Curren Environmental Blog

David C Sulock

Recent Posts

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.

 IMG_2105.jpg

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.

 oil_tank_leak_nj.jpg

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

How do I choose a Mold Remediation Company?

Posted by David C Sulock on Apr 26, 2016 9:00:00 AM

No one wakes up and says "I want to make a bad decision", but it sometimes it happens. Bad decisions are made when you have a topic that you have no prior experience with, for example, mold remediation. 

Below are issues that could or have occured with mold testing and mold remediation companies: 

  1. Do they have an office or do they work out of a house? Generally companies that work out of a home or have a PO Box number as opposed to a commercial address are smaller, less capable and  subcontract equipment and labor to complete a job.  These companies tend to close up shop after a few years.  We see it time and time again.
  2. Ifa company says "This is an emergency mold situation and has to be completed ASAP (including a weekend)", it is a false statment. Mold doesn’t grow overnight, it takes time, weeks, months and often years to develop to a point that the mold problem even becomes visual.  Rush scheduling often is meant to lock you into getting the job done.  Trust me you can wait a few days to assess all your options.
  3. Franchise companies have large overhead every month and this is reflected in their pricing. From interviewing past and former employees of these firms, we have established a pretty solid line of evidence that their training and expertise is lacking.   If a mold remediator can’t tell me how to remediate mold and they have been doing it for over a year, there is a problem with the company providing the service.
  4. Mold companies that also do building trade services such as sheetrock and remodeling. These firms have a vested interest in removing more building materials they can be paid to replace what is removed.  Fox guarding the henhouse.
  5. Any mold company that says THIS IS THE WORST I HAVE EVER SEEN, is most definitely wrong. How could your problem be that bad? Could your air tests be so highly concentrated with mold spores that it is the worst ever or even one of the worst?  Probably not, but if these companies get you thinking  it is, it would scare you to act.  We have seen many mildly impacted mold sites and some really bad ones.  When studying about mold you get trained on sites where occupants moved out and houses had to be demolished, THOSE are the worst sites not yours.  If it sounds like someone is trying to scare you, they probably are.
  6. The worst mold companies are the ones that test for mold and provide no narrative regarding how they tested, where and what the results mean. They give you test results, saying the laboratory said that the levels are “X” amount and that means they are high.    Unless the lab came to your property, they have no idea.  The lab only knows that the sample was marked for this address and the levels found are what they saw in the sample, nothing more.  The mold testing company needs to say they saw 2000 sq. ft. of mold or it was 2 sq. ft. and they sampled the worst area and YES they expected the results to be really high.  We see this all the time and we expect that these firms base their samples to get inflated results to scare you.
  7. Lastly, they tell you they are certified. There are NO State or Federal Mold regulations or certifications.  In truth, there is no Federal or State license for mold remediation.  Only New York State has a certification and licensing program and that only started on January 1, 2016.  Every other state has no program, so if a company is pitching their license they are pitching you know what.

Mold Questions? Click HerePicMonkey_Collage.jpg

 

 

 

Tags: mold

Is there an Environmental Issue with your Inherited Property?

Posted by David C Sulock on Apr 13, 2016 1:29:00 PM

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 doesn’t sound good is if this inherited property has an underground oil tank and to top that, the oil tank leaked.  When you inherit a property, you may be inheriting years of hassles, aggravation lawsuits and a financial abyss. How can you get around this? 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.

What should you do before inheriting the property?

You need to understand that you are not required to accept the inheritance.  You have a choice to either disclaim it or renounce it.  Even if you are bequeathed multiple separate items, such as cash and jewelry, you can accept and not the other.  With a property, you can’t take only a part of piece of property and reject the remainder.  It is very important that you assess the property for environmental issues and discuss with your attorney your options when dealing with an inherited property. It happened recently in Califormia, a large property was inherited and found contaminated, to read the full story click here. 

Hire an Attorney and Environmental Consultant.

When inheriting a property, residential or commercial, you should consult with an attorney.  The attorney should be in environmental law and explain that Due Diligence is necessary to assess the property prior to acquisition.  If there is any chance that your inherited property may be polluted, or there is an underground oil tank, 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 consider a Phase I, for more information on Phase I click here.

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 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.

Inherited_property.jpg

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. 

Based on testing and findings, and advisement from your attorney, it is your choice to accept the inherited property, but remember, there is always a price when dealing with any type of environmental remediation.

