Preparing for PFAS in Commercial Real Estate


You may (or may not) have heard of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) and the recent U.S. EPA announcement designating two PFAS compounds as hazardous substances. There’s been a lot of doom and gloom posted about PFAS recently and while their hazardous substance designation will have effects that trickle down to commercial real estate, all is not lost. Below is a quick summary of what PFAS are and some immediate effects you may see in commercial real estate beginning July 8, 2024, when two (2) common PFAS compounds officially become hazardous substances.


PFAS are a group of 9,000+ chemicals developed in the 1930s used in water-resistant textiles, paper products, non-stick coatings, and cleaning products. They are found in items like shampoo, cosmetics, non-stick cookware, stain-resistant or waterproofing products, fast food packaging, paints, and pesticides. Biosolids from sewer treatment plants, used as fertilizer, and aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) used for fire suppression, can also contain PFAS. Electronic manufacturing and electroplating operations use PFAS too.

PFAS breaks down slowly in the environment, easily travel through groundwater, and can bioaccumulate in humans and animals. Research links PFAS exposure to health concerns in humans and animals.


Until recently, PFAS were regarded as emerging contaminants and were not officially listed as CERCLA hazardous substances. Two (2) common PFAS compounds (known as PFOA and PFOS) will become CERCLA hazardous substances on July 8, 2024.  Below are four ways the hazardous substance designation of these PFAS compounds may affect commercial real estate transactions going forward.

  1. Environmental screening levels for PFAS are very low and PFAS may be found at lots of properties. Studies have shown that PFAS can cause issues at very low levels in the environment; for example, common petroleum compounds are assessed at a part-per-billion (ppb) level; PFAS compounds are assessed at a part-per-trillion (ppt) level, a thousand times lower. PFAS do not easily breakdown and can readily travel when they encounter groundwater. PFAS may be present at many properties, even if the historical or current operations may not have directly used PFAS. Types of businesses that may have PFAS impacts includes, but is not limited to laundromats, car washes, dry cleaners, airports, firefighting training facilities, electronic manufacturers, oil refineries, plastic and paper mills, landfills, metal platers, and any business where non-stick or waterproofing applications are applied.
  2. PFAS will now be a consideration in Phase I ESAs. Historically, PFAS were considered out-of-scope items for Phase I ESAs, as the ASTM standard only calls for assessing CERCLA hazardous substances and petroleum products. Beginning July 8, 2024, the PFAS compounds PFOA and PFOS will need to be assessed during Phase I ESAs.
  3. A current Phase I ESA may identify PFAS as an environmental concern at properties where historical Phase Is may have not identified environmental concerns. PFAS were used in many processes and operations that were previously not considered issues. For example, laundromats (with no dry cleaning operations) and farm fields may have environmental concerns due to PFAS, whereas they may not have had issues previously. Other facilities, such as dry cleaners or electroplating operations, may have identified environmental concerns in their past Phase I and Phase II ESAs, but those historical reports likely did not address PFAS.
  4. Cost for environmental sampling (i.e., Phase II ESAs) may increase. PFAS sampling techniques can require increased time and stringent procedures to ensure cross-contamination will not occur. Laboratories will also need to analyze PFAS samples at extremely low levels, which will likely increase analytical costs. For example, analysis of groundwater for dry cleaning compounds is roughly $80 – $100 per sample. Current groundwater analytical costs for a PFAS sample can start in the high $300s and go up from there.

The bottom line is that the impending designation of PFAS as a hazardous substance may have far-reaching effects in the environmental world; however, this does not mean the sky is falling. Property owners and prospective purchasers should be aware of these upcoming regulations and a trusted environmental consultant can help guide you through the next steps.

EnviroForensics has a proven track record of helping business owners through environmental investigations and cleanup, often while business goes on as usual. EnviroForensics may be able to help find historical insurance to fund the investigation or connect you with third parties who can manage environmental liabilities for property owners or even purchase contaminated properties.

If you have questions regarding PFAS or any other environmental matter, please contact us at your convenience.

Casey McFall is the Director of Real Estate Services and Senior Scientist for EnviroForensics, LLC. Mr. McFall can be reached at 463-212-1815 or via email at

Stephanie Deckard Joins EnviroForensics as Our New Director of Regulatory Compliance

EnviroForensics is proud to announce that Stephanie Deckard has joined our team as Director of Regulatory Compliance. Stephanie brings over 20 years of experience in the environmental consulting field. She will lead a team with broad experience in industrial and municipal compliance, permitting, and obtaining entitlements when converting previously contaminated properties into housing and mixed-use development projects.

EnviroForensics’ CEO Steve Henshaw says, “Stephanie has an excellent understanding of the needs and priorities of our industrial and municipal clients and sees and anticipates their issues before they become problems.”

