Curren Environmental Blog

David C Sulock

Recent Posts

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?

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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?

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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

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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.

Why are ISRA Letters of Non-Applicability still Requested?

Posted by David C Sulock on Sep 17, 2015 8:58:03 AM

The NJDEP discontinued ISRA Letters of Non-Applicability under the Industrial Site Recovery Act in April of 2008, but these letters are still requested.  Why?   Re

The Department’s Site Remediation Program discontinued the issuance of applicability determinations pursuant to ISRA on April 30, 2008.  Any application that was submitted after April 30, 2008, would no longer receive a letter of non-applicability or "LNA's" which is what they were sometimes called regarding the NJDEP’s Industrial Site Recovery Act ("ISRA"). ISRA is the New Jersey law that requires, certain applicable companies to go through a rather exhaustive clearance process for site contamination as a condition to a property sale, transfer or cessation of operations of an industrial establishment (which was historically determined by the facility's SIC code and was subsequently switched to the firms or NAICS code) that handles hazardous substances.

These letters were very valuable as a site that was subject to ISRA, can be engulfed in a lengthy environmental review process that could derail real estate transactions. The concern of being drawn into the ISRA process (The NJDEP never undertook an awareness campaign to notify regulated business that would need to go through ISRA.) created a knee jerk reaction that a letter of non-applicability should be obtained to settle any concerns that ISRA was relevant. For many years, NJDEP had issued LNA's as a service to the New Jersey regulated community so that parties knew that the business operations were not subject to ISRA.

A requirement to secure an ISRA LNA has often been a condition of a purchase agreement or a loan commitment and is frequently a standard HISTORICAL term in leases. As LNAs have long since been discontinued, often times contract language has not been updated and parties still request these letters.

Although NJDEP ISRA Letters of Non Applicability were discontinued in 2008, the outreach campaign to inform realtors, business owner, lending institutions and lawyers was nonexistent. Curren Environmental gets call monthly from parties wanting to obtain this discontinued NJDEP service.  If you want to stop dealing with outdated information and have ISRA questions, please feel free to contact David Sulock 856-858-9509, extension 151 or by email at davidsulock@currenenvironmental.com.