Hot Environmental Topics

Home Inspection finds a buried oil tank.

Jul 21, 2021 11:03:09 AM / by david sulock posted in OIl Tank Sweeps, tank sweep, gpr tank swep, foam filling oil tank, gpr tank sweeps, gpr tank scan

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What  happens when a home inspection finds a possible underground oil tank?

A common request our office receives regarding a tank sweeps.

"Hello, I'm selling my home and we suspect that the buyer did a tank sweep with a metal detector vs GPR. They supposedly think they found a tank on the property. We do not see any evidence of a tank, nor was one disclosed by the previous owner (who bought the home in the 70s, house is 80 years old). Is it possible that this 'tank' is just a gutter drain pipe, part of our sprinkler system and/or rubble backfill such as a chunk of concrete sidewalk with rebar or metal containing soil? If so, would a GPR scan be conclusive? Thanks."

This is a common situation we get from property owners who are told they have a buried oil tank.   The owner has the question regarding if the meta detector is reliable.    Here are some common talking points...
  1. The property owner is unclear how the suspect tank was found.  Was it found with a Metal detector, or  Ground Penetrating Radar or both? (both GPR and a metal detector would be best) The solution would be having the owner receive a copy of the Tank Sweep Report so they would have a baseline regarding what they found and where. Yes, every professional service should come with a report, no report, then question how professional the service was.
  2. The property is over 70 years old, so while the owner has no knowledge that there was an oil tank, they also have no documentation that there was not an oil tank. A 70 year old property most likely had oil heat at one point in time as oil was very popular in the past and other fuel sources such as natural gas was not commonly available or financially appealing until the 1970's.
  3. The tank scan found a buried object, presumably metal. If only a metal detector was utilized, you can't say 100% if the metal found is a tank as metal detectors detect metal and properties have all sort of buried metal. Metal can be in the soil naturally, you could have buried debris, buried metal pipes or surface metal (like a fence) that distracted the metal detector and have a false buried metallic signature reading. Happens all the time. A metal detector on a sandy beach is great it will find buried metal, likely a bottle cap, but people hope for coins or expensive jewelry. People paying a couple hundred dollars for someone to use an $800 metal detector to find a tank are also helpful.
Call Curren TodayThe photo below was where a metal detector thought there was a tank.  There was no tank, just soils with a metallic signature.

tank home inspection

The guy in shorts, is using a $900.00 metal detector and found a suspect tank in the front yard.

metal detector tank scan

When you scan for a tank, the more expensive the equipment the better.   GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) costs tens of thousands of dollars because it has the technology to do the job.

best oil tank sweep with gpr

 Effective Oil Tank Scan or Oil Tank Sweeps like on commercial sites would use GPR as it will                            provide a signal (image) of buried objects.

buried oil tank found via GPR

The signal above shows the underground oil tank. 

Purchasers of commercial properties are more aware of the liability associated with leaking USTs (Hundreds of thousands of dollars) compared to a residential home buyers (Homeowners think a few thousand dollars is a lot.) So on the commercial side of real estate tank sweeps are completed with GPR, not metal detectors. Most environmental consultants that perform tanks weeps will use GPR and discount the cost for residential sites. Nobody wants to see someone buy a house and find a $50,0000 cleanup is required.

What if a buyer finds a suspect tank?

This is a really hard question because it relies so much on the quality of the tank sweep.    If they used GPR, if the property is likely to have had an oil tank (older the home, the more likely) and if the buried anomaly has the signature of a tank.  Well then you have to excavate and confirm that object is an oil tank.

Who pays for the oil tank removal?

Owner will pay 98% of the time as finding a hidden oil tank is a defect that needs to be addressed.

Do they have buried oil tanks at the beach (shore)?

If the home wanted heat, then yes homes along the coast and on islands had buried oil tanks.  Oil was king up until the late 1970's in New Jersey.  The photo below is of a home we scanned on a barrier island.  Many older beach houses eventually converted to natural gas, as gas could also  fuel the stove, dryer,  hot water heater etc.   After conversion to gas, it was not uncommon that the tank was just left in the ground.  So short answer beach houses had oil tanks.

Tank sweeps at the beach

What if a suspect tank is found and we don't believe its a tank?

Short answer prove your opinion right and dig it up and verify its not a tank.

What is the best tank sweep?

