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Soil Vapor Intrusion, and Why Should We Be Concerned?

Soil Vapor Intrusion, and Why Should We Be Concerned?

The air existing in the space between soil particles is known as “soil vapor”. This article discusses soil vapor intrusion, its impacts on the environment, and the need for a soil vapor consultant.

Various kinds of contaminations exist underground. These can be offshoots of hazardous groundwater, storage tank leakages, oil spills, dumped waste, or other buried hazardous substances. These contaminations, toxic in nature, can pose a threat to the environment and human health in the form of vapor intrusion as they can get trapped in soil vapor and contaminate it.

Although these toxic vapors are tapped in soil vapors subsurface, they can be really harmful to people’s health and the well-being of the environment. Let’s take a look at how soil vapor consultants can help us identify them lest they be detrimental to human health:

1. Inhalation Pathway and Factors

Soil vapors may seep into buildings through small openings, cracks, holes, or any other crevices which allow vapors entrance into the building due to negative pressure.  There is a possibility that vapors from different subsurface sources may be toxic in nature as they can carry contamination underground. As different vapors are hazardous at different airborne concentrations, you must quantify them using approved vapor testing techniques. You can seek the services of a soil vapor consultant to test their respective subsurface indoor concentrations, and their effects on individuals of different ages, gender, and medical records.

While carrying out soil vapor testing, some other environmental-based factors should also be accounted for in each investigation. These include physical soil characteristics, building occupancy, and ventilation characteristics, and foundation type.

2. Primary Contaminants Of Concern In Soil Vapor Intrusion

Although, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are the major contributors in soil vapor contamination, other compounds such as Semi volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs) and some inorganic compounds can also cause serious issues.  Some hazardous VOCs include hydrocarbons such as tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), methane, and benzene. Whereas, examples of the hazardous SVOCs are naphthalene and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).  If humans inhale these compounds, this can cause serious long-term damage. VOCs and SVOCs affect the nervous system, the neurological system, and also cause serious health issues to several organs including the liver and kidneys. A soil vapor consultant can help determine the presence of these compounds in a building.

3. Testing vapor intrusion

To be sure whether toxic chemicals have made their way into your building, you can seek the services of a soil vapor consultant for confirmation. Start by collecting soil vapor samples in the surrounding of a structure or in the ground right under your building. You can also collect indoor air samples for testing.

In case you have learned that a nearby gas station or some the factory has had a toxic spill or leak, you must call soil vapor consultants immediately to request vapor intrusion testing for your building.

4.  What should I do in case of soil intrusion?

Soil intrusion is a very serious and critical matter. It must be dealt with utmost seriousness. All stakeholders, such as developers, landlords, investors, and property owners should include vapor encroachment screenings and soil vapor intrusion testing in their due diligence activities. To mitigate the risk they must seek the services of a soil vapor consultant to go for soil vapor extraction.

If tests indicate that your building has been intruded by chemicals, you can deal with it in a variety of ways including sealing cracks in your walls or foundation. You could have a mitigation or remediation system installed to address this issue.

Final Words:

ACC ENV is a certified Soil Vapor Consultant, which also provides Asbestos Consulting and Testing Services, and conducts Vapor Encroachment Studies according to the guidance of the EPA’s ASTM E2600-10 “Standard Practice for the Assessment of Vapor Encroachment Screening on Property Involved in Real Estate Transactions.”