Chad Pigg Joins EnviroForensics Development Team as Director of Brownfields and Economic Development

EnviroForensics is proud to announce that Chad Pigg has joined our redevelopment team as its Director of Brownfields and Economic Development. We have been specializing in the municipal sector to help revitalize brownfields and manage environmental claims.

EnviroForensics’ CEO Steve Henshaw says, “Chad understands the unique challenges that municipalities face in restoring contaminated properties to productive use.  He has a strong knowledge of how the funding mechanisms for municipalities work and how we can clean-up contaminated properties and create large tracks of land, within city boundaries, for developers bringing much needed housing to cities and towns”.

Chad Pigg brings over 25 years of experience in the municipal financing and environmental remediation field, starting at IDEM and later for the City of Anderson as Director of Operations for the Engineering Department, Brownfield Coordinator, and Executive Director of Economic & Community Development. Since 2008, he has been working in the private sector to develop comprehensive solutions to redevelopment challenges in both public and private sectors.

If you have any questions about Brownfields Redevelopment, contact us today.


Cleaning Up and Restoring Contaminated Properties for Development— Finding Valuable Property Amongst The Blight


The American Midwest has been home to industry and agriculture since the beginning of the 20th century. Relying heavily on strong labor forces, accessible transportation routes, and a proximity to a significant portion of the nation’s total population, Indiana was a leader in manufacturing that involved steel, glass, and rubber to support the automotive industry. As plastics developed, so too did Indiana’s place as a leader in its manufacturing.

Factories sprouted up in cities and towns across the state, often built near the town’s center, so workers could walk to the factories. As the recession in the 1970s and 80s took its toll, and companies began moving manufacturing overseas, the lifeblood of these communities ceased, leaving behind decaying factories and decades of legacy contamination. Factories that once provided jobs by the hundreds became eyesores to communities, driving down property values, leaving environmental contamination, and robbing cities and towns of a vital tax base. Mayors, city councils, and economic development departments continue to grapple with these legacy problem sites.

Concurrently, there is a critical demand for housing stock. Virtually every municipality is grappling with a pressing demand for additional housing. Short of expanding the city limits and annexing land, finding 10, 20 and 30-acre tracts of land to build new housing is extremely challenging. It is for this reason that we believe these old legacy factories should be given new life as sites for residential and mixed-use developments.

EnviroForensics has been on the forefront of this resurgence, having remediated old manufacturing sites, while finding the money for the clean-up costs. A great example of this is in the City of Wabash, where Mayor Long, before he became Mayor, urged the authorities to do something with the former GenCorp. (now known as Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc.) plant that sat in the heart of Wabash on 30-acres of land.

In 2007, the manufacturing plant’s shutdown marked the beginning of its downfall, culminating in job losses for more than 600 employees and the cessation of property tax payments. The property was then auctioned by the County. The owners stripped the building of its salvageable metals and demolished the building leaving behind piles of rubble. In addition, the soil and groundwater beneath the property is grossly contaminated with hazardous substances including chlorinated solvents and PCBs, posing a significant risk to human health.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management pursued the company that caused the environmental contamination at the property; that company eventually responded by proposing an unsatisfactory cleanup plan that would leave a massive amount of contamination in place, put a deed restriction on the property, and prevent the property from ever being utilized for anything other than a park. While parks are great, Wabash already has a 25-acre park a stone’s throw from this property.

Mayor Long persisted in his efforts to guide the property back into productive reuse, and in November 2020, the City acquired title to the property from the County. The City then put together a team that included EnviroForensics, a law firm, and a development partner to assess what it would take to clean the property to a level that would support a mixed-use development while pursuing the company that caused the environmental contamination for the cost of clean-up. Reflecting on the collaborative effort, Mayor Long remarked, “As a government leader, you cannot be an expert in everything that comes your way. Networking with experts at events I have attended led to me finding the people who could get the job done for the City of Wabash.”

The City is poised to clean up the property, and the City’s development partner is scheduled to build 15 single-family houses, 42 starter houses (bungalows), and a 100-unit apartment complex to help address the City’s housing shortage. Properly addressing the contamination at the property is key for increasing housing opportunities for Wabash’s residences, increasing the city’s tax base, and cleaning up the environment. This optimal redevelopment far outweighs the value of leaving the contamination in place as a park.

This model of cleaning up contaminated properties and restoring them to residential and commercial use is not unique to this site, although you need a commitment from leadership in order to be successful. At EnviroForensics, we have worked to settle tens of millions of dollars of claims that have funded environmental clean-up and legal costs for hundreds of clients.  With the right set of facts, a skilled team, and a strong stakeholder, we can clean up environmental contamination and allow blighted sites new life as redeveloped productive properties. Emphasizing the importance of perseverance in these endeavors, Mayor Long stated, “While this was a daunting task, you have to take action to make cleanup happen, and you have to be in it for the long haul. I am thankful to have assembled a team on the environmental and litigation side with a wealth of experience who can best guide me in making appropriate decisions.”