Tags: Inherited Property

Why Perform a Phase I Environmental Assessment Review?

Posted by David C Sulock on Apr 8, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Who Requires A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)?

Phase_I.jpg Phase_1.1.jpg

Who Requires A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)?

Traditionally, a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) was contracted by the bank or lending institution on properties where financing was being arranged.  The Phase I was primarily performed for the protection of the banks, who were concerned that if they loaned money for a contaminated property they may be held liable for the site cleanup.   This belief was incorrect as banks have liability protection on loans.   Today, many banks with loans under a million dollars and borrowers supplying a down payment do not require a Phase I.  This has been an industry shift over the past several years as banks have come to understand where their limit of liability stands.    The real liability is financially for the bank, as they are concerned that the cost of environmental work can hinder the borrower from paying the mortgage and defaulting.  Leaving the bank to own the asset.   Banks want to loan money and receive mortgage payments not foreclose on bad loans.

What is included in a Phase I?

The Phase I is a property assessment that includes a walkover of the property and associated structures; a review of historic property information including maps, aerial photographs, deeds, telephone or address directories, etc.; a review of contaminated properties in the vicinity of the subject property; a summary of knowledgeable party information and review of prior reports; and the review of local, State and Federal files pertaining to the property address.

Items evaluated in the Phase I report include tanks, drains, pits, spills, in-ground and aboveground equipment, petroleum and chemical use, and environmental liens.

The Phase I report is typically research only.  Unless otherwise specified as part of the scope of work, testing or surveys are outside of the typical Phase I requirements. For more information on Phase I click here. 

Why complete a Phase I if my bank does not require one?

Although many banks are not requiring a Phase I on some commercial loans (under a million or low risk), the environmental regulations leave the burden of environmental responsibility on the property owner.  Performing a Phase I, allows a purchaser to complete the necessary due diligence.  This due diligence enables a purchaser to obtain prior to taking possession of a property.  Buyer beware is relevant now more than ever in commercial real estate transactions.  If a property is purchased without a due diligence and future evaluation and subsequent environmental issues are found in association with the property, the property owner is now burdened with the cost of remediating the issue. The performance of a pre-purchase Phase I could alleviate the potential for finding environmental issues in the future and thereby holding up future transactions.  As a potential purchaser, the determination of environmental issues on a property could be used as leverage for the seller to remediate the concern prior to purchase or could be used to negotiate the property value pending the need for the potential purchaser to perform the cleanup.

Phase I, II, III Questions? Click Here

If I do not do a Phase I and buy a property how would I ever find out if there was an environmental problem with the site?

The most common way is when you go to sell and the potential buyer completes a Phase I and discovers an environmental Area of Concern (AOC).   Today the largest purchaser of Phase I’s is not the banks, but commercial real estate investors and owners (*transactions under $1,000,000.00).

I own a property, never had a Phase I and I am now thinking of selling the property.  Do property owners have Phase I’s performed?

One of the largest shifts in the commercial real estate market today is that many landowners are having a Phase I performed to root out environmental issues before they become an issue when a buyer is found.   An owner performed Phase I is viewed as both a marketing tool and an environmental property assessment that can help sellers anticipate issues with a property.  It can be akin to a homeowner having a home inspection completed to address issues that a purchaser might find during their inspection. 

If an environmental issue is found in a Phase I report on a property I am buying, can I still purchase the property?

If the issue is fully disclosed to the lender (if one is involved) and the buyer is willing to accept the liability and cost of addressing the issue, then yes you can buy the property.  However, the real question is should I address the issue before buying the property?

The investigation of potential issues found in the Phase I is typically addressed as part of a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment.

Tags: Phase I

What type of Light Bulb do I buy? Incandescent, CFL or LED?

Posted by David C Sulock on Mar 29, 2016 10:46:00 AM

What is Incandescent?

incandescent_light_bulb.jpg

The incandescent light bulb or lamp is a source of electric light that works by incandescence, which is the emission of light caused by heating the filament. They are made in an extremely wide range of sizes, wattages, and voltages. On January 1st, 2014, by a law passed by Congress in 2007, these bulbs can no longer be manufactured in the U.S. because they don’t meet federal energy efficiency standards. Many other countries have adopted the same type of law as well due the fact that other types (CFL, LED) are much more energy efficient.

What is CFL?

