Hot Environmental Topics

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. 

 

Call Curren Today

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Mold Removal vs. Mold Remediation

Feb 16, 2021 9:00:00 AM / by David C Sulock posted in mold remediation, mold inspections, mold consultant, professional mold remediation, black mold

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If we didn’t have mold, the leaves, mulch and grass clipping would never decompose, so mold is an essential part of our ecosystem.   Since minuet concentrations of mold spores can be expected to be found almost everywhere, indoors and outdoors, removing all mold from a home or business is just not impossible.  Since mold is only regulated in 11 states, you will see many businesses advertise “mold removal” and may even guarantee to remove all mold, which is really just not possible.

Visible mold is a sure sign that there is a mold problem. When we say mold is everywhere, it’s not visible to the naked eye. Your ultimate objective of addressing mold is fixing the source that fueled the mold growth and  then removing (remediating) the mold. In truth, you are going to aim to getting mold levels back to normal, natural levels (background, nothing visible, no odors).

Ever buy anything from Amazon?   Probably, they grew from an online book seller in the 1990's to a superstore, movie studio and video channel to name a few things.   An underlining mantra at Amazon is when a problem is found, they will "walk backwards" to find the cause so it can be fixed and the problem will not reoccur.   Mold remediation requires you to "walk backwards as well to diagnosis the cause and prevent it from reoccurring.

Clearly you want to remediate the mold in the photos, but you also want to fix the cause.

     2018-11-01 08-58-41-jpg-1        image1

Understanding what caused the mold is the key to the remediation of mold. Case in point, the photo below is an excellent example of selective mold growth.  Look at the ceiling, some beams have a light brown wood color (no mold growth) and some are a greyish color (mold growth).  Mold Remediation is needed for sure but you have to also fix the cause.  I am not going to explain the cause, but we see it a lot, it always gets addressed during remediation.

mold on basement ceiling

New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware do not regulate mold businesses, so hiring a competent ethical company that understands the science behind mold and mold growth is harder than it should be.  Curren Environmental is a full service environmental company and has been for over 20 years experience with mold.  Let’s explain what you can expect to address your mold problem either in your home or business. Even though every project has some unique attributes there is a foundation that you follow to successfully address the mold.

  • Step 1: Mold inspection with emphasis on the cause of mold. You have to find the cause so it can be fixed and the mold will not return.
  • Step 2: Develop remedial plan and make repairs to cause of mold. You need a plan to ensure you address the mold issue thoroughly. Most likely the person inspecting the mold will not be remediating so you need a clear set of steps (instructions) for the mold remediation crew.
  • Step 3: Mold Containment of work area from non work area. As bad as any area with mold is, mold spores will get airborne when demolition or movement of mold impacted items from the space. You need to be able to maintain clean areas outside the mold work area.
  • Step 4: Air Filtration of area to contain spores. We use industrial grade air filtration to clean the air during remediation to prevent cross contamination.
  • Step 5: Clean and save items as possible, wrap fixtures in space if present.  Trust us the mold on the treadmill in your basement can be cleaned and saved.  That box of old magazines, probable not. 
  • Step 6: Physical remediation, hep vacuum to clean mold growth, fungicide application and apply fungistatic coating of remaining porous surfaces this prevents future growth and comes with a 10 year warranty. This is the meat and potatoes of the project.
  • Step 7: Final walk through, what should you expect? You should expect any space that had mold remediation to be cleaner than before remediation.  Expect that organic wood surfaces are now treated with a fungistatic coating. You may have also found other sources/drivers of the mold during the remediation and this would need to be expressed to the client. (Finding hidden water leaks or termite damage is not out of the ordinary.)

Mold remediation atticattic treated with anti mold coating - fungistatic coating

You have mold because you have moisture and possible from more than one source. We have completed thousands of mold inspections and mold remediation.  Our crew is trained to find problems and provide solutions.

mold remediation vs mold removal

Signs of Mold? Call Today 888-301-1050

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New Jersey No Further Action Letter (NFA)

Feb 3, 2021 9:01:00 AM / by David C Sulock

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NJDEP No Further Action Letter or "NFA"

An NFA is a document, typically one page, that is issued by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP’s) Heating Oil Tank (HOTs) program to close out the contamination issue of a heating oil tank discharge.