If you have any questions about Brownfields Redevelopment or any other environmental matter, please contact us at your convenience.

The History of Dry Cleaning Solvents and the Evolution of the Dry Cleaning Machine


Perchloroethylene, also known as perc, has been around for nearly a century and it’s still the dominant solvent used by U.S. dry cleaners compared to hydrocarbons or alternative solvents like GreenEarth.

Here’s a timeline of dry cleaning solvent usage. Inventors and industrialists experimented with kerosene and gasoline-based cleaning through the 19th century. In fact, dry cleaning as we know it was discovered by Jean-Baptiste Jolly on accident when a kerosene lamp was spilled on a linen tablecloth in the late 1800s. As you can imagine, washing clothes inflammable liquid was not ideal. An American dry cleaner, Wiliam Joseph Stoddard, is credited with developing the first non-gasoline-based solvent but it was Michael Faraday, a prominent chemist, who discovered tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene or “perc” which has been a solvent favorite for 80 years.

However, the number of dry cleaners using perc has started to go down. From the 1970s to 1990s a barrage of increasingly stringent rules and regulations covering dry cleaning operations and the use of perc, past and present took place. Over the past few decades, 80-85% of dry cleaners in the U.S. used to use perc. Now, about 60-65% of dry cleaners use perc and the rest now use hydrocarbons (20-25%) or alternative solvents (15-20%).

Perc is well-liked by dry cleaners because it is much more effective and quicker to use than hydrocarbon cleaning, which takes 75% more time to do the same cleaning that perc does for clothes. With these efficient attributes, it’s no wonder that perc has stayed as a popular choice for so long.

However, there are some downsides to using perc for dry cleaning:

  1. Perc is a very strong chemical, which is what makes it a great cleaning solvent, however, it can easily seep into the soil and groundwater beneath a dry cleaner with a few minor spills causing serious contamination issues. Additionally, perc doesn’t naturally degrade over time and without treatment perc will actually sink deeper and spread out farther, which creates a large plume of perc contamination.
  2. The historical perc regulations didn’t instruct the industry to handle and dispose of the chemical safely, which is a heartbreaking story because dry cleaners were following the proper regulations at the time, but they’re now on the hook for the contamination.
  3. Perc dry cleaning machines are expensive and can cost $60,000-$80,000, which is why they are a big expense for dry cleaners and are not replaced often. Additionally, the perc machine was considered to be an investment and an asset. Therefore, if a dry cleaner can’t afford a new machine nor sell their old perc machine, then they are most likely still using a Perc machine instead of a machine that can use alternative solvents.


Now that we’ve covered the history of dry cleaning solvents, we’ll dive further into the evolution of the dry cleaning machine.

The dry cleaning machine as dry cleaners know it has gone through multiple generations of functionality and use. First, there were wet to dry machines, then dry to dry machines, then the current machine on the market, closed-loop machines. The different machine generations solved operational issues for dry cleaners and helped them use their dry cleaning solvents more effectively.


Wet clothes were transferred between the washer and dryer. Some systems did incorporate a separate vapor recovery unit, utilizing either a carbon bed or water cooled coils. Image Courtesy: Wauwatosa, Wisconsin


In the first dry-to-dry machines or second-generation machines, vapors are vented to the atmosphere from the machine washing drum when the machine is opened after the drying cycle. Again some machines utilized either a carbon bed or water-cooled coils. Image Courtesy: Newtone Drycleaners


These were the first “closed-loop” machines. The vapors from the dryer are routed to a refrigerated condenser for solvent recovery. Image Courtesy: Böwe Textile Cleaning


These closed-loop machines utilize both refrigerated condensers and carbon adsorbers to recover solvent vapors. Reducing the vapor concentration in the wheel to below 300ppm. Image Courtesy: Wauwatosa, Wisconsin


In addition to a refrigerated condenser and carbon absorber, these closed-loop machines have inductive fans and sensor-actuated lockout device that will not allow entry to the machine door, button trap, or filters until solvent vapors in the machine are below certain levels (generally 300 parts per million (ppm)). Image Courtesy: Oasis Max Clean

Dry cleaners are keenly aware that the use of perc has become as heavily regulated as nearly any other industrial chemical to date, and some have started to switch over to hydrocarbon or alternative solvents. As mentioned earlier, changing machines is a costly endeavor for dry cleaners and it’s understandable why they would prefer to keep using perc compared to other solvent options, such as hydrocarbon and alternative solvents like GreenEarth, K4, Sensene and wetcleaning.

While dry cleaners evaluate different solvent options and their future business plans, it’s important to prepare for addressing an environmental issue if it’s placed in your lap. The costs of addressing environmental contamination without funding though historical insurance can range up into the hundreds of thousands, sometimes even millions, which is why we recommend using insurance archeology, which is a small fraction of that cost, to locate insurance assets that can be used to cover the necessary environmental and legal costs associated with a cleanup. Being proactive means that you are in command of the situation and by being in front of the issue, you will save yourself a lot of stress and money.

