Gardening Soil and Water

Gardening 101: Start With Clean Soil

Garden TomatoNow that the weather is warming up, the garden beckons. Thoughts of luscious vegetables and gorgeous flowers bloom. But before you start turning over the garden, get your soil tested. What you may not realize is that the soil around your house may be hosting a variety of contaminants, including lead, pesticides, bacteria, and heavy metals. And the impact on your family’s health from these unseen dangers may be great.

Lead in soil is a very common problem, especially if you live in a pre-1978 built home or in garden soil contaminationa neighborhood of older homes. How does lead get into your soil? Sanding during the prep period, prior to painting the exterior of an older home, can spew lead dust through the air. (Up until 1978, most paint contained lead.) Flaking paint chips can also find their way into the soil. Lead dust can also be released through open windows when sanding home’s interior walls.

tainted compostAnother possible source of contamination is tainted compost. If you use public compost, you may be exposed to dangerous levels of lead and other toxins. Here’s why: When municipalities pick up lawn clippings and organic debris for composting, they don’t test first to see if the clippings and debris are free from contamination.

The damaging effects of ingesting these toxins — chromium, lead and other metals, contaminated soil connecticutpetroleum, solvents, and many pesticide and herbicide formulations – are many. These contaminants can be carcinogenic, cause congenital disorders or other chronic health conditions. Pregnant women and children are at the highest risk. In fact, more than 500,000 children are poisoned each year by lead.

The only way to protect your family is to have your soil tested by an environmental testing company. They can tell you if your soil is safe, and if there is a problem, can inform you of how to correct it. Click here for more information or to schedule a soil test today.


Health Healthy Home Soil and Water Video

News 12 CT Report on Widespread Well Water Contamination


News 12 Connecticut says Stamford health officials are urging homeowners to test their well water for uranium, and speaks with RTK Environmental Group about testing, health affects, and solutions. Uranium was recently discovered in 70% of water wells tested in Stamford, CT. Contaminated well water is a growing problem all over Connecticut: approximately 20% of private wells are contaminated with toxins including uranium, arsenic, radon, carcinogenic pesticides, and heavy metals like lead. To be safe, you should test for all of these things. A basic well-water test does not usually include uranium.

Stamford health officials say it is dangerous to consume high levels of uranium long term because it is radioactive and can cause kidney damage and cancer.

They say since they issued the uranium warning, more homeowners are calling them or hiring private companies to test their water. To have your well tested by an independent testing company, call RTK at (800) 392-6468 or click here.

Asbestos Flooding & Water Damage Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead Mold Soil and Water

Protecting Your Home from Silent Killers

RTK’s very own Robert Weitz was recently interviewed by Connecticut for Sale. He shares great advice on Protecting Your Home From Silent Killers, including mold, lead, asbestos, and radon. CLICK HERE to read the article.

Connecticut Homes is the one of the top sites for Connecticut Homes For Sale, including Hartford CT Homes For Sale, condos, multi families, and townhouses for sale. Connecticut Homes also services Long Island NY Real Estate and New Hampshire Homes For Sale.

Flooding & Water Damage Health Soil and Water Video

Testing on soil covered by Superstorm Sandy floodwater reveals contaminants – Part 2

In part two of this incredible investigation, RTK helps News 12 New Jersey uncover contaminants in some NJ soil post-Superstorm Sandy.

If you think you may have contaminated soil from Superstorm Sandy flooding, feel free to contact us at (800) 392-6468 to discuss, or click here.

Flooding & Water Damage Soil and Water Video

RTK Helps News 12 Investigate Sandy-Related Soil Contamination – Part 1

In October of 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused massive flooding in parts of New Jersey, and those floodwaters transported everything from sewage to petroleum products to toxic chemicals. Even when the water receded, a Kane In Your Corner investigation, with the help of RTK Environmental Group, finds some of the toxins were left behind.

Flooding & Water Damage Healthy Home Soil and Water

Think Well Water Safe to Drink? Think again!

You may mistakenly believe that because your drinking water comes from a well, it’s purer and safer than water from reservoirs. A recent article in a Connecticut newspaper (Stamford Advocate) dispelled that notion, when it reported that unhealthy traces of arsenic were found in private wells in some southern Connecticut towns, and that the Connecticut Department of Public Health received numerous reports of pesticide and heavy metal contamination in residential drinking water across the state.

