Helping Communities Stay Informed and Feel Included in the Investigation and Remedial Process
Craig Communications developed and manages the communications program to support indoor air testing within 1400 homes in Newport Beach. This is the largest vapor intrusion project in California and Ford Motor Company’s highest profile environmental project.
The Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Board) updated its environmental screening levels for VOCs in 2016 to be more protective of human health and the environment. During routine monitoring of soil and groundwater in 2018, concentrations of VOCs were detected in soil gas above the Water Board’s revised environmental screening levels resulting in the Water Board directing our client to conduct extensive environmental assessment activities. These activities included the offering of indoor air testing of more than 1,400 homes and commercial buildings within the former facility boundary to assess the potential of vapor intrusion. Vapor Intrusion is the movement of vapor-forming chemicals (in this case VOCs), from an underground source such as contaminated soil or groundwater, into the indoor air of an overlying building. Homeowners in the area were concerned about how the large-scale environmental investigation activities, potential vapor intrusion, and remedial and mitigation efforts may impact their health, their quality of life, and the value of their homes.
Our Team designed and executed a robust community engagement plan to assist the client with successfully characterizing the extent of contamination, conducting indoor air testing in potentially impacted homes and commercial buildings, and initiating various remedial actions to reduce or eliminate potential risk to the community and environment. Utilizing area canvassing, community events, a project website, project informational mailings, and individual conversations with residents, we proactively addressed community concerns and supported efforts to accomplish project goals and objectives. Over 30 community meetings were held to ensure residents and the larger community understood the process, had the opportunity to ask questions/voice concerns, and allowed for the community to build trust in the investigation and remedial action efforts. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we offered hybrid meeting models that combined in-person meetings (both indoors and outdoors) where safe to do so with an online option (livestream or meeting recording). These meeting models were shown to greatly increase engagement rates through ease of access and the providing of a recorded option for community members to come back to at a later date.
As of December 2022, our Team has secured access to install over 420 soil vapor monitoring probes, conducted indoor air testing in over 350 homes, deployed short-term air purification systems in 29 homes, and are in the process of constructing multiple large-scale soil vapor extraction remediation systems. By investing time to ensure residents understood the purpose and impact of investigation activities, and were comfortable participating, we were able to ensure our client has not faced any negative publicity or lawsuits to date. The Water Board has used this site as a model for successful public participation activities for other high-profile vapor intrusion sites and Craig Communications staff was commended by residents for their diplomacy, clear communication, and availability.