Curren Environmental Blog

David C Sulock

Recent Posts

Tank Scans & Tank Sweeps

Posted by David C Sulock on Apr 4, 2017 9:10:00 AM

Oil Tank Sweeps,  Tank Scans, GPR, Groud Penetrating Radar...

The liability associated Underground Heating Oil Tanks (USTs) is fairly well known to most buyers and sellers nowadays, but our office still gets calls regarding why a tank scan should be performed.   We explain that historically home heating oil has been stored in Underground Storage Tanks (UST’s). Homes built in the early 1900’s to around the mid 1990’s are most likey at risk to having a buried oil tank.  When tanks leak, homeowners can face environmental regulations originally written with businesses in mind, not residential homeowners.  Property owners can face cleanup costs in the thousands of dollars, and find their homes difficult to sell, because banks and mortgage loan companies do not make mortgages on properties with abandoned, untested tanks.  Rust never sleeps and Underground Oil Tanks will not last forever.

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The laws are set that when you own a property you own the problem, the courts have ruled that a current residential property owner with a leaking underground storage tank that was decommissioned or "closed" prior to the property’s purchase is now liable for cleanup costs. The residential real estate market must conduct their due diligence to include inquiry regarding underground storage tanks. You buy the property you buy the problem.

 An oil tank sweep is like a home inspection but is specific to one thing, finding an "undisclosed" buried oil tank. Tank sweeps are becoming more common in the real estate sales process.  Today both sellers and buyers are having tank sweeps performed due to the large concern over leaking tanks.  All anyone has to do is google "oil tank leak" and you will find a plethora of scary web pages, photos and horror stories of tanks leaking and the expensive headache filled experience that ensues.

The internet has made everyone more informed regarding topics that were once only known to professionals.   People now know that when you buy a property you buy the good and the bad with a home.   Good school system, check, safe neighborhood, check, oil tank leak and associated cleanup, check.   You buy a property and don't perform due diligence, you are at fault and responsible for imperfections and repairs to a property.

 

So what is a tank sweep?  There are two types with disparate costs and variable results.

First and most basic is a sweep performed with a metal detector.  These sweeps utilize metal detector that can cost only a thousand dollars and yet the charges to perform a tank sweep with a metal detector range anywhere from $50.00 up to $250.00.   Their low cost is based on the low quality of the sweep and the low cost of the equipment involved.   Metal detector tank sweeps are typically hand stamping a transaction that a tank probable isn't present.   These sweeps while on the surface make sense (buried metal, metal detector should find something), they are a needle in a hay stack.   Geology on any property will have some amount of metal (ferrous metal deposits) naturally occurring, as well as from the development of the site (we have found screws, nails, license plates, buried metal trash..  Buried metal can include buried pipes that service or serviced the property including electric lines, water, sewer, drains, as well as surface metal such as fences, metal used in the home (most tanks are close to the house).   Concrete sidewalks, driveways and patios can have wire mesh or metal rebar in the concrete that can set off a metal detector and give false positives.  All this buried metal is competing for the attention of the metal detector and can give a background reading and can mask the actual tank when encountered. This happens by the buried metal fooling individuals performing a tank sweep to adjust the sensitive of the metal detector due to the detector constantly spiking (beeping) from the background metal on a site.  Therefore, while a metal detector sounds fool proof it is the more foolish of the two options. 

The second type of tank sweep and much more throughout utilizes GPR or ground penetrating radar.   These scans range in costs that are comparable to a home inspection, but utilize specialized equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars.  Gpr is not fooled by buried debris as it utilizes radar as a detection method. Like sonar, radar sends a signal into the ground.  This radar signal can't penetrate buried objects with density such as metal tanks and accordingly when radar finds a tank, the signal is reflected back to the surface where a screen reads a graphical interpretation of the objects.  The signal is best described  as a pyramid reflection.  Pipes return a small pyramid, tanks return a bigger pyramid.

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If you want to get more technical, GPR radiates short pulses of high-frequency EM energy into the ground from a transmitting antenna.  When the EM energy (wave) encounters the interface of two materials having different properties, a portion of the energy is reflected back to the surface. Buried Oil tanks or metal pipes reflect the EM signal back to the surface, indicating a found buried object.   If the signal does not encounter a buried object the EM signals goes deeper into the ground indicating no object found.  The difference between these two readings is what allows a GPR technician to determine a buried object from normal soils. The radar can go through concrete and asphalt.

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So why hire a company like Curren to do a GPR tank scan?  First, we provide turnkey solutions including tank locating, removal testing and remediation.  Our technicians have been involved with tank removal so they are familiar with the various ways a tank system is constructed and thus know what to look for when performing a tank sweep.  When you hire a firm with over 20 years of service experience, you are dealing with a firm that has helped thousands of client. Our repeat customers and referral network is large and a testament to the quality of our service.

Curren completes tank scans with equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars.  The least expensive and reliable are metal detectors.  If you did not know, 85% of oil tanks are within a few feet of the foundation of a house.  Houses have metal, underground pipes have metals, buried metal can be found naturally and by man on any property.  These smaller metal signatures can confuse a metal detector and provide false readings, both when a tank is and is not present.   GPR does not have these limitations. 

Curren Environmental has over 20 years’ experience with tanks and all work is performed in house and by company personnel, this ensures both timely execution of projects as well as cost savings by avoiding subcontracting.  Curren is licensed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) and Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).

Tank Sweep Questions?

Inheriting Environmental Problem

Posted by David C Sulock on Feb 16, 2017 9:38:00 AM

Is there an Environmental Issue with your Inherited property?