Basically, the No Further Action Letter is an environmental release of “No Further Action” from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the culmination of a property's environmental remediation, which can include tank removal, remediation and testing.

NJDEP NFA

Historically the NJDEP would issue NFA letters for both commercial and residential sites. This has changed with the enactment of the Site Remediation Reform Act, N.J.S.A. 58:10C-1 et seq on May 7, 2012.   After this legislation only residential sites receive an NFA.

Can an NFA be rescinded?

Unfortunately, an NFA can be rescinded or withdrawn if it is found that the subject site that received the NFA has contamination that is above applicable NJDEP standards for either soil or groundwater. Rescinding an NFA is rare but does happened.

Will every residential oil tank receive an NFA letter?

To be applicable for an NFA letter you would need a site with a tank that leaks.   You would then need to document that the leak as it occurred is to the extent (minimal) that petroleum levels are below NJDEP standards or remediation was performed that reduced petroleum levels to be within NJDEP acceptable standards.  If your oil tank does not leak, you will not obtain an NFA.

How do you obtain an NJDEP NFA?

You must employ an NJDEP licensed firm and an individual for the work and submit documents in the from of a report with applicable NJDEP forms to NJDEP with a $400.00 review fee. The NJDEP will review these documents, typically within 30 days, and issue an NFA if applicable. If the NJDEP reviews submitted documents and finds site is not in compliance, the NJDEP will not issue an NFA and will list what is lacking and needs to be performed.

NJDEP Soil standards have changed including soil testing methods including TPHC, DRO and now EPH. Will the NJDEP issue an NFA for work that included older testing?

On a case by case basis NJDEP can review older reports that utilized the older testing methods and can issue an NFA if the data shows compliance with standards at the time the work was completed.

Can a site receive two NFA letters?

If the site has two leaking oil tanks (may properties had 2 oil tanks), then yes two NFA’s can be obtained.

Can a property be sold without an NFA letter?

There is no law that prevents the sale of a residential oil contaminated site.

How can I obtain a copy of an NFA for a site where an NFA was issued?

First if an NFA is issued, the property owner should hold a copy of the letter and the NFA should be issued to subsequent property owners during the  sale of the property.

Pro Tip  - during Covid-19 the NJDEP issued NFA's electronically, so involved parties would be expected to have a digital copy of the NFA letter.

An NFA is a matter of public record so a copy can be obtained via an OPRA.  An NFA is issued to the responsible party (RP), typically the property owner, a copy to the local Board of Health and to the municipal clerk of the city, township or municipality where the property is located.  The NJDEP also has a copy.

Call Curren Today

 

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What is the driver for Mold Remediation?

Jan 25, 2021 11:30:00 AM / by David C Sulock posted in mold, mold consultant, Mold, Mold growth, mold remediation

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aka How Did Covid-19 affect Mold Remediation?

About 45 days into the Covid-19 situation, we saw an uptick in mold remediation at residential properties.  In short,  Covid-19 drove mold remediation up by 27% from 2019. How did Covid-19 drive mold remediation?

    Mold growth attic Mold Remediation Attic

Typically, home inspections (home inspector) for the sale of a property discover possible mold growth and the buyer requires that the mold be addressed. Mold is not a selling feature and it's typically not promoted on the home listing information.  

Mold Growth Sell Sheet

 

Buyers finding mold in a home is your typical mold remediation driver.

Because of Covid-19 we found there were also many homeowners performing their own home inspections prior to putting their property on the market to sell. Sellers want to know what would be some of the problems in their homes to proactively make repairs. This ensures a smoother, quicker real estate transaction. What are the top repairs? During our work, we saw a lot of plumbers, and electricians doing work.   So some homeowners found mold on their own and wanted it addressed prior to listing the home.  We had quite a few remediate mold and never sell their home as they found searching for a new home too much of an ordeal.

