Curren Environmental Blog

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

The Truth about Mold in your House/Business.

Posted by Tiffany Byrne on Feb 16, 2016 2:30:00 PM

Raised_mold1.jpg

(Raised Mold On Wood)

There are so many myths out there regarding Mold.  If you Google “Does Mold Cause Cancer” you will get many different answers.  Let’s see if we can find the truth.

The best and only place that you should ever visit on the web regarding mold are government sites, such as the CDC, EPA  or state sites. Many states have no standards regarding mold and Mold Inspectors and Remediators do not have to be licensed.  New York is one of the only states at this point that Mold Inspectors and Remediators have to be licensed and this began starting this January (2016).

Examples of Government websites.

www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs

This website details many different issues that arise regarding mold.

http://www.epa.gov/mold

Good information on keeping a home mold free.

The State of New York

http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/environmental/mold.shtml

Can Mold really make you sick?

No and yes, not all molds cause illnesses or even cause cancer.  There are thousands and thousands of types of mold and mold spores that are alive in every area of our living space. This means both inside and outside there are some levels of mold.  The most important part of understanding mold is finding where the moisture problem is – take care of the moisture problem first, then address the mold.  With that being said, if mold is present and there is belief that this is causing some sort of illness, testing for types of mold and mold spores would be a good idea.  In the event that you have certain types of mold spores a remediation would be necessary. For example, if there is Aspergillus spores, there is a possibility of illness in those with weakened Immune systems. (https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001326.htm).  That is just one example of types of spores that have possibility of causing illness. 

Remember – always double check your information.  The internet is not always correct.  Double check the information and again make sure that these sites you receive your information are government websites.  

For more information on Types of Mold click here.

Questions about Mold?  Please call us at 888-301-1050 or fill out the form below.  Thank you.

Tags: mold

Is a Tank Sweep (tank scan) necessary?

Posted by Tiffany Byrne on Feb 4, 2016 8:30:00 AM

GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar)

Ground Penetrating Radar surveys (GPR) can locate subsurface obstructions – including utilities, Underground Storage Tanks (UST), former swimming pools and more.  For more information GPR systems click here.

Why do you need a tank scan (tank sweep)?

Sometimes homeowners are unaware that they are the owners of an Underground Oil Tank (UST). They had gas since they bought the house, or there was an above ground oil tank but had no knowledge of an UST. When the homeowner decides it’s time to sell notably there is no evidence of an UST. This is when the Buyer makes the decision to do a tank scan. 


Things to know if you believe a tank scan is necessary.
1. House built before 1985
2. Above Ground Oil Tank
3. Fill Pipe
4. Vent Pipe
5. Copper lines
6. Neighborhood that typically has Underground Storage Tanks
7. A furnace chimney
8. Oil Emergency Shut Off Switch by heater

House built before 1985
Almost always there was an oil tank if the house was built in the 1940’s and early 1950’s
If the house was built before 1985 you should presume that there is an Underground Oil Tank unless the seller provides otherwise.

Above Ground Oil Tank
Before oil tanks homes were heated with coal. Then the underground oil tanks were followed by above ground oil tanks. If there is an Above Ground Oil tank there is a large possibility that there, at some time, was an Underground Oil Tank.

A Furnace Chimney
In many old homes the chimney was not just used for wood burning, it was used for coal or oil. Check the chimney and see how many flues there are.

chimney.jpg

Need a tank scan (tank sweep)?  Please fill out the form below or please call at 888-351-1050.

Prevent Mold Growth Over the Winter...

Posted by Tiffany Byrne on Jan 27, 2016 9:00:00 PM

Prevention Tips to keep a clean and moisture free home.

Steps to prevent Mold in the Winter Months...

Don’t let mold grow over the winter…

Mold_on_ceiling_of_bathroom.jpg

 

Steps to prevent mold in the winter months.

  • Keep moisture from creeping in your home or building.
  • Check for cracked or defective areas in your basement. Water can find those areas and seep in.
  • Inspect all outside drainage areas, all the roof leaders (downspouts), all gutters should be cleaned and clear.
  • If the home is vacant for the season make sure all pipes are dry and the water has properly been shut off.
  • Set the heat to a proper temperature to ensure no pipes can freeze and burst.
  • If there are freezing temperatures, take measures to insulate pipes inside and out to ensure they will not crack and/or burst.
  • Make sure all the seals on the windows and doors are not compromised and in good-working condition.
  • Ensure proper ground sloping away from your home or building foundation so that water does not collect in a certain area to enter it.
  • Properly use your bathroom fan.  Always use when the shower is on and try to keep a window open.
  • Always act quickly if you see condensation on windows, pipes, or walls inside a building. Find the source of the condensation and provide a solution.
  • Keep everything clean and dry.

Cold and wet moisure can creep into cracks, holes and small areas of your home or building.  If you see any moisture build up find the source as soon as possible to prevent mold growth.  

