Water is one of our most basic needs. Contaminants challenge our drinking water and something needs to be done about it. Our existing water and wastewater infrastructure have done wonders in preventing outbreaks of water borne disease, but we continue to face challenges in ensuring the water we drink is safe for consumption. One of the major challenges currently being faced is “emerging contaminants” in our public water supplies. The uncertainty around what is and is not safe for consumption, water testing methodologies, and the absence of existing infrastructure to treat these contaminants is challenging local governments, water suppliers, and affected communities.
In prior news alerts, we have discussed the basics around one of the most headlining groups of emerging contaminants, Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). water-resource-management PFOA and PFOS, the most common PFAS, have likely been present in public water supplies for many years, but they went undetected because PFAS were not on the lists of compounds to be tested for. Once the problem was identified, more and more public water systems were found to be impacted and had to be shut down until they found alternative water supplies.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moved quickly to establish a Health Advisory Limit of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). While drinking water standards have historically been defined by the EPA and then later adopted by the states, many state regulators are not satisfied, and they have moved to take their own aggressive and unprecedented actions. As examples, the NJDEP has already proposed the lowest standards in the country at 14 ppt for PFOA and 13 ppt for PFOS. And Pennsylvania has established a task force which is tasked to develop standards of their own for PA.
Pennsylvania has also proposed steps toward a solution in treating impacted water supplies through Governor Wolf’s “Restore Pennsylvania” plan. https://www.governor.pa.gov/restore-pennsylvania/ This plan is designed to address critical infrastructure needs across the state. Among other things, the plan will provide grants for installation of treatment systems for PFAS in drinking water for both public and private supplies.
The proposed funding could help provide relief for impacted water supplies in areas where a source of the PFAS cannot be determined. And enforcement is also being stepped-up to identify potentially responsible parties in places where the source can be identified. So, is history preparing to repeat itself with regulatory liability allocations and natural resource damage assessments not seen since the heyday of environmental regulation development? Time will tell. In the meantime, Brickhouse scientists and engineers maintain the regulatory and technical edge to identify possible issues during due diligence and provide technical guidance for properties affected by these and other emerging contaminants.
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Alexander is a graduate from West Chester University with a degree in Geoscience Earth Systems. He comes to Brickhouse Environmental as a former warehouse worker. When Alex is not collecting soil samples or measuring the depth to water, you can find him rocking the Bass in a local band. Check out the band’s Instagram account!
Celeste is currently enrolled at Bloomsburg University in the Environmental Biology program. She will spend her summer in the field, learning the ropes from our seasoned project scientists. When not in the field, Celeste likes to play soccer and binge watch The Office.
With a degree in Business Administration from Rosemont College, Molly comes to Brickhouse from another environmental consulting firm. She leans on her past sales and marketing experiences for her marketing role and is looking forward to bringing sustainability to the West Chester Office. When not at her desk, Molly can be found running on the Montgomery County trails with her four-legged running buddy, Meadow.
Check out Molly’s LinkedIn Profile
Professional Geologists’ Day is April 5th. Can you dig it?
Why not celebrate with your favorite Geologist?
Learn more about our Brickhouse Scientists!
DOUGLAS SCHOTT, P.G., DIRECTOR OF GEOLOGIC SERVICES
MICHAEL LANE, CPSS, SENIOR SOIL SCIENTIST
STEPHEN HUXTA, PROJECT MANAGER
A DARK NARROW HOLE leading into the side of a steep hill was accidentally discovered by William Merkel and John Gehret while they were blasting for limestone on a Sunday morning, November 12, 1871.
AFTER THE SMOKE CLEARED and the surrounding dirt was removed, they realized that the opening was large enough to enter.
CURIOSITY LED THEM INSIDE, but total darkness and fear of the unknown kept them from going any further…
According to the PA dept of Conservation and Natural Resource website, a sinkhole is a subsidence feature resulting from the downward movement of surficial material into a pre-existing subsurface void.Sinkholes come in many shapes and sizes, and although caused by naturally occurring processes, their formation can be accelerated by human activities.
Since our inception in 1977, site investigation and remediation have remained at the core of our business with many of our clients and sites residing in Pennsylvania. Prior to the adoption of the Land Recycling and Environmental Remediation Standards Act (Act 2) in 1995, regulatory closures of cleanup sites were on a case by case basis, wrought with inconsistencies and sometimes frustration on all sides. It was the goal of Act 2 to bring a consistent site remediation process to the Commonwealth that would facilitate the reuse of unused or underused commercial/industrial properties. While that goal has been largely realized, experiences over the many years since 1995 have led to many changes and incremental improvements to the process.
The most recent and highly anticipated improvement to the Act 2 process is the publication of a revised Act 2 technical guidance manual (TGM) on January 19, 2019. While the regulations that established Act 2 (25 Pa. Code Chapter 250) provide the framework for the Land Recycling Program, the TGM provides a user’s manual for the Act 2 process. The prior version of the TGM was published in 2002 and was in need of a significant revision to reflect what was learned over the decades working with Act 2 and the changes in the science of site investigation and remediation.
