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Soil Vapors Near Buildings Are No Joke

Paul Bohn, Esq.

In a recent article in the Detroit News, a trend is developing in the regulatory community regarding potentially hazardous soil vapors associated with urban contamination entering into occupied commercial and residential buildings forcing, in some instances, the immediate evacuation of the property.

While the U.S. EPA, the MDEQ, and local health departments have been generally aware of soil vapors entering buildings, it is only recently that stepped-up enforcement of these concerns have resulted in the evacuation of multiple residential and commercial properties throughout our urban areas, including the city of Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Dearborn, Inkster and several other Southeast Michigan communities. As a direct result of the potential for human exposure, the regulators are not hesitating to force the evacuation of occupied structures until the indoor air quality can meet very strict standards.

The MDEQ has developed a system to aid the protection of your facility. Upon request, the MDEQ will develop site-specific criteria for the use of groundwater and soil gas at your facility. The site-specific criterion is tailored to your facility and considers factors such as depth to groundwater, non-residential use, etc.

Although this is a nationwide trend, Michigan is unique in its glacial moraine lithology throughout most of Southeast Michigan (think "big sand box") combined with our historic urbanized areas where gas stations and dry cleaners, both regularly suspected sources of indoor air contamination, exist side by side with other commercial and residential buildings.

If you know or suspect such a condition, or are acquiring or purchasing property where this condition may exist, this office can help. We are actively advising clients who are proactively managing these issues as well as responding to building evacuations mandated by regulatory agencies. Contact Paul Bohn at [email protected] or James Fausone at [email protected], or by phone at (248) 380-0000.

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