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U.S. EPA to sample indoor air at Oakland homes, businesses near former plating shop

Release Date: 07/23/2008
Contact Information: Wendy Chavez, 415/947-4248,

High levels of VOCs found underground in Oakland

(San Francisco, Calif. -- 07/23/08) – On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will begin testing the air inside several nearby homes, an adjacent business, and a day care center near the former Lane Metal Finishers site, where high levels of volatile organic compounds were found underground in Oakland, Calif.

Department of Toxic Substances Control scientists discovered elevated levels of VOCs in five samples taken at eight feet below the surface of the former metal plating site located at 30th Street & San Pablo Avenue. DTSC contacted the EPA to sample the indoor air to see if contaminants in the soil have migrated and are accumulating in nearby homes and businesses.

“Because of the unknowns below the surface of the rest of the site, the EPA will sample the indoor air as a precautionary measure,” said Bret Moxley, the EPA’s on-scene coordinator. “The EPA and DTSC are working together to make sure that VOCs are not accumulating indoors, and if needed, will take the necessary steps until the situation is remedied.”

The underground samples showed very high levels of VOCs, particularly trichloroethylene (TCE), cis-dichloroethene, trans dichloroethene and vinyl chloride in the soil vapor. Soil vapor is in the spaces between the grains of sand or soil underground. Soil vapor can move through soil, but does not move as easily through clay and silt as it does in sandy soil. This site does have several clay layers in the soil which may have reduced the migration of the soil vapors.

Once under a home or other building, it is possible for vapors to come up through cracks in foundations and accumulate inside. If indoor VOC levels are high enough, it can create a health hazard for residents, especially children and pregnant women.

Soil, soil vapor and groundwater contamination at the Lane Metals facility is most likely the result of solvents used as degreasers during plating operations on the site dating back to the 1950s. The solvents are not uncommon at plating shop sites. DTSC has been overseeing the investigation of the site since June 2007.