is in your best interest. Start by gathering as much historical insurance and business documentation as possible, so you’re prepared as the situation unfolds. As we’ve noted before, if environmental contamination is discovered and you are named a Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) you’re on the clock to solve the problem, and the regulatory agency doesn’t give much thought to your ability to pay for testing, legal expenses, and cleanup. Being proactive allows you to guide the process and strategically incorporate the option of funding by way of old insurance policies.

2)      Research Your Insurance – The best option for dry cleaners dealing with the potential costs of environmental remediation is to find old comprehensive general liability (CGL) insurance policies. Prior to 1985, many insurance companies did not include language in their policies for absolute pollution exclusion. If CGL policies were purchased before the language changed to exclude environmental contamination, you may be able to use those policies to cover your expenses. Environmental cleanups can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take a long time to complete. Investing the upfront time to research your insurance can help your business avoid drastic financial implications.

3)      Seek Help – Hoping a problem will just go away is fruitless. If you choose to ignore environmental issues, the result may be catastrophic financial or even legal consequences. When you’re unsure of the status of old insurance policies, you can get help from an insurance archaeologist such as PolicyFind. You may not know where to find old policies or policies purchased by previous owners of the business, but an insurance archaeologist may have success. Found policies can often cover the costs of legal fees and fund the environmental investigation and remediation necessary to improve the condition of the affected land so it meets regulatory requirements.

PolicyFind, which is owned by EnviroForensics, has a high success rate of finding evidence of old policies. If an old policy is uncovered, you want insurance experts on your side that understand the right way to apply your rights to ensure that you benefit from the documentation. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are potentially on the line – getting help from an expert is imperative.

Are you concerned your business needs remediation? Stay in control by following these steps. Contact us today to learn more.