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Inspector's Notebook Asbestos Healthy Home Lead Weitz Advice

3 Things Architects Need to Know About Environmental Testing

3 Things Architects Need to Know About Environmental Testing

 

When you start a new project, there are a lot of people relying on you to ensure everything goes smoothly. Whether you are working for a customer directly or a builder, they are going to count on you to ensure the quality and safety of the job, and to ensure that all environmental testing required by law is complete. We’ve compiled a list of the top things’ architects should know about environmental testing.

 

  1. To help avoid liability issues, test for asbestos.

asbestos testingMany architects leave required pre-project asbestos testing up to the builder, which can be a mistake. Builders sometimes forgo asbestos testing to save time and money. But accidentally contaminating a building because walls, tiles, ceilings or other suspect material containing asbestos were ripped out without proper precautions being taken can contaminate a much larger area. Aside from that, testing for asbestos is a good idea in general to protect the health of workers on the job and avoid issues with OSHA. It can also shield you from further liability.

 

  1. Test for lead paint prior to starting work.

lead paint hazardsLead paint is another potential problem for architects. Be sure to test for lead paint before you start a renovation project. Home lead test kits are not enough, as they only test for lead on the surface. Be sure to hire an independent professional to conduct XRF lead paint testing, which will tell you if the underlayers of paint contain dangerous lead.

 

  1. Working with a qualified, unbiased testing company which does not do remediation can save you money.

independent environmental testingNot every environmental testing company is the same. There are those that do both testing and remediation, which is a clear conflict of interest. The more issues they say they find, the more they stand to make in the remediation or abatement to follow.

RTK Environmental only does testing and never remediation, so you can rest assured our results are unbiased and accurate. Additionally, RTK provides you with a plan for remediation, so you don’t waste money on areas that don’t need to be remediated. And with our fast turnaround times, you can move your project forward faster.

Contact RTK to schedule an inspection for your project today. Click here or call 800.392.6468.

 

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Inspector's Notebook Weitz Advice

Environmental Hazards on the Job: Are You Protected?

Environmental Hazards on the Job: Are You Protected?

Every day, workers in many industries, especially construction, remediation, abatement, and restoration, are potentially exposed to environmental hazards while on the job. At the very least, those workers are entitled to a safe work site, which is why they are protected by the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA rulesThe issue remains, however, whether those standards are adhered to. And that burden, generally, has fallen on the employer. However, if a worker is exposed and a lawsuit is filed, not only can the employer be liable, but many others could be held responsible as well, including the owner of the property. Always ask your contractor for an insurance certificate to be safe. Any way you look at it, there’s a simple solution to avoid the penalties, potential lawsuits, and harm to workers: test for environmental hazards first.

Worker’s Rights

osha asbestos ruleOSHA standards are rules that describe the methods that employers must use to protect their employees from hazards. According to OSHA, when workers are on a job site, they have the right to be protected from environmental toxins. Although there is no specific law in New York State or Connecticut requiring lead and asbestos testing prior to remediation or renovation work, insurance and remediation companies aren’t taking any chances; they are opting for pre-job environmental testing.

Workers also have the right to get copies of test results that find and measure hazards, and can file an anonymous complaint asking OSHA to inspect a workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA’s rules.

So, what are the OSHA’s rules?

Lead

osha lead rulesOSHA states that it is the duty of the employer to ensure that no employee is exposed to lead at concentrations greater than fifty micrograms per cubic meter of air (50 ug/m3) averaged over an 8-hour period. That said, no amount of exposure to lead is safe. Lead poisoning causes irreparable neurological damage, autism-like symptoms, reproductive issues, violent behavior, and more.

Lead exposure can occur through demolition, flame-torch cutting, welding, use of heat guns, sanders, scrapers, or grinders to remove lead paint, and abrasive blasting of steel structures. In construction, lead is also frequently contained in roofing materials, cornices, tank linings, and electrical conduits. In plumbing, soft solder, used chiefly for soldering tinplate and copper pipe joints, is an alloy of lead and tin. Soft solder has been banned for many uses in the United States, as has lead paint, but many older homes and buildings still contain these materials.

