Elmwood Ave Updates

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in consultation with the Vermont Department of Health, have been conducting an environmental investigation in the area of Elmwood Avenue in Burlington’s Old North End neighborhood. This is due to a concern that two chemicals – perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE) – may have contaminated the soil gas (air pockets between soil particles), and possibly entered the air inside nearby buildings; including the Integrated Arts Academy.

Test results of indoor and outdoor air at the school show that it is safe for students, teachers, and staff to be at school. TCE was not found in any of the samples collected on the school grounds or in the building. PCE was found in indoor air at very low levels on the first floor and in the basement of the school in the August 2018 sampling event. These levels do not present a health risk. Follow-up testing conducted in September 2018 did not show any detections of PCE in indoor air. More testing will be done at the school in the winter months to see if there is a change. 

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation is working with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate chemicals found in the soil gas (air pockets in the soil) along Elmwood Avenue, and nearby streets, in Burlington. The chemicals of interest are tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE), which are commonly used for dry cleaning and as degreasing solvents. These chemicals can move from the soil gas into the air of buildings through the foundation. When these chemicals are breathed in, they can be harmful to your health. More testing is needed to find out if there are possible health risks in your neighborhood.

Next Steps 

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation is working with the potentially responsible parties to continue the site investigation and to evaluate the best way to remediate the source(s) and/or mitigate impacts to buildings, where necessary. Indoor air sampling is being conducted this winter, and site investigations will focus on characterizing the source(s) and extent of the contamination. 

Health Impacts of PCE and TCE
The chemicals of interest, specifically PCE and TCE, can produce a variety of health effects. Exposure to these chemicals can increase a person’s risk of getting cancer. The chemicals can affect the development of a baby if a woman is exposed to them while pregnant. These chemicals can also affect the immune system and central nervous system. These effects vary with exposure duration and levels.
If it is determined that your property/residence has elevated soil gas concentrations, corrective action measures will be implemented. A sub-slab depressurization system is the most common technology used and is the same type of system that is used to mitigate radon gas.


Integrated Arts Academy at the H.O. Wheeler school Information:

September sub-slab soil gas results at H.O. Wheeler School

September ambient and indoor air sample results at H.O. Wheeler School 

Click here for August Sub-slab soil gas sample results at H.O. Wheeler School

Click here for August Ambient and indoor air sample results at H.O. Wheeler School

Click here for letter regarding Integrated Arts Academy at the H.O. Wheeler School Testing

More Resources and Information:

Soil Vapor and Indoor Air Mitigation Frequently Asked Questions: click for FAQ

Dry Cleaning Chemicals

ToxFAQ for TCE

ToxFAQ for PCE



Agency of Natural Resources
Department of Environmental Conservation
Waste Management and Prevention Division

Davis Building - 1st Floor
One National Life Drive
Montpelier, VT 05620-3704