MARTINSVILLE — Some residents and homeowners in Martinsville may soon receive letters from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seeking access to properties to test for vapor intrusion around the Pike and Mulberry Streets PCE Plume Superfund Site . The EPA is hoping to test for PCE and other potential contaminate around the site, which is roughly located near downtown Martinsville and stretches northwest toward the area of the Artesian Little League Baseball fields.

Erik Hardin, EPA's Remedial Project Manager for the site, recently told the Reporter-Times there are about 200 homes the agency is eying for potential vapor intrusion testing.

'I believe it is somewhere just shy of 200 in terms of actual number of properties where there is a occupied structure on the property,' Hardin noted.

He noted that the EPA will be sending out a cover letter and access agreement for homeowners to sign to grant the agency permission to enter a property.

'(The cover letter and access agreement) will be going out soon,' Hardin said Monday afternoon. 'Probably in the next week or so. And that will be going to the houses that are in the area of concern. Specifically where previous sampling showed that there might be a concern for vapor intrusion.'

This specific vapor intrusion testing is only taking place for the Pike and Mulberry Streets site, not the other three known contamination plumes in the city.

Earlier this year, a Community Advisory Group (CAG) was formed to help provide information and updates to area stakeholders.

Members of the CAG have also been helping spread the word of the contamination and the upcoming testing efforts.

'We provided the CAG with blank access forms in case they came across someone who lived in the area that was interested in sampling,' Hardin added.

In the case a property is a rental property, both the homeowner and tenant will be receiving copies of the access agreement.

EPA Community Involvement Coordinator Kirstin Safakas said that it is important for individuals who receive the access agreements to respond to the documentation.

The plan is to begin the vapor intrusion testing in January 2022.

That is because higher level of contaminants are anticipated inside someone's home during the colder months as houses are generally kept closed off due to the weather.

'But also, there is something called the stack effect that actually increases, when you're heating the house, the air rises in the house and can actually draw vapors from underground,' Hardin said.

Hardin also took time to explain the sampling process.

The houses that participate will have two samples taken, one of which will be taken from the lowest occupied level of each house.

If a home has a crawlspace, the second sample will be taken from the crawlspace.

However, if a home sits on a slab, a port will be installed into the slab for the testing.

'The samples will be taken from the vapors below the slab,' Hardin added.

Once EPA has the results, that information will be provided to the property owners.

'The testing is done at no cost to the property owner or the tenant,' Hardin said. 'And if we do identify a problem, we install a system, also installed at no cost to the property owner or the tenant.'

He added that the system keeps the vapors from entering the home.

Remediation work Earlier this year, the EPA released its Record of Decision (ROD) for the Pike and Mulberry site.

In the ROD, the EPA announced that it would use the 'in situ chemical reduction ' method to remediate the site.

In situ chemical reduction works by destroying the contamination by injecting iron or carbon derivatives.

With the release of the ROD, the EPA is able to move onto the next step and work on getting a contractor for the cleanup work.

'We are in the process of obtaining a contractor,' Hardin said.
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