The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), State Water Resources Control Board, and San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board have developed supplemental vapor intrusion guidance for conducting vapor intrusion evaluations in California. The Draft Supplemental Guidance: Screening and Evaluating Vapor Intrusion is available for review and public comment until 12:00 noon, April 30, 2020. Click here for available public meetings and comments.
According to the published Draft Supplemental Guidance: Screening and Evaluating Vapor Intrusion Executive Summary
Toxic vapors can move from contaminated groundwater and soil to indoor air. This process is called vapor intrusion. Vapors inside buildings can threaten human health. The science behind vapor intrusion has been evolving quickly. To protect the health of Californians, the DTSC and the California Water Boards drafted a supplement to the existing vapor intrusion guidance. This is important information to collect for environmental protection. This document is called the “Draft Supplemental Guidance: Screening and Evaluating Vapor Intrusion” (Draft Guidance). This Draft Guidance contains recommended improvements for vapor intrusion investigations and promotes consistency throughout the state. It also offers suggestions on the following topics:
The Draft Guidance is intended to be used with existing State guidance – DTSC 2011 Vapor Intrusion Guidance and San Francisco Bay Regional Water Board 2014 Interim Framework 1 – when there is a spill or disposal of vapor-forming chemicals. This guidance does not apply to any leaking petroleum underground storage tanks (USTs) since they are governed under the State Water Resources Control Board’s Low-Threat UST Case Closure Policy.
Four Steps to Evaluate Vapor Intrusion
The Draft Guidance describes four recommended steps to decide if there is vapor intrusion that could pose a risk to the health of people inside buildings. These actions are meant to protect public health and should be carried out under the oversight of the lead regulatory agency.
Step 1 – Decide which buildings should be tested first and how.
When there are several buildings, start with those that are occupied and closest to the contamination. If a building is directly above or very close to the spill, or if it is likely that the sewer could bring toxic vapors inside, skip Step 2 and go directly to Step 3.
Step 2 – Screen buildings from outside.
Measure vapor-forming chemicals underground at these locations:
Step 3 – Test indoor air.
Measure vapor-forming chemicals in indoor air, beneath the building’s foundation, and outdoor air at the same time:
Step 4 – Act to protect public health.
Toxic Vapors Can Travel Through Sewer Pipes
Vapor-forming chemicals can enter sewer pipes that run through contaminated soil or groundwater. Once inside a sewer, vapors can move through the pipes and escape through cracks or openings, under or inside a building. Some of the traditional ways to test for vapor intrusion could potentially miss vapor-forming chemicals moving through sewer pipes. This Draft Guidance recommends evaluating whether the sewer could bring toxic vapors inside.
Vapor Intrusion Attenuation Factors
Attenuation factors are used to estimate how much of the vapors underground or in groundwater end up in the indoor air. This Draft Guidance uses attenuation factors recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These were calculated from a large study of buildings at contaminated sites around the nation, including California.
California Vapor Intrusion Database
Data from sites evaluated using the process described in the Draft Guidance will be entered into a database that will be publicly available. The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) added capabilities to the GeoTracker database including building-specific information for a cleanup case and the ability to differentiate Field Points for collecting samples. The State will analyze the information in the database and learn how to better protect the people of California from vapor intrusion.
Where to Find the Draft Guidance
According to a recent article in APNews, U.S. Oil loaded its first shipment of 100,000 barrels of ethanol in April to ship out of the Port of Milwaukee. The distributor is a subsidiary of U.S. Venture, which distributes oil, ethanol, lubricants, tires and auto parts. The company has been shipping ethanol from the port of Green Bay for six years without incident.
The company filed an environmental response plan with the U.S. Coast Guard to help allay feels of pollution. The plan is comprehensive including controlling a potential spill, guarding water intake pipes and protecting wildlife in near-shore areas. “They have a very robust response plan,” said Lieutenant Commander Bryan Swintek of the U.S. Coast Guard in Milwaukee. “Clearly, they want to make sure they are operating in a safe manner.”
The safe transportation of ethanol helps support Wisconsin’s agricultural community, supports renewable fuels which play a major role in the new energy economy, and is done in a socially responsible, environmentally friendly way.
SCS Engineers provided the response plan mentioned in the article, which is not regulatory driven, but rather a proactive action driven by U.S. Oil. This type of response plan is called a Tactical Response Plan and provides an extra layer of spill preparedness. It’s a site-specific, emergency response and cleanup strategy that allows facilities to take action faster and quickly minimize the spread of a spill – and can help protect a facility’s reputation.