Vapor Intrusion Is an Increasing Area of Public and Regulatory Concern as a new risk pathway for exposure to contaminants

Vapor Intrusion occurs when residual contamination in soil vaporizes and travels into homes, buildings and other enclosed areas. Vapor Intrusion is an increasing area of Public and Regulatory Concern as a new risk pathway for exposure to contaminants.


This series of stories from the Dayton Daily News demonstrates the level of concern and challenges that regulators and the exposed community faces with this newly identified threat.  I call it newly identified because it has always been present in areas where organic contaminants are left behind in soil beneath or near structures.  It is only now becoming an issue that affects redevelopment and construction.

 

RIVERSIDE, Ohio (AP) — Environmental and health officials say vapor intrusion in a suburban Dayton neighborhood is more serious and widespread than originally believed.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agencyinvestigation recently expanded to about 365 homes in Riverside as the agency collects air samples to determine how serious vapor intrusion is for homeowners.

Steve Renninger, the EPA on-scene coordinator, tells the Dayton Daily News for a story Friday (http://bit.ly/1pigQ87 ) that screening levels are higher than the agency suspected in December and vapor intrusion is penetrating deeper into the neighborhood.

Vapor intrusion occurs when underground pollutants give off dangerous gases that can rise up through the soil and seep into buildings through foundation cracks and holes, causing unsafe indoor pollution that can make people sick.

Vapor intrusion in Riverside neighborhood more serious, widespread

Posted: 10:16 p.m. Thursday, July 17, 2014

By Steven Matthews - Staff Writer

 

Vapor intrusion in the Valley Pike neighborhood in Riverside is more serious and widespread than originally believed, according to Environmental Protection Agency and health officials.

Steve Renninger, on-scene coordinator for the EPA’s Region 5 in Cincinnati, said the sample results are higher than what the agency suspected in December and the vapor intrusion is penetrating deeper into the neighborhood.

The investigation recently expanded to about 365 homes, as the EPA continues to collect air samples from homes to determine how serious vapor intrusion is for those homeowners.

The contamination is moving southwest, parallel to Valley Pike, Renninger said.

“The harder we looked, the higher the exposure has been,” Dr. Michelle Colledge, with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, said during a public meeting Wednesday night at Stebbins High School. “We’re very concerned about potential exposures.”

Renninger said the investigation is ongoing to find the source of the contamination, while the priority right now is to test homes and install mitigation systems to those that meet the criteria. He previously said the source likely is located about 800 to 1,000 feet east of Hypathia Avenue.

The vapor intrusion investigation is considered a “time-critical removal action” that is limited to one year of work. Homeowners have less than five months left to take advantage of the EPA’s guarantee to pay thousands of dollars to monitor and mitigate vapors intruding into their houses.

A groundwater investigation will be the second and longer phase, but it is unclear when that will begin, Renninger has said.

“The EPA has taken swift and appropriate action to help our neighborhoods,” Riverside Councilwoman Shirley Reynolds told the crowd. “They’ve taken control of the situation and are here to help. This is our city and this is what we want for you. We want the best. They’re here to help us have the best.”

Renninger said 199 homes have been tested, and 72 of them met the requirements to have a mitigation system installed. The EPA has installed 48 systems, and appointments are scheduled into August, he said.

There were 83 homes where chemicals were slightly detected and they will be re-sampled; 13 homes denied access; and 23 homes are vacant.

Sampling takes 24 hours, and it takes three weeks to get the results back, Renninger said.

The sampling and mitigation installation are at no cost to the homeowner. It costs the EPA $1,000 for the sampling and $5,000 to install the mitigation system. A mitigation system costs a homeowner about $75 a year in electric expenses, Renninger has said.

The fan in the mitigation system comes with a five-year warranty, and the homeowner is responsible for any repairs once the warranty expires.

EPA officials will return 30 days after the mitigation system is installed to take another sample. Renninger said the trend is about 90 percent of the homes see a drop in screening levels after the system is installed.

The sampling has been expanded to the Forest Home Avenue, Prince Albert Boulevard, Broadmead Boulevard and Warrendale Avenue areas. The primary area of concern is bordered by Guernsey Dell Avenue, Minnesota Drive, Hypathia Avenue, Rohrer Boulevard and Valley Pike.

Heather Perry, whose mother and daughter live in a home on Valley just outside the expanded area, said that she signed an access agreement to have the home tested next week.

Perry said she’s thankful the EPA has permitted their home to be tested, even though it’s beyond the boundary.

“If there’s a problem, we want to know about it so we can get it corrected,” Perry said. “We’re not trying to find fault or blame anyone. We’d like to know what’s going on.”

Perry, who lived at the house for 39 years and still resides in Riverside, said she has a chronic form of leukemia, which was diagnosed in 2000. Her daughter Emily suffers from migraines and asthma.

Asked if she believes the vapor intrusion is to blame for their health problems, Perry said, “You just don’t know.”

Rick Noerr, who lives by himself on Prince Albert, has not signed an access agreement, but plans to after he realized Wednesday night his house is within the boundary.

Noerr said he deals with a little bit of dizziness, but otherwise his health tests from a month ago were fine. He said if it’s a long-term issue that will take 15 to 20 years to resolve, he will consider moving.

“I’m very interested in their long-term efforts and what they’re going to do to straighten the problem out,” Noerr.

The drinking water is not impacted by the site conditions, according to the EPA. The drinking water comes from the city of Dayton’s public water supply.

Health officials advise residents who have a private water well to no longer consume the water because there could be the potential of cross-contamination with home plumbing.

An investigation started last summer after the EPA conducted groundwater sampling in the area and discovered an above screening level presence of TCE (Trichloroethylene) and PCE (Tetrachloroethylene).

Symptoms of breathing high levels of TCE and PCE include headaches; dizziness; liver, kidney and immune system issues; effects to reproductive and respiratory systems; nausea; cancer in animals and possibly humans; and in some cases, death.

Vapor intrusion occurs when underground pollutants give off dangerous gases that can rise up through the soil and seep into buildings through foundation cracks and holes, causing unsafe indoor air pollution, according to the EPA.

About 200 people attended the first public meeting in December, and residents raised concerns, mostly about their health and property values.

The EPA has a local office at 2049 Harshman Road that is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Scheduling for sampling and mitigation installment is done at the office, which can be reached by calling 937-237-7530.



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