EPA Releases Drinking Water Regulations on PFOA & PFOS

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established health advisories for two chemical contaminants called PFOA and PFOS based on the agency’s assessment of the latest peer-reviewed science. These advisories will provide the most up-to-date information on the health risks of these chemicals and aid drinking water system operators and state, tribal and local officials in making determinations as to the appropriate steps needed to address PFOA and PFOS in their communities. EPA’s assessment indicates that drinking water with individual or combined concentrations of PFOA and PFOS below 70 parts per trillion (0.07 micrograms per liter ug/L) is not expected to result in adverse health effects over a lifetime of exposure.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are manmade chemicals that are part of a larger family of chemicals called perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). PFOA and PFOS have been used in a number of consumer products, including; carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, leather, paper packaging for food, and as coating additives for waterproofing or stain and grease-resistant agents used in cookware and other materials. They are also used for firefighting at air-fields and in a number of industrial processes.

Exposure to high levels of PFOA and PFOS may result in developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants, cancer, liver effects, immune effects, and thyroid effects.

For most people, their source of exposure to PFOA and PFOS has come through food and consumer products. But drinking water can be an additional source of exposure in the small percentage of communities where these chemicals have contaminated water supplies.  This is typically a localized issue associated with a specific facility, such as a manufacturing plant or airfield that made or used these chemicals.

Even though releases of these chemicals to surface water and groundwater is expected to decline given the limited ongoing uses of PFOA and PFOS-related chemicals, risk of exposure is still possible due to their legacy uses, existing and legacy uses on imported goods, and degradation of precursors. Additionally, PFOA and PFOS are very persistent in the environment and in the human body. They have been detected in water, wildlife, and humans worldwide. EnviroForensics employs technical experts in the field of environmental risk assessment and can aid in investigating, remediating, and conducting human health risk assessments to limit exposure to these chemical contaminants, as well as other environmental contaminants.

The Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS, and supporting documents can be found at the following link:


We Work to Close: A Response to Channel 13’s Investigation on Voluntary Remediation Program

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan has sparked concerns over the cleanliness drinking water in Indianapolis and in every city and town across America. It seems like everyday we are learning about new sites where environmental contamination has been found presenting health risks to residences in rural and urban neighborhoods.  Here at EnviroForensics we applaud the media for highlighting this problem and want to clear up one major misconception regarding how fast or slow environmental investigations and remediations take place.  While many, many sites take an unnecessarily long time to get through the investigation and remediation process, we pride ourselves in pushing projects to site closure.  In fact, we have closed more solvent contaminated sites than any company in the Midwest,  because we know that it is in our clients’ best interest as well as the communities’ best interest.

Recently, Channel 13 in Indianapolis, reported on a series of potentially dangerous contamination Sites across the state that have gone unchecked for years. These chemicals can get into the drinking water or seep into homes in the form of vapor, creating a risk to residents.

While it is the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s responsibility to ensure that the public is being protected from the contamination at these sites, some businesses find loopholes in the system that allow the cleanup process to drag on and on for years.

In the report by Channel 13, they found hundreds of businesses that have been protected from lawsuits by being in IDEM’s Voluntary Remediation Program while performing little to no cleanup for years and in some instances decades.

Our goal at EnviroForensics is to make sure a chemical contamination never becomes a serious risk to public health. We pride ourselves in working with our clients to cleanup environmental contamination in a timely manner so that the environment is cleaner and their property values can be restored.  At EnviroForensics we live by our moniker that we Turn Environmental Liabilities Into Assets and this can only be achieved by remediating contaminated sites.

Major Contamination Site in Indy Could get Federal Superfund Designation

Citizens, business owners and community leaders of the Riverside neighborhood met with the US EPA, Citizens Energy Group and environmental professionals on May 24, 2016 at the Riverside Community Center to discuss the possibility of adding a group of city drinking water wells to the National Priority List (NPL) as a Superfund site.

While the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) was noticeably absent from the meeting, citizens expressed their concern that designating this area a Superfund site would tarnish the neighborhoods reputation, hindering economic development and diminishing the hard work that their community has conducted in turning the area around.

Last April, the EPA announced a proposal to add the Riverside Groundwater Contamination site in Indianapolis to the NPL.  The NPL is EPA’s list of Superfund sites.  Superfund is a federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex or uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country.

The problem stems from groundwater samples collected from the city’s municipal drinking water wells that showed elevated levels of vinyl chloride and 1,2-dichloroethylene, chemicals found as a breakdown products of solvents commonly used by dry cleaners, small businesses, and manufacturers.  Representatives from Citizens Energy, manager of the city water supply, repeatedly stated that the drinking water was safe to drink and that water from the contaminated wells was mixed with other city water and treated before being supplied to their customers.