As chlorinated solvent experts, we’ve helped hundreds of dry cleaners navigate their environmental concerns with little to no out-of-pocket costs to them. Our goal is to help our clients get out of a challenging situation without a large financial burden. We understand how challenging this process can be for business and property owners and have successfully helped our clients navigate through these often uncharted waters.

If you have any questions, please contact us.



Potential PFAS Designation to Alter Environmental Due Diligence Landscape


A change is coming to the environmental due diligence world, which is anticipated to play a factor in how recognized environmental conditions (RECs) (i.e., known or potential environmental concerns) are identified in future Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs). The change is the potential designation of at least two per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as a “hazardous substance” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund.

Most people, may not be aware of how this designation could dramatically alter Phase I ESA conclusions or significantly impact future commercial real estate due diligence. To assist with understanding the potential impacts of this designation, below are some of the frequently asked questions we’ve received from brokers, real estate agents, property owners, prospective purchasers and financial institutions regarding PFAS and its anticipated CERCLA designation.


Often, prospective purchasers and financial lenders, will want a Phase I ESA completed for a property prior to the acquisition or finalizing lending. Completing a Phase I ESA correctly prior to a property purchase affords the purchaser some protection from liability for environmental contamination existing on the property prior to the purchase.

Very simply, a Phase I ESA is a commercial environmental assessment; the purpose is to identify known or potential environmental concerns for a property based on historical and current operations and nearby neighboring operations so they can be considered when negotiating and finalizing the transaction. Samples are not generally collected during a Phase I ESA: records are reviewed, a property visit is completed, and a determination is made on whether RECs exist on a property. Depending on the findings of the Phase I ESA, a Phase II ESA, (collecting environmental samples), may follow a Phase I ESA.


PFAS are a group of 9,000 or more chemicals that were first developed in the 1930s and are widely used in everyday products, including as the main ingredients in developing water-resistant chemicals textiles and paper products, nonstick coatings, and cleaning products. PFAS are also prevalent in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which is used to suppress particularly volatile fires primarily by municipalities, airports and maritime fire departments. Electronic manufacturing and electroplating operations also used PFAS in their operations.

Historically, PFAS have also been found in many widely used items such as shampoo and cosmetics, non-stick cookware, stain-resistant or waterproofing products, fast food packaging, paints, and pesticides. Biosolids from sewer treatment plants, which can be used as fertilizer for farm fields, can also contain PFAS from the upstream sources that discharge to the municipal sewer system (i.e., personal machines or commercial laundry services used to wash “waterproof” clothing, industrial facilities that use PFAS chemical, etc.).

A PFAS compound can be identified by its carbon-fluorine bond, which is exceptionally strong and gives the compounds many of their useful properties. However, this also means PFAS substances are slow to break down in the environment. PFAS easily travel through environmental mediums like groundwater, and some PFAS can bioaccumulate in humans and animals. Though research on these compounds is ongoing, some studies have linked PFAS exposure to health concerns in humans and animals, which prompted the proposed CERCLA designation as a hazardous substance.

As noted, there are over 9,000 PFAS compounds, but the two most widely used and most studied PFAS are Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA).


A hazardous substance designation means that the federal and state regulators can force environmental investigations and require cleanup or remediation of these substances when they are released to the environment, or some cases, when they are discovered on a property even if it is unknown when or how they were released. All chemicals proposed for hazardous substance designation must undergo a rigorous evaluation prior to designation.

Although PFAS have been around since the 1930s, only recently have scientists made a link between PFAS and their adverse health effects. Specifically, many of the studies have focused on PFOA and PFOS. These two compounds and their salts and isomers were first proposed for hazardous substance designation in September 2022. Currently, it is widely believed that the hazardous substance designation for these PFAS compounds will likely occur within the next 6 to 12 months based on an April 2023 notice from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

When assessing properties for potential contamination through a Phase I ESA, industry standards do not require PFAS to be evaluated because they are not petroleum products or CERCLA-designated hazardous substances. The ASTM standard for preparing Phase I ESAs (ASTM E1527-21) states that only petroleum products or CERCLA-designated hazardous substances must be considered when identifying RECs. PFAS may be considered as an out-of-scope item, the same as asbestos-containing materials (ACM) or lead-based paint, but an assessment is not currently required.


Properties that would not previously have had RECs identified in a Phase I may now have an identified REC based on the potential for PFAS contamination. Because PFAS has been so prevalent in manufacturing, and can move freely through the environment, this has the potential to impact many properties.