It always sounds good an inherited property.  You can reap the benefits by keeping the property as your home or selling the property to cash out.  What does not sound good is if this inherited property has an underground oil tank and to top that off, the oil tank leaked.  When you inherit a property, you may be inheriting a property that can be easily sold or holds years of headaches, potential lawsuits and a financial black hole.  How can you protect yourself, first hire an attorney with experience in estates, real estate and environmental issues.  Do not disburse liquid assets in the estate as monies that are available may be needed to manage the property in the form of taxes, utilities, inspections and potential repairs are upgrades requested by a purchaser.   If you have already accepted the inheritance than you just inherited, the problem and you should seek an environmental consultant and an environmental attorney.  The laws state that whoever owns the property owns the problem.  You may choose to do nothing about the oil tank, which can deterr potential purchasers of the property as they may not be able to get a mortgage or insurance with the tank in question.

What should you do before inheriting a property?

First, know that you are not required to accept the inheritance.  You also have the right to have an inspection on the property such a structural review, home inspection, mold inspection and a tank sweep to name a few.  While you are inheriting and not buying the property the adage, buyer beware is still relevant. In cases where you are bequeathed separate items, such as items, cars, cash, stock and jewelry, you can accept one and not the other i.e., you can cherry pick.    You do not have that same luxury as non-liquid assets such as real estate. You cannot take only a part of piece of property.  

Hire an experienced Attorney and Environmental Consultant.

When inheriting a property, be it residential or commercial, you should first consult with an attorney.  Attorneys will advise you regarding Proper Due Diligence prior to acquisition of the property.  Older dilapidated properties as well as newer move in condition properties may have environmental isssues.  The property may have hidden mold (or visble for that manner in an area you are not frequenting like an attic, crawl space, ect.  There may also be there is an underground oil tank or undocumented removed tank. If either mold or tanks are unknown, you need to hire an environmental consultant.  If there is any chance that there was or may still be an oil tank on the property a tank scan should be performed.  A tank scan consists of taking measures to properly scan the property for an oil tank.  The property should be scanned with a Ground Penetrating Radar system.  This system uses a series of radar wave pulses that are directed below ground.  When a solid object is encountered such as a metal tank, the waves are reflected back to the surface with a distinct signature. GPR tends to be more reliable , than a metal detector, as metal detectors are not discriminating and will pick up naturally occurring metal in the ground, metal from buried pipes, metal in the house, fences ect.   The best approach is GPR with a metal detector verification.  If this property is a commercial property you should perform a Phase I, for more information on Phase I click here.

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Did the property have an Underground Oil Tank?

Find out first if there was ever an oil tank located at the property. If the dwelling is older than 1940 or was built in 1940 to 1985, there is a high possibility of an underground oil tank.  Older homes in regards to heat sources started out with wood or coal then moved to oil heating.  Also, 9 times out of 10 if there is an above ground oil tank there probably was an underground oil tank.  You may check with the borough to find out if a permit was provided to take the underground oil tank out of the ground.  But, that permit does not answer the question if the oil tank leaked.  The only answer the permit allows is that there was an underground oil tank and that tank was taken out of the ground.  The borough does not test the soil for any leak from the tank, not do they require it.  Tank removal is a construction activity, tank leaking is environmental and is handled on a state level, not on a local level.

If you do find out that there was an underground oil tank and that said tank was taken from the ground, that environmental company may have taken soil samples to make sure there was no leak.  That environmental company would hopefully, have given the property owner a report on the soil samples and if the tank leaked or did not leak.

If you have no records of any soil samples or soil testing that it is advised to get soil samples done. First you would check the soil for any contamination. In the New Jersey there are regulations of how much contamination can be in located in the soil.  If there is contamination, there may be a need to test the groundwater as well. 

Pertaining to mold, while it is ubiquitous and needed in an ecosystem (it is grass, leaves, mulch, soil), when found inside it is indoor air pollution and a health concern.   Mold needs moisture to grow, which can be supplied not just from water leaks, but also from improper ventilation or lack thereof in a structure.   Mold means you have a water issue, meaning you not only have to remediate the mold but also fix the root cause of the moisture that fuels the growth.  Mold inspections can include visual walking inspections of a site and can include sampling inside to evaluate for hidden mold.  Mold is becoming more and more of a hot issue with homebuyers and must be considered as part of an evaluation before you take possession of a property.

After your due diligence, which can include testing and remediation and review of the findings with your attorney, you will be better prepared in the decision to accept the inherited property.  Remember the estate can pay for these inspections and repairs prior to you acquiring the property. It is also important to consider that long term you will probably sell the property, and when that occurs the buyer will do their due diligence which can include the afore referenced inspections.  Better to ferret out the issues before you own the property.

 

Tags: Estate

First Time Tank Removal

Posted by David C Sulock on Feb 7, 2017 10:15:00 AM

So here's the story...a hired tank removal company was found on the first page of Google, they had the cheapest price.  A tank was found to have a hole after it was removed from the ground.  No evidence of oil contamination was present in the soil, meaning staining or odors of petroleum in the tank grave.  Due to the hole the NJDEP hotline was called and a case number was obtained.   Removal company acquired one soil sample for laboratory analysis, which was found to have a level of ND (Non Detect).  After removal, client was billed almost double the quoted amount and then told they would have to spend another $3,600.00 to close out the called in NJDEP case number, even though the tank did not leak (Soil sample was non detect).