While many current and former businesses in the area have been identified as causing groundwater contamination, many more locations will likely come under scrutiny as being potentially responsible for the groundwater contamination of the city’s wells.  But, because the drinking water wells draw groundwater from two distinct water-bearing units nearly 100 feet below the land surface, it is very costly to collect soil and groundwater samples necessary to accurately identify the contaminant sources. In the past IDEM officials have expressed their lack of manpower and financial resources to take on this investigation and presumably asked EPA to assist them in those efforts.

The meeting was intended for EPA to educate the public on the process it uses to evaluate, score and rank sites when determining whether or not to actually list and designate a site as Superfund-eligible.   Frustration and surprise were commonly expressed by the general public and community leaders as they learned for the first time that EPA’s 60-day comment period started on April 6, leaving less than two weeks for them to provide their concerns in writing to the federal Agency.  Peggy Gamlin, who organized the meeting said, “For years this area has been redlined (a term used when banks, insurance companies and even supermarkets deny services directly or by raising prices) and now we are up against a Superfund designation that will only damage our efforts.” “At a minimum” she said, “could we at least extend the comment period?”

State Senator Greg Taylor was present and expressed frustration with the EPA for their lack of engaging the community in the process stating, “You’ve been studying this problem for years and no one has ever contacted my office to discuss this serious issue.  To my knowledge this is the first public meeting that has been held to discuss the merits of this Superfund designation and we are told comments are required in a little more than a week.”

Stephen Henshaw, president of EnviroForensics also spoke at the meeting. Henshaw agrees that listing this area as a Superfund site could give it a stigma that could adversely effect the growth plans for the area, but thinks EPA could assist the community by issuing information demands to the businesses that IDEM has identified as potentially causing or contributing to the groundwater contamination.  For several years, IDEM has been compiling a list of former dry cleaners and launderers and has found over 167 former and current dry cleaners within the wellhead protection area of Riverside and White River municipal wells.

Henshaw argues that while the groundwater levels observed in the Riverside municipal well field are below the allowed drinking water levels, such levels pose a risk and attention needs to be given to identify and mitigate sources of contamination that are found to be contaminating or threatening the city’s drinking water supply.  While acknowledging that cleaning up contamination from old manufacturing sites, dry cleaners, and other businesses is extremely costly, he stated, “While it’s true that groundwater contamination may have been caused by accidental spills and releases of dry cleaning solvents, as well as solvents used to clean machine parts in past decades, businesses — even those now defunct — can use their old insurance policies, policies written 40 and 50 years ago, to fund the costs of investigation and remediation.” Henshaw also contends that more focus needs to be given to those sites already in IDEM’s cleanup programs citing an unnecessarily long and drawn out process between consultants and IDEM in getting sites remediated.  He said that EnviroForensics routinely finds old insurance policies to assist past and current business owners address their environmental liabilities stating, “Insurance policies don’t expire and can still be used to protect the policyholder facing regulatory enforcement even if the company that caused the contamination is out of business.”

For more information on the Riverside Groundwater Contamination site, contact Nuria Muñiz, NPL Coordinator, 312-886-4439, muniz.nuria@epa.gov.  The EPA during the 60-day comment period currently expires on June 6.

EnviroForensics Volunteers Put Muncie Minds at Ease About Lead

EnviroForensics said “yes” to a request for volunteers from the Hoosier Environmental Council.

Their assignment; find traces of lead poisoning in the ground at Muncie parks, playgrounds and community gardens.

Vick Webb, our corporate health and safety manager, and Nick Hill, senior project manager, spent a day in Muncie working alongside the HEC ‘s environmental health and water policy director Dr. Indra Frank (a frequent collaborator) and a Muncie team headed by Jenni Marsh, president and CEO of the United Way of Muncie and Delaware County.

Marsh says the effort was spurred by worries about detrimental effects of high levels of lead in the blood of children; levels that may harm brain development in pre-kindergarten children, during the most important time of brain development.

Marsh says. “We discovered: In 2014, 7% of the children tested in Delaware County had elevated BLLs. The national average of children with elevated BLL of 5 micrograms per deciliter is 2.6%. Our community’s average was more than twice that amount.”

The team fanned out to five Muncie parks and playgrounds, visiting every zip code in Delaware County’s Center Township. Using a hand auger and hand trowel, Vick and Nick extracted samples from the ground at three different locations in each park. The samples ranged from 2 inches to 8 inches deep. They were added to the team’s total and evaluated by HEC consultant Mike Ketterer of the Metropolitan State University of Denver’s chemistry department.

Ketterer received 54 soil samples from 18 specific sites. He carefully sub-sampled, oven-dried, ground and dissolved with acids. The lead was measured by flame atomic absorption spectrometry.

Ketterer says, “The majority of soil samples tested low for lead content. We did not find levels detrimental to public health.”

More testing lies ahead, but these preliminary results were “very good news,” says Dr. Frank of the HEC.