CFL_Light_bulb.jpg

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) are smaller versions of standard fluorescent lamps. They consume much less energy but provide light that is comparable to incandescent lights. Also, they can generally directly replace standard incandescent bulbs. Per the EPA, Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs will help you save money by using less energy, reducing the amount of light bulb changes and most importantly lowering the greenhouse gas emissions which inevitably will lead to climate change.  More information can be found one the EPA website. To find out more about costs, visit Home Depot.

What is LED?

LED_light_bulb.jpg

LED (Light emitting diodes) is a semiconductor devise that emits light when and electronic current is passed through it. A study found that over their lifetime LEDs cost $95 to operate compared to CFLs that cost $159 and incandescent bulbs that cost $652. LED bulbs are available in options that either emits a warm, soft glow or a cool, bright glow depending on your preference. Some types perform well outdoors even in cold temperatures. Dimmable options are also available. LEDs (light emitting diodes) use 75-80% less energy than incandescent light bulbs and last 50,000 hours helping you save energy and money. For more information on cost, check out Lowe’s for LED light bulbs.

Which light bulb should you use?  Until LED bulbs drop in price, most people will not realize savings if installed on all fixtures.  Generally speaking, lights that will remain on for an extended period of time (kitchen, family, hallway and dining areas) will benefit the most as they consume electricity for longer periods of time.  Closets, bathrooms, laundry rooms are areas where light is not constantly on and thus do not warrant energy efficient lighting.  As light bulb prices drop, as they have in recent years, it may be more economical to replace all lights with energy efficient lighting.  Your best bet is to choose an ENERGY STAR Certified Light Bulb.  These use 70% to 90% less energy than traditional incandescent light bulbs and can last 10 to even 25 times longer.  This can save you $30 to $80 over the lifetime of the light bulb.  How many times do you change your light bulbs – you do the math.

 

Tips to get your lawn green.

Posted by David C Sulock on Mar 15, 2016 10:00:00 AM

Green Lawn Tips

Green_lawn.jpg

Remember what your lawn looked like last year?  Good or bad lets get it green.  Here are a few tips to get started.

Americans spend over $6.4 Billion a year on lawn care, according to the Professional Lawn Care Association of America. Why not get started in the spring to ensure a beautiful green and healthy lawn.

Start out by checking the soil pH levels.  Winter can alter the soil pH and create conditions that are friendly to weeds and disease.  The soils pH should read between 6.5 and 7.0 which are slightly acidic. You can test your soils pH by purchasing a pH tester.  After the soil has been checked, invest in a rental aerator.  In high traffic areas grass becomes compacted.  The aerator will draw wine cork-sized plugs out of the lawn surface giving roots the room to spread and allow for air, nutrients and moisture to penetrate the soil.

Pro Tip 1

The soil cores should not be raked always, as they contain bacteria and nutrients that will return to the soil.

In the early spring, apply a pre-emergent weed control to prevent crabgrass.

 Pro Tip 2

½ the dosage of preemergent and reapply in 3 weeks to increase the treatment duration.  Try to get your immediate neighbors to do the same so you encompass a larger spread of weed control.  If your neighbor does not apply preemergent, weeds can grow and move to your yard.

During late spring fix any patchy places and apply your seed.  When seeding in the spring it is pertinent that you provide consistent watering to allow the seed to germinate

Pro Tip 3

Water twice a day for 7 to 10 days to allow the seed to germinate.

When watering, make sure one inch of water to 12 inches of soil is preferred ratio for watering actively growing grass.  You most likely will have to seed again in the fall months.

With the spring upon us, it is very important to prepare your lawn for the warmer, sunnier months ahead.  Having a nice, thick green lawn helps with excess rain, capturing the moisture so it does not end up in your house and produce mold. 

IDo you think you have mold in your home or dwelling?  Curren can answer your questions call now at 888-301-1050 or email at info@currenenvironmental.com

 

 

All Appropriate Inquiries Innocent Landowner Defense

Posted by David C Sulock on Feb 16, 2016 3:54:12 PM

 

Due Diligence and the Innocent Landowner Defense

 

The experienced and well informed know that due diligence is an important and common practice when purchasing real estate.  The advantage of due diligence and conversely not performing due diligence can best be compared to the saying "you break it, you buy it".  In real estate terms if you buy a property that has an environmental issue (broken) that you were not aware of prior to purchase, you own it and the issue is yours to pay for no matter the cost or value of the real estate.