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This was the story that was explained to our office.   Curren reviewed the removal contract, soil laboratory test results and the subsequent proposal for $3,600.00 to do additional testing.  It was at this point that it was clear to Curren Environmental that the property owner did not have to do anything and was being taken advantage of.

The property owner hired a removal company without doing the proper research and inturn getting taken advantage of - these are the mistakes the owner made:

  • Owner went with cheapest price, which is really getting what you paid for. When you compared the quotes there was a difference between the hired company’s cost and the next one.  We often see these low cost quotes try to make up the difference by selling additional services that are not typically warranted.  Keep in mind a tank removal is perhaps a once in a life time decision.
  • The tank removal contract had no reference of taking any soil samples after removal, even though there was a chance the tank may have been found to be leaking.
  • Going back to item 2, there was no explanation regarding if testing was performed what would constitute a good or bad results. Results of Non Detect (ND) requires no further testing. 
  • The contract did not include any report. If you were buying a property that had a tank removed, wouldn’t you want a report about the removal?

In this case, the soil test was clean and the tank company said more testing was required, the owner was confused as to why more testing was necessary.  Curren thought it possible that a case number was obtained due to a hole in the tank, which may not have discharged any oil as the hole may have not fully appeared until AFTER removal from the ground.  It is confusing that if the tank leaked that your soil sample is clean. 

We asked the owner to question the need for further testing, their response was as follows:

Unfortunately NJDEP regulations state that if there are holes in a tank then a case number is required.  Even if contamination is not found in the ground, the potential for contamination is cause for a case number. 

Soil samples for closure are required to be collected by a NJDEP licensed subsurface evaluator.  Once the samples are collected and returned from the laboratory, a report can be generated to close out the case number. 

We cannot provide any letter stating there is no contamination or closeout the case with NJDEP without the required samples that must be collected by a NJDEP subsurface evaluator.

The only time sampling is not required is if the tank passed inspection and was not considered a leaking tank. 

Have an Environmental Issue? 

Their response is misleading.  Yes a hole in a tank can be cause to report a spill, but if you acquire a soil sample and it is clean, you have proven that the hole did not create a discharge to the environment.  The NJDEP can be contacted and explained to that the spill reported was in error.   This is what was ultimately done with Curren’s assistance and no further monies were spent.

Curren explained that no testing is required by law for a tank removal and the contract clearly does not include any contingency for sampling the tank excavation after removal and what the results would mean.    Testing is important to prove the tank did not leak and should have been included as an option in the quote, it was not.

Tags: tank removal

What is the NJDEP LSRP Program?

Posted by David C Sulock on Jan 17, 2017 8:52:00 AM

In 2009, the New Jersey Legislature in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) enacted the Site Remediation Reform Act, which was designed to expedite and better manage contaminated sites in New Jersey.  In essence, the NJDEP privatized the management and environmental cleanup of commercial contaminated properties in New Jersey.    Previously the NJDEP would take a more active or inactive role in the management of these sites depending on how you defined managed.  The new regulations require owners of contaminated sites (responsible party) to retain a LSRP (licensed site remediation professional) to direct said owner in following the applicable NJDEP regulations.  There are steep fines for owners that do not follow these regulations and these fines are meant to ensure compliance.  To establish timely compliance, the NJDEP also has timeframe deadlines for when specific tasks must be completed, such as defining the extent of a plume -  both on and off site, if and when applicable.  Additional incentive for property owners to remediate a property relates to annual fees the NJDEP imposes on owners of the contaminated site. The theory being if you are being charged for owning a contaminated site you will be motivated to remediate and thus remove those fees.

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Licensed site remediation professionals" (LSRPs), are private sector professionals authorized to act instead of the NJDEP to evaluate contamination and supervise asd well as approve remediation efforts at industrial/commercial sites. LSRPS’s have education and experience requirements as well as having to pass a proficiency exam and complete on going continuing education relative to environmental regulations.  In short, the LSRPs do what the NJDEP formerly did, and in theory do it more efficiently and expeditiously. At the conclusion of a cleanup, LSRPs issue the site an approval called a "response action outcome" (RAO).  RAO’s, say that the site is in compliance with environmental regulations.  RAO's, replaces what the NJDEP historically had provided for sites, which was an NFA or "No Further Action".  NFA’s while still provided for residential sites, were formerly issued by the NJDEP under the prior system on commercial sites. Commercial sites no longer receive an NFA under these regulations

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The NJDEP still has oversight over LSRP’s, although somewhat limited as the regulations allow the LSRP’s to use professional judgement. The LSRP program has both fans and critics.   There are federal and state environmental regulations in the United States, but of all the states only two have an LSRP program (Massachusetts and New Jersey).   Bottom line, if you have interests in commercial property in New Jersey and that is contaminated, you will be retaining an LSRP.

Have an Environmental Issue? 

Tags: LSRP

10 Things You Need to Know About Black Mold

Posted by David C Sulock on Jan 12, 2017 10:09:00 AM

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  1. Black Mold is one of the most misused words when referring to mold.
  2. Black Mold is a term made up by the media.
  3. There is no mold that has the scientific name Black Mold. In all the thousands of types of molds present in our environment, there is no mold called Black Mold
  4. Molds have difficult names to pronounce like Cladosporium, Basidiospores, Chaetomium, and Periconia. Having a mold named Black Mold would make things too simple. 
  5. The term Black Mold is misinformation, a term that is meant to confuse and scare you. You will see the "Black Mold"  most often utilized by someone in the mold industry.   These simplistic references to Black Mold as an actual type of mold clearly shows that the individual is not familiar with mold... at all. 
  6. You cannot identify mold by color.
  7. The color of mold has no correlation to how it will affect someone. (black,brown, yellow, orange, greent...etc.)
  8. If you are told you have "Black Mold" you are being told a lie. 
  9. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) does not recognize the term Black Mold.
  10. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) does not recognize the term Black Mold.

