Hurricane Irene is a distant memory, but her wrath still haunts many homeowners. Nine months since the storm raged (at a cost of $15.6 billion in damages), long-term effects are rearing their ugly heads. Concerns about toxic mold and contaminated water are creating a busy season for environmental inspectors.

“We are being called into homes this spring that look perfectly clean, yet when we test for mold we are getting mold spore counts that are off the charts,” says Robert Weitz, Certified Microbial Investigator. “When the flooding initially occurred, victims were quick to clean up the water, dry out their basements, and power wash and bleach the walls. But they didn’t realize that their walls were soaked through, and now mold is growing behind their wallboards, ceilings, and other hidden places.”

Irene also creates outside problems. Water contamination is a major environmental issue in the aftermath of any hurricane. The high water from flooded rivers, ocean swells and broken water mains creates a runoff that can pick up contaminants from buildings and homes. Water mixes with pollutants from dry cleaners, gas stations, dumps, factories, flooded basements, and cars creating a toxic mess that can then make its way into homes, playgrounds, and drinking wells—places that put people at a risk of serious health problems.

“Homeowners often think that since they acted fast and clean everything up, they are safe,” explains Weitz. But don’t worry — it’s not too late to act. If you suspect Hurricane Irene may have caused residual damage, notify your insurance company and have a professional inspector come in to test your home or business. It’s the only way you’ll know if you have a serious mold or water contamination problem. Put Irene in her place once and for all – the past!