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Estimating the oxygenated zone beneath building foundations for petroleum vapor intrusion assessment

Verginelli, Iason, Yao, Yijun, Wang, Yue, Ma, Jie, Suuberg, Eric M.
Journal of hazardous materials 2016 v.312 pp. 84-96
United States Environmental Protection Agency, analytical methods, biodegradation, buildings, concrete, diffusivity, models, oxygen, petroleum, risk screening, screening, slabs, soil air, vapors
Previous studies show that aerobic biodegradation can effectively reduce hydrocarbon soil gas concentrations by orders of magnitude. Increasingly, oxygen limited biodegradation is being included in petroleum vapor intrusion (PVI) guidance for risk assessment at leaking underground storage tank sites. The application of PVI risk screening tools is aided by the knowledge of subslab oxygen conditions, which, however, are not commonly measured during site investigations. Here we introduce an algebraically explicit analytical method that can estimate oxygen conditions beneath the building slab, for PVI scenarios with impervious or pervious building foundations. Simulation results by this new model are then used to illustrate the role of site-specific conditions in determining the oxygen replenishment below the building for both scenarios. Furthermore, critical slab-width-to-source-depth ratios and critical source depths for the establishment of a subslab “oxygen shadow” (i.e. anoxic zone below the building) are provided as a function of key parameters such as vapor source concentration, effective diffusion coefficients of concrete and building depth. For impervious slab scenarios the obtained results are shown in good agreement with findings by previous studies and further support the recommendation by U.S. EPA about the inapplicability of vertical exclusion distances for scenarios involving large buildings and high source concentrations. For pervious slabs, results by this new model indicate that even relatively low effective diffusion coefficients of concrete can facilitate the oxygen transport into the subsurface below the building and create oxygenated conditions below the whole slab foundation favorable for petroleum vapor biodegradation.