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Questions About Mold?


 



 

Tags: mold

Prevent Mold In Your Bathroom...

Posted by David C Sulock on Sep 30, 2016 9:37:00 AM

How do you prevent Mold in your bathroom? Well – there are many different ways to prevent mold from growing in your bathroom, first and foremost you must control moisture. 

How do you prevent moisture?  You must have a working bathroom exhaust fan that helps reduce moisture.  If you have a fan already in your bathroom a good way to test if it is powerful enough to extract moist air is to take a paper towel and hold it up to the fan while it is on.  If the fan can hold the paper towel it is most likely strong enough to extract the moist air generated in the space. If the paper towel falls to the floor it is time to get a new fan.  You can buy a good working fan from either Home Depot or Lowes.  The fan should not be vented inside the dwelling, such as discharging to the attic or be closed off in the ceiling.  The fan should have a direct line to the outside. If the fan does not have a direct line outside, than moisture is collecting somewhere else in your house where mold may be occurring.

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Does your exhaust fan automatically turn on when you turn your lights on in the bathroom?  If not, you should get in the habit of turning it on when they turn the lights on. If the exhaust fan is not turned on during the shower or bath then the condensation will sit on your walls and ceiling causing moisture build up and then turning to mold.

You can always open a window as well – this will bring in fresh air into the bathroom and allow for the condensation to travel outdoors.

Mold prevention is water prevention.  Don’t let condensation happen in your bathroom – this leads to mold.  Once mold spores grow they can grow on everything in your bathroom – this could be your towels, curtains, ceilings and walls.  If you do decide to remove the mold – remember dead spores still can affect you.  You may not see the mold growing but mold spores can be everywhere including the air.

Don’t let mold grow in your bathroom prevent it. For more information on Mold please contact our office at 888-301-1050 or email us at info@CurrenEnvironmental.com

Tags: mold

Do you have “Black Mold”?

Posted by David C Sulock on Sep 20, 2016 1:20:22 PM

If someone says “Black Mold” or even asks “Is that black mold?” I cringe.  In today’s society, people are deathly afraid of black mold and what it will do to you.  I even see my industry peers (I use peers rather lightly) tell people about the “Black Mold”.  The fact is there is no mold that is called black mold. Yes, that is correct - no mold called black mold.   I have seen countless laboratory reports where mold testing was performed and nowhere is there a mold called black mold on that laboratory analytical report.  Most molds have very difficult names to spell and pronounce such as Alternaria, Penecillium/Aspergillus, Chaetomium, Basidiospores, Ulocladium and Smuts (OK, Smuts is an easy one to pronounce).   The term Black Mold originated from the media to create hype for mold issues and scare the public.   In the mold industry, the term is used by nonprofessionals to scare and misinform people.   I say this is as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control, EPA (Environmental Protection Agency ) and laboratories that test for mold do not recognize any mold referred to as black mold.

Why should you NOT be afraid of black mold?  Because black mold is not a type of mold, black mold is a color of mold and there are many different molds that are white, grey and black, but there is not a specific type of mold called black mold.   The term black mold should scare you, because if a mold company representative tells you that you have black mold, well then the next thing they are going to tell you or I mean sell you is a bridge (kidding). What they will sell you is a mold remediation that may or may not be warranted.   Let’s face it if you see mold you have mold, if you smell musty odors (the odor is mold growing and off gassing) you have mold and need remediation (remediation = Removal).  When people try and scare you with fictitious molds, well then they are playing off fear and trying to steer you toward an emotional decision rather than a well thought out decision.

Look at the facts if you have mold, it has been growing for some time, weeks, months years. When the temperature and moisture conditions are right, mold grows.   Mold needs a 48 to 72 hour incubation period to grow, meaning if you get something wet and dry it out fast, no mold will grow. Mold doesn’t grow everyday but when the conditions are right mold will grow and when the conditions are not conducive mold goes dormant like grass in winter.

Now back to “I have mold” because you see it and it is everywhere and were told it is black mold. It was in your crawl space so you think you get a pass because you’re a clean person and don’t go into the crawl space because it is not clean in there.  Now that you have looked in there you can see mold growth and it looks bad and you are told it is the worst they have seen.  Then you are told you have an emergency mold remediation.  Seriously, I am not making this stuff up, these are actual comments people say to us, who met with so-called mold professionals.  First, you have mold, next is why do you have mold? You need to find the water source, as mold doesn’t grow without water, fix the water problem BEFORE you remediate otherwise the mold can grow back.   Emergency and mold really shouldn’t be in the same sentence because mold takes as long to grow as does getting your “Honey Do List” completed.   In situations where the mold firm pushing alarm buttons, step back, you need to call another company to assess your mold issue, because the company in this scenario is not providing a competent consultation.  I like decisions based on facts not scare tactics.

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When should you get a second opinion about Mold?

  1. When you are told you have black mold.
  2. When you are told your mold is the worst they have ever seen.
  3. When you are told that the mold is an emergency.
  4. The firm you are dealing with does 24 hour mold removal emergency service.
  5. When you feel like who you are dealing with may not be 100% honest.

