Teacher’s Complaint Leads to EPA Investigation and Sub-Slab Sampling for TCE

A site with an historic release of TCE isn’t exactly news.  However, what prompted the EPA’s investigation into an Illinois site was an email from a concerned teacher at nearby St. Luke’s School.

According to the February 17, 2012 news release from the EPA, “The River Forest Dry Cleaners Site (Site)…had…documented TCE contamination in the groundwater and subsurface soil surrounding the Site and through the storm sewers.”

Based on the inquiry from the teacher and previously documented TCE contamination, the EPA conducted indoor air and sub-slab sampling in the facilities around the Site in November 2009 and in February and March 2010.  However, according to the Federal Register Notice, “The results did not indicate any level of contamination that warranted a removal action.”

The owner of the Dry Cleaners agreed to voluntarily conduct additional sampling, but had limited means.  And on December 28, 2011, the EPA signed an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) with the Respondent.  Pursuant to the terms of the AOC, the Respondent agreed to pay $39,926 of costs incurred by the U.S. EPA at the Site.

As it relates to the potential impact of subsurface vapors, gathering sufficient information before a vapor intrusion (VI) investigation is critical. Information about the contaminant, the concentration, the geology, the potential pathways, etc…are all very important considerations.

As this story indicates, vapor intrusion (VI) issues are increasing on the forefront of environmental site investigations and remediation.  But they can be a “Pandora’s Box” if you don’t understand VI.   In discussing this issue with one of my colleagues, Dr. Khaled Chekiri, he said, “The science of vapor intrusion is very complex and includes a number of variables that can have a significant impact on the fate of vapors in subsurface conditions.”

Vapor intrusion is an “environmental hot button” and you should be aware of it and enter investigations with caution. Like many environmental issues, a complaint from an employee, a neighbor, or even a teacher could bring you and your company into regulatory focus.

To read more about vapor intrusion, see our article (March 2011) in ESE “Vapour intrusion from soil and groundwater: A challenge for property owners”

Also, two Dragun Associates will be speaking at the Michigan Safety Conference on April 18, 2012 “What EH & S Managers Need to Know About Vapor Intrusion.”  

If you have any additional questions or concerns about vapor intrusion, contact Dr. Khaled Khekiri, P.E. (kchekiri@dragun.com) at 248-932-0228.

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