SOLUTION: Don’t wait for a problem to occur – test for lead before you begin a project. If lead is found, employees should be provided with protective clothing and, where necessary, with respiratory protection.

Asbestos

osha asbestos lawOSHA has regulations to protect workers from the hazards of asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is frequently found in private and commercial homes and properties, as well as many building materials. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, it can lead to lung cancer and mesothelioma.

OSHA standards cover work in the general industry such as exposure during maintenance or plumbing work. Standards for the construction industry include construction, alteration, repair, maintenance, or renovation and demolition of structures containing asbestos.

OSHA also states that testing of workplaces covered by the standards must be completed to determine if asbestos is present and if the work will generate airborne fibers by a specific method under each standard. In that case, asbestos monitoring and personal protective equipment may be necessary.

SOLUTION: Your best course of action is to test for asbestos to know if workers will be disturbing the toxic material before a project begins. This way, employers can take necessary steps to protect their workers from any asbestos hazards.

Personal Protective Equipment

OSHA PPE ruleAccording to OSHA, personal protective equipment, or PPE, is designed to protect workers from serious workplace injuries or illnesses resulting from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, and other workplace hazards. Besides face shields, safety glasses, hard hats, and safety shoes, protective equipment includes a variety of devices and garments such as goggles, coveralls, gloves, vests, and respirators. OSHA says that an employer is required to provide PPE, including respirators, when hazards are present. Employers are required to assess their workplace to determine if hazards are present that require the use of personal protective equipment.

Penalties & Fines

OSHA finesIf you are cited for an OSHA violation, the fines are steep; they start at $13,653 for a one-time violation, $13,653 per day following a failure to abate, and $136,532 for willful or repeated violations.

Advice for Homeowners

The simplest way to avoid lawsuits, penalties, and irreparable harm to workers is to test for hazardous materials prior to starting a job. Be sure to ask the company you hire about lead and asbestos testing, especially if it was built before 1980, as older homes tend to harbor these toxins. If lead or asbestos is present, make sure they are following the EPA regulations for working with these materials.

To schedule an inspection, call RTK at 800.392.6468 or click here. To contact OSHA, visit www.osha.gov, or call 1-800-321-OSHA.

 

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Inspector's Notebook Health Weitz Advice

Rental Properties Often Harbor Environmental Hazards: Here’s What Tenants Should Know

Rental Properties Often Harbor Environmental Hazards: Here’s What Tenants Should Know

Most buildings, whether residential or commercial, may contain one or more environmental or health hazards, often hidden from view. Hazards such as mold, asbestos, lead, radon, and even pests can pose serious risks to tenants who occupy these spaces. To protect your health and property, it’s smart to familiarize yourself with the legal responsibilities of both landlords and tenants. Although landlords are responsible for a majority of environmental issues in rentals, tenants have responsibilities, too.

Tenant Responsibilities 

Tenants also play a role in preventing mold and indoor allergens, and can be held responsible for environmental hazards caused by their negligence. Tenants should heed the following advice:

Mold

  • tenant moldTell the landlord about any mold or unusual odors you’ve observed in the unit before you move in, and ask the landlord to fix the problem prior to your moving in. If you are already occupying the space, you should promptly tell your landlord about any mold that you find or conditions that are likely to cause mold.
  • Keep homes clean and dry.
  • Report any plumbing issues or leaks immediately, as mold can begin to grow within 24 – 48 hours.

Indoor Air Quality, VOCs & Radon

  • tenant indoor air qualityAvoid using pesticides and chemicals with strong odors because they contain volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which cause poor indoor air quality and health issues.
  • Do not manufacture, store, dispose of, transport, or use hazardous substances on the premises.
  • Have radon and carbon monoxide detectors (landlord responsibility) installed in your home to catch any potential issues early.
  • You can hire a professional, like RTK, to test for radon and determine whether it makes your home unhealthy.