Mold can be alarming, the presence of mold points to a moisture issue, which can lead to having to repair what is causing the water problem such as roof, plumbing leak or gutters.  The water and mold problem can also mean that you have to replace water (mold damaged) building materials such as wall studs, sheetrock, etc.   So yeah, mold can be scary to your wallet.  Mold also has a variety of health concerns that affect people differently and some people not at all.  Remember some people have peanut allergies, gluten issues, allergies to cats and some mold. 

What should you do if you have mold?

  1. Find the water issue and correct it. Stopping water stops mold growth.
  2. Speak with a mold professionals (they are rare) about how to correct the issue.
  3. Remember mold remediation is not the killing of mold as dead mold spores can affect you. Mold remediation is the removal of mold.
  4. Hire a firm that you feel has the competence to address your mold issue.  Mold remediation costs vary widely or should I say wildly.  Remediation costs should be tied to equipment as well as labor and material utilized to remediate your problem.  Most every mold remediation will entail applying a fungicidal encapsulate (expensive paint that prevents future mold growth) that is applied to remaining organic surfaces.  This encapsulate can kill any spores that remain and treats the surface to prevent future growth.  We find that while people may fix one water issue that caused the mold, there may be a second or third source that is not as obvious.  These coatings provide a safety net to prevent mold growth in the future.  The better ones cost more but come with 10 year warranties. 
  5. Warranties from mold companies are useless as companies come and go.  Warranties from mold coating firms are priceless.

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Now you know that “Black Mold” is not type of mold and Mold issues are typically not an emergency. When you are told, you have black mold and it is an emergency you know you need to find another firm. Thank them and find someone reputable. Stay away from firms that do not have a physical address (PO Box means no), firms that work out of their homes are also questionable as mold remediation is physical labor-intensive work. Home based firms typically subcontract the work, which adds needless expense.

 

Tags: mold

Due Diligence & Executors of Homes with Oil Tanks

Posted by David C Sulock on Aug 31, 2016 2:30:54 PM

A gentleman contacted Curren Environmental regarding a house of his deceased in-laws.  His wife is the executor of the estate and lives local to the property.  Her parents who recently passed away, purchased their home only 2 years ago, moving from their previous home where they lived for over 50 years. Now, her parents’ home needs to be sold.  With all estates, you have the executor who is burdened with managing all the affairs, payment of bills and disbursement of assets with typically the home being the largest and most difficult assist to deal with.  Now, you also have the relatives and typically the beneficiaries of the estate that don’t do much but complain about how slow the executor is in disbursing the monies.  The heirs or as some people say THEIRS, want their share pronto (mourning is over) and they are impatient and do not understand what the delay is when disbursing the monies Mom and Dad left for them.  This is an extremely common scenario particularly when the average time it takes to settle an estate is one year.

This photos shows a more serios tank leak where the oil leaked deeper into the water table.  The seller would not allow the buyer to do any testing before purchase.

leaking oil tank cost

Being an executor of an estate is a difficult, thankless job as I just tried to explain.  Being the executor of an estate with an oil tank is an even bigger headache.  In our scenario the last asset to manage is the home sale and failure comes quick.  The home we are discussing was as I stated just purchased 2 years ago and is in good shape as the parents had a home inspection and prior owners addressed the short laundry list of items the home inspector found, so the sale by all the heirs accounts should be fast and smooth, right?   Yes and no, the house found a buyer that loved the house, neighborhood and price.  House was being sold as is and the buyers were ok with that.  Problem was the house was of the era when oil heat was likely used (home is on natural gas) and the buyers wanted a tank scan.  The Executor didn’t even know what a tank scan was and was informed by their attorney that if a tank was found, they would have to disclose it to future buyers in the event the deal went south. 

The heirs to the estate (brother & sister) lived in Florida, where oil tank problems are like unicorns and were completely baffled as to why this type of inspection would be necessary.   Now the internet is a vast trove of information where you can learn then become quite confused.  The executor googled Oil Tank Leak New Jersey and saw some alarming (scary) web pages, so they denied the prospective home buyers the rights to perform a tank scan.  (buyers were just out of their inspection period, so it was within the rights of the owner to deny the inspection).  So the deal died and the executor and heirs were anxious for the next buyer. 

The estate found another buyer and in the contract removed the right to do any tank sweeps and provided a statement that they were unaware of any oil tanks.  Again this buyer fell through, upon the advice of their realtor and attorney who both knew the risk of an oil tank (expensive to cleanup oil tank leaks and whoever owns the property owns the problem) and they canceled their offer to purchase.  Now the house sat, realtors talk as do neighbors, word on the street the property had an oil tank problem that the owners would not address.  You see realtors talk about what deals are happening and why deals fall apart, neighbors also are aware when a house gets a for sale sign, an under contract sign and then gets a for sale sign again

In this situation the husband of the executor contacted our office and relayed the story you were just told.  He wanted to know if he could inspect the dwelling for an oil tank so that he would know if there was an oil tank.  He didn’t want a report of a tank scan, he just wanted to know one way or another so they could settle this issue.  (the brother in Florida was getting real impatient and couldn’t understand the holdup)  What was Curren Environmental’s advice?

