Adelaide’s staff is Mold Certified. In accordance with the new New York State 2016 mold licensing requirements, our staff has been NYS Department of Labor certified. While Adelaide has always made sure our staff was trained in the latest techniques and testing procedures, we now have the paperwork to prove it. The reason for the new law is “to ensure the safety of the general public by ensuring that only licensed professionals are performing mold assessment, abatement, and remediation.” For the complete new licensing requirements, please visit the NYS website https://labor.ny.gov/workerprotection/safetyhealth/mold/mold-program.shtm
This past winter was especially brutal for property managers in the New York-New Jersey area. Not only were there more snow events but a number of them were ice-related.
That means a lot of wet ground, and as temperatures have quickly risen this spring, the perfect breeding conditions for mold.
To compound the challenges of being a property manager, you may also be contending with the after-effects of a rash of burst pipes after an exceptionally cold winter – burst pipes that mean water, which can lead quickly to mold if the water is not properly dried and the pipes sealed and repaired.
Sometimes you may not know there’s mold in any of your units until it’s already manifested and become a concern but if you inspect early and get ahead of the problem, you can avoid some of the dangers and liabilities.
Here are a few of the challenges that property managers face when it comes to dealing with mold so that you can be prepared to tackle them effectively.
1. Mold Isn’t Always Obvious
Mold is a dangerous and devious villain. It can certainly be recognized by its blue, black, green, or even white and gray colors, but that doesn’t mean it’s always visible.
In fact, obvious signs of mold are good – that means you know where to start tackling the problem and what areas to address. The bigger problem is mold that lurks in walls, ductwork and air conditioning units. Left to its own devices, this type of mold will proliferate quickly. It may not be until you hear reports of other side effects – bad smells and even health issues – that you know you have a mold problem.
It’s a good idea to keep homeowners and tenants educated about mold – where it thrives and what to look for, including the obvious visible signs, and even the subtler effects on air quality that can cause serious reactions like allergies, breathing difficulties, headaches, fatigue and other symptoms.
The sooner your tenants or homeowners report their concerns to you, the sooner you can take action, eliminating health risks and reducing your liability.
2. Not All Mold Is Created Equal
It’s important to recognize that while some molds pose health risks, others do not. So before your residents panic, be sure they understand that the mold that results from a leaking air conditioning unit is not the same as the ugly, slimy stuff that grows in the corners of their shower stalls.
One can be handled with a bit of bleach. The other requires remediation, repairs and proper drying to not only clean the area but to make it inhospitable to future growth.
Unfortunately, there is no reliable way to tell the difference between harmful and benign mold unless you hire a mold inspector. So when any instance of mold is reported to you, it would be wise to seek the advice of a professional.
Remember, not all mold can be seen – and even mold that is visible may still conceal more mold behind walls or within ducts or other parts of the home’s structure.
3. Mold Can Delay Utility Work
Residents are not the only ones affected by mold. In fact, anyone who spends time in an affected space can feel the side effects. Often utility workers from telecom providers to internet providers, electrical utility workers and more will refuse to work in a space where mold is present.
That means delays in projects and perhaps cost overruns – none of which any property manager wants to contend with.
Your best bet is to act quickly on reports of mold and even take precautions to prevent mold from forming in the first place by inspecting building elements, repairing pipes and leaks quickly and taking appropriate drying measures where water and moisture are discovered.
4. Mold Spreads Easily
We mentioned earlier that a bit of bleach could remedy some common household mold problems. But that’s not the case for other types of mold, which can quickly spread from a wall near a leaky pipe to infect surrounding sheetrock, insulation and even grow on pipes deep within walls.
Once mold has become this rooted in a home, it becomes difficult and expensive to remove.
In addition, removing visible mold – or even deep rooted mold – may still not be enough if the area remains wet or damp. A perfectly cleaned area can still see quickly returning mold unless the underlying issue is addressed.
If mold is either recognized or suspected, it requires professional remediation to ensure that the area is both properly cleaned and effectively dried.
5. Mold Removal Is Not A DIY Project
Neither the residents, management company or general contractors should attempt to remediate mold.
Beyond the health hazards of inhaling mold, spores can also be spread inadvertently through air vents to land in other parts of the home, in carpets or upholstery, where they can live to wreck havoc another day.
The management and removal of contaminated materials is as important as the cleanup process itself.
Remember, mold is tenacious and prolific. It can easily spread, grow and create problems where none were found before. Call in a professional inspector and abatement team to deal with the problem thoroughly.
6. Mold Can Become An Insurance Liability
As a property manager, insurance may be your largest budget item and costs keep rising every year.
Part of your responsibility includes property maintenance, and insurance companies can be very unforgiving if they suspect that a failure to properly maintain your property has resulted in mold.
That means your mold costs may not be covered, or if they are you may see untenable rises in insurance costs or worse – your policy provider may drop you entirely.
Avoid insurance disasters by preventing mold in the first place – repair leaks, properly and professionally clean and dry wet spaces, and act quickly when mold is reported.
The Integrity Of Your Properties Is In Your Hands
Property managers have challenging jobs. The properties themselves require maintenance, upkeep and repairs, and residents require information and the peace of mind knowing that their needs are attended.
