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McCampbell Analytical, Inc.

Soil Vapor Testing

The purpose of soil vapor testing is to determine if soil gas from the vadose zone could pose a danger to indoor air quality through vapor intrusion into, for example, a basement. Often, soil gas investigations are coupled with soil sample & ground water testing. The nature & history of the site guide the regulating agency in determining which compounds are tested. Four examples are given by the document:


  • When USTs or fuel pipelines are / were present, fuel oxygenates (MTBE, ETBE, DIPE, TAME, TBA) should be included for analysis.
  • At oilfield sites where hydrocarbons are detected in soil "fixed & biogenic" gases (O2, CO2, CH4) should be included for analysis.


  • At petroleum contaminated sites (including oilfields), dairies, wetlands, landfills or other sites where applicable (ex. coal containing areas, intertidal areas, septic zones, fill areas) methane / hydrogen sulfide should be determined.
  • Sites that used chlorinated solvents with 1,4-dioxane stabilizer should test for these compounds (as well as the chlorinated breakdown products). 1,4-Dioxane may require SIM mode analysis & to achieve the document mandated 1ug/L RL.

Vapor intrusion is evaluated when the volatile & toxic chemicals are present in the subsurface that could pose a vapor intrusion risk to proximal existing or future buildings. Soil gas samples are collected to delineate the lateral & vertical extent of subsurface contamination. Open areas at an impacted site are sampled first, & if data trends warrant, sampling progresses towards existing or proposed structures, ultimately as close as possible to their foundations. Characterization should continue until VOCs are "non-detect". Covered areas, such as beneath a paved lot, may be sampled to provide knowledge of VOC accumulation under an impermeable barrier. 100' is considered a safe distance between a building & a contaminant plume. Contaminant vapor is assumed to move at a rate of 25'/year. This allows one to evaluate whether a plume at location x is increasing or decreasing in concentration or in a steady state. In addition, odors, physiological effects on building inhabitants, wet basements & explosive vapors are reasons for conducting indoor air evaluations.