Is There a Risk to Your Property or Business From Vapor Intrusion?

Aerial view of the Benecia Refinery, located on 800 acres on the Carquinez Strait, a tributary of the San Francisco Bay. Built and commissioned as a grass-roots project for ExxonMobil in 1968, it was acquired from ExxonMobil by Valero in 2000 and has since undergone significant modifications and upgrades to become one of the most complex refineries in the United States. It's strategic position allows the refinery to receive feedstocks by both ship and pipelines and itís products can be shipped via pipeline, truck, rail, barge and ship. Its products include propane, butane, ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD), jet fuel, fuel oil, residential oil and asphalt. In addition, it produces 10 percent of the clean-burning California Air Resources Board (CARB) gasoline use in California and 25 percent of the CARB used in the San Francisco Bay Area. Shot ñ March 24, 2008. * FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY *Paul Hames / California Department of Water Resources

Many property and business owners are concerned about vapor intrusion. Their property or business is located near an existing or former service station or dry cleaner, or they own a property or business that is near a likely source of underground contamination. As part of their long term planning, they want to know if there is a risk to their property or business due to soil vapor contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Here are the answers.

Is there VOC contamination at or near my property or business?

The first step is to identify potential sources of VOC contamination near your property.  These commonly include:

  • Gas Stations: Leaks from underground storage tanks can release gasoline vapors.
  • Dry Cleaners: Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) is a volatile organic compound  used in dry cleaning that can migrate into soil and groundwater.
  • Automotive Repair Shops: Improper handling of solvents and used oil can lead to VOC contamination.

Is your business or property near one of these sources?

If the answer is yes, a vapor intrusion risk exists. If the answer is no, then it’s likely you don’t have a vapor intrusion risk. But first - what do “nearby”, “source of contamination”, and “volatile" mean?

  • “Nearby” means anything within 300 feet of your property or business property line.
  • “Source of contamination” means service stations, automotive repair shops, and dry cleaners. These businesses are common in most neighborhoods and use volatile chemicals like gasoline, cleaning compounds (tetrachloroethylene [PCE]), and solvents (benzene).
  • “Volatile” means easily evaporated (turned into a vapor) at normal temperatures.

So, how do you know if a service station, automotive repair shop, or dry cleaner is nearby and a source of contamination? In California, you can access GeoTracker and EnviroStor. These websites allow you to identify contaminated properties and find out what contaminants are there and what the levels are. The websites include a map you can use to see if contamination is located nearby, and if that’s not enough, you can also contact the local county health department for information.

Is there a secondary source of VOC contamination that is at or near my property or business?

A “secondary” source of contamination is usually the soil, surface water, or groundwater that is contaminated by the original release of contamination. When gasoline spills underground - the original release - the gasoline goes on to contaminate soil, groundwater, and soil vapor. In this way, soil, groundwater, and soil vapor become secondary sources of contamination.

Importantly, groundwater and soil vapor move - and move contamination. As for soil, we don’t typically think of it as moving - until we dig it up and move it.

So - the main point here is that while a source of VOC contamination - for example a dry cleaner or service station -  may not be at or near your property as above, it is possible a secondary source such as contaminated groundwater or soil vapor has moved beneath or near your property. And once that happens, there is a potential vapor intrusion risk. You can ask:

Is there a secondary source of volatile contamination located at or near my property or business?

If the answer is yes, a vapor intrusion risk exists. If the answer is no, then it’s likely you don’t have a vapor intrusion risk.

Okay - so how do you find out if a secondary source is nearby? Just like above - go to GeoTracker or EnviroStor, type in your address of interest, and look for contaminated sites near your property or business. If you find a nearby contamination site, check the summary and see if there is contaminated groundwater and/or soil. Chances are, if a site is contaminated, there is soil and groundwater contamination and a risk of vapor intrusion.

Protecting Your Property from Vapor Intrusion Risk

For those concerned about vapor intrusion risks, identifying nearby contamination sources is essential. If you suspect a vapor intrusion risk, don't hesitate to take action:

  • Contact your local health department for guidance.
  • Schedule a free consultation with our experienced team to discuss vapor intrusion assessment and mitigation options.

We have over 30 years of experience helping businesses and property owners address vapor intrusion concerns with soil vapor and air sampling and monitorig, cleanup, and mitigation.. Let us help you safeguard your property and ensure a healthy environment. Contact us today for a free consultation and safeguard your property or business against vapor intrusion risks. Contact us today at (831) 227-4898 or click below for a free consultation.