Asbestos

  • asbestos tenant responsibilityYou can usually see suspect asbestos. Pipe insulation, 9×9 tiles, and popcorn ceilings are common areas that you may find asbestos. If asbestos has been damaged and become airborne, the only way to know is to have an air test. If the result is positive, you may have the right to withhold rent or move out before the lease ends without paying future rent if the landlord does not remedy the problem.
  • Sometimes tenants need to move out temporarily if they cannot adequately protect themselves from asbestos during renovations or repairs. The landlord should cover the costs of your temporary housing if you move out.

Lead

  • lead paint tenant responsibilityUnless you test for lead, you can’t be absolutely sure whether your rental home contains lead paint or lead dust unless it is tested. You should ask the landlord if the paint has ever been tested for lead. If it has, ask to see the results.
  • If you have a child under the age of 6, you must notify your landlord, as different rules apply.
  • In New York City, X-ray fluorescence (XRF) inspections are now required for all surfaces in every rental unit for “multiple dwelling” buildings built prior to 1960, as well as for buildings built between 1960 and 1978 with known lead-based paint.
  • XRF lead inspections must take place within 5 years of the effective date of the law (by August 9, 2025) or within one year if a child under the age of 6 resides in or moves into the unit.
  • Before hiring a home improvement contractor, they must show evidence that they are EPA-certified and follow lead-based safety standards.
  • Inspections must be conducted by an EPA-certified lead inspector or risk assessor not associated with the owner or any firm hired to perform lead-based paint remediation.

Pests

  • tenant responsibilities pestsPlace food in sealed containers, keep counters and sinks clean, and get rid of clutter such as newspapers and paper bags to prevent pests.
  • Use garbage cans with tight-fitting lids to prevent pests from taking up residence.
  • Take garbage and recycling out every day, and tie up garbage bags before removing them from your apartment.

Be aware that the tenant is liable if an environmental hazard violation is caused by their own willful act, assistance or negligence, or that of any member of their family, household, or a guest.

In the end, the goal of both tenants and landlords is the same – to keep everyone healthy. The best way to prevent future issues and potential contamination is to have the property tested for environmental toxins. This way, there is a clear path to what needs to be done to ensure everyone’s safety. And be sure to test after the remediation or abatement is complete to ensure the work was properly completed. Call RTK at 800.392.6468 to schedule an environmental inspection today or click here.

To learn more about landlord responsibilities, click here.

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Flooding & Water Damage Healthy Home Mold Mold Testing Testing vs. Remediation Weitz Advice

Why It’s Important to Check For Mold in May

Why It’s Important to Check For Mold in May

Here’s How Mold Spores Can Affect Allergies, Health, and Home

April showers may very well bring May flowers, but spring’s warmer temperatures and wet weather can certainly dampen one’s health.

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Asbestos Flooding & Water Damage Health Healthy Home Indoor Air Quality & Radon Lead Mold Mold Testing Soil and Water Weitz Advice

Storm Cleanup: After a Storm, Don’t let Mold or Toxins Take up Residence in Your Home

Storm Cleanup: After a Storm, Don’t let Mold or Toxins Take up Residence in Your Home

As massive cleanup efforts and power restoration continue throughout the region after a lightning-fast-moving storm, homeowners should be aware of the potential that flooding and water damage are causing.

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Healthy Home Lead Soil and Water Weitz Advice

How Do I Know If My Water Is Contaminated?

How Do I Know If My Water Is Contaminated?

The tragedy that unfolded in Flint, Michigan has opened the public’s eyes to a dirty secret – the old, decaying water infrastructure in the United States is leaching toxic material into our water supply and poisoning us. Many other cities, from Cleveland to Newark, discovered that their water supply contains high levels of lead and other contaminants as well.

While we don’t have control over the public water supply, we do have control over our own homes. Buying bottled water to drink does not solve the overarching issue of contaminated water. Every day, we use our tap water to brush our teeth, bathe, wash clothes and dishes, water our vegetable gardens, and more. If your water contains lead or other toxins, your health is at risk. So what can you do? Here are 4 tips to help ensure your water is safe.