Using Ground Penetrating Radar is the best technology for finding buried tanks at properties, period.  Can you use a metal detector to verify a GPR signal that identified a tank?  Sure, always verify the object is metal.  GPR can't penetrate metal so when a GPR sweep pings a tank, it means the radar can't penetrate the object (likely a metal tank) but there are buried concrete tanks.  Metal detectors can verify an object is metal, but a metal detector  should not be used to be your sole technology

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Tank Scans & Tank Sweeps in Delaware

Jul 12, 2021 8:43:14 AM / by David C Sulock

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

We have recently been getting a large influx of calls from buyers in Delaware concerned about the need to perform a tank sweep.    Delaware famously known as the First State has a long history of oil heat.  In Delaware as in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, many property owners filled their oil tanks in place when they stopped using the tank.    Its basic math that when you convert from oil to natural gas or propane or even electric you are spending money.  You would spend even more money if you do something with the oil tank, so many people just cut off the pipes to the buried tank to more or less remove any evidence of oil heat.   Some filled the tank with sand, fewer still actually removed and tested the tank.  The most money spent with an oil tank?  Well that is when the tank leaks as the photo below shows you how bad a tank leak can get.

why tank sweeps are so important

The liability associated Underground Heating Oil Tanks (USTs) is fairly well known to most buyers and sellers nowadays, but our office still gets calls regarding why a tank scan should be performed.  

We explain that historically home heating oil has been stored in Underground Storage Tanks (UST’s). Homes built in the early 1900’s to around the mid 1990’s are most likely at risk to having a buried oil tank.  When tanks leak, homeowners can face environmental regulations originally written with businesses in mind, not residential homeowners.  Property owners can face cleanup costs in the thousands of dollars, and find their homes difficult to sell, because banks and mortgage loan companies do not make mortgages on properties with abandoned, untested tanks.  Rust never sleeps and Underground Oil Tanks will not last forever.

 

Fact

After over two decades (1998) of performing tank sweeps, it is not uncommon that after we find a tank, and the property owner SUDDENLY has an epiphany about the tank.  They suddenly remember that there was a tank on the property when they bought it and they even have paperwork for it.  Our clients  are almost always taken back but this sudden revelation of information.  The common denominator is the seller was hoping we wouldn't find the oil tank.

People hide tank because they bought the home not understanding the liability associated with a leaking tank.  Delaware is just becoming more aware of tanks as an issue as the migration of buyers from New Jersey and New York who have first hand knowledge of oil tank leaks.   Bottom line tanks rust in any state.

leaking tanks delaware

 

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

 

Tank Sweep Questions?

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

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

GPR scan is the best tank sweep 

So what is a tank sweep? 

There are two types with disparate costs and variable results.

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

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

buried oil tank GPR tank sweep

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

best tank sweep

 

abandoned oil tank found via GPR

Tank sweeps with GPR

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

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

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

tank sweeps with GPR

 

Tank Sweep Questions?

 

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Why a Phase I is important.

Jun 21, 2021 1:45:00 PM / by David C Sulock

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A Phase I ESA (Environmental Site Assessment) is historical research to evaluate a property (typically commercial) for past uses of the site that could have had an environmental impact to the property.

What is the difference between a Phase I and Phase II?

  • A Phase I is research to find Areas of Concerns (AOCs) or Recognized Environmental Conditions (RECs).  In short, a Phase I is meant to identify a particular and/or potential environmental impairment on a property.  The Phase I protects a buyer from the property's historical uses.
  • A Phase II tests for the risk found in the Phase I.
  • A Phase II, well that remediates the issue found via a Phase I or II.

No you can't jump to a Phase II and not do a phase I, as you may missing something.

In today's world, we recycle and try to be as green as possible.  In the past, that was not always the case.  The photo below is a downtown area at the turn of the century.  You see a trolley car, a horse and carriage and what looks to be a model T ford.  My point is what an area looks like today can be very different than what was present 100 yeas ago.

why a phase I is important

Take the photo below, it shows a historic filling station (gas station) from the 1920's.  The site today is far removed from that use, but if you had a site where you didn't perform a Phase I, would you know the property was  gas station in the 1920's?   Probably not.  If you bought the property without doing a Phase I and later on contamination is found, once you buy the property you buy the environmental problem that comes with it. 

the need for a phase I

The document below is from a Phase I, as you can see this is another property that was a gas station, the two circles in the image with the letters GTS stands for Gasoline Storage Tanks.

 

phase II

 

You would have to do a Phase II, GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar)/Tank Scan survey to see if these tanks are still present.

