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.
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)
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
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.
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.
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.”
Valedictorian 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.
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.
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 them. 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 water 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.
It 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 turn 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.
If 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.
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.