Block Environmental Services (BES) Consulting Division comprises a full-service environmental consulting firm specializing in human health and ecological risk assessment. BES Bioassay Laboratory Division compliments our risk assessment and risk management services by performing an array of bioassay tests.
BES's professional staff capabilities include:
Our mission statement is to:
"Provide clients and customers the best, most cost-effective and scientifically sound environmental solutions capable of meeting regulatory agency requirements as well as protecting human health and the environment."
BES's staff is attuned to the current environmental and regulatory issues facing our clients. As regulatory constraints become increasingly stringent and complex, our staff's capabilities can assist clients in navigating the regulatory maze. BES's expertise and experience combined with a commitment to technical excellence result in professional services unique in their quality, broad scope, and cost-effectiveness. Our representative services include:
Risk Assessment & Toxicology
Modeling & Chemical Review
BES is uniquely qualified to provide risk assessment consultation. BES staff is well versed in risk assessment theory and application of appropriate assumptions and default exposure values. BES staff has contributed to the development of risk assessment methodologies for estimating risks associated with contaminant releases. In fact, since 1986 BES has conducted instructional courses on risk assessment throughout the United States through the National Ground Water Association and the University of California at Berkeley.
BES can utilize in-house air dispersion and groundwater fate and transport computer models to help estimate contaminant exposure when such data is not readily available. BES uses innovative approaches under the general guidance of the Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund (RAGS) to conduct realistic risk assessment investigations, rather than relying on default exposure parameters. Superfund clients we have developed risk assessments for include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Navy, and a variety of private industry clients.
Toxicologists at BES also use probabilistic analysis techniques (i.e., Monte Carlo uncertainty analysis) to calculate a range of risk values. This approach is often more insightful than the more common single point (deterministic) risk estimation technique currently utilized by regulatory agencies. This information is crucial when negotiating clean-up levels ("how much do we reduce the risk when the concentration is x?") and can be used to perform sensitivity analyses. Sensitivity analyses are used to determine where the point of diminishing returns occurs with respect to risk reduction.
BES staff use their knowledge of the fate and transport of chemicals in the environment to predict where a chemical is likely to accumulate and how long it is likely to remain there. Mathematical and computer simulation models are used to predict atmospheric dispersion, aquatic transport, groundwater plume migration, and biological transfer of toxic substances. The BES modeling staff can assess the fate and distribution of chemicals from their release into the environment and estimate their uptake by man or other species. This information is used to select appropriate chemicals of potential concern and to develop strategies to deal with them.
BES performs environmental risk evaluations (ecological assessments) tailored to address specific environmental concerns. Ecological assessments combine careful testing and observation, collection of data, and professional judgment. BES designs sampling programs based on the levels and types of chemicals present at a site, the chemical media and the potential for biota exposure. Chemical analysis in conjunction with toxicity testing is often used to evaluate potential risk to aquatic, terrestrial, and domestic species. To aid in conducting ecological assessments, BES owns and maintains its own aquatic bioassay laboratory which is certified in California and Washington. Results are compared to aquatic toxicity standards and criteria as well as available toxicological data.
BES often considers factors which may enhance or limit the availability of chemicals to the biota ("bioavailability"). When ecological effects of chemicals are a factor in compliance requirements, BES staff provides the technical assistance necessary to identify specific effects, guide decision making, and ensure protection of the environment.
BES has performed ecological assessments in many diversified environments including lakes, streams, rivers, estuaries, and coastal areas throughout the United States. Specific areas include San Francisco Delta (Hunter's Point), Puget Sound, Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay, and The Great Lakes.
Real Property Evaluation: Risk assessments applied to real property transfers can often provide an evaluation of the potential toxic effects of substances on human health and non-human biota. Assessments can be used to address "how clean is clean" criteria for air, soil, or water. These type of assessments are often used, for example, as a negotiating tool with regulators during real estate property transfer, or in the selection of remedial technologies and clean-up levels. BES utilizes state or local risk assessment guidelines when available.
BES toxicologists have extensive experience in risk assessment project design, environmental risk management, and project goal setting. BES scientists have experience critically evaluating both analytical and toxicological data. BES staff are highly experienced in air, soil, water sampling and analysis, and biological tissue chemical concentration measurement. We are familiar with state of art techniques for trapping volatile organic compounds in emission flux chambers to evaluate soil gas emissions. These techniques are significant in evaluating organic releases into houses or buildings without indoor sampling.
Our toxicologists have assisted the EPA in developing criteria for toxic chemicals in air and water and have proposed action levels for toxic chemical cleanup where no previous criteria for protection of human health and environmental quality existed.
