FOR RELEASE: Immediately
March 15, 2005
Assemblyman DiNapoli (518)455-5192
Assemblywoman Lifton (518)455-5444
Assemblywoman Lupardo (518)455-5431
Members of the Assembly Environmental Committee to DEC & DOH:
Protect New Yorkers with Stricter Vapor Intrusion Policy

Calling vapor intrusion - the contamination of indoor air by volatile chemicals from polluted soil and groundwater - one of the most significant emerging environmental issues, Assemblyman Thomas P. DiNapoli (D-Great Neck) today released a report from a public hearing on the issue, and called on the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to develop a comprehensive policy for addressing vapor intrusion in New York State.

DiNapoli, Chairman of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, held the hearing in Endicott (Broome County), where the Committee received testimony from government officials, public health and environmental experts and citizens representing affected communities.

"Vapor intrusion occurs when contaminants vaporize and rise up through the foundations of homes and other buildings," DiNapoli said. "We know that vapor intrusion has occurred at several Superfund sites throughout New York and will potentially surface as a problem at brownfield sites as well."

While DEC, the State Department of Health (DOH), and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have all issued draft guidelines pertaining to various aspects of vapor intrusion, no guidelines have been finalized.

Assemblymember Donna Lupardo (D-Binghamton), whose district includes the Village of Endicott, stated "The promulgation of the TCE guideline has resulted in the inconsistent treatment of homes in Endicott. Before October 2003 vent systems were installed in homes where TCE was detected at levels above 0.22 mcg/m3. However, under the new guideline, homes tested after October 2003 only qualified for vent systems if TCE is detected at levels above the 5 mcg/m3 threshold. This has led to confusion and frustration for those living in the community."

"Vapor intrusion poses serious challenges for sound public policy making. New Yorkers need clear health and environmental standards for indoor air pollution, particularly TCE, the most common chemical found at contaminated sites," DiNapoli said. "Our most important recommendation is that DOH should revise its guideline for TCE to reflect the most conservative assumptions about toxicity and exposure. If there is uncertainty, then DOH and DEC should err on the side of protection."

Taking a precautionary approach requires that where threats of harm to human health or the environment exist, lack of full scientific certainty about cause and effect should not be viewed as sufficient reason for government to postpone precautionary measures to protect public health and the environment.

Other recommendations of DiNapoli’s committee include:

  • Upon request, DEC and DOH should test the indoor air of any resident living near a contaminated site with a potential for vapor intrusion, but outside the perimeter of the current testing area.
  • Once direct exposures have been mitigated, sources of vapor intrusion, i.e. soil and groundwater contamination, should be cleaned up as quickly and aggressively as possible.
  • DEC should take steps to protect ambient air quality at vapor intrusion sites, including the adoption of requirements that would limit the emission of contaminants from indoor air mitigation systems.

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, (D-Ithaca), whose district includes sites with vapor intrusion problems, stated "Government must provide citizens with complete and accurate information on the potential health and environmental impacts associated with vapor intrusion. The process must provide citizens with opportunities for meaningful participation."

"We held this first hearing - and we will hold more throughout the State - to learn from past experience and to ensure that New York State takes a protective approach to addressing the issue of vapor intrusion. We must use the knowledge we have today to eliminate exposures from vapor intrusion," DiNapoli concluded.