1. Have Your Water Tested By A Professional

A water testing kit is not going to give you accurate results or peace of mind that your water is safe, especially if the sample is not taken correctly, which happens often. Whether it’s your home, office, school, gym, or a public facility, only a comprehensive water test conducted by an independent testing company can produce reliable results by using state-certified (licensed) laboratories. Your local health department sometimes offers to test your water for free for bacteria or nitrates, but it’s far from a comprehensive test and involves some work on your part. Choose a professional service that performs only testing so that you get thorough, unbiased results. If they find a problem, they will help you determine what your next steps should be. Comprehensive water testing will confirm whether your water supply contains:

  • Lead or other heavy metals
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Asbestos
  • Radon
  • Arsenic
  • Uranium
  • Pesticides
  • Bacteria
  • PCBs
  • E.coli
  • Coliform
  • Dozens of other contaminants

These environmental hazards can cause serious health issues.

2. Watch For Health Symptoms From Contaminated Water

Drinking and bathing in contaminated water can cause chronic health issues, including joint pain; body numbness; skin rashes and problems; damage to the brain, kidneys, and neurological system; gastro-intestinal illness; hair loss; and immune deficiencies. If you or a family member starts to have any of these symptoms, your water may be to blame.

3. Know If the EPA Regulates Your Water

water testing The EPA regulates public water systems, but it does not regulate private water wells. Yet, nearly 25% of private wells contain harmful contaminants, according to the U.S. Geological Survey Water Science School. In the New York tri-state area, high levels of arsenic, radon, and heavy metals are a major issue. Arsenic, 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.

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 testing 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.

4. Test Your Water Annually – From All Faucets

At a minimum, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) 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, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. Every few years you should test for additional contaminants. If you get your water from a municipality, take the time to read the quality report on water, which must be published annually.

Unfortunately, even if the report is excellent, that does not mean your pipes or fixtures are free from harmful lead or bacteria. Pipes traveling from the road to your home can deteriorate, sometimes with parts disintegrating down to dirt, which the water flows through to get into your home. The only way to know for sure is to have a licensed professional test water from each faucet in your home. There may be a problem in one faucet, and not the rest.

For more information on water testing, click here. To set up a water test in the tri-state area, call RTK at (800) 392-6468 or click here.

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Gardening Health Healthy Home Soil and Water Weitz Advice

This Summer Make Sure Your Water, Air and Soil Are Safe

Home inspections 101

After a long, looooooong winter – one that felt like it would end sometime in 2020 – summer is finally within sight. And thank goodness for that.

But before you dive into the pool, crank up the air conditioner, or start that victory garden, you’ll want to make sure that your water, air, and soil are clean and safe. Let’s face it; the frigid temperatures, wild winter weather, and common wear and tear that are typically noticeable this time of year are all indicators of potential contamination.

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Weitz Advice

Meet Katie Galletta – RTK’s 2017 Environmental Scholarship Winner!

Young New England Marine Biologist Swamps the Competition

Congratulations to Katie Galletta of Goffstown, New Hampshire, the recipient of the RTK Scholars Award for 2017! The young marine biologist’s essay was chosen from an impressive pool of applicants with remarkable accomplishments in various science-related fields. Ms. Galletta will receive $1500, which will be applied to her studies at Bowdoin College this fall.

“Students like Katie are our next generation of scientists and environmental leaders,” states Robert Weitz, Founder of RTK, which initiated the RTK Scholars Program in 2015. “Her passion and dedication to future research made her an outstanding recipient for this scholarship. RTK is committed to supporting and furthering students’ scientific education, and our scholarship program helps them succeed.”

Katie GallettaValedictorian of her class at Goffstown High School, Ms. Galletta recently completed the Advanced Studies Program at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire with a concentration in marine biology. Last summer, her program research focused on the ocean acidity effect of sea star growth rates. She was later invited to present her findings at the New Hampshire Science and Engineering Expo. Entering college in the fall, she plans to pursue a degree in biology with a concentration in marine biology, and hopes to continue her research on ocean acidification.

“When I was sixteen, I realized I had a passion for marine biology,” she wrote in her winning essay. “I had learned about marine biology briefly in school but it was not until last summer that I realized exploring the ocean could be a viable career path,” Galletta penned. “At St. Paul’s School’s Advanced Studies Program, I was able to participate in hands-on field work like never before. I went on nine field trips in under six weeks, doing everything from water sampling in the Gulf of Maine to helping band seagull chicks during nesting season at Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island. I felt like a real scientist, whether I was caring for organisms in our aquarium, performing independent experiments, or dangling over the edge of a dock to find sea anemones.”