Site Assessment: BES has performed numerous baseline environmental site assessments (ESA) for real estate developers and industry. The baseline ESA is also known as a preliminary (Phase I) ESA; it involves: the compilation of former property ownership(s) and previous occupant activities through chain-of-title searches, a study of historic aerial photographs and Sanborn Insurance Company maps of the area and a review of local regulatory agency lists and file records regarding the use and storage of hazardous substances and wastes. The file and lists review also includes the permitting and operation of underground storage tanks, and a determination and evaluation of any contaminated soil and/or groundwater investigations in the area. The Phase I ESA generally evaluates property adjacent to the subject parcel and incorporates any other considerations that may impact the environmental status of the study area.
Information obtained during a Phase I ESA is used by a client to determine past and existing environmental conditions of a parcel of interest prior to property acquisition, development, or sale. The purpose of the Phase I ESA is to identify any potential activities which may have resulted in the contamination of soil or groundwater at the subject parcel or within close enough proximity that pose a threat to the environmental quality. The Phase I ESA also establishes conditions against which any subsequent, suspected contamination can be compared to determine its source and the responsible party or potentially responsible parties (PRPs). Industrial and commercial property clients can use the Phase I ESA to off-set potential liabilities by defining environmental conditions associated with the site prior to its acquisition and occupancy and to comply with due diligence requirements under federal and state statutes. In many cases the Phase I ESA may include a Phase II evaluation involving the collection of soil and/or groundwater samples to confirm any historical or physical evidence of potential contamination of the property. If groundwater monitoring wells are installed, both the developer and industrial client are provided with a mechanism for continually evaluating groundwater quality in the vicinity of a site after the change of ownership occurs.
BES conducts indoor air quality evaluations in buildings where occupants have complained of poor air quality or become ill. Sick building/new building syndromes have also been investigated by BES. Evaluations are performed by determining what, if any, threat to occupational health exists. BES performs HVAC system evaluation and sampling, and tests for mold, various bacteria, and fungal presence. After data collection, BES makes recommendations to clients on how to respond to indoor air quality problems. Several recent examples of indoor air quality studies include analysis of particulates after a building fire, analysis of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in offices that were thought to be responsible for headaches and nausea, and VOC analysis in a second grade classroom.
An indoor air quality study typically involves monitoring and analysis of airborne chemicals and may involve interviewing building occupants. These procedures are used to determine potential sources of chemical contaminants and to gather information on symptoms of sensitive individuals. Atmospheric chemistry data for suspected contaminants is gathered to predict chemical transformations.
BES has prepared several Risk Management Prevention Plans (RMPPs) under Assembly Bill (AB) 3777 to the satisfaction of local agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area and Central Valley. We prepared RMPPs for several large industrial refrigeration companies in Yolo and Alameda counties.
The Federal Clean Act Amendments of 1990 created two new federal programs to encompass the same function as California's RMPP program: to prevent, detect, and respond to accidental releases of acutely hazardous materials. The Process Safety Management (PSM) program, administered by OSHA is designed to ensure worker health and safety are adequately addressed in facilities utilizing hazardous materials above OSHA-specified threshold quantities. The key provision of PSM is process hazard analysis, known as a Hazard and Operability (HazOp) study. BES has conducted numerous HazOp studies for RMPPs and PSM Plans, consisting of scenario development with identified hazards using Guideword and What-if approaches for facilities utilizing refrigerants at various locations around the United States. OSHA requires that all facilities subject to PSM rules prepare and retain a PSM Plan on-site and that all of its elements be implemented and up-to-date.
The Risk Management Program, also created by the Clean Air Act Amendments, is administered by the US EPA. Its purpose differs from the PSM only in that it is designed to identify and quantify threats posed to public receptors and the environment from accidental releases of hazardous materials. The principal component of the RMP is the off-site consequence analysis, which utilizes computer modeling to simulate worst-case and more-likely accidental chemical release scenarios and predict what public receptors, if any, might be adversely effected by such a release. EPA allows for the inclusion of administrative controls and passive mitigation measures in the analysis, which can substantially reduce the area a potential release might effect. Utilizing state-of-the-art air dispersion modeling (INPUFF, DEGADIS, or ALOHA) and GIS software to incorporate such provisions, BES has prepared RMPs at all three Program Levels (assigned to each facility based on modeled distance to toxic endpoint) for ammonia refrigeration, chlorine and propane facilities. RMPs required under federal guideline were to have been submitted to both EPA and local administering agencies for review by June 21, 1999.
BES is uniquely qualified to prepare RMPs, having prepared one of the first in the country for the 2002 Olympic bobsled/luge course in Park City, Utah, participated on the review panels for EPA's RMP guidance documents for ammonia refrigeration facilities and POTWs, and assisted the EPA in testing the beta-version of its electronic submission software for RMPs.
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