So Covid-19 Made People More Aware of Mold?

Covid-19 put people on lockdown, on work from home, exercise from home, cook from home, people were just home more because of Covid-19.  Being home more made people aware of their homes.  Musty odors were more noticeable, discolored wood that you didn’t think twice about but would totally pass over at the lumber yard made people think about the possibility of mold being present in their homes.    Before the Peloton bike was put in the basement,  the white powder on the ceiling made  sense. 

        Mold on basement ceiling       Musty odor is active mold growth

Working in the home office in the basement, made you smells things you didn't smell before.    Is that musty smell active mold growth?  (YES). 

How about moving those boxes out of the basement to the attic so we finish the basement.  Hey what is that dark staining in the attic?   (mold)

The basement that would get wet occasionally was now a concern.  We removed a lot of sheetrock in basements during Covid. 

 

                 Mold Remediation Basement    Mold Remediation Basement

Read more at Curren's Mold Frequently Asked Questions.

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Mold Inspection & Testing. What to know before you have work performed.

Dec 17, 2020 11:45:00 AM / by David C Sulock posted in mold, professional mold remediation

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Mold Inspection & Testing. What to know before you have work performed.

When purchasing a property, for due diligence a home inspection is meant to uncover defects or areas in need of repair, a mold inspection however, is performed to evaluate for mold, either the  entire dwelling or an area of concern such as a basements, crawl spaces, attics, living rooms, etc.

Everyone thinks that they are a mold expert and, in truth, few people know tons about mold. Since most states don’t have licensing for mold inspections, it is simple for someone to proclaim themselves as an expert and do mold related work such as testing and remediations.

Some of these so called "proclaimed mold experts" provide mold testing  and once the testing is complete the samples are sent or delivered to a laboratory. The laboratory tests the sample for mold spore types and provides multiple pages of the test results with filler material consisting of an explanation of different types of mold. The lab may also use colors to point out mold levels that the lab (not the mold expert) are saying are of concern.   This lab data is typically the complete report that the "mold expert" provides. 

Example sampling

Example of a Mold Report. No analyzation.

We see this on 90% of the mold reports we are provided to peer review or to provide an estimate for remediation.  The problem is the mold expert provides no narrative of what they saw, why they tested, condition of the room, photos of the area or of the area sampled and lastly and really most important what the test results mean.    

The by product of a these type of mold inspections gives you a very vague document, which many "mold experts" have told me they do on purpose.   These people don’t want to give a lot of detail and then be held responsible if its incorrect. In all actuality, you pay for a professional opinion, but do not get one.

You get what you pay for and the quality of work is directly related to the skill set of the inspector, which we have found  can have varying degrees of quality.

Lets be clear, you want a mold inspection because?

Clear project objectives are important from the start of any investigation.

Where a home inspection is meant to uncover defects or areas in need of repair, a mold inspection is performed to evaluate for mold, either an entire dwelling or a specific location.

When evaluating for mold be it visual, or by laboratory analysis, explanation of observations (what was found), if mold was visually detected (why was mold present?) and when testing is performed what would be an acceptable or unacceptable results?

Surface Sampling

Example of Photographing sampling area. 

Case in point when you have a discolored area say on a wall and/or ceiling, that you suspect is mold you can test the area to confirm if it is or is not mold.    Surface sampling is performed by either "tape" sampling  or taking a "swab" of the area. This sample goes to a lab where they look at it under a high powered microscope to see if mold spores are present. This is typically a pass fail test, either you Got Mold or you don’t.   

But you also need to know the following:

  • Why is mold growing?
  • Was the cause of the mold growth fixed or is it still active?
  • What will it take to remediate the mold?  
     
    You won’t have successful mold remediation without questions 1 & 2 being answered.

Air Sampling or Spore Trap Sampling

Air sampling is how you can find mold that is not visible (behind a wall) and it can also tell you if mold found in a basement or other areas is affecting air quality on the first floor.  