“Given the soil contamination that has been seen in other cities with similar industries, it was a tremendous relief to find only a limited number of samples with elevated lead, and those elevations were still within the EPA’s recommended limit for a playground of 400 parts per million.”

Dr. Frank adds, “For people in the center of Muncie and southern neighborhoods, I would recommend testing soil in vegetable gardens, since a few samples exceeded the limit for gardening of 200 ppm.”

The United Way’s Marsh says, “I must admit I am very surprised at how low the lead levels were. I thought we would see significantly higher parts-per-million because of their proximity to industry and lead contaminators.”

Marsh says the local committee — comprised of the United Way, City of Muncie, Ready by 5 and the Muncie Action Plan will discuss the next steps for reducing lead levels in Muncie.

And, she thanks everyone who volunteered their time and efforts. Specifically, she told Vick and Nick, “What a cool company you work for—that allows that kind of service—and what cool people you all are for taking EnviroForensics up on this opportunity!”

Marsh adds, “Each of you have worked on behalf of Delaware County’s children.”


EnviroForensics Develops Cost-Effective Remediation Plan for Former Dry Cleaner Client

EnviroForensics is at work remediating Crest Cleaners, a former dry cleaner in Mooresville, Indiana. Located within a mixed-use commercial and residential area, the Site is now undergoing cleanup due to historical dry cleaning activities that resulted in soil impacts onsite and groundwater impact that has migrated under buildings in the residential area.

EnviroForensics has completed excavation and removal of heavily impacted soils. Our team of environmental experts has utilized enhanced reductive dechlorination (ERD) along with in-situ chemical reduction (ISCR) to address contamination on the property. These techniques have been carefully chosen as the most cost-effective options to clean up the Site’s contamination. ISCR immediately eliminates groundwater impact, and over a two or three year time period, ERD utilizes naturally-occurring microbes to break down contaminants. Injections have been done at over 92 different locations. The goal is that after three years of injection and monitoring, the Site will be eligible for regulatory closure.

While ERD and ISCR are effective methods of reducing contamination on a property, methane is a by-product of these processes and can accumulate in nearby buildings. However, EnviroForensics is at the forefront of the industry in studying and addressing this issue. Recently, our Vapor Intrusion team presented a study entitled “The Production and Management of Methane in Soil Gas during Remediation at Drycleaner Sites” at the annual Association for Environmental Health and Sciences (AEHS) Foundation’s Conference on Soil, Water, Energy and Air. The study has also been approved for presentation at the Tenth International Battelle Conference on Remediation of Chlorinated and Recalcitrant Compounds, which will be held May 23-26 in Palm Springs, California.

At EnviroForensics, we work to ensure that contamination at your site of business is cleaned up in the most cost-effective and accurate way possible. Not only are our environmental professionals some of the best in the industry; we also have a team of insurance archeologists who are skilled in locating and utilizing historical insurance policies to help fund the costs of environmental investigation and remediation—meaning our clients pay little to nothing out-of-pocket.

Dealing with contamination on your property doesn’t have to be a burdensome and costly experience. Let EnviroForensics’ expert scientists and engineers develop the best remediation strategy for your unique situation.

EnviroForensics eases concern of neighbors at Vista Cleaners remediation in Mooresville

One of EnviroForensics’ strong points is expertly handling remediation in a crowded environment.

Recently, an EnviroForensics field team lead by Keith Gaskill and consisting of Will Garnes, Jan Schimmelmann and Annie Bierma conducted a remediation of a drycleaning solvent known as tetrachloroethene (PCE) from beneath Vista Cleaners and surrounding properties in Mooresville, IN. We were working for the owner — who complied with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Voluntary Remediation Program — after purchasing the property previously known as Crest Cleaners.

After a period of investigation and characterization of the release, EnviroForensics injected chemicals which enhance a natural process called reductive dechlorination where microbes in the ground break down the solvents into nonhazardous compounds.  The injected materials included food-grade lactates and fats with an iron reducing solution as wells as more of the microbes to assure complete breakdown.

There was some inconvenience to motorists as a lane of Mooresville’s South Indiana Street was closed for two days — of the 3 1/2 week project — to make way for drilling and injection.

Nearby residents and business owners were concerned about safety and traffic flow, as would be expected, but the EnviroForensics team went out of their way to keep them in the loop on the project’s progress.

Calvin Kelly conducted a phone interview with Mekayla Yohe, a newspaper reporter. The story in the print edition of the Mooresville-Decatur Times reassured readers of the safety and long-term benefits of remediating the site.

Bruce and James Marine co-own the property. Bruce Marine says, “Investigating the issues and developing a plan has been a long process but one we undertook willingly because it was the right thing to do.”  Starting the cleanup is a big step and we are looking forward to the positive outcome,”

This Vista Cleaners is a drop site and dry cleaning solvents are no longer used at this location.