A problem with pollution in Riverside is more widespread than environmental protection officials originally thought. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has already inspected approximately 110 homes for toxic vapors, and found problems in more than half. In December WYSO reported the EPA would be testing dozens of homes after being contacted by the Ohio EPA to assist; the area to be inspected has since expanded by several blocks.
The EPA started testing houses in December in a limited area north and east of the intersection of Valley Pike and Rohrer in Riverside for TCE and PCE vapors. According to the site coordinator, Steve Renninger, the chemicals have been found in the groundwater as far southwest as Prince Albert Boulevard, which means the locations that could be affected are “a moving target.” They say they’ll sample as far as Forest Home Ave, Prince Albert Blvd, Broadmead Ave, and Warrendale Ave, which adds several blocks to the original area of concern.
TCE and PCE are industrial degreasers that can be very dangerous to human health if consumed or inhaled above small volumes. The concern in this case is vapor intrusion, which is when chemicals in the groundwater absorbed into the soil enter into homes through basement floors. The EPA says area drinking water is not at risk as the homes get their water from the city of Dayton's water system, which screens for and removes chemicals.
The agency still doesn’t know the source of the contamination; they say their first priority is to address immediate danger.
Addressing that possible danger means officials are going door-to-door asking for permission to sample air quality in the houses in the affected area. Homes that do have unhealthy levels of vapor intrusion can get ventilation systems installed, and the feds are covering the costs, which run from $2,000 to $4,000 per system.
Renninger says the EPA will hold a public meeting at Stebbins High School in July to address questions from the community; he expects sampling will still be ongoing at that point. Meanwhile, the federal agency has set up an office in Riverside at 2049 Harshman Rd. and they are encouraging residents to contact them directly with questions.
Lewis Wallace is WYSO's economics reporter. Follow him @lewispants.