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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

Regulation and Remediation of VOC’s in Soil Gas and Indoor Vapor Intrusion

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By Anthony Garvin, Office of the General Counsel, University of California Office of the President


The regulation of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in soil and groundwater is becoming more important as developers consider potential residential and commercial uses of former industrial property. The subject, however, is relatively confusing to the lay person or even to experienced environmental attorneys because of the numerous competing and sometimes conflicting screening levels and remedial guidelines which have been adopted by various state and federal environmental agencies. For example, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first issued Preliminary Remedial Guidelines (PRGs) which have now been replaced by Regional Screening Levels.

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has developed its own California Human Health Screening Levels (CHHSLs) while the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board has published its own Environmental Screening Levels (ESLs). Moreover, all of these screening levels are different than the Permissible Exposure Levels (PELs) adopted by the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They are also different than the Safe Harbor Levels established by OEHHA under Proposition 65 for chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. So what is a savvy developer or lawyer supposed to make of all of the conflicting screening levels?

The BASF panel of toxicologists and experienced attorneys attempts to clarify the confusing regulatory playing field regarding the regulation and remediation of VOCs in soil and groundwater and the resulting potential indoor vapor intrusion. Kimberly Day, Staff Toxicologist with DTSC gives a straight forward explanation of what each of the various PRGs, CHHSLs, and ESLs represent and how they should be used. Renee Kalmes, Senior Managing Scientist and Risk Assessor with Exponent, Inc. gives her perspective as a risk assessor regarding such issues as whether to model or sample VOCs in indoor air or in soil. Jon Wactor, a Partner with the law firm of Wactor & Wick, points out potential legal problems with the publication of screening levels by various environmental agencies without going through the due process procedures associated with the adoption of formal regulations. Tom Fojet, Principle Engineer with Weiss Associates, discusses practical solutions for developers and land owners by covering evolving remedial methods to address VOCs in soil and groundwater and to prevent infiltration into existing or new buildings.

By the end of the program, the prospective developer, land owner, or attorney should have a better idea of what the various screening levels really mean and how to deal with VOCs in soil and groundwater.

Purchase the on-demand video of this CLE.


Anthony Garvin is Senior Counsel with the Office of General Counsel for the University of California Office of the President. Garvin was previously a partner with several law firms in San Francisco.

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