When air sampling is performed, it is a sound practice, as a mold inspector, to photo document and provide a narrative description of sampling activities.   The reason the results can be biased depends on sample collection technique, height, location, room conditions, etc.   Results can also be amplified based on room contents. An empty dwelling can have a different reading than one that is occupied with possessions.

Imagine a freshly painted room with new carpets have an elevated air mold spore count. The conclusion likely to be drawn from this is that there is hidden mold, likely behind an outside wall or other area where water events may have occurred.  The painting of the room may have been performed to cover mold damage to the room.

In both air and tape mold samples certain “marker” species of mold can indicate interior water damage (as opposed to an outdoor mold) and subsequent microbial amplification.

Call Curren Today

What causes Mold?

Mold is only going to grow in the presence of moisture in a built environment. Any assessment when mold is noted or suspected, needs to determine the source of the water and often times there is more than one source.

Photo Nov 04, 11 38 20 AM-jpg

Water intrusion due to faulty downspouts and landscape grading. 

When should you remediate mold?

Initially any visible mold growth is a driver for remediation, in this case only water staining was noted, no visual mold growth. The EPA agrees that testing is not required when visual presence is noted.

 What is the minimum you want from a mold inspection?

It is critical in any mold inspection to document the condition of the room and reference the contents. This is important because items in a room can affect test results.

When mold is found, the likely cause should be identified.

If the whole room has mold it should stated, if mold is limited to day the lower section of a well, well that needs to be stated. All to often we read a report that says mold was found in the basement.   Our question is where and why?

 

Without regulatory reference values for mold concentrations (no federal guidelines), it is generally accepted that the following conditions should be satisfied:

  1. No hydrophilic mycotoxin producing fungi should be present above the detection limit of one spore (such as Stachybotrys or Chaetomium),
  2. The water-damage indicator mold species (such as Penicillium/Aspergillus) concentrations should not exceed 1000 structures per cubic meter unless room contents (possession) could cause amplification.
  3. If outdoor or background air sampling is performed, you typically want indoor samples to have lower levels than outside and similar types.   Outdoor spore count can vary greatly though out the year.   Comparison of indoor to outdoor mold levels, that each type of mold in the indoor sampling should typically be less than the same type of mold on the outdoor sample (if applicable – 10% differential).

Mold questions?  Learn more about mold frequently asked questions. 

 

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Lead-Based Paint in Residential Homes

Dec 14, 2020 11:00:00 AM / by Tiffany Byrne posted in Lead

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Lead is sometimes considered the first metal. The ancient Romans used lead for plumbing and regarded lead as the “father of all metals”. Even though they discovered that lead could cause madness, and even death lead was still used. Especially among the aristocrats who used it in wine carafes, glasses, and food plates, all which contained lead. Leading to, what many scholars researched, the fall of the Roman Empire.

Moving towards the “New World” era, lead was beginning to be mined in the state of Virginia. The first use of lead was known to be used in the manufacturer of arms and ammunition by American Colonies. Lead also began to be used in the US for drinking water pipes. The lead was less expensive and more durable than iron, lead piping could also be easily bent making it better to use in existing buildings. It was believed that the earliest health concerns were raised in the 1850s but in the 1920s the effort to ban or limit lead piping became known.

lead water pipe

Lead can be found in the air, soil, and water. Where is lead in our homes today? Much of our exposure comes from our activities, such as the past use of leaded gasoline, industrial facilities paint, and lead piping for water use.  Did you know after leaded gasoline was banned lead in our bloodstream diminished?

What made lead paint so popular?

Lead in the paint allowed the paint to dry quickly, allowed the paint to resist moisture & made the paint more durable.

lead paint

  •  The lead was thought to make products better.
  • It is easily shaped, soft enough to be malleable
  • The low melting point for easy casting into shapes.
  • Lead has durability you did not get from, ceramics, used to seal jars, give roofs waterproof lining, be used in sewage and water pipes that would not crack easily.

Where can lead paint be found?