 Many a Phase I leads to a Phase II which is testing, meaning the Phase I finds a potential issue that has to be verified as an issue or not.  Pertaining to suspect buried tanks, a Ground Penetrating Radar  (GPR) Survey is a common Phase II activity.  The idea of using GPR to scan for tanks is that if the tank is present and the owner didn't know it was there, allows the buyer to request the tank be removed and tested when found. 

Phase II Ground Penetrating Radar Survey

The image on the screen below is that of a buried petroleum storage tank, which the owner of the property was not aware existed.  But now they do and the tank needs to be removed and tested and no the current owner never did any research before buying the property.

The image below shows a tank found from a GPR survey

Phase II GPR survey

 

What happens when a Phase II finds an issue? You do a Phase III, which remediates the issue.  In this case the UST was removed.

 

New Jersey Tank Removal 

Need  expert advice on Phase I, Phase II and Phase III's? Want a company that does thousands of GPR surveys? Call Curren Today.  
Call Curren Today Or 
Phase I, II, III Questions? Click Here

 

 

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Why do you have to remove a filled in place oil tank?

Jun 16, 2021 8:30:00 AM / by David C Sulock

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Why do you have to remove previously filled in place oil tanks?

A small tank leak can range between $8,000 and $15,000, which is an expense and a liability home buyers do not want to assume.  The risk associated with a tank leak drives tanks to be removed and tested, regardless if a tank was previously filled in place.   The photo below was over $140,000.00

IMG_5250

Why were oil tanks neglected?

When property owners converted from oil to natural gas thousands of dollars were spent, and many property owners didn't have the extra monies to remove the oil tank.  So many properties that were converted to gas, simply had the oil tank piping removed and the tank left in the ground.    Some property owners (likely because the permit for conversion required something be done with the oil tank) had the tank filled in place.   This was common 20 plus years ago and may have been done by the HVAC company as part of the package deal of installing the new HVAC equipment.  The rub was the HVAC company was not an environmental company and most certainly did not test the tank.

People also didn't want to find a tank leak by removing the tank and seeing holes in the tank.    The photo below shows a tank that has been excavated, cut open enough to allow human entry for cleaning.  At this point, the tank could be either removed or filled in place.  It's actually more effort to fill in place since you have to pack the fill material through the opening, ensuring that entire tank void is filled.  The photo is a perfect example of  a tank that would better off in the long run being removed, but the temptation of filling in place and never finding a problem is a huge attraction.

nj tank removal

Fast forward to today and that tank is getting removed.

Removing filled in place oil tank

Today when selling a home with a tank,  these filled in place tanks are getting removed.  The common response we get from the tank owners is the regulations changed since the tank was filled in place which is why the tank must be removed.  They are 100% wrong, filling a tank in place has always been legal.    Today's buyers want assurances the tank did not leak.

 

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Second Opinions on Mold in a home.

Jun 7, 2021 1:00:00 PM / by David C Sulock

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Mold is a serious concern, it can have adverse health effects to people who are sensitive and exposed to mold.   Sometimes, you can see the mold, sometimes you can smell it, sometimes both and sometimes you just suspect mold (maybe you do not feel well). In all these situations a professional mold evaluation is warranted.  What is a Professional when it comes to mold is subjective.

The  photo below is normal and unusual.   This is an unfinished attic with a drop down set of stairs located in the primary bedroom closet.   Mold grew with reckless abandon in the space.  The wife of the couple who owned the home was having issues they suspected those issue were due to mold, since there was an exposure pathway in their bedroom. Curren Environmental inspected and tested and sure enough, mold was impacting the bedroom from the attic.    The remediation of this area included remediating the mold but also correcting the cause of the mold.

mold 2nd opinion

So the solution was two fold, removing the mold and fixing the cause of the mold which was actually three different causes.  This was easy as we have seen it before.

Now there are way to many people who talk the "mold talk" but don't quite know what they are doing.  Its pretty easy to sample mold either on a surface or in the air.  The hard part is understanding the test results.

It is all to common that people have an inspection with testing, and the lab report is confusing to all parties, including the people who did the testing.  We know this because we are mold experts and we get calls and emails everyday asking our opinion regarding test reports.   It is a real problem that people who paid for testing can’t get a straight answer on what the testing means.  From the number of calls we get throughout the United States we can see this is a widespread issue.    It doesn't help that there are no federal regulations, with only 11 states having actual mold regulations,  people can get easily confused regarding mold.

