As public concern over the Meeker Avenue Plume Superfund site continues and the Environmental Protection Agency works to sample air at properties within the affected area, North Brooklyn Neighbors hosted a Vapor Intrusion information session to bring community members up to speed on what the process entails and how to help shape EPA response.
Lenny Siegel, Executive Director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight, joined to share facts and figures on the investigation, mitigation, remediation, and long-term management processes, with a primary focus on investigation.
At the heart of vapor intrusion is the pathway, including contaminants getting into the soil and groundwater, which in turn can release gasses that are sucked up into buildings; Siegel acknowledged that vapors are less of a problem outdoors and the indoor risk is much higher, hence the current sampling focus.
Within the Meeker Avenue Plume site, Trichloroethylene (TCE) and Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) are the main contaminants of concern, which the EPA considers both linked to cancer and neurological diseases, with low levels of TCE exposure in pregnant women also increasing the risk of cardiac birth defects. The EPA currently has health-based benchmarks regarding cancer-risk and non-cancer-risk levels, though Siegel urges community members to push for more reasonably protective levels.
The focus on investigation is to find contaminants, guess where the impact is in terms of exposure (including potential future exposure), and determining whether said contamination is actually from vapor intrusion. However, investigation is not without challenges, the biggest one being a need for multiple samples to determine the worst case of exposure.
Another difficulty in the process is simply getting access to people’s homes for air sampling and sub-slab sampling — the EPA recently announced that they completed their sampling at P.S. 110 in February and have plans to monitor ten more locations in the coming month, including public spaces in the Cooper Park
Housing Complex. The goal of North Brooklyn Neighbors is to continue to increase that number. However, for those who rent, landlord approval is needed to test in basements, which is not without issue when owners are more concerned about potential building value.
Watch the full session above — which dives deeper into measurement methods, interpreting results, and mitigation efforts — read the latest EPA update here, and sign up for potential indoor air monitoring here (compensation will be offered for participants).