Passive Soil Gas Sampling

Harry O’Neill, the President of Beacon Environment Services, Inc recently hosted a webinar summarizing their passive soil gas sampling and analysis program.  In short, the major selling points for their program over active soil gas sampling and analysis or even groundwater sampling and analysis for the evaluation of vapor intrusion risk are the lower detection limits and greater radius of influence.  Beacon also believes that too many sites recently have been inadequately characterized due to problems site access or project manager bias dictating where samples are collected.

In general, passive soil gas samplers absorb gas over days or weeks detecting potential contamination in nearby soil or groundwater due to the higher likelihood of absorption over that time period.  This compared to the discrete nature of active soil or groundwater sampling.  This broader area of influence of for passive soil gas sampling allows for less data gaps.  It also overcomes some of the challenges of temporal variability. Further, Beacon suggests that higher resolution of sampling points will provide better results and their system allows for more sample collection points due to the lower cost per sample.

We recently used Beacons’ samplers at a site in San Pedro.  At this site we identified the subject property as a former auto shop but were not exactly sure of the historic locations of the various hazardous materials storage, use, or disposal areas or the locations of tanks, clarifiers, hydraulic systems, etc…  We performed a blanket soil gas study and after leaving the samples in the ground for approximately one week, we were able to confirm impacted soil in one localized area of the subject property.  We were also able to draw the conclusions that any soil impacts at the subject property were below regulatory action levels for the chosen land use; however, the passive soil gas sampling results do not allow for direct correlation to concentrations of compounds of concern in soil, groundwater, or soil vapor.  This sampling and analysis method cannot directly be used for characterization or risk assessment, but it will give you a reasonable idea of the relative locations and relative concentrations of soil, soil vapor, and / or groundwater impacts.

For more information about the Beacon samplers, their use, and recommendations you can visit the Beacon website or listen to this webinar.



SuperValu to Close Stores

I ran across the following article the other day and it mentions one of our clients, SuperValu. We have been doing environmental work for them for a few years here at Tetra Tech, just not in the Southern California area. It sounds like we will be doing even less work for them in the future.


Infographic: Supervalu by the Numbers - Share This! – The Industry’s Weekly Newspaper

Investigation Phases

In many of the typical site investigations that I have mentioned before on this blog, we generally follow a phased approach to investigation, remediation, and ultimately closure. The first phase of investigation is known as a “Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)”. While this title may not be too creative, it is an industry accepted term and is defined by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) in their standard 1527-05 Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process. The Phase I ESA is an in-depth research project where the Environmental Professional will perform “All Appropriate Inquiries” as defined by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA). The goal of the Phase I is to define the potential for past activities performed at the subject site to adversely affect soil and/or groundwater.

If a potential or Recognized Environmental Concern (REC) is identified in the process of the Phase I ESA, a follow-up investigation or a Phase II ESA is generally recommended. I will go into the Phase II ESA process in a later post.

Types of Sites – Industrial Facility

For this post, I thought I would continue on a subject that I began a couple of years ago on this blog:

Regulatory FAQ
?????????Regulatory FAQ II
Definition of Terms

Those posts described the basic steps associated with investigation of your standard corner retail gas station. For this post, let’s assume that you own an industrial facility of some sort. Either you owned the property and leased it to a widget manufacturer or you are the widget manufacturer and you own the property were you do your work. For whatever reason, the decision has been made to close the widget factory and sell the property. To do so, you will have to decommission all the various parts of the facility. A vital step in this process is what is called the, “Hazardous Materials Inventory”. This process will identify everything from mercury switches in thermostats and PCBs in light ballasts to large storage tanks and make recommendations for the appropriate method(s) for their decommissioning.

Let’s just say that a portion of this facility was used as a steam cleaning area with floor drains that conveyed the wash-down water into the sanitary sewer. Before the wash-down water went into the sanitary sewer, it flowed through a three-stage clarifier to allow the solids to settle out. All of this is a very common feature in industrial facilities. The Hazardous Materials Inventory identified the use of chlorinated solvents, specifically TCE, during the 1970s in various parts of the property including the steam cleaning area. Based on these findings, the recommendations are to advance soil borings in the area of the steam cleaning area, the floor drains, and the three-stage clarifier. The data collected from this investigation will allow us to evaluate how much soil (if any) around of the steam cleaning area is impacted with TCE and / or anything that was being washed off the widgets that were being steam cleaned.