Common Contaminants & Health Effects

contaminated well water connecticutWell water can contain a host of contaminants, including coliform bacteria, lead, arsenic, E. coli, nitrates, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) radon, pesticides, and MtBE (a gasoline compound). Many of these contaminants cannot be identified by taste or odor, making it difficult for homeowners to know if the water quality of their well is acceptable. Contaminants can cause a wide variety of health problems, including skin problems; damage to the brain, kidneys, and neurological system; gastro-intestinal illness; hair loss; and immune deficiencies.

Wells in the Tri-State

Contaminated Tap WaterArsenic, radon, and heavy metals can seep into the water supply from rock, not just industrial pollution. Water in areas that have experienced flooding can also become contaminated. Can private wells be regulated by the EPA? The EPA regulates public water systems; it does not regulate private water wells. Yet, nearly 25% of private wells contain harmful contaminants, according to the U.S. Geological Survery Water Science School.  In the New York tri-state area, high levels of arsenic, radon, and heavy metals are a major issue.

Although the Connecticut state Department of Public Health does not require private well owners to test their water for known toxins, other communities are taking steps to protect us. Westchester County in New York implemented the Westchester County Private Well Water Testing Legislation, Local Law 7 – 2007, which requires that water test be conducted upon the signing of a contract of sale for any property served by a private well. New Jersey also has similar testing laws.

How Often Should I Test?contaminated tap water new york

At a minimum, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends that you check your well every spring to make sure there are no mechanical problems, and have it tested once each year for total coliform bacteria, VOCs, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. Every few years you should test for additional contaminants.

Who Should Test My Well?

contaminated well water connecticutAn independent testing company that uses state-certified (licensed) laboratories will give you thorough, unbiased results. If they find a problem, they will help you determine what your next steps should be. For more information on water testing, click here. To set up a well water test in the tri-state area, call RTK at (800) 392-6468 or click here.

Depending on the contaminants, this may spell danger. So, if your drinking water comes from a private well, better to be safe than sorry; have your well tested to make sure you are not putting yourself, your family, or your employees in danger.

Lead Soil and Water

Dangers of Lead Dust Still Being Downplayed, Especially in Soil

Lead poisoning has become a hot topic once again after a new study was released by the journal Environmental Science & Technology showing that children’s levels of exposure outdoors to lead-contaminated airborne dust explains why there are seasonal changes in their blood lead levels. This is true even if lead found in the dust was deposited in the soil years ago.

According to the study, levels of lead in the bloodstream among children living in U.S. cities can rise by more than 10 percent during the summer months, and then decrease during winter and spring.


Additionally, wind, humidity and other weather-related factors increase the amount of lead-contaminated dust in the air during those three months, when children are also more likely to be outside, according to US News & World Report.

Every year, over 500,000 children, under the age of six, in the U.S.A. alone, are diagnosed with lead poisoning. Incredibly, this does not include the number of children between the ages of six and eighteen that already suffer from lead poisoning.

lead-testing-rtk-environmental-new-yorkLead poisoning causes autism-like symptoms, brain damage, lower IQ, ADD, reduced neonatal weight, damage to the nervous system, and behavior and learning problems. Yet the EPA still fails to revise key lead-poisoning hazard standards, according to a USA Today report, in which Howard Mielke, a soil contamination expert at Tulane University’s medical school said the soil standard is too high to protect kids from harm. “It’s outrageous we aren’t acting on what we know,” he said.

The EPA announced its standards for how much lead is dangerous in dust and soil in 2000. Since then, a growing body of research has shown children are significantly harmed when exposed to far lower levels of lead than previously realized, the article stated.


The only way to definitively protect yourself and your family is to have your home and property tested for lead dust. Once spring comes, your children and pets will be playing in that soil, and the effect on their health could be devastating. For more information on lead poisoning and soil contamination, click here. Call RTK today at (800) 392-6468 or click here to book an appointment.

Flooding & Water Damage Soil and Water

Sandy’s Floodwaters Are Gone, But Toxic Sludge Could Remain on Your Lawn

sandy toxic floodwaterThe storm surge and flooding that washed over much of the tri-state during Hurricane Sandy spread industrial toxic contaminants to residential areas miles away. The floodwaters carried an unthinkable mixture of wastewater, sludge, and toxins into people’s basements and pristine yards, and the pollutants remain today.

