Fan residents claim they fell ill because of fumes from city project chapter 7 electricity


“Our environmental health specialist/food safety inspector says they recommended that the restaurant contact DPU to address the odor concerns. The inspector said the odor was not being produced as a result of something the restaurant was doing or causing, therefore, other than increasing ventilation, the issue would need to be presented to DPU for assistance,” said Richmond City Health District spokesperson George Jones.

“Upon becoming aware of complaints to DPU about the pipe-lining process, the Richmond City Health District referred DPU to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Office of Environmental Epidemiology for information about the CIPP process; they produced a fact sheet (FAQ) for use by DPU to help communicate to residents. In addition, Richmond City Health District worked cooperatively with DPU to create an algorithm for action and response to styrene vapors during the pipe relining process.”

“The City of Richmond Department put out extensive information in the area to each resident PRIOR to the most recent sewer lining project conducted on May 2, 2018. This was done in the form of a hard copy newsletter distributed door to door, posted on the Nextdoor application for that neighborhood, as well as posted on DPU’s blog and twitter platforms," said DPU spokesperson Angela Fountain. "Contact information was given for Public Utilities, a representative from the Virginia Health Department and the Project Manager should any of the residents have questions. We received no complaints. Residents were encouraged to reach out to us if they had any issues.”

“With this process, we are using people’s homes and buildings as chemical fume hoods,” said Purdue University Assistant Professor Dr. Andrew Whelton. “We’re telling them to increase their fans so that we get more of it out. “I think that’s unacceptable.’”

In a study published last summer, the environmental and engineering expert and his research team, conducted testing at multiple CIPP installations in Indiana and California, and found that the process can, "expose workers and the public to a mixture of compounds that can pose potential health hazards."

The National Association of Sewer Service Companies (NASSCO) said it was clear that their guidelines, quality and safety protocols were not utilized during the testing, and accused the researchers of not fact checking their information and assumptions.

Phase 1 of our study included a thorough review of Purdue’s findings, as well as other published reports. An RFP to conduct the study was submitted to a number of universities and awarded to the University of Texas at Arlington. Launched in December, 2017 the study was just recently published and found that CIPP reports on chemical emissions of styrenated resin (including the Purdue Report you reference) are non-conclusive.

“We have made recommendations that all emissions should be captured until further notice because there is no evidence that we’ve seen that’s credible that indicated that the emissions are in fact safe and they do not exceed worker or public health exposure limits,” said Whelton.

“They will have more fans and will be placing them in strategic locations around the work zone. We have also been in communications with the Richmond City Health District to ensure that should there be further questions about the chemicals used, they are prepared to respond. And we have expanded our communications with residents for several blocks adjacent to the block where the actual pipe is being lined so that residents can take the steps provided on the back of this notification to ensure that their sewer traps are functioning properly to prevent odors from entering their homes. Our inspectors, provided by Jacobs Engineering, who are monitoring the work of our contractor, have also been talking to residents in the neighborhood to explain the planned work.”

In a statement to CBS 6 on May 7, DPU spokesperson Angela Fountain stated, “We had and have testing equipment ready should anyone bring it to our attention that they are experiencing challenges. DPU engineers and project managers walked the area during the May 2, 2018 installation – the entire work zone and the surrounding block to ensure that there were no issues.”

“What we would recommend is that air testing should be conducted at all sites,” said Dr. Whelton. “But it shouldn’t be conducted to determine if someone was overexposed. Air testing should be conducted to determine that nothing leaked out of the containment system.”

“We’re concerned about it, we’re worried and there’s really no way for us to know other than what the guys out front are saying,” said Barnes. “They say it smells worse than it is. Okay, you kind of have to take them at their word, but it doesn’t make you feel good about it or that it’s safe.”

“We would really like the residents who have the serious concerns (or any concerns for that matter) contact the right sources. In order that accurate information is provided to them. DPU field teams communicated with the residents in the area of the work, several times before, during and after the lining work was performed. We are happy to reach out to those who contacted you to address their concerns. That’s our goal – ensure that those residents who have concerns get answers. This is not a news story, and we do not feel an on-camera interview will serve the purpose of those who have these concerns,” said DPU spokesperson Angela Fountain.

“The public health officials need to be involved and put their foot down, that is their job to protect public health. Here is where the public health community needs to step up and take a role in this, an active role, in making sure the emissions are safe,” said Dr. Whelton.

“Utilities are choosing these technologies because they can be 5 to 10 times less expensive so they are doing right by the taxpayer. One of the issues is, utilities are not plastics engineers so they don’t get trained on plastics manufacturing which is what this is. They don’t get trained on industrial hygiene, worker exposure, which is what this is and they don’t get trained on air transport and sewer systems which is what this is too,” Dr. Whelton added.

In August of 2007, the Virginia Department of Transportation suspended the use of styrene based CIPP liners that carried surface or storm water amid concerns over contamination of soil and receiving waters. After a year long study, VDOT reinstated the technology in May 2008 but implemented new requirements.

Purdue has collaborated with NIOSH, CDPH, NEHA, ISDH, EPA, ATSDR, and OSHA on chemical emissions and exposure. Researchers have also met with engineering consultants, utilities, and municipalities who have requested their assistance as well as CIPP companies.