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 wild storms that hit the tri-state area dumped massive amounts of rain into an already saturated ground. This caused additional flooding of rivers and streams, road closures, and the collapse of many retaining walls because of waterlogged soil. It also left many basements flooded. If you don’t act fast, you could quickly develop a mold problem.
When the rain falls at such a rate, the ground cannot handle the volume and rather than being absorbed, water pools near our homes. This causes many of our basements to flood, which can lead to problems very quickly. Damp and wet areas are prime locations for mold growth, which can blossom within 24-48 hours. Drying out the affected areas as soon as possible is very important.
Here’s what you can do right away to prevent mold:
Mop, vacuum, or pump the water from the area. But be careful if the outside soil is saturated – If you pump out the area too fast, the pressure from the exterior water could damage your basement wall or possibly collapse it.
Remove all wet materials from the area.
Dry out residual moisture that is left in the concrete, wood, and other materials. If you have windows that open to the outside, mount fans in them.
Use a dehumidifier and ventilate the area well.
Remove carpeting and dry outside, if possible. If you can’t remove the carpeting, remove as much moisture as possible by using a wet vacuum. Then use fans to circulate air both over and preferably under the carpet. The carpet must be dried within 12 to 24 hours,
or it will become infested with mold and need to be discarded.
If you are unable to take these steps quickly or are unsure as to whether you already have a mold problem, the best thing to do for the health of your family and your home is to call in a professional to conduct a mold test.
The temperature hovering well below freezing, we have more to worry about than finding matching gloves and a scarf. To make it worse, combine subzero temperatures with strong winds, and you have the perfect scenario for frozen pipes. A burst pipe oftentimes causes major flooding in your home, which can lead to major problems, including mold.
Pipes freeze for three main reasons – quick drops in temperature, poor insulation, and thermostats set at too low a temperature. So what can you do to protect yourself from your pipes freezing?
Here are a few tips:
Insulate pipes in your home’s crawl spaces and attic, since exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing;
A trickle of water can prevent your pipes from freezing. Open your faucet and let it drip;
Seal spaces and openings that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located;
Don’t change the thermostat dramatically at night. Dropping it a degree or two is fine, but sudden drops in temperature can cause your pipes to freeze;
If you go away for the weekend, don’t turn the thermostat down too much to save money. If you do, you may return to a disastrous, wet, moldy mess;
Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls;
Disconnect garden hoses, turn off the water supply valve inside, and keep the faucets open outside.
If you open a faucet and no water comes out, don’t take any chances call in a plumber to see what the story is. If a water pipe bursts, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve and leave the faucet open. Try to dry out the area as quickly as possible. Damp and wet areas are prime locations for mold growth, which can blossom within 24 hours. Once the repairs are complete, have a certified microbial inspector come in to test the area and make sure there is no lingering mold.
For additional information on freezing and bursting pipes, you can visit the Red Cross website.
In part two of this series, we answer some of your questions about long terms damage to your home and health concerns. Ice dams wreak havoc with roofs, and then the mold that follows wreaks havoc with your health. I don’t see anything wrong, so my roof isn’t leaking, right?
A certified microbial investigator can check behind walls without damaging them to see if mold has developed.
We wish this was true, but it’s not. Ice dams can cause seepage in places the naked eye can’t see, whether behind walls or under floors – wherever the water finds a path to travel. The slightest leak can cause mold to grow, which can have detrimental consequences, both to your home and health. If you think the ice dams on the eaves of your house or gutters are causing indoor leaks, the safest thing to do is hire an independent contractor to test for mold. A certified microbial investigator can use a moisture meter to test for mold and moisture behind walls, as well as take air samples to see if there is a problem. If you decide to wait and see, be diligent about checking attics, basements, and other less frequented places in your home for visible mold or musty odors, which are tell tale signs of hidden mold. At that point, you need to have your home tested by an independent mold inspector – one that does only testing, and not remediation, as this is a conflict of interest.
What should I do about the icicles and chunks of ice in my gutters? (Helpful hint: Put away the chainsaw)
This is a real Catch 22 for many people. Your first instinct is to get the ice out through brut force, but that is easier said than done. Not only is it dangerous to get up on a ladder that is set on snow and ice, but also swinging an axe, crowbar, or chainsaw on an unstable ladder can cause you bodily harm, let alone mess up your roof and shingles. We’ve heard it all – from blowtorches to steam cleaners, pantyhose to heating pads. We give you credit for creativity, but to be safe and not cause further damage to your roof, remove the snow from the bottom portion of your roof with a broom or roof rake. This will help additional snow from melting into the existing ice dams, and will lessen the weight of the melting snow on your roof and gutters.
Can damage from ice dams affect anywhere in my home or just my attic?
Depending on how and where your ice dams form, the water can go anywhere. We just had a call from a family in Connecticut that discovered water pouring into the basement. The cause turned out to be one ice dam that grew so large, that water traveled to the deck, pooled, then leaked into the basement. If ice dams travel down your downspouts, water may be pooling near your foundation with nowhere to escape.
What is the most common mistake made in dealing with ice dams?