For example, laundromats that have never housed dry cleaning operations would be unlikely to have a REC identified in a current Phase I ESA. However, studies from Florida have shown that laundromats may have PFAS present from waterproof, or stain resistant coatings being stripped off from laundered clothes. Another pertinent example could involve farms that have applied biosolids from municipal sewer treatment plants as fertilizer on their fields. Studies have shown these biosolids may contain PFAS and have the potential to leach into soil and groundwater, thereby causing a potential environmental issue. Agricultural fields by-and-large have not been an environmental concern in Phase I ESAs, although this could change under the upcoming PFAS hazardous substance designation.


The answer to this question is “it depends.” The variables to be considered include the historical use of the property (i.e., could the operations have caused or contributed to PFAS in the environment); the historical use of nearby properties, from which PFAS could potentially have migrated; whether you own or are purchasing the property; and how the discovery of PFAS may impact you.

For example, in some states, even discovering a small amount of PFAS may trigger reporting and potential remediation requirements, so although a potential buyer may wish to test for PFAS, the seller may be less inclined.

The location of the property, and the applicable state and local regulations, also play a key role. In Indiana, for example, there are not currently requirements for PFAS testing during environmental investigations. However, in Wisconsin, state regulators require an evaluation of potential PFAS on the property. If PFAS is known or suspected to be present, the regulators may require testing, and reporting and potential remediation if any amount of PFAS is discovered on a property, regardless of the source of contamination. The best advice is to consult with your attorney and environmental consultant to determine the risks and benefits of PFAS sampling based on your circumstances.

If and when PFAS are designated as hazardous substance under CERCLA, the choice on whether to sample or not for PFAS will change to a requirement based on REC findings.

The bottom line is that the impending designation of PFAS as a hazardous substance may have far-reaching effects in the environmental world. This, however, does not mean the sky is falling. Property owners and prospective purchasers should be aware of these upcoming regulations and a trusted environmental consultant and attorney can help guide you through the next steps.

EnviroForensics and Fredrikson & Byron have proven track records of helping dry cleaners and laundromats through environmental investigations and cleanup, often while business goes on as usual. In some instances, EnviroForensics may be able to help find historical insurance to fund the investigation and cleanup.

If you have questions regarding PFAS or any other environmental matter, please contact us at your convenience.

Delanie Breuer practices environmental law at Fredrikson & Byron P.A. in Madison, Wisconsin. Ms. Breuer can be reached at 608-453-5135 or via email at Casey McFall is the Director of Real Estate Services and a senior scientist for EnviroForensics, LLC. Mr. McFall can be reached at 317-972-7870 or via email at

As seen in Cleaner & Launderer.

How to Save a Transaction on a Contaminated Property


Your business day starts out like any other; you grab coffee on your way to work and turn into the parking lot. But your heart sinks when you see a group of technical people standing near a small drill rig. Now you are worried sick that soil and groundwater samples will reveal the dreaded environmental contamination, and you’ll have no good options for the future.

This scenario is all too common in the drycleaning industry, but a bad outcome doesn’t have to happen if we step back and reflect for a moment. We can ask what is driving the investigation. This will help us understand why taking samples is a necessary and desired step. For example, is the investigation being required by a regulatory agency because there is a potential public health threat? Or is the investigation being driven by a lender involved with refinancing the property or in financing a buyer?

If the investigation is driven by the regulatory agency, you will want assistance in understanding the magnitude of the problem and how to minimize or mitigate the immediate public health threat. There are a number of steps that can be undertaken to address the public health threat, and these do not need to break the bank. Oftentimes, regulators will work with a dry cleaner; however, we recommend getting professional advice from an experienced and qualified environmental engineer to ensure that the requested work, usually expensive, is actually necessary.

Commonly, an investigation is driven by a lender, and different steps are taken to address their concerns.  Remember that when a lender is refinancing or lending money on a property transaction, they require a Phase 1 environmental site assessment.  If a dry cleaner is (or has ever been located on the property), a bank will require a Phase 2 investigation, which includes collecting soil and groundwater samples to analyze them for the presence of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. If the solvent Perchloroethylene (PCE) and its chemical breakdown products, all classified as VOCs, are present, the levels will show up in a laboratory scan.

If VOCs are present in soil and groundwater samples, a lender will very likely walk away from the sale, because banks are typically risk averse. They don’t want to lend on a contaminated property when the value or collateral is in that property. They don’t want to be in a position to have to “take back” the property when the lendee defaults because no one will buy the contaminated site. If you’re the property owner, or are operating as a drycleaner on that site, all of the negative attention will be on you or your business as the reason the deal fell apart. Even if you can pay for the expensive environmental cleanup, with costs ranging between $500,000 to $2,000,000, regulatory site closure can take years.

One very effective solution is to buy an insurance policy called a Lender Liability Policy.  A Lender Liability Policy is designed to activate if the borrower defaults. This policy can enable the landlord (or a buyer) to get bank financing and help all parties get some breathing room. This is what a Lender Liability Policy does:

  • Covers the lender in the event the borrower defaults by paying the cleanup costs or paying off the loan balance;
  • Covers Toxic Tort claims from third parties;
  • Covers known and unknown site conditions;
  • Provides a lender comfort in financing on contaminated properties;
  • Allows for the policy to be transferred and assigned for the life of the loan (for a period typically less than ten years).