Can’t wait to hear the next part? What do we do? How much do we have to dig out? How much will it cost? How long will it take to do all the work? Well, it takes a couple weeks to get data back from the lab and write the report. Check back next month!

Residential Home Sites

I have been asked to review a number of properties that are essentially raw land that has been graded and prepared for the development of tract homes. This has been going on essentially since November and December of 2008 when I posted the article about DR Horton selling off a number of their properties a near fire sale prices. Link to Story

It appears as though these properties, predominantly in the outskirts of the populated areas of Southern California, are changing hands quite rapidly. While very little actual construction appears to be taking place right now, when the residential market returns to, “Normal” I would expect the people who hold this property will be able to reap tremendous rewards.

The environmental concerns of these properties are usually few since the larger properties tend to be on raw land, but we have come across a few that are on properties that were formally industrial properties or abandoned oil fields of some sort. These properties have additional requirements prior to development that many times makes the deal go sour because the purchase price is so low and there is no short-term return on investment to pay the costs of remediation.

Commercial Lending

Commercial lending is a mess right now, that much is not news. It isn’t going to get any better for quite some time, that much is likely not news to you either; but it appears to be getting worse before it is getting better. I heard the other day that the majority of new loans are requiring 25-30% down and most lenders are highly unlikely to write a loan on a property that has environmental concerns. That means that you need to bring a lot of money into a deal to buy a property that is a very low risk, and properties that have some up-side (either environmental or otherwise) just aren’t going to get loans. That’s a pretty dim outlook.

The first quarter was strong for many banks, but this quarter appears to be a pretty difficult one so far for many of the lenders out there. Specifically, Citigroup and Bank of America were mentioned in many news articles over the past couple of days saying that both the Treasury and the Federal Reserve are making them raise additional capital to further stabilize their balance sheets. Some believe that Bank of America will be filing a rebuttal to the Federal Reserve and the Treasury, but no-one seems to know what that will consist of at this time. I guess we will hear in a couple of days, but I’m not going to get ready to write an offer anytime soon.

One thing is for certain, without the backing of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury, or at the very least until these questions are resolved, it will be very difficult for these banks to source the capital (from federal funds or otherwise) they need to originate new loans.

I hope you’re ready to write an all-cash offer or the seller is willing to carry the loan, the banks appear to have problems of their own right now.

Economic Stimulus Package

The U.S. House of Representative’s version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the economic stimulus plan includes A number of programs directed toward the redevelopment of Brownfield sites.  The specific direction of these funds includes:

• Superfund Hazardous Waste Cleanup: $800 million to clean up hazardous and toxic waste sites that threaten health and the environment. EPA has 1,255 sites on its National Priority List, selected based on a hazard ranking system. There are many Superfund sites ready for construction, but not funded due to budget shortfalls and over 600 sites with ongoing construction that could be accelerated.

• Leaking Underground Storage Tanks: $200 million for enforcement and cleanup of petroleum leaks from underground storage tanks at approximately 1,600 additional sites. There are an estimated 116,000 sites with the potential to contaminate important water supplies.

• Closed Military Bases: $300 million for cleanup activities at closed military installations allowing local communities to redevelop these properties for productive use. The Department estimates that there is a $3.5 billion environmental cleanup backlog at bases closed during previous BRAC rounds.

• Brownfields: $100 million for competitive grants for evaluation and cleanup of former industrial and commercial sites – turning them from problem properties to productive community use. Last year EPA was only able to fund 37% of Brownfields applications.

Federal, state and Local programs are already in place to receive these funds and have been lacking funding for some time now.  I would expect that the revitalization of these programs and this influx of funding will go a long way to making many redevelopment projects on impacted properties pencil out a lot more often.   These programs could also help alleviate some of the funding issues associated with obtaining a loan on impacted or Brownfield properties, whether that loan is for a purchase, a bridge loan, or a construction loan.

Additionally, a “Buy American” policy requires that iron and steel used in construction and repair projects funded under the bill be produced in the United States unless found to be prohibitively expensive.