EPA continues investigation of vapor intrusion in Riverside

EPA continues investigation of vapor intrusion in Riverside

Source: http://envfpn.advisen.com, December 15, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

The Environmental Protection Agency will spend the next two months collecting air samples from homes in the Avondale community to determine how serious vapor intrusion is for those Riverside citizens.

But in the meantime, residents are worried about their health and property values.

The area of concern is bordered by Guernsey Dell Avenue, Minnesota Drive, Hypathia Avenue, Rohrer Boulevard and Valley Pike. There are about 130 residences in that 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 air pollution, according to the EPA.

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

Steve Renninger, on-scene coordinator for the EPA’s Region 5 in Cincinnati, said it is possible the contamination extends beyond the initial area of concern.

“The data drives the decisions,” Renninger said. “If we start seeing elevated levels past in any direction, we’ll step it out another block until we see it subside.”

Kenneth Emmons, who lives with his parents at 2620 Bushnell Avenue, said since he and his fiancee moved in back in June, he regularly gets headaches and becomes nauseated.

They have a sampling appointment scheduled for Jan. 6, but he worries what the health effects will be on his family, including his fiancee, Jessica Rowland, who is pregnant.

“We have no idea how bad our house is,” Emmons said. “Now that this has all come to light, I’m more worried about our health staying here.”

Finding the source

The source of the contamination likely is located about 800 to 1,000 feet east of Hypathia Avenue, Renninger said. This contamination is moving southwest, parallel to Valley Pike, he said.

An investigation started this 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, lung irritation, sleepiness, poor coordination and difficulty concentrating, nausea and in some cases, death.

Bob Frey, chief of the health assessment section for the Ohio Department of Health, said the primary concern is the vapors accumulating in an indoor environment.

“We’re trying to determine the short-term concern, which is the vapor intrusion,” Frey said. “What’s the source and what do we need to do to clean it up. Until we know about the source, it limits the extent of the contamination.”

In September, the EPA sent requests for information to three local companies — Mullins Rubber Products, Inc.; Paul’s Garage; and YRC Freight. Paul’s Garage and YRC Freight said they do not have any history of using PCE and TCE.

Bill Mullins Sr., president of Mullins Rubber, said his business has never used PCE. It currently uses TCE, but it is disposed of off-site by an authorized disposal company, he said. Mullins said he has permitted the EPA to drill wells on the company’s 3.5-acre property.

Renninger said it’s “too early to tell at this point” if Mullins Rubber is the source of the contamination. Mullins said he’s “100 percent confident” his company is not the source.

“We’ve cooperated every way they’ve asked,” Mullins said. “I really don’t know what else they want us to do.”

In 2004, Mullins and his company paid a total of $500,000 — $450,000 in fines and $50,000 to Dayton Children’s Medical Center — for violating the Clean Air Act, according to EPA records.

Mullins said those fines were for “paperwork irregularities” and it is unrelated to the current investigation in Riverside.

Fixing the problem

Renninger said about 40 people have signed access agreements to have their homes sampled, and appointments will begin Monday. It takes three weeks to get the results back, and once the results are in, the EPA will schedule a one-on-one interview with the homeowner. Depending on the results, an appointment to install the mitigation system will then be scheduled.

Once the system is installed, the EPA will return in 30 days and 180 days to take more samples.

“(The system) is really designed to intercept the vapors before they come through the house,” Renninger said.

The sampling and mitigation installation will be at no cost to the homeowner.

It will cost the EPA $1,000 for the sampling and $5,000 to install the mitigation system. A mitigation system will cost a homeowner about $75 a year in electric expenses, Renninger said.

Riverside Mayor Bill Flaute said residents’ concerns are legitimate, and encouraged them to schedule an appointment.

“I’m glad there’s a plan to fix it,” Flaute said. “It’s an unfortunate situation that has been caused, and the EPA is working hard to fix it.”

Will Morgan Jr., who lives at 2632 Bushnell Avenue, said he plans to fill out an access agreement to have his house sampled. But Morgan Jr. believes his property value will decline if a mitigation system is installed, and suggested that his property taxes should be lowered.

“Who’s going to buy my house? Would you want to?” Morgan Jr. said. “My house is so undervalued. I hope we find out who’s responsible so they can pay and take care of this neighborhood. There are people out here who want compensation.”

According to Heather Lauer, spokeswoman with the Ohio EPA, the science to detect vapor intrusion has existed since the early 2000s. Renninger said he’s been involved in about 10 vapor intrusion sites in the Dayton area during the last seven years.

The EPA has set up a local office at 2049 Harshman Road. Scheduling for sampling and mitigation installment will be done at the office, which can be reached by calling 937-237-7530.

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