Sewer gas: An indoor air source of PCE to consider during vapor intrusion investigations

Kelly G. Pennell, Madeleine Kangsen Scammell, Michael D. Mcclean, Jennifer Ames, Brittany Weldon, Leigh Friguglietti, Eric M. Suuberg, Rui Shen, Paul A. Indeglia, Wendy J. Heiger-Bernays

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is finalizing its vapor intrusion guidelines. One of the important issues related to vapor intrusion is background concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in indoor air, typically attributed to consumer products and building materials. Background concentrations can exist even in the absence of vapor intrusion and are an important consideration when conducting site assessments. In addition, the development of accurate conceptual models that depict pathways for vapor entry into buildings is important during vapor intrusion site assessments. Sewer gas, either as a contributor to background concentrations or as part of the site conceptual model, is not routinely evaluated during vapor intrusion site assessments. The research described herein identifies an instance where vapors emanating directly from a sanitary sewer pipe within a residence were determined to be a source of tetrachloroethylene (PCE) detected in indoor air. Concentrations of PCE in the bathroom range from 2.1 to 190 μg/m3 and exceed typical indoor air concentrations by orders of magnitude resulting in human health risk classified as an "Imminent Hazard" condition. The results suggest that infiltration of sewer gas resulted in PCE concentrations in indoor air that were nearly two orders of magnitude higher as compared to when infiltration of sewer gas was not known to be occurring. This previously understudied pathway whereby sewers serve as sources of PCE (and potentially other VOC) vapors is highlighted. Implications for vapor intrusion investigations are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-126
Number of pages8
JournalGroundWater Monitoring and Remediation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'Sewer gas: An indoor air source of PCE to consider during vapor intrusion investigations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this