For example a couple received an inheritance from a relative, the money's were substantial enough for the couple to realize a dream of buying and operating an automotive garage.  This dream was achieved by buying a garage cash from a fellow who was retiring.  They were able to buy the land and tools for approximately $100,000.00. (As a side note the lower the value of the property, the more risk there is that an environmental issue can be a large percentage of the property price. I say this as time and again prospective buyers defer a Phase I as the purchase price is low).   They used an attorney for the paperwork, but no bank was involved.  While the attorney advised of performing a Phase I, the buyers were not concerned and did not want to derail the deal for something they saw as a waste of time and money.   Couple buys property, run the garage for three years and then husband develops health concerns limiting physical activity such as working on cars.  Couple list property for sale, potential buyer finds property and decides to buy it.  Buyer goes to bank, as he is not able to pay cash as the current owner did.  Bank does phase I, finds issues leading to a phase II. Phase II finds oils in ground from garage operations. Buyer requires owner to remediate, owners say not their problem and are selling as is.  

Deal falls through, owner now paying money from retirement to cleanup the problem.  Buyer is gone, garage is closed and owners are spending 50% of what they paid to cleanup the site. 

Can the owners claim an innocent landowner defense?  

No, the innocent landowner defense is based upon a party purchasing a property and having no knowledge of contamination at time of purchase. A buyer must perform an all appropriate inquiries (AAI) prior to purchase to begin to have this defense.

 

What does an All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI) inquiry entail?

Completion of a Phase I ESA as per

  1. All Appropriate Inquiries

“All appropriate inquiries” refers to the process of evaluating a property’s environmental conditions and assessing potential liability for contamination either past or present.  This applies to any party seeking to assert protection from CERCLA liability as an innocent landowner, or a bona fide prospective purchaser, or a contiguous property owner. 

In 2002 Brownfields Amendments were set forth requiring the EPA to establish regulations establishing standards and practices for conducting all appropriate inquiries. These practices were meant to include research into the previous ownership and uses of a property necessary to qualify for certain landowner liability protections. 

November 1, 2005, the EPA published in the Federal Register its final rule entitled “Standards and Practices for All Appropriate Inquiries,” in which it declared that the American Society for Testing and Materials (“ASTM”) E1527-05 standard, entitled “Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process,” can be used to comply with the provisions of the rule.  The standards and practices constituting “all appropriate inquiries” are set forth in 40 C.F.R. Part 312.

 

Get answers to Phase I Questions

What is included in the All Appropriate Inquiries?

  1. Must be conducted or updated within one year of acquiring ownership of a property. 
  2. Interviews with past and present owners, operators, and occupants, the review of government records, visual site inspections, and searches for environmental cleanup liens, must be conducted or updated within 180 days prior to acquiring ownership of the property.
  3. An environmental professional must conduct or oversee the conduct of activities required by the all-appropriate inquiry rule. 
  4. The environmental professional must conduct the following inquiry activities:
  • Interviews with past and present owners, operators, and occupants of the facility for the purpose of gathering information regarding the potential for contamination at the facility;
  • Reviews of historical sources, such as chain of title documents, aerial photographs, building department records, and land use records, to determine previous uses and occupancies of the real property since the property was first developed;
  • Reviews of Federal, State, and local government records, waste disposal records, underground storage tank records, and hazardous waste handling, generation, treatment, disposal, and spill records, concerning contamination at or near the facility;
  • Walking inspections of the site and of adjoining properties;
  • Assessments of commonly known or reasonably ascertainable information about the property; and
  • Assessments of the degree of obviousness of the presence or likely presence of contamination at the property, and the ability to detect the contamination by appropriate inspection.
  • 5 Searches for recorded environmental cleanup liens against the site that are filed under Federal, State, or local law.
  1. Assessments of specialized knowledge or experience on the part of the prospective landowner.
  2. The relationship of the purchase price to the value of the property, if the property was not contaminated.

An innocent landowner defense also extends to the operation and maintenance of the site after purchase. Once the property is owned the new owner must take reasonable steps to stop any continuing release, prevent any future release, and prevent or limit human, environmental, or natural resource exposure to any previously released hazardous substances. The owner must also cooperate, provide assistance, and allow access to persons to conduct response actions or natural resource restoration at the site. Owners must maintain any and all land use restrictions and not degrade the effectiveness of institutional controls.

Additional responsibilities cover cooperating with requests and administrative subpoenas concerning the facility and follow through with all legally required notices (public notification and government) regarding the discovery or release of any hazardous substances at the facility.