Many people make the mistake of cosmetically repairing water damage without checking to see if water leaks have caused mold to grow. That’s why when there’s water damage, it’s important to test for mold. Hire an independent mold inspector, one who does not do remediation, for that would be a conflict of interest. An independent testing company can conduct air monitoring and surface sampling tests; identify affected areas and measure the amount of mold – even if it cannot be seen by the naked eye.
Will homeowners insurance cover damage from ice dams?
According to the National Association of Realtors®, most homeowners insurance policies cover conditions such as damage caused by ice dams, when water can’t drain into the gutters and instead seeps into the house. But, if the water from an ice dam enters the home from the ground, homeowners insurance generally won’t cover mold remediation. You would need flood insurance for that.
How can I prevent ice dams in the future?
There are a number of options to help you prevent future ice dams, depending on your situation and construction of your home or business. Here are a few tips:
Ensure adequate ventilation. In order to make sure that your attic and roof is properly ventilated, they need to be vented both at the eaves/soffits and at the peak. You need to have a space for cold air to flow above the insulation to keep the roof cold and prevent the snow from melting. If you have a finished attic, it is a little more complicated, but it can be done.House Logicshares some additional tips here.
Properly insulate your home.
Proper insulation of the attic is another solution, as is a tight vapor barrier to prevent moisture from passing from the living areas into and through the insulation. If air from your home finds its way to the underside of the roof sheathing, the heated air raises the temperature of the roof, causing snow to melt, then refreezes when the temperature drops again. Another important thing: make sure you have enough insulation. Under-insulated homes are more likely to be victims of ice dams. To find out how much insulation your home should have (based on location and age), refer to this chart on theNorth American Insulation Manufacturers Association webpage.
Protect your gutters. Whether it’s a snow and ice shield or electric gutters, there are several products that will prevent water from working its way into the home. A snow and ice shield consists of a membrane that seals the roof, forming a continuous barrier to water.
If you are experiencing damage from ice dams and melting snow, call us to discuss your options and figure out a plan to keep your home and family safe at (800) 392-6468.
You don’t have to be a meteorologist to know that this summer, rivers in the Northeast have had their fill, and then some. Unfortunately, road closures and downed trees because of waterlogged soil and flooding are not the only issues. The combination of steady rains and soaked soil have left many basements flooded. Combine that with the hot weather, and suddenly mold rears its ugly head.
When the rain falls at such a rate, the ground cannot handle the volume and rather than being absorbed, water pools near our homes. This causes many of our basements to flood, which can lead to problems very quickly. Damp and wet areas are prime locations for mold growth, which can blossom within 24 hours. Drying out the affected areas as soon as possible is very important.
Here’s what you can do right away:
1. Mop, vacuum, or pump the water from the area. But be careful if the outside soil is saturated – If you pump out the area too fast, the pressure from the exterior water could damage your basement wall or possibly collapse it.
2. Remove all wet materials from the area.
3. Dry out residual moisture that is left in the concrete, wood, and other materials. When the rain stops, if you have windows that open to the outside, mount fans in them.
4. Use a dehumidifier and ventilate the area well.
5. Remove carpeting and dry outside, if possible. If you can’t remove the carpeting, remove as much moisture as possible by using a wet vacuum. Then use fans to circulate air both over and preferably under the carpet. The carpet must be dried within 12 to 24 hours, or it will become infested with mold and need to be discarded.
Remove wet items immediately. Use a dehumidifier or fan to help dry out the area.
If you are unable to take these steps quickly or are unsure as to whether you already have a mold problem, the best thing to do for the health of your family and your home is to call in a professional to conduct a mold test. To learn more about what you can do to prepare for future storms, click here.
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.
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
Well 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
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. 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?
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?
An 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.
The 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.
“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 Agency to test baseball fields in Lyndhurst, NJ for contaminants, according to NorthJersey.com. 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.
If 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.
Super-storm Sandy soaked more than our homes and businesses. According to the National Association of Automobile Dealers, flooding may have damaged as many as 250,000 cars. Here’s the problem – many of these water-damaged cars now contain mold, a major health hazard. If they wind up on used car lots, it could mean health problems for unsuspecting consumers.
After a car has been cleaned and dried out, it may be hard to tell that the vehicle was ever flooded. If you’re lucky, you’ll detect a musty odor, meaning there might be hidden mold. But the danger goes beyond the possible health issues mold can cause. As NBCNews reports, floodwater can also damage a car’s engine, electronics, fuel system, airbags and brakes.
If you are going to buy a used car, here are some helpful tips:
Check for water in the headlights, taillights, and spare tire well in the trunk;
Look for mud in the seat belt tracks and under the dashboard;
Inspect the vehicle’s undercarriage for mud, corrosion, or rust;
If you smell a musty odor, there is probably mold in the seats and carpeting;
Watch for signs of rust or corrosion around screws, wires, and other metal parts.
People with allergies, underlying health conditions, and young children are more susceptible to health complications from mold, so if you really want to be safe, a certified microbial investigator can test the car to determine if mold is present in the vehicle. The Associated Press suggests also that you have a qualified mechanic check things out, and that you run the car’s vehicle identification number though a company such as Carfax to see if it has been reported as damaged or totaled.