  1. It was ill-advised to deny the buyer the option of performing a tank scan, it made the owner look like they were hiding something. We asked how would you feel if you were denied an inspection for a property you were buying?
  2. Even though the sale was As Is, oil tanks don’t fall into As Is sales as you can’t walk a site and determine the expense involved with cleaning up an oil tank, that can cost thousands of dollars to just diagnosis the problem. It is far easier to get contractors to walk a property and provide rough budgets for roof repair, bathroom remodel, kitchen updating, tank issues cannot be evaluated so easily - unless you have X-ray vision.  Bottom line, the tank scan should have been performed.
  3. The question to our office regarding what indications would indicate the presence of an oil tank was a red flag, it typically means that the person wants to hide this evidence. WE indicated that they should stop going in the direction of looking for evidence of a tank, you see we were already in agreement that the age of the home (Pre 1985) was a sign that the house may have had oil heat.  In fact this house was built in 1920, and no doubt had coal heat, which was converted to oil heat after WWII and then ultimately natural gas.
  4. If the sellers stayed on the course they were on (denying an oil tank sweep), they may find a buyer, that may buy the house and an oil tank may be found in the future (possible during the next transaction or by a home improvement, or neighbor talking about how the neighborhood had oil heat and their house has a buried oil tank). Now at this point where an owner finds an oil tank, old owners typically get sued.  The problems with estates and oil tanks are by this time, the estate is dissolved and monies are disbursed, so the parties getting sued are the heirs to the estate.
  5. The best course of action is to allow the oil tank inspection, if no tank is found no harm no foul. If a tank is found, be aware of what many tank removal companies will not tell you,  (1) not all tanks leak, (2) not all tanks that leak require remediation and (3)  oil tank that leaks that are so costly and detailed in the scary Google search of Oil Tank Leaks, are rare, but that is what people see when they research oil tanks.
  6. Better to perform a tank scan, if an oil tank is found, remove the oil tank.  This is preferable to hiding any tank issue and than be sued afterwards. Bottom line, you can’t go stick the oil tank problem on the next person, it is unethical and immoral and the buyer will find  an attorney that will sue you.  Let’s say your property has an oil tank and you have to spend money to remove and remediate, well whatever that cost is $5,000.00 or $8,000.00 or whatever amount, that is a cost the estate must bear.  Whatever the estate is worth, it is worth that amount less whatever the cost of the tank issue is, If there even was an oil tank.

What to know the ending of this story, what happen to the estate?   Did the siblings in Florida get help?  Did the first buyer come back to buy the house after doing a tank scan?   Call our office to find out at 856-858-9509 or email us at info@CurrenEnvironmental.com. Curren offers a free consultation to address your oil tank questions; we know you have one because you just read our story. (Check out this story from an Estate in CA)

 

Tags: oil tank removal nj

Tank Removal  How to hire a company to remove an oil tank.

Posted by David C Sulock on Aug 17, 2016 3:42:47 PM

Oil Tank Removal New Jersey, how do I choose an Oil Tank Removal Company?

 

“I want to remove my oil tank, and I see a lot of concerning information on the internet regarding oil tank removal.”  We hear that a lot, removing an oil tank is an activity that only a small percentage of the population will have to deal with and of that small percentage, it will be a once in a lifetime occurrence.  Anything that must be done once must be done right, the same holds true for removing oil tanks.  

So you want to remove an oil tank?  Looking for the best oil tank removal company?  There are many companies that offer tank removal services, some better than others, some cost less, some hold no certifications and then there are those that just want your hard earned money, meaning they want to tell you that you have a problem and must remediate.

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What do you need to consider when deciding to remove an oil tank?

Any company removing oil tanks today should be in business at least 10 years and have a place of business, not operating out of the comfort of their own home. The reason for an office is the company should have their own equipment and labor.  Google the address of the said company and if it is a residential home, than that company probably subcontracts the work which means you wind up paying more in the end. Move onto the next company in your google research.  Business’s that have not been doing tank removal for long probably have entered the business from another type of work such as exterminating or excavating, neither is an environmental professional business.  You want an environmental professional to manage your oil tank removal.  We see more and more business’s starting up and trying to do tank removals, we see many complaints from people who have engaged these firms.

In today’s technological age, most tank removal projects can be assessed without an on-site visit.  Before the internet, site visits were mandatory and today only a few situations occur where a site visit takes place, when tanks are under decks or structures, but the majority of tanks are easily accessible. Remember someone had to dig a hole to bury the underground tank originally and if your house was built before 1945, the tank was installed after WWII, when the house converted from coal to oil. While lack of a site visit may concern you or you may want someone to come see your property, in realty your tank removal is not much different than any other.  The more experienced companies have been doing tank removal for years (at least over 10), so your particular scenario has been done more than once.  In addition, the person visiting your site is most likely a salesperson, a person you do not want to deal with when making a once in a lifetime decision, such as a tank removal.

 

When hiring a Company to remove your tank what information should you expect to have ready?

Keep in mind good companies want more information so they can make the best decision for you. The information needed or requested can include the following:

  1. Size of tank.
  2. Age of tank.
  3. When was the tank last used?
  4. Quantity of liquid in the tank (if known).
  5. Where the tank is on the property (underground is not the appropriate answer).  Correct answer is under grass right front corner of house, ect.
  6. Reason for tank removal.  The reason this is important is if you are removing the tank due to a real estate transaction, the company should be aware since you want to expedite the process as possible.

Ok, so you have supplied the company with your tank information, what should you expect back from them?  What should an oil tank removal contract include? 

