Beneath the Surface: Developments in Vapor Intrusion Regulation and Why They Matter

Articles & Publications

CLM Magazine
March 17, 2017

For over a decade, vapor intrusion has received increasing attention as an environmental and human health concern. A product of the increase in attention has been the publication of standards and guidance for the assessment and mitigation of vapor intrusion by federal and state regulators. This includes significant actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address vapor intrusion that are likely to create an increase in remediation costs at contaminated sites. They also may result in a greater number of sites being designated on the Superfund: National Priorities List (NPL). 

Given the number of properties across the country affected by historic subsurface contamination or the migration of subsurface contaminants, it is increasingly important to understand what vapor intrusion is, the actions that the EPA is taking to address vapor intrusion and the potential for new claims that may arise as a result of those actions. 

what is vapor intrusion?

Vapor intrusion (VI) is the migration of volatile chemicals from contaminated groundwater or soil into an overlying building or other occupied enclosed space. Volatile chemicals are capable of emitting vapors that may migrate through the subsurface soils and into the the indoor spaces of overlying buildings through cracks and gaps in building foundations, basement floors and walls, sewer lines or other openings. These vapors then may accumulate in buildings and, if not properly and adequately mitigated, create any number of risks to human health. VI is a concern for any building located near soil or groundwater that may be contaminated with volatile chemicals. Some of the contaminants that are associated with BI include: Volatile organic compounds, such as perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene, vinyl chlorides, landfill gas (methane) and petroleum products. 

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