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EPA Environmental Study Begins in Burlington Neighborhood

Contact Information: 
Emily Bender (
(617) 918-1037

(BOSTON August 7, 2018) — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC), are beginning an environmental investigation to determine the presence and extent of underground chemical vapors in an area along Elmwood Avenue in Burlington, Vt. The joint EPA and VT DEC effort is being performed in coordination with the Vermont Department of Health, City of Burlington and the Burlington School District.

In July, the VT DEC received information documenting the presence of chemicals in the soil gas along Elmwood Avenue in Burlington. The information shared by VT DEC indicates that soil gas concentrations of perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE) from sampling suggest that these contaminants may also be present in indoor air in the surrounding buildings. On July 19, 2018, VT DEC requested EPA assistance conducting a preliminary assessment to further define the environmental conditions and then determine if they warrant performance of a removal action under EPA's authority.

EPA and their contractors began preliminary assessment work on Monday, August 6. Work began at the Integrated Arts Academy located at 6 Archibald Street, and at a residence located near the northern end of Elmwood Avenue. At these locations, EPA and their contractors will conduct indoor air sampling and soil gas sampling. EPA will also install sub-slab wells (via small holes drilled through the basement or slab floor) within previously identified buildings, including at a business located on Elmwood Avenue. Additionally, soil gas samples will be collected in outside areas around the neighborhood, including from roadway areas along Elmwood Avenue, Spring Street, Lafountain Street, and in sections of Intervale Avenue, Archibald Street, and Walnut Street. During these sampling activities, EPA will coordinate with local authorities to make sure samples are obtained safely and with minimal disruption to local traffic.

Over the month of August, EPA will conduct air and soil-vapor sampling to see whether vapors are seeping into indoor air, and will be preparing an informational update and establishing a webpage to provide further information to residents and businesses.

More information about the chemicals:

PCE and TCE are often associated with dry cleaning and degreasing solvents. PCE and TCE are part of a group of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs can transfer from groundwater into a gas and move through the tiny open spaces between soil particles. Soil gas can enter structures through a basement or crawl space, walls or floors, particularly when holes or cracks are present. Once in a structure, the colorless and often odorless gas, may collect in the basement or move to upper levels. The movement of VOCs from groundwater into a structure is referred to as vapor intrusion.