• Article

Temporary vs. permanent sub-slab ports A comparative performance study

Vapor intrusion (VI) is the migration of subsurface vapors, including radon and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), from the subsurface to indoor air. The VI exposure pathway extends from the contaminant source, which can be impacted soil, non-aqueous phase liquid, or contaminated groundwater, to indoor air-exposure points. Therefore, contaminated matrices may include groundwater, soil, soil gas, and indoor air. VOC contaminants of concern typically include halogenated solvents such as trichloroethene, tetrachloroethene, and chloroform, as well as petroleum hydrocarbons, such as the aromatic VOCs benzene, toluene, and xylenes. Radon is a colorless radioactive gas that is released by radioactive decay of radionuclides in rock and soil that migrate into homes through VI in a similar fashion to VOCs. This project focused on the performance of permanent versus temporary sub-slab sampling ports for the determination of VI of halogenated VOCs and radon into an unoccupied house. VOC and radon concentrations measured simultaneously in soil gas using collocated temporary and permanent ports appeared to be independent of the type of port. The variability between collocated temporary and permanent ports was much less than the spatial variability between different locations within a single residential duplex. The agreement of the majority of VOC and radon concentrations, 0-36% relative percent difference, and 2-19% relative standard deviation respectively, of each sub-slab port (SSP) type was achieved even though the clay portion of the seal of the temporary ports was visibly desiccated and cracked. Post sampling leak test results suggested that the temporary SSP desiccation and cracking were not as detrimental to the port seal performance as would have been expected, this suggests that the Teflon tape portion of the seals served an important function. Post sampling leak tests are advisable (in addition to pre-sampling leak tests) when temporary ports are used to collect a time-integrated sample over a period of several hours. These results suggest that temporary sub-slab sampling ports can provide data equivalent to that collected from a permanent sub-slab sampling port. However, (1) only one type of seal material was tested in one location, (2) the seals were installed by experts with rigorous quality control, and; thus, (3) these results may not apply to all types of temporary seals and all building foundations.


Zimmerman, J. H., Lutes, C., Cosky, B., Schumacher, B., Salkie, D., & Truesdale, R. (2017). Temporary vs. permanent sub-slab ports: A comparative performance study. Soil and Sediment Contamination, 26(3), 294-307. https://doi.org/10.1080/15320383.2017.1298565