Hurricane Sandy “The water from Hurricane Sandy was quite different than other storms,” said Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK Environmental Group. “As we test people’s homes and soil, we are finding that the water from Superstorm Sandy contained a toxic sludge,” he explained. “Bacteria, sewage, gasoline, PCBs, oil, feces, industrial solvents, heavy metals – you can’t even imagine some of the things we are finding left in homes and their lawns.”

Concern about post-Hurricane Sandy sludge has prompted the Environmental Protection Hurricane Sandy floodingAgency to test baseball fields in Lyndhurst, NJ for contaminants, according to The fear is that Sandy spread waste created by decades of manufacturing pesticides and herbicides, including Agent Orange, at nearby facilities. In another instance, Rosehill Cemetery in Linden, NJ has had to remove and clean fuel-stained headstones after Sandy drenched the cemetery with an oil-rich tidal surge from a nearby refinery, The Star-Ledger reports.

Boys In DirtIf you were flooded during Hurricane Sandy, find out if your home is safe by having your property tested right away. Once spring comes, your children and pets will be playing in that soil, and the effect on their health could be devastating. For more information on water and soil contamination, click here. Call RTK today at (800) 392-6468 or click here to book an appointment.

Asbestos Flooding & Water Damage Health Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead Mold Mold Testing Soil and Water Testing vs. Remediation

Hurricane Sandy Information Center: RTK Environmental Group

Are you among the nearly 50 million people cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy? If you live near the coast in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, you’ve likely experienced the most significant water damage and indoor mold contamination in the region.

Here are the first steps you should take in addressing water damage and mold contamination:

 Get a proper plan together by calling RTK:

Improper demolition or renovation can not only cost you thousands more in unnecessary repairs, it can also send a host of toxins into parts of your home that were not affected, including mold spores, lead dust, and asbestos.



An independent environmental inspection from RTK will pinpoint exactly what needs to be removed, what’s salvageable, and which environmental hazards are present.

Why is “independent” important?

Because we do tests only and do not perform repairs and remediation, there is no conflict of interest when you hire RTK. RTK has been trusted and recommended for nearly 20 years.


Have damage, but haven’t done anything yet? Here’s what you need to do first.

¨ Inspect the damage. Be sure to take photos and video of everything for insurance purposes.

¨ Contact FEMA and your insurance company to find out what benefits and help may be available to you.

¨ Throw away any wet materials, especially if time has passed. They are likely to have mold growth.

¨ Dry out the area completely. Use fans, vents, dehumidifiers, and open windows when possible.

¨ Call 1-800-392-6468 and have RTK, an independent testing company, pinpoint the extent of the repairs needed, and identify any health hazards like mold, lead, asbestos, and bacteria from sewage.

¨ Check for roof and window damage, which may have caused leaks and mold.

Now that you have your independent environmental test report in hand from RTK, decide whether to hire a remediation firm or do the work yourself.

We’re happy to refer you to the area’s most reputable remediation contractors. Remember: Beware of any contractor who both tests for environmental hazards and performs the repairs. It’s a conflict of interest.


¨ Clean anything that was flooded with disinfectant, as there are a number of contaminants, from sewage to bacteria, which reside in floodwater. A mixture of water and bleach works best. Make sure you wear gloves, goggles, and a proper fitting mask. Warning: Never mix ammonia and bleach – it creates a toxic vapor that can be deadly.

¨ Contain work areas before you start. To prevent further contamination, cover surfaces in that area and adjacent to it with plastic sheets in order to prevent further contamination from mold spores, lead dust, or asbestos. Also, seal ventilation ducts/grills in the work area and in the area adjacent to it with plastic sheeting. If the area is large, a mold remediation plan is highly recommended. Exhaust fans, HEPA devices, workspace isolation, and a decontamination room will be necessary.

¨ Only a professional should perform asbestos removal.

¨ Wear the proper protective gear. A respirator, such as an N, R or P-95 or 100, is recommended. Non-vented goggles, long gloves, and protective clothing are also suggested.

¨ Remove any wet drywall and insulation.

¨ Once wet drywall and insulation are removed, you must completely dry the area out before rebuilding to avoid mold contamination.

¨ Have an RTK certified microbial investigator test the area after you’ve completed the work to ensure that you haven’t missed anything during the repair process.

¨ Keep the RTK inspection report in a safe place so you have proof of proper repair should you decide to sell your home.

¨ Call RTK Environmental Group at 800.392.6486 if you have any questions. We’re happy to help.