RTK Environmental Group is committed to supporting and furthering education of students in pursuit of careers in science. The RTK Scholars Program has awarded over $5,000 during the past two years. Past winners include Renwick Wilson of Greenwich, Connecticut; Kolby Galloway of Easley, South Carolina; Elliott Davis of North Potomac, Maryland; Nicholas Bulthuis of Chicago, Illinois; and Dylan McCloskey of Liberty, Missouri.

The RTK Scholars Program is now accepting applications for the 2018 award. The application deadline is May 30, 2018. If you would like more information or to apply, please visit RTK Environmental Science Scholarship Program.

 

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Mold Weitz Advice

Six Steps to Protect Your Summer Home Over the Winter

Enjoy the last glories of summer sun, as news has surfaced that the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a bitterly cold and stormy winter. Even this early, there are steps you can take to protect your home from the ravages of winter.

long island mold 1. Have your home tested for mold and other toxins.

If you suffered any leaks or flooding, MAKE SURE the mold and toxins are gone before you close the door on this season. If moisture or mold lurks behind your walls or under floorboards, you can count on a full-blown mold infestation by next spring.  Have your home tested now by a certified microbial inspector. He will let you know if your home is safe to close for the winter.

2. Prepare your home’s exterior.

Turn off water to outside faucets and drain hoses before storing prepare your home for winterthem. Take all furniture and outdoor recreational equipment indoors so that it does not fly away if there are strong winds. You should also shut the fireplace flues and dampers to avoid anything unwanted coming down the chimney. If you have storm shutters, make sure they are closed and secured. Finally, make sure your gutters are clean and downspouts are angled away from your home to avoid flooding and ice dams later on.

3. Turn off the main water supply.

Pipes can freeze and burst during winter if they are filled with broken pipe moldwater and the heat is off. So, turn off the main water supply and open all faucets and drain them. If your home is located in a very cold region, you may even want to drain the toilets and water heater. For more information on how to winterize a toilet, click here. Many experts suggest adding RV or boat antifreeze to the toilet and sink. To see how to drain a water heater, click here.

4. Set the thermostat.

control temperature to prevent moldIt may seem incongruous to turn on the heat as it is still warm outside, but in a few months when the temperature drops below freezing, a heated house, even at 50 degrees, will prevent your pipes from freezing and keep your home dry through the winter. Most experts recommend keeping the thermostat between 50° F and 58°. The heat won’t kick in until the indoor temperature drops below the thermostat’s temperature setting. But, if you are concerned, you can subscribe to an Internet-based system with equipment that monitors the inside air temperature and alerts you to freezing temperatures.

5. Clean out the refrigerator and freezer.

Some people choose to empty them completely, and Prevent Mildewturn off the unit for the season. If you do this, be sure to prop the doors open to prevent mold growth inside. If you decide to leave the fridge on, do not leave anything in it that may spoil if the power goes out. This can be especially dangerous if you leave food in the freezer and lose power for an extended period of time. When the power goes back on, the food will refreeze, and you won’t know that it had defrosted and probably rotted.

6. Set up a system for snow removal.

mold snow connecticutIf your home is in the Northeast, it’s a sure bet that you’ll see snow. The only question is, how much? Make provisions now for a snow removal company or friend to remove snow once it reaches a certain height. This will help to prevent ice dams on the roof and leaks in the basement, which can cause mold to grow within 24-48 hours. If you want to be extra cautious, you may want to have someone stop by periodically to make sure nothing is awry.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (800) 392-6468. We’ll be happy to answer your questions or set up an appointment to test your home for mold or any other toxin. 

Categories
Mold Weitz Advice

Mold and Insurance Claims: What You Need To Know to Protect Yourself

Mold and Insurance Claims: What You Need To Know to Protect Yourself

Future Insurance Hassles

The rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy is well underway. But 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.

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 at (800) 392-6468.