  • Windows and windowsills
  • Doors and door frames
  • Stairs, railings, banisters, and porches

lead paint house-1

Is lead paint in your home or the home that you are purchasing? Depends on the age of the home.

 

As you can see lead in paints was immensely popular and the older the home the more likely lead-based paint will be present.   Lead paint was phased out in the 1970s.   If your home is older than 1978, you likely have lead paint. EPA Fact:  Approximately three-quarters of the nation’s housing built before 1978 contains some lead-based paint. This paint, if properly managed and maintained, poses little risk.

If you want a lead paint-free home buy a home built after 1978. But also understand that paint containing lead applied to pre-1978 likely has multiple coats of paint on top of it. The risk of human exposure to lead paint directly correlates to the quality of the painted surface. Chipping and peeling paint can be a concern. If you do renovation and disturb painted surfaces, you are likely to encounter lead paint.   You are much more likely to be exposed to mold than lead paint in the average home.

Call Curren Today 

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Should I Remove my Aboveground Storage Tank?

Nov 18, 2020 12:36:02 PM / by David C Sulock

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Converting to natural gas from oil heat will typically include you removing the unused oil tank, except when the tank is a heating oil AST (Aboveground Storage Tank).   Many states have construction codes that requires UST closure when converting to natural gas from a UST, but not for ASTs. The number one reason heating oil ASTs are ignored is that it costs money to remove the them.    But doing nothing with the tank can cost thousands of dollars more than just the tank removal. So many properties have 300 gallon tanks sitting in damp places, slowly rusting and waiting to leak.  Basement tank remediation cost can rival to UST tank leaks, because when a tank leaks in a basement you now have to remediate soils under a house.

Above Ground oil tanks will leak

When a tank leaks, the typical remedial approach is to treat the contaminated soil like a cancer and remove the soil.  When the tank is outside it is easier because hydraulic excavation equipment can easily access that area. What happens when a tank leaks in basement?  Well that is hand work, very slow and expensive. 

Basement oil tank leak remediation

Bottom line it is pennywise and dollar foolish to not remove a heating oil AST when you stop using it.

Read on if you want to learn more.

ASTs leak

Why would an Aboveground Oil Tank (AST) leak? 

Many oil tanks rust  from the inside out.  This most often occurs on the upper portion of the tank where the tank is empty and the oil is not present to lubricate the steel, condensation and humidity can allow rust to form.  The photo below shows the inside of an AST, upper portion, note the orange rust.

Basement tanks rust and leak

 

Heating oil ASTs can  also leak due to the use of low sulfur fuel, because of acid rain.

Remember Acid Rain? (boring reading ahead)

Why do we never hear about acid rain anymore?  Acid Rain fell off the radar in 1990 (30 years ago), when an amendment to the Clean Air Act required major reductions in the types of emissions that lead to acid rain, meaning we reduced our use of sulfur in fuels.   Acid rain results when sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOX) are emitted into the atmosphere and transported by wind and air currents. The SO2 and NOX react with water, oxygen and other chemicals to form sulfuric and nitric acidsSulfur is in  heating oil.  

For 30 years heating oil tanks have had low sulfur fuel.  Without a high level of sulfur microbial growth will occur in an oil tank  on the bottom of the tank where sludge is present.  Secretions from these microbes produce acids that  corrode a steel tank from the inside.    So a tank can corrode from the inside where people think it is lubricated and don't even talk about exterior corrosion on the tank.  

The photo below is the bottom of an AST that was cut open, note the orange rust in contact to the shiny metal.  Yep rust happens inside an oil tank.

Aboveground oil tank leaks

The two tanks in this photo have not been used in 25 years.  20 years ago a trench drain was installed around the tanks.  (Owner didn't want to spend money to remove 2 tanks, too expensive).  The rub is one of the tanks is leaking ever so slightly, if not addressed the oil will go into the trench drain and sump and eventually be discharged outside.  

