Category Archives: Air Quality

DHEC Team and Partner Cited in National Engineering Competition for Chemical Contamination Cleanup

DHEC’s South Carolina Drycleaning Facility Restoration Trust Fund (DFRTF) team with engineering services provided WSP USA Inc. (WSP, formerly Ecology & Environment, Inc.) earned a National Recognition Award for exemplary engineering achievement in the American Council of Engineering Companies’ (ACEC) 54th annual Engineering Excellence Awards (EEA) for performing environmental assessment and contamination remediation statewide at former dry cleaning facility sites enrolled in the DFRTF program.

Konstantine Akhvlediani, Robert Hodges, and LaJoyce Perkins-Alexander compose the agency team and their mission is to clean up contaminated dry-cleaning sites using state contractors, all of which is paid for from the trust fund. The team administers the fund and directs and oversees the cleanup activities.

Preliminary assessment (PA) was performed at 420 former dry-cleaning facility sites to determine the magnitude of environmental contamination resulting from the use of various chemicals. Of these, 100 sites were closed where no impact was found and more than 300 sites had chemical residue that posed a risk to private and public drinking water wells. Following the PA risk-based ranking of sites, comprehensive remedial investigations beginning with sites exhibiting with the highest potential risks to drinking water sources was initiated.

Dry-cleaning solvent impacts to groundwater and soil were evaluated by identifying source areas and delineating the extent of dissolved contaminants using rapid vertical profiling techniques for sample collection combined with a highly effective and innovative field-based colorimetric screening method for low-level detection of chlorinated compounds. WSP specifically developed this screening method to facilitate real-time decision making and strengthened overall data quality resulting in significantly accelerated process of source identification and dissolved contaminant delineation.

Once fully characterized with contaminant fate and transport determined, each site was reprioritized. Sites presenting the greatest risk were addressed through design and implementation of various remedial actions including source removal, in-situ chemical oxidation, in-situ biostimulation, and/or monitored natural attenuation.

A special approach was designed to rapidly evaluate the Vapor Intrusion Potential (VIP) of contaminant impacts to the sub-slab soil gas and indoor air facilities currently occupied by non-dry cleaning-related businesses. At sites with indoor air concentrations exceeding target cleanup concentrations, the team designed and implemented an approach to mitigate the indoor air impacts using a modified Sub-Slab Depressurization System (SSDS). Originally designed for radon mitigation, this system requires minimal design modifications and utilizes readily available system components.

This significantly minimized design and construction costs. Most SSDS systems achieved target Vapor Intrusion Screening Levels for drycleaning related compounds within 30 days of startup. The SSDS systems also provide significant removal of chlorinated solvent mass from the sub-slab soils. To date, the systems have collectively removed over 800 pounds of tetrachloroethylene from beneath former DC facilities.

The project also received the additional honor of Diamond Award from ACEC New York this year representing engineering excellence from throughout the nation and the world. Judging for the awards program—known industry-wide as the “Academy Awards of the engineering industry”– took place in February and was conducted by a national 20-member panel of built-environment leaders, along with experts from government, media, and academia. Award criteria focused on uniqueness and originality, technical innovation, social and economic value, and generating excitement for the engineering profession.

Recognition of all award winners including top winners—20 Honor Awards, 16 Grand Awards, and the prestigious “Grand Conceptor Award” for the year’s most outstanding overall engineering achievement—took place during the 2021 Virtual EEA Gala, held Thursday, June 17, 2021.

Understanding Ground-level Ozone Forecasts

South Carolina has had two forecasted Code Orange Ozone Action Days since Ground-level Ozone forecasting season began on April 1st of this year. A Code Orange Ozone Action Day means that atmospheric conditions will likely produce concentrations of ground level ozone air pollution that may be unhealthy for sensitive groups, which includes people with lung disease, older adults, and children.   

Ozone typically forms with highest concentrations on warm, hot, sunny days with light wind speeds, which allows more of the pollutant to form and accumulate. Forecasting ground-level ozone concentrations is an educated prediction based on certain weather conditions and emissions. DHEC has a team of experienced meteorologists on staff that review weather and air quality information daily to produce a next-day ozone forecast, which is posted on DHEC’s own ozone website and U.S. EPA’s AIRNow website. 