Questions or concerns on Mold?  Contact us by filling out the form below.

 

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.

Don't let Mold Grow in your Humidifier...

Posted by Tiffany Byrne on Jan 19, 2016 11:30:00 AM


Dry skin? Bloody noses from dry air?  

A humidifier can ease these symptoms during the dry, cold winter months.  But be careful, when you use a humidifier it is recommended to keep the humidity at a certain level and keep it clean. Dirty humidifiers can produce mold and bacteria which then filters into the air. Minerals can be released in the mist and settle as fine white dust. The white dust may contain particles that can enter the lungs. While the health effects are not quite clear yet, any type of impact on human health depends upon the types and the amounts of minerals found in the water used.



Use the following steps to keep the humidifier clean.

  1. Replace old humidifiers.  Old humidifiers can build mineral deposits that are difficult to remove and contain bacteria growth.
  2. Use distilled or demineralized water. Tap water contains minerals that can deposit and promote bacteria growth.
  3. Clean your humidifier every three days. Make sure you unplug the humidifier first.  Empty any unused water.  Add undiluted white vinegar and let sit for 30-45 minutes.  Empty vinegar and use small scrub brush to remove any leftover residue. Rinse.  
  4. Disinfect your humidifier every three days. Remove any mineral deposit and use a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution.  (Found at any local pharmacy usually in the brown bottle). Add the hydrogen peroxide and let sit for 30 minutes.  Scrub and rinse the tank after cleaning so no chemicals become airborne.
  5. Change water daily.
  6. Change the filter. Read the directions and change the filter as often as the manufacturer recommends.
  7. Prepare humidifier for storage. When the spring comes prepare your humidifier for proper storage.  Follow procedures to properly clean, remove filters and dry the humidifier.

Don't let your humidifier look like this.    It should look like this.

Dirty Humidifier                                     Clean Humidifier

 Humifier_dirty.jpg          humidifier_clean.jpg

 



 For more information on Mold fill out the form below or call Curren Environmental, Inc. at 888-301-1050.

Tags: mold

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.

They removed my oil tank - but it leaked. What do I do now?

Posted by david sulock on Sep 18, 2015 1:51:16 PM

                                

 

Underground Oil Tank Removed                Leak in the Oil Tank

Underground Oil Tank (UST) removal is a once in a lifetime occurrence for the small group of people who have to undertake this project.  Of those individuals, 9 times out of ten even their friends probably have never had a tank removed.  Leaving just the few unlucky homeowners with a project that if evidence of an oil leak is found from the tank, it can quickly escalate the cost of the project.  Homeowners with no knowledge or experience in oil tank leaks or network of friends who have experience in this type of project are forced to rely on the integrity of the firm that removed the oil tank.  

Here at Curren, we constantly receive calls from homeowners who had an oil tank removed for a somewhat loss leader price of between $1,000 and $1,500. After the tank is removed the homeowner is told that the tank leaked and remediation is needed.  Usually a day or a week after tank removal, a proposal is presented for remediation, which typically is priced between $8,000and $15,000. The Homeowner contacts Curren to provide a competitive price to remediate as they were not expecting such an expense.  Being professionals we request the diagnostic or delineation laboratory testing from the tank area so we know (1) the concentration of oil in the ground is above 5100 ppm for EPH so remediation is required and (2) the extent of the oil leak (depth and length and width of the area) has been defined or delineated as is common industry parlance.  

What do we hear when we ask for hard empirical evidence, documentation that a homeowner should receive from the tank removal company?  

  1. No soil testing was done it was not in your contract.
  2. The company just knows because they have been doing this for a long time.
  3. It was a small leak as evidenced by the holes in the tank.
  4. My sniff meter (PID) says it is bad.

What all those responses really mean are “We didn’t want to waste your $120.00 to do a test and find out you really don’t have much of a problem.  We thought it was in our best interest, not yours to just tell it is bad and give you an expensive quote to remediate and in all honesty, we do not even know if you need remediation.  If we did test the soil and find out the levels are below 5100 ppm (which is a fair amount of oil) you probably would not need to remediate and we would not make as much money.

The field meter they use to tell you there is oil in the ground.  Well that is more for presence or absence of oil.  There is NO correlation as to what registers on the meter in the field and what the actual laboratory result would be. 

