Long-term Stewardship of Contaminated Sites, Vapor Intrusion Mitigation and Monitoring Fit the Requirements

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

As seen in the December 2014 issue of Cleaner & Launderer

PDF Version

The latest wrinkle in the cleanup process of sites contaminated with chlorinated solvents (PCE and TCE) is in understanding how long the site, and those sites downgradient, will need to be monitored when complete contaminant removal is not possible and potential human exposure remains. Generally speaking, the more contamination left in place, the longer the site will need to be monitored. I want to tell you this because the cleanup costs that will be generated for your site, will be greatly affected by two things; 1) the removal of contaminated soil and groundwater in the source area and 2) the long-term monitoring requirements (how many locations need to be monitored and for how long). If you are not aware of these two big issues, you are not looking at the full picture and you could be unwittingly reviewing cleanup cost estimates that may have been prepared using the old “bait and switch”.

Let me make no bones about it, the environmental consulting industry is highly competitive and like many purchases consumers make, price is a large factor when you select a consultant to clean up environmental contamination. Nowhere is this price more susceptible to variation than in asking for the consultant to give a true site closure cost estimate. The most important thing to understand about what I am telling you is that you know to ask the hard questions about the provided cost to closure and don’t get caught up in hearing what you want to hear. Consultants don’t enjoy being the bearer of bad news and they realize that they might be competitively shopped, especially if the provided costs are higher than the party paying for the contamination expects. Consequently, the consultant may try to soft pedal the remediation costs. I refer to this as, “telling people what they want to hear”. I see this all the time, particularly when insurance companies are responsible for paying for the cleanup. Continue reading “Long-term Stewardship of Contaminated Sites, Vapor Intrusion Mitigation and Monitoring Fit the Requirements”

Vapor Intrusion or Process Emissions – Help Me, Help You

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

As seen in the August 2014 issue of Cleaner & Launderer

PDF Version

I’ve talked a lot about vapor intrusion over the past few years. Vapor intrusion occurs when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in soil and groundwater off-gas and migrate into occupied buildings and store fronts. The need to conduct vapor intrusion sampling is often times the result of VOCs in the soil and groundwater. Typically a vapor intrusion assessment will include collecting sub-slab soil gas samples along with the collection of indoor air samples. This paired sampling, as it is often times referred to, is designed to show two things: 1) whether or not there is contamination in the subsurface soil gas sample that could create a vapor intrusion issue; and 2) whether or not there are concentrations of VOCs in the breathing air that could be attributable to the subsurface contamination.

I want to tell you this because if it is determined that vapor intrusion exists and VOCs are migrating from the subsurface into occupied building structures, you as the responsible party for the subsurface impacts, would also be responsible for mitigating those vapors. Additionally, the identification of a vapor intrusion issue in buildings not owned by you could lead to the potential for third party litigation should it be determined that people have been breathing contaminated air. Continue reading “Vapor Intrusion or Process Emissions – Help Me, Help You”

VAPOR INTRUSION CAN POSE SIGNIFICANT LIABILITIES; TAKE STEPS TO UNDERSTAND THE ISSUES

Written by Steve Henshaw, PG, President & CEO, EnviroForensics

As seen in the August 2013 issue of Cleaner & Launderer

Download PDF

The field of vapor intrusion is far from being considered a sound science.  I want to tell you this because the stakes are very high when it comes to potential risks to human health from vapors comprised of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  The emerging field of vapor intrusion is not only rapidly evolving and the risk levels are continuing to shift and change, but also the potential liabilities associated with vapor intrusion exposure can be very expensive and could damage a company’s reputation.  When it comes to vapor intrusion exposure issues, you and your team of scientists and lawyers need to be in front of the problem, proactively dealing with results and developing a communication plan and strategy of ensuring that appropriate steps are being taken to protect people from risk and harm. Continue reading “VAPOR INTRUSION CAN POSE SIGNIFICANT LIABILITIES; TAKE STEPS TO UNDERSTAND THE ISSUES”

Vapor Intrusion Assessments: Can You Trust Your Indoor Air Data?

Written by Jeff Carnahan, L.P.G, Senior Project Manager, EnviroForensics in collaboration with Stephen Henshaw, P.G., President & CEO, EnviroForensics.

As seen in the February 2012 issue of Cleaner & Launderer

PDF Version

If you’ve ever had to hire an environmental consultant to investigate your property and collect samples, you’ve probably had to look at an analytical report from a laboratory and use it to answer some pretty important questions.  Is there contamination on my property? What chemicals are present? How much is there?  Most importantly, are the levels of contamination high enough to be causing harmful health effects? Only slightly less importantly, are they high enough to require a costly cleanup?  You needed to know the answers to all of these questions so that you could sell or buy a property, get a business loan, or maybe just to sleep at night.  With today’s trend of highly regulated vapor intrusion (VI) assessments being required at sites where dry cleaning with perchloroethene (PCE) has taken place, these questions have become increasingly important and more difficult to answer.

While there are challenges associated with environmental assessments of all kinds; determining the level of hazardous constituents in a building’s indoor air, assessing from where it may have come and evaluating if an unacceptable health risk exists for human occupants can be particularly delicate.  For those property owners who need answers to the questions posed in the situation above, it is extremely important that samples of indoor air collected during VI assessments are representative of the air actually being breathed by the building’s occupants and that the laboratory results can be relied upon.  Continue reading “Vapor Intrusion Assessments: Can You Trust Your Indoor Air Data?”

Vapor Intrusion; Who’s DEFAULT is it?

Written by Steve Henshaw, P.G., President & CEO, EnviroForensics, in Collaboration with Jeff Carnahan, L.P.G., Senior Project Manager, EnviroForensics.

As seen in the March 2011 issue of Cleaner & Launderer.

PDF Version

As most drycleaners know, at some time in the not too distant future, you or someone you know will have to deal with the accidental release of perchloroethylene (Perc) or Stoddard solvent.  Even if the release is decades old and unknown to the current owner/operator, soil and/or groundwater contamination may come to light during a property transaction, a refinance or through the course of standard due diligence investigations.  This finding commonly results in a demand by the state environmental regulatory agency to determine the extent of the contamination and if necessary, remediate the contamination. 

Environmental regulatory agencies often prioritize contaminated sites based on whether or not people may come into contact with, or be exposed to toxic chemicals.  The three primary ways (or pathways) that people can come into contact with these chemicals is by getting contaminated soil or groundwater on their skin, eating and ingesting contaminated soil or groundwater, or by inhaling the chemicals that volatilize from the contaminated soil or groundwater.  If it is determined that one of these potential exposure pathways is complete, it becomes a priority to abate the exposure immediately, even before the extent of the impacts have been fully defined.  Continue reading “Vapor Intrusion; Who’s DEFAULT is it?”