The fact is many people involved with mold do not know what they are talking about  and that only compounds the problem.

Unfortunately, the consumer is partially to blame.  People want suspect mold evaluated, so they hire someone without a clear description of what they were going to do to evaluate for mold or how the mold testing will be interpreted.    I have read thousands of reports and the vast majority of the reports are very vague regarding the test results and cause.     When I have inquired by calling the people who did the inspection and testing regarding what they were trying to say, the common response is the report is vague on purpose.

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The rub is people spend money for mold testing and or evaluation and then need a 2nd opinion because the first opinion is so vague.  The 2nd opinion is needed because the first opinion is unclear, they don’t agree with the opinion or lastly there is no opinion just lab data.  

This is where Curren Environmental comes in, we have tested and evaluated thousands of sites.  We can peer review your data.  A peer review is a 2nd set of eyes evaluating data and providing an unbiased interpretation.   You are going to spend a couple hundred dollars on average to have your testing reviewed, but the piece of mind is immeasurable.    

What are common mold second opinions?

  •  We review lab data where a company says mold remediation is warranted and it isn't.
  •  Areas have to undergo a second mold remediation  because the the prior mold work was done improperly.
  • We find mold where others didn't

Fact

Too many people involved with mold want to put money in their pocket rather than working in the best interest of the client.

Expert Advice 888-301-1050

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Tank Sweep Differences

Jun 1, 2021 10:45:00 AM / by David C Sulock posted in OIl Tank Sweeps

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People are different. Homes are different. Not all cars are the same. 

What about Tank Sweeps?

The generic term, "Tank Sweep" gives you two distinct approaches to perform a sweep and the quality level are polar opposites.

First off, the purpose of having an Oil Tank Sweep done in NJ, PA and DE is to detect for the presence of an intact, underground oil tank. The reason you want to identify an underground tank before you buy a property, is to avoid the potential of paying for a contamination cleanup from a leaking tank. In our world a small clean up is under $15,000, more extensive cleanup start around $75,000 and go into the $100,000's.     You can see why a quality tank sweep is important. 

So when you are faced with tens of thousands of dollars to address a tank leak, go with the best approach which is using GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) for a tank sweep.  The technology will cost you a few hundred dollars more than someone using a metal detector, but the quality of the two approaches is night and day.  

GPR sends radio waves in the ground which can reflect off of a metallic object giving the technician an image.   Certain images are tanks, some are pipes, some are debris.

IMG_8520

 

There are dozens of people who have bought an $800.00 metal detector and work out of their home and do tank scans.   If only a tank was the only metal on a property, then these people would be super geniuses, but alas, metal is abundant in the ground, naturally in some soils, rocks, pipes, rebar, buried debris, above ground what do you have that doesn't have metal?  The point being you can't use cheap technology for such an important service.

To top it off, these one person bands,  as they don't remove tanks, so if you find a tank, now you have to find a company to remove it,  In a real estate transaction delays are bad.

The icing on the cake is we have been hired to remove tank found by the metal detector sweep person to only dig up not an oil tank. Really, we find no tank about 65% of the time. 

Five Tank Sweep Tips.

1. Ask the selling about prior oil heat.  In NJ they are supposed to disclose it, in PA they are not.  In every state we work the owners have  not been 100% honest with a tank disclosure.   I say this because we do thousands of tank sweep, tens of thousands tank removals so we touch more properties than pretty much any company in the area (we have been do this work for decades.)

How are owners not honest about an oil tank?  Well after we find one, many owners suddenly have tank paperwork or now remember yes there was a tank on the property.  This is 100% accurate statement

So always ask in writing about what they know regarding prior oil usage at the site.  People lie about USTS (Underground Storage Tanks) and ASTs (Aboveground Storage Tanks).   

2.  Look at the neighborhood, are there houses with oil heat?  Bingo do a scan.

3. Don't ignore ASTs (Aboveground Oil Tanks), many AST's replaced USTs.

4. If a property had a tank removed, don't assume that was the only tank.  Do a tanks weep, many sites had 2 tanks.

5. Check with the town regarding any permits for tank replacement, filling or removal.

What if a tank sweep finds an oil tank?

At Curren we provide a cost to remove and test the tank.  Tested clean tanks are not a problem. Many owners will hire us because they need to address the tank they didn't know about and well, we do this a lot, are competitive,  experienced and work in our client's best interest.  If we can save a client money we do, its in our DNA.