Lastly to comply with AAI, the purchaser cannot be associated/affiliated with any other potentially responsible party through any direct or indirect familial relationship, or any contractual, corporate, or financial relationship (excluding relationships created by instruments conveying or financing title or by contracts for the sale of goods or services).

Bottom line the new owner has to be able to prove that the environmental contamination damages were caused by a third party with whom the new owner does not have an employment, agency, or contractual relationship, as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 9601(35).

Buyers beware and perform your due diligence so you know before you buy?

Tags: Phase I, AAI All Appropriate Inquiries

Mold Frequently Asked Questions

Posted by David C Sulock on Jan 21, 2016 11:11:17 AM

After almost 20 years of providing environmnetal solutions, we have provided a summary of the molst commonly asked mold related questions.  What to know about mold, toxic mold, mold remediation and who to hire to perform mold remediation?   Read our commonly asked mold questions.

IMG_1305.jpgWhat is Mold?

Mold is a fungi that can be found both indoors and outdoors. Mold is natural to our environment; some level of Mold is present at all times.   Outdoor Mold can be found in shady, damp areas such as where leaves lay or where vegetation is decomposing. Indoor Mold is found when moisture levels rise above 60; for example, Attics, Crawl Spaces, Basements and Showers (bathrooms).

 How many types of Mold are there?

There is no general consensus as to how many types of Mold there are in the world.  Estimates range from tens of thousands to over three hundred thousand or more.

 What are some of the common indoor Molds?

  • Cladosporium
  • Penicillium
  • Alternaria
  • Aspergillus

How do Molds affect people?

In 2009, the World Health Organization issued additional guidance, the WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mold [PDF - 2.52 MB]. Studies have suggested a potential link of early Mold exposure in children to development of asthma in, particularly among children who may be genetically susceptible to asthma development, and that selected interventions that improve housing conditions can reduce morbidity from asthma and respiratory allergies.  Bottom line more research is needed, but evidence to date correlates to health related concern in Moldy environmental as compared to living spaces that lack Mold growth.    Molds grow best in warm, damp (wet), and humid conditions. When Mold grows it can off-gas and produce the smell of musty odor that is so commonly associated with Mold.  When conditions are right (humidity below 55 and temperature below 70 degrees), Molds will go dormant, like a lawn in winter.  When temperatures rise and moisture levels increase Molds will grow again, which is when you are more likely to smell the musty odor.

I smell a musty odor but don’t see any Mold? 

If a musty odor is present, which is not typical for the living space, quite simply you have something that is off-gassing causing the odor.  You must ask yourself a few questions.

I see Mold but I do not smell a musty odor, why?  If I don’t smell Mold is it not Mold? 

In 2004, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found evidence to link indoor exposure to Mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition. The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking indoor Mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.  

  1. Has anything changed in the space?  
  2. Has anything new been brought into the space such as books, boxes or old possessions that maybe giving off an odor.  
  3. New carpet, paint, furniture?  

You see where this is going, if nothing has been added then something that is and has been present is off-gassing and if the odor is truly musty, then a moisture issue is present and fueling Mold growth.   In the industry we call this Hidden Mold and you should hire a professional to look for Mold.

Can Mold be killed by cold weather?

Mold spores can survive extreme environmental conditions, such as dry and freezing conditions.  Like grass they go dormant and will become active again when conditions improve.   

I am looking to hire a firm to remediate Mold, what licensing should I look for?

If your site is in New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Delaware, there is no licensing or state certification.  Unlike tank removal which requires companies to be certified, Mold remediation is not a service where a license is required.

Should I be concerned that the Mold Company is not certified?

Yes and no.  Yes, you should be concerned as it is difficult to ascertain if the company is qualified or competent to remediate Mold when a licensing program does not exist.   There are things to look for when evaluating Mold fits.  One did you find them through advertising?  Surveys have shown that referral is a more solid form of evaluation as opposed to pay per click advertising.  Next, google the company, is it a PO Box, do they work out of a house in a residential area, if so tread with caution, these firms need personnel and equipment to perform the work and a home based business typically means they subcontract the services.  Third, do they provide any other environmental services?  Carpet cleaning and termite services are not what is typically associated with environmental services, these firms maybe doing Mold as a sideline.  Full-service companies would also perform other remediation services such as tank removal, soil and water remediation and environmental audits.  These types of firms have no doubt encountered Mold in a variety of commercial and residential settings and are more likely to have the expertise.  As a general point of reference New Jersey, Pennsylvania & Delaware require licensing to perform these tasks so you can be assured there are some core competencies at the firm. 