Aboveground heating oil tank removal

When you convert to natural gas, you spend thousands of dollars and if you can save any money it is to leave the heating oil AST alone.    Leaving unused oil tanks in basements and crawlspaces are like lighting a fuse and waiting for something to go boom.   

Don't wait for your heating oil AST to leak, call for a free estimate.

Call Curren Today

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Top 5 Environmental Deal Breakers in Real Estate

Oct 1, 2020 11:00:00 AM / by Tiffany Byrne posted in Selling a house, Buying a house, Real Estate

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You found the perfect house, it's beautiful inside and out.  This is not the first house you looked at, you actually lost count, so you have a large pool of houses you considered before you decided to make an offer on this one.  There may be a few adjustments when you move in (that worn carpet is going, that wall separating the kitchen and family room is going to go  and lastly the large pink bathroom is getting redone.) but mostly it is actually your dream home (great location, yard, large bedrooms and closets).  You do the walk through and make an offer on the home.  Move forward and now even though the home was your dream home, you never even thought about the environmental issues would impact the purchase of that property. 

Underground Oil Tank

The house has charm, it was built in 1950, so oil heat is assured (there really weren't any other choices).  You do a tank sweep Oil Tank Sweep and find a long forgotten oil tank in the side yard.  Should be easy to remove, cost is around $1,600.00.  You request it be removed. Oil Tank Removal.  The seller's google oil tank leak and get skittish.

tank found with oil tank sweep

Mold in the Basement

Home inspection find suspect fungal growth in the basement.  You hire a mold consultant and the basement is tested and mold is confirmed Mold Inspection & Testing.  Mold remediation as well as mold prevention measures are $2,700.00.  Seller gripes about having to remediate the mold, but their realtor and attorney advised that now that the presence of mold is known it must be disclosed to future buyers and many buyers may be hesitant to buy a home with old.    You are told that mold is not a selling feature.    But hey the mold remediation comes with a long warranty, who doesn't want piece of mind.  Mold Remediation

mold remediation

Call for Mold Questions.

Asbestos in the Wall you want to remove.

Asbestos was actually considered a green building product back in the day.  It was used everywhere, including in plaster and since the house was built in the 1950 (asbestos was banned in the 1970's).   The contractor you had walk through to give you a renovation budget said the presence of asbestos is almost guaranteed as he has worked in the town for years and it comes up on all his projects of homes from that era).   Not a huge problem, but it is going to add thousands to the renovation budget, the landscaping budget just evaporated).  The money for the asbestos is not a concession the seller is willing to step up to, since its well documented that older homes have asbestos.  In fact your realtor tells you that it would be a real feat to find a home built before 1970 that doesn't have asbestos somewhere in the home.

The HVAC System has poor Indoor air quality.

You learned during the home inspection process that the HVAC system is the lungs of the home.  Makes sense hot and cold air run through the system so anything that the system does to improve air quality helps.  This system doesn't do much.  You learned that the little 1"  (inch) filter does next to nothing to remove particulate from the air.  You need a MERV 13 or 16 filter, which is 5" thick.  MERV: minimum efficiency reporting value.  The MERV 16?  Well that filter captures >95% of particles in the entire size range tested (0.3-10.0 microns), one micron — a millionth of a meter, kind of like adding a N-95 mask to your HVAC system.    The system also needs to add more fresh air every hour to compensate for people consuming air and adding carbon dioxide with every breath exhaled.  The house doesn't have a whole house humidifier, which you need in winter to raise humidity.  Apparently viruses can thrive in a low humidity environment.    Lastly you need a UV light added to the system.  Why UV Light?  Ultraviolet lights have been proven to  kill mold, viruses and bacteria for more than 100 years. In 1903, Niels Finsen was given the Noble Prize in Medicine for using UV to effectively treat patients with skin infections.     UV Light is also being used to clean areas of Covid-19.   It all makes sense, you though a heater was a heater, but indoor air quality is on everyone's mind and improving indoor air quality.  Again the sellers are not contributing to the cost since the HVAC was visible, but your untrained eye missed what the HVAC system as missing.  On a side note, their realtor tells your realtor that they are making the same changes to the HVAC system on the home they are buying.