That said, don't run away from a property after you find  a tank (the next property may have one), rewove and test it.  Of course if the property owner refuses to address the tanks, well in that case, run away (walking isn't fast enough).

Bottom line when you find a tank, you want it removed and tested, and remediated if it leaks.  It truly doesn't matter to us if we remove the found tank or not.  Hey many property owners are mad we found a tank, true. We just want the tank removed and tested so our client doesn't have to deal with that expense. 

 

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Seller and Buyer’s perspective differ on “as is” property sale.

Apr 21, 2021 1:31:15 PM / by David C Sulock posted in mold inspections, tanks weep

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Seller and Buyer’s perspective differ on “as is” property sale.

People think when they advertise “as is”, buyers will understand that “you get what you get, and you don’t get upset” and the buyer will in turn, not to ask for repairs. Truth be told every sale is “as is” until the buyer has professional inspections performed. Buyers pay for professional inspections of the home and want things repaired, termite, electric, HVAC, mold you name it. Curren receives phone calls regarding an “as is” sale because the buyer wants the mold remediated or the tank removed.   Bottom line an as is sale means different things to different people.

As consumer we are conditioned to receive good service and not buying a headache. If your restaurant meal is not up to expectations, you say something. You buy cars with warranties and will still be miffed if you have to take the car in for warranty repair. Your new technological device not working? You call the help line. Sorry we are used to a certain quality of service (QOS) and products that don’t need repairs in most everything, and buying a home is no different.

An As Is buyer will ask for repairs

On a level playing field a buyer walks through a home with their eyes open, looking to see if the home and property are what they are looking for.  When an offer is made the buyer has not Kicked the Tires, so to speak, that happens with inspections.   A buyer can see the kitchen is outdated, yard needs a fence and a patio, they will not ask for these items to be addressed because you don’t need a trained eye to see those types of flaws during the walk through of the home.   What the buyer cannot see or is not looking for will turn into a request for repair. Once the buyer pays for a professional inspection, such as a home inspections, mold inspections, termite, tank sweeps, and radon, the buyer decides that “as is” is not acceptable. This happens time and time again. The bottom line is that the seller will get the mold and/or tank addressed but will bemoan that they had to fix termite damage, install a radon system, replace the sub pump, fix the leak in the crawl space.

mold found in a house

Pro Tip    Disclose What you know

Let’s explain the best “as is” situation. The seller decides to pay for their own home inspection prior to putting their house on the market. This report is to share with the buyers. This makes a situation where it is tough for a buyer to dispute the “as is” sale. The seller is not hiding the flaws of their property, but instead, letting the buyers know exactly what they are purchasing in terms of problems. Now, many buyers will still do their own home inspection and reply with their list of repair items that may or may not have been on the seller’s report. Environmental issues such as mold and tanks are not covered under a typical home inspection so can be a surprise to the seller. What you do not know will hurt you as a buyer when it comes to mold and tank environmental issues on a property. By hurt I mean an expense not in your budget.  

as is home for sale

 

Pro Tip Negotiating As Is Repairs

When negotiating the repairs, Curren Environmental has seen mold remediation costs split between the parties or a credit provided to a buyer. Oil tanks on the other hand, would normally be removed by the seller since there is a chance that the underground oil tank leaked which can add thousands of dollars to the cost. Bottom line when tanks leak, it may be a costly problem to remediate the contaminated soils.  Mold could cost you a few thousand dollars not tens of thousands of dollars.

The term “as is”, when it comes to selling a property may have two different definitions, one for the buyer and one for the seller.

 

as is sale

 

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Environmental Due Diligence

Mar 3, 2021 8:15:12 AM / by David C Sulock

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Commercial real estate transactions require buyer due diligence to assess for undisclosed environmental liabilities. Property leases, or refinancing, can also warrant due diligence between the parties.

Environmental due diligence is a formal process that has been refined over the past 30 years to follow a standardized approach to assessing a property for environmental issues such as soil or groundwater contamination. Environmental due diligence can take a few different forms, which can vary based on the type of transaction (purchase, lease, refinance), and perceived environmental risk of the property. Types of due diligence include Environmental Questionnaires, Property Transaction Screens, Phase I ESAs and Phase II ESAs. All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI) is associated with performance of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment in accordance with the ASTM Standard E-1527-2005 and/or the Small Business Liability and Brownfield Revitalization Act (Brownfield Amendments) of 2002 (the Federal rule that constitutes AAI). A Phase I is the formal process of assessing properties for the presence or potential presence of environmental contamination by evaluating current and historical uses of the subject property to identify recognized environmental conditions (RECs) and historical recognized environmental conditions (HRECs) on the property.