The cost of a $2,000,000 Lender Liability Policy may cost between $60,000 and $90,000. That cost will vary depending on factors such as the creditworthiness of the borrower, the loan amount, and the actual estimated cleanup cost. The cost of a policy, when compared to losing an asset entirely, is often the best solution for saving deals, but few drycleaners or their attorneys, know this option is available.

When you consider all things, a Lender Liability Policy is an excellent way to facilitate a loan on a property transaction or the refinancing of a property where environmental contamination is present (especially if the property is being used as collateral). Such a policy may help stave off an aggressive landlord and provide you with much-needed time to adequately deal with the environmental contamination. Knowing that a Lender Liability Policy can facilitate a property transaction or refinance and assisting the landlord in understanding these facts may be the difference between continuing business operations and losing your lease, making the day you see engineers taking environmental samples a day like many others.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

As seen in Cleaner & Launderer.

Indiana Finds Elevated Levels of PFAS in Drinking Water at Nine Small Utilities


The State of Indiana recently reported finding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) or “forever chemicals” above the 2022 federal advisory levels at nine community public water systems (CWSs) in Indiana. The sampling was performed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to comply with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) proposal in 2022 for monitoring PFAS in drinking water nationwide.  

A CWS regularly provides drinking water to at least 25 residents on a year-round basis or has at least 15 service connections to residents.  These new results from the IDEM are from the second round (Phase 2) of testing at 59 smaller CWSs (serving less than 10,000 residents) across the state from November 2021 to December 2022.  The nine facilities with elevated PFAS include: Delphi Water Works, Crescent Hills Mobile Home Park, Leavenworth Water Company, Westport Water Company, Haubstadt Water Department, And-Tro Water Authority – District 1, Troy Township Water Association, Indiana American Water – Farmersburg, and Sullivan-Vigo Rural Water Corp. 

The IDEM is planning to complete additional testing at larger CWSs (facilities that service more than 10,000 residents) before the end of May 2023. The results from both rounds of IDEM testing and the IDEM’s PFAS sampling schedule are available on the IDEM PFAS website.

As more testing is completed and publicly available data is released in Indiana, and across the nation, we will continue to assess the findings and provide additional interpretations and guidance to our clients on the potential risks associated with PFAS contamination.  

If you have PFAS questions, please contact us.

‘Air’ial Assault: How Contaminated Air From Past or Current Operations Can Impact Your Property & Surrounding Community

EnviroForensics’  Vapor Intrusion and Mitigation lead shares his expertise on how contamination in the air from current and/or past operations may be impacting your property and community health. 


Access to fresh air and water are required to sustain a healthy life and should not be taken for granted. Do you know if current and/or historical operations at your property are adversely impacting the breathing air within your building or nearby structures? If you have read EnviroForensics’ past articles, we have explained the basics of environmental contamination, how it impacts properties, and the process by which an environmental consultant like us can assist with investigating, mitigating, or remediating a contaminated property. In this article, I am focusing on explaining how contamination in the air from current and/or past operations may be impacting your property and nearby properties.


Let’s briefly review how environmental contamination can occur. Environmental contamination begins with a sudden and/or incidental release(s) of hazardous materials into the environment. These are referred to as “spills” and can occur in areas where hazardous materials are used. Perhaps it was a leaky connection to a drycleaning machine that dripped solvent for years, or a sudden accident where a container of solvent (virgin or waste) tipped over and released out the back door soaking into the asphalt parking lot or ground surface. These areas where contaminants are released are termed “source areas”. The contaminants in source areas can migrate downward in the subsurface due to gravity. Because the contaminant molecules from a spill can bind to soil particles, a source area can continue to release contaminants into the subsurface over time. Contaminants that migrate vertically can reach the groundwater and spread as they dissolve into the groundwater and migrate in the direction of groundwater flow. This is a common way for contamination to travel away from a source area and impact adjacent properties. So now that you know how a contaminant can be released and enter the subsurface environment; how exactly can this impact air quality?


Drycleaning solvents like tetrachloroethene (PCE), also known as perchloroethylene or commonly referred to in the industry as PERC, are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). As these chemical compounds are volatile, they readily evaporate from liquid to vapor phase. Let’s take nail polish remover for example: as soon as you open the container you will smell the acetate in the air immediately. This is because acetate is volatile and readily evaporates from its liquid form to its vapor form when exposed to ambient air. The potent odor from the nail polish container, or PERC container within your building, is an indicator of the vapor phase quickly filling a room when a container is opened. Now if we consider a contaminant source area where PCE was spilled into the subsurface, we can understand that the material will readily evaporate, or ‘off-gas’, and the vapor phase will contaminate the surrounding subsurface air residing within spaces between soil particles. Given the characteristics of vapors, the contaminated air will migrate laterally and upward towards the ground surface. Contaminant vapors in the subsurface air will continue to spread outward as contaminants move from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration.