  1. Written contract of the tank removal with line items detailing what is included and what is not.  Yes - many tanks are removed without a contract and issues arise over he said she said.  Regarding what is included in the tank removal cost, often times permit fees and liquid disposal are additional charges as they vary from site to site and town to town, you only want to pay your required share.
  2. A detailed explanation of what tank closure report you will be receiving.  Cannot stress enough how important this is as the documentation you receive after tank removal is what a buyer of your property is going to want to see to feel confident that your oil tank is not an issue.  All you need to do is google “oil tank leak” and you will see what buyers see and it is alarming.  Remember, reports do not write themselves, someone competent has to be on site for the tank removal to document your specific project details and relate that into a report, including detail of work, photos and a professional opinion why the tank did or did not leak.  From 20 years of tank removals, Curren sees one page homemade tank certifications that provide very little in detail regarding the tank work, certainly not enough to satisfy a buyer or a buyer’s attorney.
  3. The most important thing to look for in removal of an oil tank is an explanation of how the company will assess for leaks and the cost for soil sampling.  We see an alarming number of quotes to remove oil tanks that make no reference to soil testing after tank removal or why it is important. We see contracts that state the cost is based on the “tank not leaking”.  Well, let us agree we do not want our oil tank to leak, but what if it does? It’s a good idea to explain what would happen if the oil tank leaks   If you want to believe that your 50 year old oil tank will last forever, think again. Does your roof last 50 years or your appliances? These types of wear items need to be replaced after a certain amount of years. Your tank will not last forever.  Knowledge pertaining to the oil tank process including if the tank leaks is paramount if you want to make a good decision.  To be clear the oil tank removal contract should include costs to test the soil after tank removal and provide a clear explanation of what the results will mean.
  1. Tank removal soil testing is not required by law, but it will be requested by the buyer of your house so why not test?  If you were buying a house with are removed oil tank, we would want you to have the testing data and a report from the tank removal company that the tank is in compliance with the environmental regulations.  Why would someone buying your house not want the same?

 

Why is Soil Sampling after oil tank removal important?

 

  1. All oil tanks do not leak but testing is imperative to know 100% that there is no leakage.   Let us agree a doctor cannot tell your cholesterol level without testing, so how can you tell if your tank did not leak without testing?  More important how do you know if your tank leak requires remediation without testing?  Answer is you don’t. If the tank removal company says they just know you need remediation based on looking at the tank and the soil, they are most likely selling you a bill of good.
  2. Every State has a permissible level of petroleum that can be left in the ground.  Simply put, not every tank that leaks requires remediation.  How do you know if you need remediation from an oil tank leak? You must test the soil at time of removal.  Do not spend a dime for remediation, no matter what the tank removal company says, UNLESS you have lab data and a written explanation from the removal company explaining why remediation is required.  I say this because we get calls and review lab data from people who had a tank removed and a large percentage of the tame the soil does not require remediation,
  3. No one has x-ray vision or the ability to tell concentrations of oil in soil by looking at it or by using a vapor meter, (vapor meters or Photoionization detectors can only detect presence or absence of aromatics such as oil or perfume).  If your oil tank company says your tank excavation has high vapor readings, ask them to check your person after you apply perfume or cologne, guarantee the meter would find you contaminated as well, but you do not need remediation.  My point circles back to the need for soil sample laboratory analysis.

Our office gets calls every day regarding someone who hired the wrong company to remove their oil tanks. What are the common oil tank removal complaints?

 

  1. My tank was removed, they saw holes in the tank the company made and I was reported to the state.
  2. My tank was removed Monday and on Wednesday I have an expensive quote to remediate?
  3. I was told my tank needs remediation but I did not see any contaminated soils or smell anything?

Oil Tank removal facts.

  1. Not every oil tank leaks.
  2. Not every oil tank that leaks requires remediation.
  3. No one can tell you accurately that your leaks require remediation without testing.
  4. Removing an oil tank is considered remediation.
  5. Budget tank removal meaning lowest cost invariable boomerang to proposed cost to remediate which typically cost 5 to 10 times the cost of tank removal.
  6. If you feel like you are not getting accurate information from the oil tank removal company, you probable are not, get a second opinion.

Did my Oil Tank Leak?

Posted by David C Sulock on Jul 6, 2016 1:14:53 PM

Did my Oil Tank Leak?

Our office gets phone call everyday with just that question.  Did my oil tank leak?  These calls typically come from property owners who hired a company to remove a tank and on the day the tank is actually removed, the owner is now informed that the tank leaked and expensive remediation is required.   Some people even get a proposal on the same day or within a few days of tank removal for remediation.

A few things about human nature, when we are presented with a problem and more so when the problem can be expensive to solve, we want to know how to fix it and the cost.  Bottom line as humans we fear the unknown for the most part.  Pertaining to oil tanks, when we are told our tank leaked, our first response is what will it take to clean up the tank problem?  The answer is directly tied to important questions that 90% of the time is not known on the day of tank removal.

The question is two-fold.  First, did my tank leak and two is remediation is required?  To be clear, most environmental regulations consider evidence of a release as holes in a tank after removal, visible oil in the tank grave and soils in the excavation that exhibit olfactory (smell) indications of the presence of petroleum.  All three or any one of these is an indication that the tank leaked SOME oil.   With the exception of visible oil in the ground, holes in a tank or the smell of oil in the soils in a tank grave are not indications that remediation is mandatory. Not even a field meter that can detect Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) can determine if remediation is warranted during tank removal.    Why is that the case?  Well it is relative to the fact that there are standards for petroleum in soils.  These standards are based on EPA approved testing methods, meaning certified laboratory analysis.  The way you actually test soil is to acquire samples of soil and submit said samples to a State certified laboratory for analysis.  These laboratory sample results are then compared to applicable state mandated soil standards.  Testing normally takes about a week to complete on average.

The point being unless you have laboratory data defining the petroleum levels in the soils, you do not know if remediation is necessary.

