EPA’s Mobile Lab Helps Clean Up Vermont Community
In the spring of 2011, heavy rains flooded the area of Stevens Brook in St. Albans, VT, and residents at the Colony Square Apartments noticed potentially cancer-causing coal tar waste in a sump in their basement. St. Albans city employees also noticed coal tar wastes in several area manholes while residents in the area noted an oily odor.
A team of EPA responders, including myself and EPA On-Scene Coordinator Mike Nalipinski, promptly arrived with a new mobile laboratory known as PHILIS. PHILIS, short for Portable High-throughput Integrated Laboratory Identification System, provides EPA and our response partners in need with the latest in mobile sampling technology.
By using PHILIS, we obtained more than 250 samples of soil, sump water, sediment, gas and indoor air from ten residential properties over a four day period, to determine the extent of coal tar waste contamination. PHILIS identified several contaminants of concern including cancer-causing Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), which occur naturally in coal, crude oil and gasoline. Because PHILIS was available, we were able to provide same-day certified data, which made it possible to quickly determine how to best proceed with the cleanup.
Without PHILIS, we might have had to send the samples to an off-site laboratory, and the process would have taken more time—time that could have been spent on beginning the cleanup and protecting the community.
It took less than 90 days from the initial sample by PHILIS, to the removal of approximately 2,400 tons of contaminated soil, to restoring the property back to use.
About the authors: Larry Kaelin is a chemist with the EPA’s Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Consequence Management Advisory Team. Mike Nalipinski is an On Scene Coordinator (OSC) in EPA Region 1 with many years of experience cleaning up Superfund sites.
The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.
EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.
EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.