As contaminants off-gas from impacted soil and groundwater, they can potentially produce a soil gas contaminant plume (or vapor plume) which is basically a subsurface ‘cloud’ of contaminated air. These soil gas plumes can accumulate beneath structures and enter the structure’s breathing air, this is commonly referred to as “vapor intrusion”. This can occur in a variety of structural settings, whether a structure is constructed over a crawlspace with a gap between the soil and floor of the building or if it is a concrete slab placed directly on the soil. Contaminated air from the subsurface can seep into the structure from the exposed soil of a crawl space or through cracks, floor drains, sumps, or other penetrations in a concrete slab. Depending on the contaminant concentrations of the vapor plume, breathing the indoor air impacted with contaminant vapors could adversely affect the health of occupants within the structure. Vapor plumes can exist in the subsurface and impact structures long after the spill and spread of contamination initially occurs. As contamination released to groundwater can allow contaminant to travel away from the source area, vapor intrusion can occur at structures well away from the initial source area of contamination as well. 


These air impacts can go unnoticed as they are not typically concentrated enough to be observed by your sense of smell and require specialized sampling and analytical testing to evaluate the concentrations in indoor air. To ensure that property owners and residents near known source areas and vapor plumes are not being exposed to potential health risks from these vapors, it may be necessary to test the air quality.  Soil gas monitoring wells can be installed nearby known environmental contamination to evaluate the subsurface conditions in the area. If samples collected from soil gas monitoring wells indicate the presence of contamination at certain levels, then nearby structures may be further evaluated. Indoor air samples can be collected from within the occupied living spaces of structures to evaluate indoor air quality while samples can also be collected outdoor to evaluate the air conditions outside for comparison. In addition, small sampling points can be installed through the concrete slab of a structure, known as sub-slab vapor sampling points, and used to collect samples from beneath a structure. Evaluating the air conditions beneath the concrete slab aid in determining what can potentially enter the structure through the concrete slab or other penetrations. 

In addition to environmental contamination in the subsurface leading to vapor intrusion and contaminated breathing air withing structures, business operations can impact indoor air. We occasionally have our clients ask us if subsurface impacts can affect breathing air of structures, how are drycleaners able to use these solvents within their own facilities? And can actively using them present the same health issues to occupants in adjacent or nearby properties? 

Many industrial facilities like drycleaners legally use known hazardous substances to carry-out their manufacturing or other business operations. As hazardous substances can provide risk(s) to workers using certain products, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires proper communication of the substances used by the employer. This communication includes acceptable indoor air exposure levels of the chemical used in a business environment. 

Concentrations of the volatilized chemicals produced during business operations can permeate the indoor air and other materials/contents within the structure. The contaminated air within a building (generated from operations or vapor intrusion) will spread outward exhausting to the outdoors through doors, windows, exhaust fans, etc. at which point they migrate along with the general wind direction. Depending on the property layout and surrounding properties, this contaminated air could potentially infiltrate nearby structures’ breathing air, introduced through open doors and/or windows, or can even be entrained into ventilation systems of a nearby structure. In some scenarios where a facility may share a common interior wall with an adjacent business (like in a strip-mall for example), the air concentrations from materials being used in one business can permeate through the walls and/or above the shared ceiling or attic space into the adjacent business. Although adjacent spaces may have their own separate ventilation system and not have direct access to the area where the contaminated air is generated, air mixing can still occur and impact adjacent spaces.

As we previously discussed, OSHA permits a facility using hazardous materials to have certain concentrations of contaminants in the workers breathable air, but what about the breathing air of the adjacent business unit or the potential residential structure across the alley? The permissible levels allowed by OSHA are prescribed for workers, not for the occupants of nearby structures. When environmental investigations are performed, indoor air concentrations are compared to levels prescribed by the local and/or state government, or in some cases the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These levels are much lower, or more stringent, than OSHA levels as the occupants of these structures are not electing to work at a business or live in a residence that knowingly stores or uses hazardous chemicals. As one might imagine, this can be problematic for operators of facilities that use hazardous materials. Although they can maintain compliance within the work environment, the same air concentrations may not be in compliance if determined to be present in adjacent or nearby properties.


