Weber, Hayes, and Associates provides a wide range of subsurface assessment and fuel or chemical release characterization and risk assessment services. The sections below discuss the areas of subsurface investigation that Weber, Hayes and Associates has expertise.
Characterization of Chemical/Fuel Releases
Once a fuel or chemical release is discovered and the proper regulatory agencies have been notified, generally the next step is characterizing the extent of the release so that a remedial strategy can be devised. Characterization involves advancing subsurface borings to evaluate the geology and hydrogeology across a property, installing groundwater monitoring wells to evaluate groundwater elevations, flow direction and contaminant concentrations across time and conducting additional soil, soil vapor and groundwater assessment work to fully define the dimensions of a contaminant plume. In addition, this phase of environmental assessment work may also involve subsurface video documentation, membrane interface probing (MIP) assessment and modeling to create a 3D visualization of the extent of hydrocarbon plume, defining multiple water bearing zones in the subsurface and other modern means for delineating the subsurface pathways that a fuel or chemical release migrates.
Weber, Hayes and Associates is also skilled at appropriately characterizing contaminant plumes in zones where multiple releases have occurred, having both identified such releases and interfaced with regulatory agencies on a number of co-mingled plumes. For some releases in dense commercial or industrial districts, it becomes especially important to “trace” the signature of separate plumes and properly identify actual sources versus supposed sources. Adequately characterizing co-mingled releases requires long-term experience with working with these more complicated release sites.
Vapor Intrusion Studies
Vapor intrusion, or the accumulation of volatile organic compounds in the subsurface leaking into enclosed spaces where humans live or conduct business, has become an increasing concern in recent decades. As a result, new policies and guidelines for assessing vapor intrusion have emerged over the last decade. Weber, Hayes and Associates has conducted numerous vapor intrusion studies specifically targeted to evaluate whether there are potential human health concerns and liabilities at a given property.
For some fuel and chemical release investigations, a regulatory agency may require a Site Specific Risk Assessment (SSRA) be completed to ascertain that various pathways by which harmful substances or contamination may impact “sensitive receptors”. In lay mans terms, sensitive receptors are humans using a facility or property, natural elements in the environment that require protection (for instance rivers, creeks and wetlands), water supply wells and other sensitive features in the vicinity of a release. These assessments are completed in conjunction with an environmental chemist skilled at evaluating risk potentials and pathways for various types of receptors, using modeling to provide risk levels for the respective receptors. Weber, Hayes and Associates completes many SSRAs for petroleum, solvent, metal and chemical releases where a more thorough evaluation of risk pathways is required.
In addition, SSRAs are also completed on a voluntary basis, either for voluntary cleanups, redevelopment of “brownsfield” sites, or because a responsible party wishes to provide evidence regarding the most significant high-risk areas of a complex cleanup site.
Underground Storage Tank Removals & Commercial/Industrial Facility Closures
Two standard issues that arise during property transactions or redevelopment of commercial and industrial sites are the removal and “closing” of former fuel or chemical underground storage tanks (USTs) and facility closure reports for hazardous materials storage.
- UST Closures: When USTs are discovered during property transaction or redevelopment, the local regulatory agency in charge usually requires either proper closure in place or removal of the tank(s), proper disposal of the contents, sampling beneath the tanks to evaluate for a potential release and a report documenting the observations, sample analytical results and recommendations by a registered geologist or engineer. Weber, Hayes and Associates has completed many UST closures, including for bulk fuel facilities, and larger industrial operations involving large excavations and tank arrays.
- Facility Closures for Hazardous Materials Management: When a commercial/industrial business operation that manages hazardous materials and wastes closes its doors, the local regulatory agency in charge of hazardous materials oversight often require Facility Closure Reports in order to document the former uses and materials and their proper removal or disposal. This is conducted to draw a line in the sand between one business entity managing hazardous materials and the next land-use at a given property. Weber, Hayes and Associates has completed many facility closure plans and reports to the satisfaction of regulatory agencies and assisted the former business in obtaining closure.
Regulatory Interfacing and Funding Coordination
Our team strives to maintain good communication with the various levels of regulatory agencies involved in release investigations. We have experience dealing with release cases that have multiple levels of local, state and federal oversight, including interfacing with the US EPA on Superfund sites. In addition, we work hard to keep our clients and the respective regulators in good standing and find that costs are often minimized by maintaining good relations with regulators.
As is generally the case, contaminant releases are not planned for and certainly not desirable. Considering that the costs associated with release assessment and remedial work is generally not planned for and difficult to insure, various levels of state and federal government have assembled public funding assistance programs to ensure that releases are cleaned up in a timely fashion and that human health and environmental safety is protected. There are various avenues available to assist with funding a petroleum or hazardous materials release. For more information of specific funding source options, please see Resources » Funding.