Why should I not be concerned about Mold licensing?

Well to be fair, only New York State has licensing requirement for Mold inspection and remediation and that started on January 1, 2016.  So it is hard to be licensed in a state if the state does not offer it. I would circle back to the above answer for a more thorough explanation as to why you should be concerned.

I obtained two quotes to remediate the Mold and the prices are wide spread, why are costs so variable?

We have found that companies that are home based or “Mold only” firms, swing high on costs as their workload is so variable and to survive they have to charge more when work is not abundant.  These firms also suffer from a diversity of services, so if jobs are not coming in for Mold related work, they have no other sources of revenue.   Remember every property needs plumbing, roofing and painting, NOT every site will require Mold remediation, so if that is all a company offers too many eggs may be in one basket.  In Curren’s 20 years of business, we have seen the opening and closing of franchised operations with too high of an overhead same goes for small, home-based entities closing up shop.

black mold

 A company tested for mold and told me I have Toxic Mold and need to remediate the mold immediately. Is there such as thing as Toxic Mold?  I feel like the mold company is trying to scare me, no one is getting sick from the mold.

 Great questions and you should be wary of anything else the mold company says. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and this is directly from their website http://www.cdc.gov/mold/stachy.htm

The term "toxic mold" is not accurate. While certain molds are toxigenic, meaning they can produce toxins (specifically mycotoxins), the molds themselves are not toxic, or poisonous. Hazards presented by molds that may produce mycotoxins should be considered the same as other common molds, which can grow in your house.

Who is the CDC?   Why should I believe the CDC, when they say there is no toxic mold?

From the CDC web site: The CDC works 24/7(http://www.cdc.gov/24-7/index.html) to protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are chronic or acute, curable or preventable, human error or deliberate attack, CDC fights disease and supports communities and citizens to do the same.

Unfortunately, Mold is highly unregulated and misinformation is being presented by mold companies (private non-government web sites) that only cares and confuses consumers.

 I had Mold remediation performed, how do I prevent Mold from returning?

Take away the food source and environment and Mold growth can be prevented. Keep humidity levels as low as you can—no higher than 50%—all day long. An air conditioner in summer and or dehumidifier YEAR ROUND will help you keep the level low. Humidity levels change over the course of a day with changes in the moisture in the air and the air temperature, so 24/7 dehumidification is recommended. Dehumidifiers that are able to operate autonomously, meaning units that have a drain house connected to an outfall such as a sink or sump, so human interaction is not required to empty the water tank is best.   Exhaust fans that actually suck air in humid environments such as bathrooms are needed and MUST be used when humidity increases.  Bottom line we find Mold in bathrooms where exhaust gas fans are not present, are not used or lack sufficient power to exhaust humid air.  Take our test, turn on the fan and place a paper towel on the fan, if the fan cannot hold the towel in place, your fan sucks and not the good kind (replace the fan).

  • Attics should able passive and active ventilation
  • Crawl spaces should be dry with vapor barriers.
  • Soil should have a positive slope around the entire house so water flows away not toward the foundation.
  • All roof leaders should be extended 5’ to 10’ away from the building foundation.
  • Do not carpet bathrooms and basements.
  • Any water entry, flooding, eat, must be dried out within 48 hours to prevent Mold growth.

I saw Mold and hired a company to inspect and they confirmed it was Mold.  They were quick to give me a cost to remediate (read expensive Mold remediation) but said little regarding why the Mold was present.I found Mold growing in my home, how do I test the Mold?

The EPA and CDC do not recommend sampling for Molds. Since the susceptibility of individuals can vary greatly, the type is not important.   If you are susceptible to Mold and if it is seen or smelled, there is a potential health risk; therefore, no matter what type of Mold is present, you should arrange for its removal. 

Mold inspection without evaluation as to what caused the Mold is a concern.  Mold inspections should provide an opinion as to why the Mold was present, i.e., what caused it and what to do to prevent growth in the future.   We have seen Mold grow back after remediation due to the fact that the moisture problem was not addressed – controls to stop the moisture were not established so of course Mold can grow back.