Now that I’ve explained scenarios by which past and/or current hazardous material storage, use, and releases can impact indoor air, you’ll be relieved to know that appropriate measures can be taken to mitigate the impacted air and ensure a healthy breathing environment. EnviroForensics has installed numerous systems, designed to mitigate the potential for unwanted contaminated air from entering the breathing air of a structure. For vapor intrusion scenarios, where unwanted vapors are entering the structure from the subsurface beneath a structure’s foundation, a vapor mitigation system can be installed. A vapor mitigation system is designed to interrupt the pathway by which vapors enter the breathing air. As structural foundations can vary, vapor mitigation systems can be comprised of multiple components, for example: active venting, passive venting, sub-slab depressurization extraction points, vapor barrier in crawlspaces, pre- and post-construction installations, vapor matting, etc. For scenarios where unwanted air generated from active operations is the issue, ventilation systems can be rerouted and/or modified to mitigate the issue. Once a system is in place, long-term operations, maintenance, and monitoring is often completed to continue to confirm the system(s) are operating as designed.  

Rest assured, EnviroForensics is here to assist you for if you have concerns that one of these scenarios may exist at your property. Our team of scientists have a wealth of experience at tackling complex environmental issues to aid in managing liability for clients and minimizing any potential threat or undue harm from air contamination in their communities. Contact us to learn more on how we can help you address your environmental risks in a business-friendly approach 

As seen in Cleaner & Launderer

Federal Government takes further steps toward regulating PFAS, Forever Chemicals



On March 14, 2023, it was announced that the Biden-Harris Administration will be proposing the first-ever national standards for six (6) per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) or “forever chemicals”. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance (OECA) held its first of two public listening sessions to obtain general comments about their proposed plans for enforcement of PFAS under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the financial obligations for responsible parties of PFAS contamination to further their development of a CERCLA PFAS enforcement discretion policy. Both actions build on President Biden’s PFAS pollution action plan and the EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap, which were started over two years ago with the objectives of controlling and addressing PFAS pollution and holding PFAS polluters accountable to safeguarding public health, and advancing environmental justice.  

If finalized, the Biden-Harris Administration proposal would regulate two (2) compounds, PFOA and PFOS, as individual contaminants with an enforceable level, or maximum contaminant level (MCL), of 4 part per trillion (ppt). Additionally, four (4) other PFAS (PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX Chemicals) would be regulated as a mixture. Their combined levels in water systems would be evaluated via a hazard index calculation to determine the potential risk. Furthermore, if this new drinking water regulation is finalized, public water systems would be required to monitor these chemicals, inform the public if PFAS levels in the drinking water exceed the new standard, and take action to reduce the PFAS levels. The EPA is now seeking input on this proposal by holding a public listening session on May 4, 2023, and accepting written comments before making a final ruling. The pre-publication version of this proposal is linked here 

In another step, the EPA OECA held a public listening session that centered on the financial obligations of responsible parties as part of developing a CERCLA PFAS enforcement discretion policy. During this session, the EPA stated its intent to focus enforcement actions toward the PFAS manufacturing/discharging entities and suggested that it is considering allowing for exemptions to specific entities that “passively” receive or secondarily use materials that may potentially contain PFAS contamination. The list of potentially exempted entities currently consists of solid waste landfills, public water sources and public owned treatment works (POTW), farmers who apply biosolids, and fire departments and airports of municipal, state, and tribal sectors. While many commenters expressed appreciation of the EPA’s progress and consideration of exemptions, others found the EPAs plans to be unclear, specifically regarding the potential effects on stormwater permits, how municipal water suppliers will manage and fund PFAS treatment, and the potential for third party liability against the exempted services. The topic’s next EPA listening session will be held virtually on March 23, 2023.  Recordings for both listening sessions will be available via the EPA website here after the March 23, 2023 session.  

While these two proposals present progress, additional questions arise on the future of PFAS regulation implementation and the potential financial obligations and risks to municipalities and other sectors. For instance, we do not have a clear understanding of who will be held responsible for funding the cleanup of PFAS contamination via the aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), a.k.a. firefighting foam, releases at many airports and fire departments, since the EPA is proposing to exempt these entities. Based on the U.S. EPA’s prior comments, it is possible they would hold the manufacturer responsible for some costs, but the lines of evidence to demonstrate responsibility have yet to be defined, and there is a risk that municipalities and airports have not retained appropriate purchase records if needed. Additional potential risks include the responsibility of known exposures. Though the U.S. EPA is proposing some exclusion to responsibility for the cleanup of PFAS releases, the management of known and continued releases, such as POTW discharges, will likely require long-term mitigation and management.  

Despite these unknowns, some relief can be felt as funding addresses emerging contaminants like PFAS through the recent passing of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This law allows the distribution of $10 billion over the next five years to help make drinking water safe in affected communities.

Those who used or interacted with PFAS during their business operations can face a variety of environmental exposures due to PFAS. Those insured should look into their historical commercial general liability (CGL) policies that may aid them in paying for the investigation, remediation, and legal defense of PFAS claims.

As the regulations for these emerging contaminants develop, we will continue to keep our eye on the factors that may affect our clients.  

*In Indiana and New Mexico, policies issued after this time period can also respond to environmental claims. Contact us to learn more.