EPA Seeks Comment on Vapor Intrusion As Criterion for Sites on Superfund List

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The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public input on whether vapor intrusion should be included as a criterion for a contaminated site being added to its list of superfund sites, according to an EPA notice published Jan. 31 (76 Fed. Reg. 5370).

In a Jan. 28 statement, EPA said it will accept comments until April 16, 2011, related to potential revision of the Hazard Ranking System to include vapor intrusion as a criterion. It will also conduct three public listening sessions on the topic.

EPA uses the Hazard Ranking System to evaluate sites for potential placement on the National Priorities List, the list of contaminated sites that it determines are the “most polluted, complex, uncontrolled or abandoned.” Listed sited become eligible for federal cleanup funds under the superfund law, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

GAO Report Raised Issue.

The question of adding vapor intrusion as a criterion to the Hazardous Ranking System was raised in a Government Accountability Office report in June 2010, in which the GAO recommended that EPA consider it when determining whether a site should be added to the superfund list (41 ER 1407, 6/25/10).

EPA defines vapor intrusion as the migration of volatile chemicals from contaminated groundwater or soil into the atmosphere, of particular concern if vapor enters an overlying building.

When the GAO report was released at a Congressional oversight hearing on superfund program funding, the EPA official who oversees the superfund program acknowledged to the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics, and Environmental Health that EPA should review the role of vapor intrusion in determining eligibility for superfund status.

Mathy Stanislaus, EPA assistant administrator for solid waste and emergency response, told the Senate subcommittee that vapor intrusion may not be “sufficiently accounted for” in EPA's Hazard Ranking System.

Stanislaus told BNA in a December 2010 interview that EPA would soon begin to solicit public input on the matter and he noted that it would need to know how state superfund programs are handling the issue (42 ER S-24, 1/21/11).

Listening Sessions Upcoming.

The first of three public listening sessions on incorporating vapor intrusion into the Hazardous Ranking System will be held Feb. 24 at EPA's office in Arlington, Va. The other two will be held in Albuquerque, N.M., and San Francisco, but dates are yet to be set.

Comments may be submitted via the website, referencing Docket I.D. No. EPA-HQ-SFUND-2010-1086.

By Janice Valverde

Information on the EPA listening sessions and the potential change to the Hazard Ranking System is available at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/hrsaddition.htm

Information on vapor intrusion is available at http://www.epa.gov/oswer/vaporintrusion/.

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