Oil Tank Leaked.

Sellers agreed to remove the tank, and yes a buried metal tank in the ground will rust and oil will leak through the holes.    Remediation cost you are told is around $19,000, and that is not a really expensive cleanup either.  The sellers move forward with the work, but settlement is delayed 45 days due to the remediation and the government signoff of the work.  Again your realtor and attorney explain that a looming oil tank remediation is going to deter other buyers.   Side note, both your mortgage company and home owner's insurance carrier had issues providing insurance and a mortgage on a property with oil contamination.

Want to learn about environmental issues in real estate?

What to know how a home can be green?

Curren Environmental is an education provider and lectures on these topics?   Want to make your staff, your company, your associates smarter about environmental topics?   Call Tiffany Byrne to learn how we can help   856-858-9509

 

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Best Advice from a Project Manager regarding Underground Oil Tank

Sep 16, 2020 10:00:00 AM / by David C Sulock posted in oil tank removal nj, oil tank removal pa, tank testing

2 Comments

Advice for you from an experienced Project Manager.

best tank removal advice

The most important item that I would advise someone regarding an underground oil tank is to know your facts and know what you are and are not paying for with the company you choose. Most clients only get a tank removed once in their lifetime and it can be overwhelming. If you are getting more than one proposal, which I would highly recommend, each proposal should detail within line items exactly what will occur before, during and after the tank removal. If any of the companies you are receiving quotes from are not describing what they are doing in line item detail, I would pass on those companies.

More often than not, when we get a call back from someone who has had their tank removed from another company their main issue or complaint is about the soil samples.

tank removal soil sampling

A very important piece of the tank removal is knowing if your tank did or did not leak and knowing the Extractable Petroleum Hydrocarbon (EPH) in New Jersey, DRO concentration in Delaware and Statewide Health Standards in Pennsylvania of the soil samples.  There are permissible level of oil allowable in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

There is no way to know if you need a remediation just by looking at the soil. How it looks, how it smells, or how many holes in the tank will give you an indication that yes a leak occurred but it will not tell you the concentrations of the contamination without concrete laboratory analysis. 

See this photo? 

Soils look clean? 

They actually are contaminated, looks are deceiving.

all oil tanks need soil sampling

 

If you don't have soil samples analyzed by an independent laboratory (takes about a week) there is no way to know for sure. I have reviewed numerous pieces of information provided by homeowners from their tank removal company and I would say 90% are done in a manner which financially serves the company and not the homeowner. The most common things I have heard in regards to the soil samples:

  • The tank removal company took no samples and said remediation was needed
  • The tank removal company took 1 sample (a minimum of 2 are required by the state)
  • The tank removal company took 1 sample and said remediation was needed but the analysis was wrong
  • The tank removal company points to a hole in the tank and declares remediation is necessary and testing isn't necessary because it's obvious.
    DCP_0890

We go back and test may sites with removed tanks where the homeowner is told remediation is required and low and behold after we test we determine remediation is not warranted.   Most times Curren is able to resolve the problem but at the cost of a few thousand dollars that may or may not have been necessary if the original tank removal company has proceeded correctly, meaning obtained soil samples.   Taking samples at time of removal is much less expensive than remediation.  But companies make more money from remediation so they don't explain the benefit oil soil sampling at time of tank removal.

Bottom line when you shop for a tank removal, you must realize that the cost differential is likely due to the lower priced company not supplying a licensed project manager for soil sampling and the cost of the laboratory analysis.

Now if you are thinking you don't want soil testing performed when your tank is removed, because you don't want to find a problem.   Be aware the pool of potential buyers that are willing to buy a property where  testing was not performed is tiny.   We test properties al the time where tanks were removed without testing and the buyer wants testing.  We also see buyers walk away from properties where testing was not performed.   They figure if the seller doesn't want to find a problem, they are not going to want to fix a problem if found so why spend the money, they move onto the next house.

Expert Advice for over 20 years

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