Factoring Vapor Intrusion into Retail Site Selection
Success in the brick-and-mortar retail environment means staying in front of the changes occurring in what the president and CEO of the retail real estate industry group ICSC called a “period of historic change.”
Among the disrupting forces cited by International Council of Shopping Centers President and CEO Tom McGee are technological forces, demographic shifts and changing consumer expectations.
When the group gathers for its Southern California Idea Exchange Feb. 28 at the Anaheim Convention Center, expert retailers will be on hand to discuss such challenges, along with how site selection criteria is changing to keep up with emerging trends around the “new look of brick-and-mortar.”
We’ll be there too, because as savvy retail developers, investors and property managers know well, site selection that doesn’t incorporate environmental assessment can leave an otherwise promising project mired in problems.
Make Sure Your “New Look” Isn’t Built on Old Hazards
There are many factors that go into selecting a site for a retail shopping center. But none of them matter as much as making sure that you know the environmental history and health of the site you are considering. A thorough environmental assessment can save you from making a bad investment, from having to undertake costly and time-consuming remediation processes, or worse: all of the above plus exposure to legal or regulatory penalties.
Assessment for Volatile Chemicals in Soil or Water
Depending on how your proposed site has been used over the years, you will want to carefully assess the possibility of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or chemicals lurking in ground water or soil. These pollutants can migrate into an overlying building’s indoor air through cracks in the foundation or through openings from utility, plumbing and electrical lines.
A wide variety of volatile chemicals and semi-volatile chemicals can invade indoor air and create potentially hazardous vapor intrusion that goes unnoticed by building occupants. These include:
- Dry-cleaning solvents
- Gasoline and petroleum
- Some pesticides
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
In extreme cases, the vapors can enter into commercial or industrial buildings to airborne concentrations that can pose safety hazards such as explosions. The vapors can also pose serious health risks from acute and chronic exposure.
How Can You Tell If a Property Has Vapor Intrusion?
The only way to know for sure is to conduct an environmental assessment of the property. The environmental risk is greater depending on how the site has been used. Certain types of businesses pose a higher risk of having contaminated soil or groundwater. If your site is on or near a site used by one of the following types of business, regardless of how the site is being used currently, your property is more likely to be at risk of vapor intrusion:
- Chemical processing plants
- Train yards
- Dry Cleaners
- Gas Stations
- Coal gasification plants
- Automobile repair shops
Wind effects and groundwater flow can exacerbate the risk by causing chemicals to migrate. If vapor intrusion is a concern, the EPA recommends a risk assessment by a qualified inspector to evaluate the degree of risk to future occupants. The inspector will compare sample concentrations to health-based screening levels to determine whether mitigation is necessary.
At Omega Environmental Services, we have decades of experience in the accurate, cost-effective and timely assessment and remediation of environmental risks. including vapor intrusion and indoor air quality. Our clients trust us to deliver safe, reliable and professional environmental management that saves them time, money and compliance worries.
Stop by the Omega Environmental Table at the ICSC Southern California Idea Exchange to talk to one of our experts about your environmental assessment, consulting or remediation needs. Or click on the link below.