Note: If you’ve gutted the damage and are ready to rebuild or have already rebuilt, here are some things to consider:

 Test Before and After You Rebuild

If you rebuild before the area is completely dried out, you will be sealing mold into your walls. The mold will grow back and cause major damage.

Test your home for mold BEFORE you rebuild to make sure that the mold has been properly removed. Test your home AFTER you rebuild to be sure the job was done correctly, and was cleaned up properly.


Protect Yourself with Proper Documentation

An independent environmental testing company like RTK Environmental Group will provide you with a detailed report, documenting that your home is safe or is cleared to be rebuilt, and has a safe environmental toxin level (mold, lead, asbestos, radon, bacteria, and other toxins).

This documentation will be critical when you sell your home or for insurance claims. To ensure that your document will hold up in possible legal situations or in court, make sure the company that performs the testing is certified, licensed, insured, and does not perform remediation, which could result in a conflict of interest claim. Be prudent. Call RTK Environmental Group to perform the independent test.

Reselling Your Home

Sandy’s widespread damage means that future home buyers will be asking tough questions about whether your home was flooded or struck by falling trees. So, you’ll want to be able to prove via documentation that your home was properly repaired afterwards. Otherwise, doubtful purchasers might cause you to have to lower the sale price – and – you might run the risk of a potential lawsuit from the new owner who could claim that you knowingly sold them a home with post-Sandy environmental contamination like mold, lead, asbestos, and bacteria from sewage.

Future Insurance Hassles

If your home floods again and mold returns, your insurance company may question whether the mold was caused by the new event and not from Sandy. Without proof that your home was deemed mold-free after repairs were made, the insurance company might take the position that a new claim is not justified or that you have met your policy limit.



Independent Testing Companies vs. One-Stop Shops

Some companies offer mold testing on the cheap, and then conveniently offer their own remediation services to fix the problem. This is a clear conflict-of-interest, with the result that the problem is not often remediated – if it exists at all. The consumer may be paying thousands of dollars for bloated repair estimates or an improper and ineffective remediation. An independent test from RTK can save homeowners thousands!

An independent, certified testing company, like RTK Environmental, does not do remediation, and, therefore, offers consumers an unbiased opinion about any contamination. If asked, RTK will offer recommendations of reliable remediation companies.

Why Choose RTK?

– Leading Independent Environmental Testing Company

– No Conflict of Interest Policy

– Accurate and Unbiased

– 20 Years’ Experience

– Certified Microbial Investigators

– Building and Construction Backgrounds

– In-Depth Report Returned in 2-4 Days

– State-of-the-Art Equipment and Technology

– Extensive, Multi-Room Testing to Ensure Accuracy

Helpful Resources:

OSHA Fact Sheet on Sandy Mold Hazards and Cleanup

Apply for Disaster Assistance

New York City Sandy Recovery Information

New York Sandy Recovery Information

New York Sandy Unemployment & Business Services

Connecticut Sandy Recovery Information

Gardening Soil and Water

Could Your Compost Be Contaminated?

You may want to think twice before biting into that home grown tomato! Sure homegrown produce tastes better, but using public compost could expose your veggies—and you—to damaging levels of lead. Here’s why: Many municipalities pick up lawn clippings and organic debris for composting to later be shared with the community. Unfortunately, as they recently found out in Boston, if the materials coming from homes are tainted with lead or other contaminants, consequently so is the compost.

Environmental officials recommend that compost containing lead concentrations of more than 150 parts per million not be used in gardens. Last year, Boston’s mean concentration of lead in compost was 299 parts per million, with a high of 480 parts per million (far exceeding limits). As a result of severely elevated concentrations of lead, thousands of tons of compost were ruled to be off limits to Boston residents who were hoping to take advantage of the free fertilizer. This lead-riddled compost, predominantly used to grow fruits and vegetables, is extremely hazardous to your health as the contaminants from the soil spread to the produce you later consume.

But Boston isn’t the only city with older homes, which typically have old lead paint. In the New York Tri-State area, more than 80% of homes were built prior to 1978, the year that lead paint was banned. If not properly cared for, simply opening a door or window in one of these homes could spread of toxic lead dust, not only in the house, but throughout the yard and neighborhood as well.

If you live in a home built pre-1978 or in an area with older homes, be sure to have your home and soil tested – especially if you plan to share your lawn clippings with your municipality for composting. Lead poisoning is preventable – be sure you do your part!