IMG_22722017-01-12 16.02.14

 

Environmental regulations are very much based on buyer beware. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) establishes liability for contamination. In layman’s terms a RP (responsible part) is the owner of a property and this the RP for cleanup. CERCLA authorizes regulatory bodies to impose financial penalties to property owners and require the removal/remediation of hazardous materials by the owner, even if the owner is not responsible for the contamination. Property owners can be held liable for owning a property even if they did not contaminate the property. Hence you want to conduct environmental due diligence.

Environmental Due Diligence is meant to protect you (buyer) from environmental liabilities under CERCLA. Due diligence can be so thorough as to establish an innocent purchaser’s defense in situations when contamination is found after the purchase of a property occurs. This protection under CERCLA can be obtained for owners, and innocent landowners and is linked to due diligence of a Preliminary Assessment (PA), an EPA formatted approach.

 

To the casual purchasers of commercial real estate, the expense of performing a Phase I ESA may seem unnecessary and will needlessly delay the transaction. This view point is most commonly seen when a buyer, who is not an environmental professional views a property as low risk.

 

Take the roofing contractor buying a commercial property in an industrial area, who later realizes the site has metals and PAH contamination from historic fill utilized decades ago to raise the grade so the land can be developed. A former tenant also dumped chemical on the property.

 

The multi-unit apartment purchaser who sells the property and discovers at the turn of the century the land was contaminated by a long gone industry that worked on the property.

 

The buyer of a farm, that did not realize the farmer rented the barn to a commercial business that impacted the site long before the EPA was established.

 

Lastly the doctor who bought a night club, tore it down and built a restaurant for a tenant that 10 years later wants to buy the property, does a Phase I and finds USTs from a long shuttered gasoline service station that operated at the site.

Environmental Due Diligence

 

All four of these sites never had a Phase I performed when the properties were purchased by the current owner. When a Phase I was performed, either due to refinance or by a buyer these issues were found would have been found years ago if the owner simply had performed due diligence.

 

When you consider performing environmental due diligence, realize while standardized approach are followed, the difference in quality of a Phase I ESA will be based on the experience of the environmental professional. Like all professional services experience helps elevate quality.

 

 

Phase I Due Diligence

 

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Tank Sweeps Metal Detector vs. GPR

Feb 24, 2021 10:30:00 AM / by David C Sulock

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Oil heat was used in the early 1900's and some properties still use oil heat today.  Many properties converted to  natural gas from oil.  These conversions did not always address the oil tank.  Hence why a sweep of a property for an oil tank is important.IMG_2380

On a basic level people ordering a tank sweep will choose a company on the cheapest price not understanding the difference between a metal detector and GPR.   Many businesses use a sub $1,000.00 metal detector to look for a tank. Cost for the sweep a couple hundred dollars. Pretty good margin because 4 to 5 tank sweeps can pay for the most commonly used detector.metal detector vs GPR Tank sweep

 

The problem is that a tank will not be the only metal on a property.  There are pipes, rebar, geology, etc. and all can have metal and will make a metal detector go BEEP.    A metal detector would not find this tank, because it is between a metal AC unit and a metal fence, too much metal.

   Best tank sweep technology       metal detector tank sweep failYour best tank sweep will include multiple technologies to be effective.

Fact:  For commercial properties where tank sweeps are performed GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) is the technology utilized.  GPR is more expensive because it does more.  Sure you can use a metal detector to verify a buried anomaly found by GPR, it's just that a metal detector can't be the only technology you rely upon.   This photo is an excellent example of using multiple technologies.   For the record the owner stated a tank was removed in the last year but they had no paperwork on the removal.   Buyer hired Curren to perform a tank sweep.  A buried tank was found via GPR.  Two metal detectors ($3,500.00 worth of metal detector technology) were utilized to verify the object was metal and not a cess pool, cistern, grey water tank etc.  This is important as the owner stated a tank was removed, meaning the object found COULD have been something else.   It was a tank. 

IMG_5650

People think the best results from a tank sweep is not finding a tank. 

Not true.   If you have a property circa 1930 or 1960, historical oil heat is all but assured.  You want to find a tank or come up with a data set proving no tank, or that a was tank removed and it did not leak. 

