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Indoor Air – The Often Overlooked Assessment

Indoor air quality

Hammond has a long history of industrial development, and it remains a significant piece of the city’s economy today. For the residents, and particularly for those looking to purchase land in the area, this should raise a few red flags. Many industrial businesses are known for using hazardous compounds, and until recently, many industries used volatile organic compound (VOC) based products in their operations. If managed correctly, VOCs are not a concern, but inevitably, some businesses do make mistakes over the years.

VOCs are typically very persistent in the environment, which means they take a long time to naturally break down. Over extended periods they can build up in soil, soil vapor, and groundwater to hazardous levels. This is why VOCs are now strictly managed and are one of the most common types of contamination we find.

VOCs In Indoor Air

A major concern for would-be property owners is VOCs in indoor air. In their gaseous state, VOCs can move through the soil, penetrate building slabs, and enter the interior of buildings. If ventilation inside the structure is not adequate, they will build up over time. This is a major reason why the EPA and local agencies have strict policies for assessing and remediating VOCs in indoor air.

For property owners, it is near impossible to know if there is an indoor air issue in your structure. VOCs typically have very mild odors and are colorless. If an indoor air issue is present, it can be costly.

Assessing Indoor Air

Luckily, there are cheap and easy ways to assess potential indoor air issues. It begins with an environmental professional completing a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA). In the Phase I ESA, the environmental professional will assess the current and historic site conditions to determine if there is a potential source for soil vapor contamination on the property. If a source is identified, the next step is sampling.

Indoor air can generally be assessed in two ways. First, soil vapor probes are placed beneath the slab of an existing structure. The probes collect air from space below the slab where VOCs may be trapped before entering the structure. The second option is direct indoor air sampling. A depressurized sampling container is placed inside the structure to collect air. This approach typically takes longer, with an 8-to-24-hour sampling period but will directly assess the air inside the structure. A laboratory then analyzes the air samples, and the environmentally professional will review the results based on the appropriate government agency’s criteria and provide a recommendation.

Reducing Your Environmental Liability

As a would-be property owner, you should have a Phase I ESA completed as part of your due diligence. If the Phase I identifies a potential indoor air concern, sampling will likely be recommended. At Aegis we have completed thousands of Phase I ESAs and indoor air assessments. We know the correct assessment methods and government criteria to follow. If you are purchasing a property, let us know – we are ready to lead you through the environmental due diligence process.

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