Washington State Department of Ecology - January 22, 2014


Study finds no solvent vapor in most Algona homes tested

BELLEVUE – Recent indoor air tests in northern Algona homes show no cause for health concerns. That’s according to a study directed by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) and an assessment of the study findings issued by the Washington State Department of Health at Ecology’s request.

The indoor air study is part of an ongoing investigation of groundwater contaminated by past releases of solvent chemicals on property owned by The Boeing Company (Boeing) in Auburn. Ecology oversees the investigation conducted and paid for by Boeing. 

Ecology ordered the indoor air quality study based on results of groundwater tests conducted in the northern part of the City of Algona in April 2013. Those tests showed low concentrations of contamination in an area just west of Chicago Avenue, between Boundary Boulevard and Ninth Avenue North. There are 24 homes in this part of the groundwater study area.

The City of Algona has aided the study and the overall investigation with arrangements for sampling on city property and other support.

Investigators are seeking to confirm the location and determine the potential impacts of contamination in the groundwater, primarily trichloroethene (TCE), and other chemicals such as vinyl chloride (VC), which forms when TCE breaks down.

Indoor air tests a precaution

TCE and VC in shallow groundwater can release vapors into the soil. These vapors can enter a building through a crawlspace or cracks and other openings in a foundation. This is called vapor intrusion. In high enough concentrations over time, exposure can put people at risk for cancer and other illnesses.

The concentrations detected in the groundwater were not expected to threaten the health of people in these homes. The air sampling confirmed this.

The owners of 14 of the 24 homes agreed to the testing in the summer and fall of 2013. Nine homes were clear of the chemicals of concern (TCE and breakdown products). Five homes had one or more low-level detections of TCE. Three of these five homes had TCE only in the living space; one home had it only in the crawlspace; and one had it in both. The detections do not indicate that vapor intrusion from groundwater contamination is the likely source. Other possible sources of chemicals found in indoor air include common household products, such as paints, solvents and cleaning products.

According to the state health department evaluation, the results indicate that breathing the chemicals at levels found during the sampling is not expected to cause harmful health effects. The department recommends continued indoor air monitoring in the study area.

Sampling is voluntary and free of charge

Ecology has directed Boeing to conduct a second phase of the indoor air study in Algona this winter when the groundwater is higher. The company’s environmental contractor, Landau Associates, has contacted homeowners and residents in the same study area to request their participation in the voluntary sampling study. The sampling is available free of charge to all 24 homes in the study area.

Related studies

Ecology continues to direct other parts of the investigation: 

Surface water study: The groundwater in Algona can be very high in the winter and can mix with rainwater when it enters low-lying areas, such as yards and roadside ditches. This study will help determine whether groundwater contaminants may be present in this surface water, and, if so, at what concentrations. Boeing’s contractor, Landau Associates, has:

Upcoming investigation projects include drilling additional groundwater monitoring wells in northeastern Algona. The new monitoring wells will allow for continued sampling of the shallow and deeper portions of groundwater to track the contaminant concentrations over time.

Drinking water is safe

The groundwater contamination does not affect the municipal drinking water supply in Algona and Auburn. This is because the supply wells in Auburn are located safe distances away from the contamination.

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Media Contacts:

Larry Altose, Ecology communications, 425-649-7009; larry.altose@ecy.wa.gov

Neal Hines, Ecology site co-manager, 425-649-7181; neal.hines@ecy.wa.gov

Donn Moyer, Department of Health communications, 360-236-4076, donn.moyer@doh.wa.gov

For more information:

Boeing Auburn contaminated groundwater investigation (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/hwtr/CleanupSites/boeing-fabn/index.html/)

What’s New at the Boeing Fabrication Auburn Site? (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/hwtr/CleanupSites/boeing-fabn/WhatsNew.html)

Vapor Intrusion at the Boeing Fabrication Auburn Site (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/hwtr/CleanupSites/boeing-fabn/vapor.html)

Phase I Vapor Intrusion Summary (Summer-Fall 2013) Algona, Wash. (https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/gsp/DocViewer.ashx?did=24697)

Department of Health fact sheet and health consultation (www.doh.wa.gov/Publications/HazardousMaterialsandToxicChemicals.aspx)

Fact sheet (www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/334-340.pdf)

Health consultation (www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/334-341.pdf)

Ecology’s social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/socialmedia.html)