We have been doing tank sweeps for over 20 years, we use multiple technologies to scan a property and GPR is by far the primary method relied upon.  That said, our technicians have removed tanks, hundreds if not thousands so they have hands on experience with buried tank system. 

When we find a tank, we can get our client costs for removal in most situations within 24 hours of finding a tank.  This is important because the tank sweep is no longer a tank find project, but a tank removal project and this project needs to jump to the front of the line.  We can do that because it is an existing client/project and we are well aware of the importance of addressing the tank.   The same is true if we find an area where tank as removed and not tested.  Now the project is soil sampling to ensure the tank didn't leak.  Hey we are also environmental consultants so we are also capable of reviewing and understanding reports provided on tanks to let our clients know if the data is sufficient and when it is not sufficient, what needs to be done next.

Oil Tank Liability Fact

When an Oil Tanks leaks, they can contaminate the soil and  groundwater. If the property is purchased with a leaking tank, the new buyer is responsible for all future environmental cleanup cost.  Environmental cleanup costs can range from $10,000 to over $100,000 depending on how much fuel oil leaked and how far it traveled.

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What happens after a tank sweep?

Feb 22, 2021 10:00:00 AM / by David C Sulock posted in OIl Tank Sweeps, tank sweeps with GPR, gpr tank sweeps

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Understand the process of a tank sweeps and what happens after a tank sweep.

The best situation regarding a tank sweep is finding a tank, therefore it can be removed and soil tested to prove that no soil remediation (cleanup) is required. what happens after a tank sweep.

A hidden or an underground oil tank is a major financial liability when buying a home, because rust never sleeps and oil leaks from the tank. Soil remediation from leaking oil tanks can easily cost into the tens of thousands of dollars.   A tank sweep of any property is always recommended unless you can document the site never had oil heat, unfortunately older homes had oil heat since it was the only option after coal use.

Should I buy a house with an underground oil tank?

An underground oil tank can make a home harder to sell or worth less to a potential buyer, how does a $32,000.00 oil tank cleanup ding the value of a home? A known oil tank can also increase the chances of complications with getting to the closing table and the home sold. Mortgage lenders are wary of buried oil tanks and may refuse to lend on a home with an underground tank.

oil tank leaks

What is the life expectancy of an underground oil tank?

The average life of a UST is about 20 years (if you bought a middle of the road tank today, that is your warranty. However, with the tank buried, other factors will influence the lifespan of underground tanks, including the gauge of its steel, geology, corrosivity of the soils, etc. 

FACT:  most tanks were used past their design life expectancy and left in the ground unused past their life expectancy as well.

Photo Mar 13, 10 37 24 AM

How do you manage the liability with an oil tank?

The liability of an oil tank pertains to leaks that occur and the state mandated cleanup of the oil leaks.   The best situation regarding a tank sweep is finding a tank so it can be removed and tested to prove that no cleanup is required.

What happens if the tank sweep does not find a tank but points to a tank being removed?

This is not your best scenario because now you do not know if the tank leaked or where the tank was located. Clearly not finding a tank means your investigative work is not complete, because you do not know if the tank leaked.   Tank sweeps cannot find removed tanks, so you are tasked with historical research on who removed the tank. Bottom line you have to make an effort to find where the tank was located.   Sometimes owners get a conscience  and will admit that a tank was removed, they just did not think that knowledge was relevant at that time. Sometimes a tank sweep can point to a likely area of where the tank was located.

We had a case where an owner removed their own tank in the backyard without a permit.   They eventually were going to sell the home and did not want the tank as an issue. The final cleanup was around $40,000.00. Someone admitting to a bad thing is not common, but we do see it happen.

 tank leak costs

Sometimes we can find the tank grave, other times we have to do a grid of soil borings in the suspected area to try and find the tank grave and to test soil. Testing a removed tank excavtion

Tank sweeps that point to a removed tank will lead to soil testing in the area of the removed tank, unless of course a report exists of the tank removal with testing and a clear statement that the tank did not leak. Best case you find no contamination, worst you find contamination, which is reportable to the state and further work would be necessary.

Be aware there have been many tanks that were removed, that leaked and were not cleaned up. Owner hoped no one will look or test the area.  If you don't have  a report that includes laboratory data saying the tank did not leak, you don't have what you need to remove the liability of the tank.

Need to learn more about tank sweeps? Click here. 

 

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