Well, being scientific we know that those three answers are based on no factual information, except perhaps that fact that a homeowner wants to know what the cost will be when they are told their tank leaked.  Uncertainty is not a desirable feeling regarding a problem that you often hear can cost tens of thousands of dollars.  $8,000 or $15,000 is better than $20,000 or $40,000 so often times, homeowners are upset but also relieved, as at least they know what they are facing.  Here is the shocker they do not.  If an oil tank leaks (or you are told your tank leaks) the only way to know how far the oil has spread is one of two ways as follows:

  1. Drilling through the middle of the excavation and obtain soil samples to determine at what depth the oil tank leak stopped migrating vertically. Repeating this step on each of the four sides of the removed tank excavation to determine how far the oil has spread to the north, south, east and west.  This is called delineation.  Look at it in perspective, god forbid you are diagnosed with cancer, you will not undergo treatment or surgery until testing is done to define the extent of the cancer right? 
  1. In science, there are equations to determine all sorts of things. To determine how far a liquid such as oil will flow through a given media (the soil) you simple need the following information:
    1. When the leak occurred (number of days or years).
    2. Rate of oil leak (per day amount is most helpful).
    3. Amount of oil that leaked.
    4. Amount of rain that occurred during the leak period.
    5. The porosity of the soils where the tank is located.

With these nuggets of information, you can model APPROXIMATELY the extent to which the oil has migrated.  In any event, unless you have the information in items A thru F, how can you model the leak range?  The answer is you cannot.  You can guess, but who wants to rely on a guess?   We know you want answers right away when you are told your tank leaks, but you have to look at things in perspective and realize that without proper evaluation you cannot be accurate.

Let us circle back to your original tank removal project.  Expensive but not too bad at $1,000 to $1,500 on average is an expense most people can begrudgingly swing, particularly if it allows them to sell their house.   We often times call low ball tank removing pricing a Loss Leader (think cheap price per pound for turkeys at Thanksgiving to get you in the store) or hooking, to get people to buy the service or get on the hook so that the bigger project/expense (remediation) can be obtained.  Take a look at the contract, does it include.

  1. Cost for soil samples?
  2. Why you would want to take soil samples if the tank is found to be leaking?
  3. What soil sample results mean in relation to NJDEP regulations.
  4. A report that is supplied after tank removal to document the work and certify whether it did or did not leak?

If you do not have any of these four items and I can tell you from experience, 90% of the consumer contracts Curren reviews do not. The homeowner who signs these contracts is potentially being led down a slippery, costly slope. We often times see the next step after the owner gets their tank removed is an expensive contract to remediate, that is based on zero scientific data.  The most alarming of all this, is that on sites where Curren is brought in to investigate a reported tank leak, 80% of the time and let me say that again 80% of the time, the tank area DOES NOT REQUIRE remediation.  I stress this as a professional organization we acquire and review data, interpret the information and provide opinions based on our review of the factual information.  In full disclosure Curren, removes oil tanks, tests tank areas and performs remediations.  Of these three services, remediation is always the most expensive, so although we are happy to remove oil tanks and test tank areas, we are equally willing to remediate oil tank leaks IF IT IS WARRANTED, if there is a driver, meaning oil in the ground above permissible limits.  The NJDEP allows a certain amount of oil in the ground, did the tank removal tell you that, in writing,   verbally, probably not.

The point here is that oil tank removal and remediation of oil tank leaks (when warranted) are projects where homeowners must go into with eyes wide open.  From our experience, there is a large pool of firms that do not properly manage the exceptions of homeowners and rush these homeowners into costly remediations that are not warranted.  Yes, we know often times you are removing a tank due to a pending real estate transaction, and everything is time sensitive, but that is not an excuse to make a bad decision.

No matter where you are in the tank removal project (pre removal, post removal, possibly remediation, if you want facts, solid professional advice call Curren at 888-301-1050 or email at [email protected] What you have just read is what we tell homeowners repeatedly, as they feel like the firm they are talking to or have contracted with is not working in their best interest.

 

Tags: oil tank removal nj

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 [email protected].

Health Concerns with Mold Exposure...

Posted by Tiffany Byrne on Jul 13, 2015 3:00:00 PM

Health Concerns with Mold Exposure

Mold_on_the_ceiling

Mold emits spores and chemicals as part of their normal life cycle. Individuals near and around  Mold may exhibit health concerning reactions.  These spores from Mold are microscopic and once airborne can be inhaled easily.  These spores may contain allergens and can cause serious irritation in the nose, throat, and the respiratory tract. 

Common allergic reactions include but are not limited to:

  • Sneezing
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Skin Rashes
  • Asthma attacks
  • Eye Irritation

Watery_eyes

In addition to allergens, mold can emit Microbiological Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOC’s).  These chemicals usually have a very strong and unpleasant odor and can be associated with that musty smell that many individuals equate to Mold.  These chemicals are released into the air and can also cause serious health concerns.

Common reactions to MOVC’S

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

Headache

Molds can also produce toxic substances called Mycotoxins.  Mycotoxins can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin.  Mycotoxins are potent, toxic chemicals that can cause significant health problems.

Mycotoxins can affect the following:

  • Central Nervous System
  • Immune System
  • Respiratory System
  • Digestive System

Curren Environmental, Inc.  can inspect your residential or commercial property, help define the cause of the mold and offer a solution with both mold remediation and mold prevention. Please call at 609-858-9509 or email at [email protected]

For more information on Mold visit please visit Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.