Often time’s people assess oil tanks pertaining to liability incorrectly.   People perceive the presence of an oil tank as a liability, but when it is removed or filled in place, they believe it is a non-issue.   Oil tanks represent an environmental and financial liability for a property, because when tanks leak there is an expense involved to assess the leak and in certain situations the need to remediate.  The costs to remediate can easily run into the thousands of dollars.  The real concern is if the tank leaked, not if my property has or had an oil tank.  How do you answer if a tank leaked? This is answered by testing the soil below the tank by independent laboratory analysis with a written narrative of the tank work and an interpretation of lab testing results.   Just as you cannot ascertain a cholesterol level without testing nor can you determine if an oil tank has leaked without proper evaluation and testing.

Nobody wakes up and says I want to make bad decisions today, but it happens.  What increases your chances of making a bad decision is deciding on something where you have no prior expertise and the decision is a once in a lifetime decision.  A good example of a situation where you can make a bad decision is removing an oil tank. In making a decision regarding whom to hire to manage your tank project, consider the following pitfalls:

Tank Removal Red Flags

  1. Tank removal contract that assumes the tank is not leaking and provides no information regarding if the tank does leak. Let us agree any buried steel vessel will rust and eventually leak, it is a scientific fact that rust never sleeps.
  2. Tank removal contract that does not include soil sample acquisition and analysis and what the laboratory results will mean. If you were buying a house where an oil tank was removed, we would want you to have a report of the tank removal and soil test results, otherwise how do you 100% if the tank did not leak?
  3. A tank removal contact that does not specifically state that a report of the tank removal is included. To be fair, you are removing the tank to remove issues with the tank.  Wouldn’t a report of the tank removal be important to show a potential buyer?
  4. Being told that any tank leaks would be addressed on the day of removal, with no other explanation as to how? This is called hand stamping and is too vague.  This often leads to your back being against a wall and staring at an expensive contract to remediate.
  5. The vapor meter can tell us if the soil is good or bad during removal. Well the meter does tell you presence or absence, but there are no standards for field reading with a vapor meter.  Incidentally if you put perfume or cologne on and the meter was placed near your skin where the fragrance was applied the meter would light up with beeps and flashing lights.  However, they did not tell you that, oh and by the way you are not contaminated if that happens, just fragrant.
  6. On the day of removal, evidence of a leak is noted and you are told that soil sampling is not necessary. This happens so often and is so wrong.  That is absolutely the wrong advice; this is when soil sampling is most important.  Why, because for a couple hundred dollars soil samples can be acquired and you will know if remediation is necessary.  The plus side for you is you can manage a tank leak very cheaply; the bad side for the environmental company is that they cannot run up a big bill for work that is not needed. 
  7. You are told on the day of tank removal that remediation is required. How does the company know?   They just know, experience x-ray vision, some skill set a normal person does not possess.   Outside of oozing oil in the ground, the company does not know 100%.  Can your doctor predict cancer or heart issues from a visual assessment?   Can you look someone and know his or her cholesterol level?   If the company does not have laboratory testing completed, you will never know for sure.

These seven pitfalls should be avoided at all costs as you taking a path where you will be unpleasantly surprised.  All you need to do is google Oil tank Leak and you will be taken to some alarming web pages that extoll the problems and expensive of managing an oil tank leak.

So what do you do when you are told your oil tank leaked?

First, you ensure soil samples are acquired, two for tanks up to 550 gallons and three soil samples for tanks up to 1000 gallons.  The sample data is the only way to know if your petroleum levels in soil demand remediation.

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Many firms will tell you that from experience and their observation they know that the tank leaked and you must remediate.  This is not correct without lab data.   However, let me flip the coin over; let us say that your tank removal company is moral and ethical and they take soil samples after the tank is removed.  These soil samples were acquired at say 6’ deep, as that was the bottom burial depth of the tank.   These samples are proven to have petroleum levels above State allowable limits, because of this you are presented with a cost to remediate.  What is this cost based on, well data from 6’ deep, because that is where the soil samples are from.  So how does the company know from just one sample location at 6’ how much soil they have to dig up?  The answer is they do not, the cost is a guess.  Oil spreads and is driven by gravity and rain to spread both horizontally and vertically.  Hey every spill a glass of liquid?  Liquid runs all over the place, may even favor a particular direction due to slope or direction of where the cup fell over.  My point being, how far oil has spread is unpredictable without doing further testing both deeper than where the tank was located as well as surrounding the area the area is unknown.  Every hire a contractor to give you a price for home improvement, maybe painting, kitchen or bathroom remodel.  This required a site visit to visually assess the situation.  Even then unknowns can pop up once walls start coming down.   Well after over 20 years in the environmental industry I cannot just look at the ground and determine the severity of the situation, nor can anyone else for that matter. 

The process of defining the extent of a tank leak is called delineation.  It is not unlike when someone is diagnosed with cancer.  Testing is done to define where the cancer has spread to so the doctor can apply the best method to treat the cancer.  Let us face it you would not jump into surgery without further testing or second opinions. Nor should you rely on a cost to remediate where the area is undefined.  You typically need five or more soil samples both deeper than the burial depth of the tank as well as around the tank grave to define an area, the number can actually increase if the leak is significant.

But hey this is just science, you have been told you have a tank leak and want a cost to remedy the situation.  But is the remedy appropriate?   Has the area been defined?  Is the company just trying to make more money? Still have questions?

We offer a free consultation to discuss your situation to make sure you are making the best decision possible.  888-301-1050

.Tank Leak Help