The current rendition of the TGM includes 500+ pages and represents a significant rework and expansion of the prior version to provide clarity and detail where it was needed most. The most notable of the changes/additions include:
A significantly expanded section detailing the assessment and remediation of separate phase liquids (SPL) at both Act 2 sites (voluntary cleanups) and cleanups conducted at regulated storage tank facilities under the Corrective Action Process. Of particular importance, scientifically grounded endpoints to free product remediation were added.
The prior TGM did not originally include detailed guidance for the assessment of vapor intrusion. This void was later filled by a supplemental vapor intrusion TGM section that was most recently modified in January 2017. This version of the vapor intrusion TGM has been integrated into the current 2019 TGM.
Similar to vapor intrusion, the prior TGM did not provide detailed guidance for proper groundwater monitoring well construction and abandonment. A standalone “Groundwater Monitoring Guidance Manual” was established in 2001 prior to the TGM, however it quickly became outdated. The updated TGM includes a new detailed section dedicated to this topic.
The new TGM includes clarified and expanded sections pertaining to the establishment of environmental covenants consistent with the Uniform Environmental Covenants Act and the topic of post-remedial care.
As a company, we use the TGM on a daily basis under a wide range of circumstances. Our client might be a commercial developer looking to build houses on an abandoned contaminated commercial property, or a homeowner looking to restore their property value following a heating oil spill, or a regulated tank owner working through the Corrective Action Process following a release. Regardless of the reason for the cleanup, if it’s being cleaned up in Pennsylvania, your consultant and your regulator will likely be applying the Act 2 TGM to your site. Given the significant improvements to the TGM, we see these improvements translating to improved outcomes for our clients involved in remedial projects in Pennsylvania. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding the application of the Act 2 process to your remedial project.
For many brownfield redevelopers and commercial property owners, evaluating and managing the threat of vapor intrusion has become an unwelcome, but not uncommon, challenge. As urban renewal projects continue to “repurpose” old manufacturing buildings, replace old dry cleaners at retail shopping centers, and plow over gas stations, the potential for contaminated soil vapors to intrude into buildings continues to grow. To understand whether vapor intrusion is truly a concern at your property, it is helpful to understand the baseline causes and processes of soil vapor intrusion, and to maintain trusted experts to help separate true potential health threats and viable solutions from the smoke and mirrors.
Vapor intrusion occurs when vapors migrate from subsurface contamination into an overlying or adjacent building. In order for vapor intrusion to occur, first there must be a source of the vapors. The source is most commonly soil or groundwater impacted by volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Once in the vapor phase, these chemicals begin to migrate through the subsurface, and potentially into overlying buildings. The risk, or problem, comes when the occupants of that building breathe these vapors that can result in negative health effects. This may all sound familiar to radon — because it is! The realization of vapor intrusion as a concept stemmed from the concern over radon intrusion that took hold in the 1980s.
In the case that contaminated soil or groundwater is identified as a potential source for vapor intrusion, state and federal agencies have published extensive guidance on steps to evaluate risk to surrounding buildings. Depending on the relative location of the impacted soil or groundwater, the evaluation may include only a review of existing data versus screening values, or it may require sampling of 1) the air between the soil particles within the source area, 2) the air beneath the slab of the building, or 3) air within the building. This data can then be evaluated to determine if mitigation measures are warranted.
Brickhouse Environmental’s scientists and engineers understand the many variables that can impact soil vapor intrusion to buildings – including site-specific soil and rock conditions, preferential utility pathways, and building construction. If vapor intrusion is found to be a material threat at your property, there are options for mitigation. In new construction, vapor barriers can be installed beneath the building to prevent the migration of vapors to indoor air. For existing structures, sub-slab ventilation systems can be designed and installed to remove contaminated soil vapors from beneath the building and ventilate it to above the roofline. This continues to be the most common and successful approach. If a vapor intrusion concern is identified at your property, contact our experts to help verify the source and design the most cost-effective and least disruptive solutions for your site.
Pennsylvania’s Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Program regulations were significantly modified on December 22, 2018. The changes are focused on increasing the emphasis on proper equipment operation and maintenance with the goal of decreasing the number and severity of underground storage tank releases in the Commonwealth. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection – Division of Storage Tanks has created the following website to help regulated tank system owners comply with the new regulations: New Regulations
Brickhouse Environmental has an opening in our West Chester, Pennsylvania office for an Environmental Scientist/Geologist Project Manager who is looking for an opportunity for responsibility and growth in a vibrant, well-established, and growing company. The selected candidate will be responsible for scoping, performing, managing, and completing multiple concurrent project assignments in a team-oriented environment. The selected candidate will also be expected to play a significant role in the continued growth of our company, through project management and business development, and eventually staff development, and mentoring efforts.
For more information or to apply online, please visit our website: https://www.brickhouse-environmental.com/careers/
If you have any questions about your site or project, or need a Professional Geologist, Engineer, or Licensed Site Remediation Professional, please contact us at 610-692-5770.