Knowing the Ground-level Ozone Forecast ahead of time allows you to make plans and adjust your schedule and activities for the next day. Sensitive groups should reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion, take more breaks, and do less intense activities, especially during afternoon and early evening hours when ozone concentrations are typically highest. 

Knowing the Ground-level Ozone Forecastahead of time also allows you to make informed decisions that can help reduce air pollution and decrease ground-level ozone by:    

  1. Refueling your car after 6:00 PM and don’t top off your tank  
  2. Using electric powered lawn equipment  
  3. Avoiding driving during peak traffic hours  
  4. Combining trips when you drive  
  5. Telecommuting (work from home) if possible
  6. Taking your lunch to work  

Sign up to receive forecasts via emails, texts or tweets (customized to fit your style) using EPA’s free EnviroFlash service at www.enviroflash.info.  
For additional information about ozone and air quality, click here.   

RECAP: DHEC Lab Staff highlighted during Medical Laboratory Professionals Week

Last week, April 18-24 was Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, and Friday, April 23, was World Lab Day. 

Though the Public Health Laboratory (PHL) is the most well-known, DHEC also observed the week by highlighting a couple other of our program areas with lab professionals, Healthcare Quality and Environmental Affairs.

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January is National Radon Action Month

January is National Radon Action Month, and DHEC is encouraging all South Carolinians to test their homes for radon.

Radon is a cancer causing, radioactive gas that you cannot see, smell, or taste, and is responsible for more than 21,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. and the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Smokers who are exposed to radon have an even higher risk of lung cancer.

Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. Any home can have a radon gas problem. The only way to determine if your home is trapping radon is to test.

Each year, the South Carolina Radon Program provides a limited number of radon test kits to homeowners free of charge. Request your free home test kit at www.scdhec.gov/radon.

Homes can be modified to reduce radon levels, and new homes can be built with radon-resistant features. South Carolina has nationally certified radon professionals who can measure radon and fix homes with elevated radon. Find a certified mitigation specialist.

Governor’s Proclamation

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster issued an official proclamation recognizing January 2020 as Radon Action Month.

Registration Now Open for the 13th Annual Environmental Assistance Conference on November 19, 2019

DHEC’s Office of Environmental Affairs will host the 13th Annual Environmental Assistance Conference on Tuesday, November 19, from 9 AM to 4 PM at the Cooperative Conference Center (169 Laurelhurst Ave, Columbia, SC).  This year’s theme is Compliance Assistance and Customer Service: DHEC and Industry Working Together.  The agenda will include regulatory compliance and permitting topics, such as hazardous waste, dams, stormwater, air quality, solid waste and legislative updates.

Additionally, the conference will feature up to 30 local businesses and organizations in our exhibitor showcase. DHEC staff will also be available to answer any technical or permitting questions.

“DHEC’s annual Environmental Assistance Conference unites environmental regulators with DHEC staff and offers an exciting opportunity for continued learning and instruction on important topics relevant to our community and partners,” said Myra Reece, DHEC’s director of Environmental Affairs.  “DHEC strives to meet our agency values of pursing excellence, innovation, service and teamwork. This conference is just one example of how DHEC’s dedicated Environmental Affairs team exemplifies our agency’s values by creating a learning and networking environment between the regulated community and our staff year after year.”

Deadline to register is Sunday, November 10.  Registration for both attendees and exhibitors is on a first come, first serve basis. Space is available for up to 30 exhibitors and approximately 250 attendees. The attendee fee is $45 per person. The exhibitor fee is $300 per table and includes registration for two attendees. All registrations include access to the exhibitor room, all presentations, a light breakfast and lunch.

For conference updates and to register for the conference, please visit our website at www.scdhec.gov/environment/eac.  Questions about the conference or registration can be directed to Rebecca Sproles at sprolemr@dhec.sc.gov or 803-898-3139. You don’t want to miss this event!