Abandoned Filled in Place Oil Tank

Posted by David C Sulock on Sep 22, 2015 11:50:00 AM

IMG_1951Is your underground oil tank filled with sand?  Like the one in the photo?  Does the permit for your tank mean it’s a safe, non-leaking oil tank? 

Many residents who have underground oil tanks have had their tanks filled. A local permit must be filed for the underground oil tank. This permit, however does not assure that the tank did not leak, and the soil is not contaminated.

At Curren Environmental, we consistently receive calls regarding properties where an oil tank was previously filled with sand. Sometimes the owner has an approval sticker from the municipal construction office, other times they do not. Sometimes the township no longer has a permit record. No soil samples were acquired at time of closure.   The local approval is always meant to document that the tank was filled however this permit does not give evidence that the oil tank is clean, safe and non-leaking.

Can the Buyers of such property request NJDEP documentation on the tank? NO, they cannot. The NJDEP will only be involved if the tank leaks and there is documentation that it did leak. Without having any sample data you have no data indicating, the tank did or did not leak. Additionally the NJDEP does not provide information on sites where tanks do not leak. Buyers are looking for evidence of the tank leaking. If samples were acquired at the original time of closure, this data would be available and a report detailing the tank removal, condition of the tank, narrative on what was performed to complete closure, map of soil samples, analytical data and discussion of the laboratory results as compared to NJDEP standards. It should be noted that soil sampling for a tank closure in 1980 or in 2015 is not required by law, in short, there is no legal driver to have testing done.  What if there was a hole in the tank at time of fill? These previously filled and closed tanks were completed to prevent a problem of oil leaking in the future. What these tank closure projects did not address was IF THE OIL TANK LEAKED?   By not obtaining soil samples, you are not answering the question if the tank leaked PREVIOUSLY. If you are a Seller, you are hoping that buyers will not question the filled and closed tank.   We call this the ostrich effect, put your head in the sand and do not look for a problem. The problem is that people are better informed now regarding oil tanks. It comes up in real estate transactions as buyers (insurance companies, lawyers, mortgage companies) want documentation that the tank did not leak. The underling purpose of obtaining this documentation is that contamination is owned by the owner of a property.

In a scenario where a Buyer knowingly buys a property with an untested tank and later finds out the tank leaks, this new owner is responsible for the remediation.   This can trigger a claim to the insurance carrier, which will be denied, as new policies typically exclude oil tank releases. People sue the carrier, the carrier defends and wins but monies are spent on a suit that was unnecessary. This scenario tilts the insurance carrier to not want to ensure a property with an untested tank. On the mortgage side, the mortgage companies do not want the borrower to encounter a financial loss that would deter them from making mortgage payments. Unfortunately, many people have walked away from properties with environmental tank leaks due to the expense of the cleanup.   Lastly, as sour grapes gestures buyers will sue the seller, thinking the seller withheld information on the tank, meaning the seller knew the tank had a problem. While I am not saying any of these situations apply to your site, these are the triggers for buyers wanting closed and filled tanks removed and tested.  

The best approach is for Sellers to address these tanks prior to a sale to maintain positive control of the project. Let’s face it if there is a problem with the oil tank it is the owner’s responsibility to address the problem. Regulations in New Jersey can be confusing and complicated.

What happens when you remove the filled and closed underground oil tanks? You have two possible scenarios, (1) if the tank was properly cleaned (i.e., devoid of all residual oil) and filled with sand, then the sand will be removed and staged on site for your use. The fill cannot be reused to backfill the tank, as NJDEP regulations require the fill material to be certified clean AND come from a virgin source. Soil removed from an oil tank does not meet the virgin source definition. If in the event that the tank was not cleaned and then subsequently filled with sand, then the sand in the tank is likely impacted with oil and will need to be properly disposed of at an off-site facility. (2) an oil and sand filled tank (No sand does not absorb oil, it is used to make glass and is not porous) that has been left unchecked will cause a problem not from the tank leaking, but rather from the tank overflowing. You see when you fill a tank with sand, you cut a hole into it to allow sand to enter. If oil is left in the tank, you have an oil and sand mix. Add rainwater entering the tank through the hole placed in the tank and you have a bathtub affect that will allow the oil and water to not mix (oil floats on water) and the oil rising to the top of the tank and overflows into the ground.   We had a situation that was identical to this, $19,000.00 later it was resolved

 

Abandoned filled in place oil tanks CAN BE AN ISSUE, be safe, remove the tank, have soil testing completed and properly address the issue, do not be an ostrich.