One of the most frightening things to homeowners and tenants is mold. It makes news, it becomes a topic of conversation during doctor visits and people are aware of its dangers and side effects.
That means that as a property manager you need to be proactive about preventing mold and immediate in your response to it. Now that you understand more about the dangers and challenges of mold you can be better prepared. And if you need help with mold remediation, let us know how we can make your job as a property manager easier.
There are many factors to consider when you’re engaged in a construction or remodeling project. Design, materials, functionality, budget and many more. Unfortunately, one of the factors that’s regularly neglected is asbestos inspections. And considering that city, state and even federal regulations require that building sites be inspected for asbestos and free of this harmful material before any demolition or construction takes place, this oversight can be detrimental to the success of your project.
As an architect or engineer on a project, it’s vital to involve asbestos inspectors in your project early. Too often a project is ready to move into the construction phase before asbestos inspections or remediation are considered.
The result? A stalled project and quite likely an unhappy client.
Consider this before you begin your next construction or remodel and get inspectors involved early.
Asbestos Inspection & Abatement Requirements
In both New York City and New York State (as in many others), you are required to have an asbestos inspection done prior to receiving any building permits. But even beyond inspections, you are also required to remove asbestos in the work area prior to engaging in construction or demolition that may disturb it.
These are just some of the key requirements you need to know:
- Air sampling for asbestos must be conducted by a technician who has been trained in the chosen sampling methodology. That means it’s incumbent upon you to hire a qualified professional, and one who has the appropriate technician certification.
- The laboratory used for sample analysis must be approved by the New York State Department of Health Environmental Laboratory Approval Program. This may not be as simple as it sounds. Labs come and go and their certifications change. Be sure you’re dealing with a qualified facility.
- Asbestos companies and contractors must be licensed through the New York State Department of Labor Asbestos Licensing and Certification Unit.
- An asbestos survey must sample material throughout every part of the building or structure to be demolished, renovated or repaired. The survey must identify the locations, conditions and friability of all affected parts of the building. Given the stringent and specific nature of requirements, you can see the importance of bringing in qualified professionals as early as possible.
But perhaps most importantly, if the presence of asbestos is detected anywhere in the structure, all construction, demolition or repair work must immediately cease. And it cannot begin again until the asbestos is safely removed and the area resampled to ensure that the offending material has been completely removed.
This last is the sticking point for many projects, because while you may feel confident that you have the appropriate resources, including certified technicians, professionals and laboratories, that is small consolation when a project is derailed because asbestos was not considered early enough and work on your project must cease.
The Danger Of Deferring Asbestos Inspections And Remediation
Perhaps you’ve begun to see the dilemma you’ll be faced with if your project stalls because asbestos is not considered as part of the early planning process.
Without clean inspections, you won’t be able to get the building permits you need to continue work. That means stopping work, bringing in inspectors and restarting the project at some later date.
If asbestos is found during inspections, that only hinders progress further. Depending on the extent of the affected area, remediation followed by additional inspections can lead to lengthy project delays.
And while it may be possible to bring in an asbestos team quickly, you can’t always count on getting lab results back quickly. Ceasing progress as you wait for results – positive or negative – adds stress and unnecessary delays that could have been avoided.
Delaying the project timeline is one issue but it is often compounded by budget overruns. If you haven’t calculated the cost of inspections, testing and even remediation into your budget, it can create tension between you and the client or even stall the project further if funding becomes an issue.
The lesson here is clear for architects and engineers: every time you’re engaged in a construction, remodel, renovation or repair project, bring asbestos inspectors in early. Understanding what you’ll have to contend with, from the basics of inspections, sampling and lab results to the potentially more complex issues of remediation will give you the flexibility you need to adjust timeline and budget without unexpected and unpleasant repercussions.
Before your next project gets underway – or becomes stalled – contact us and find out how we can help.
Although lead as a paint additive was banned nearly 30 years ago, many homes and constructions still exist that were built long before regulations went into effect. That means lead based paint is present in many schools, places of worship, government buildings, correctional facilities and more.
The problem with lead paint in buildings is that it can flake off and contaminate the surrounding air, water and even everyday objects used by both adults and children who use the space.
When it comes to lead, health professionals have a zero-tolerance policy: there is no safe level of lead that can be inhaled or ingested. And for good reason; lead has been directly attributed as the cause of myriad health problems, ranging from relatively moderate risks like headaches and anemia, to more serious threats like learning and developmental disabilities, brain swelling and even death.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a number of lead regulations to safeguard us against this toxic metal. One such regulation includes inspecting buildings that were built prior to 1978 for the presence of lead before any construction or renovation can take place.
So if you’re considering a renovation project or if you’re planning to tear down a structure to replace it with a new one, you’ll need to have the building inspected for lead first. And if it is found, you’ll need to take the proper steps so that it can be removed safely.
Safe Removal Begins With Awareness
When it comes to lead, there is more to be concerned about than its mere presence. In fact, an intact wall covered with lead paint is far less of a threat than one that is improperly removed. Doing so much as tapping a nail into the wall can release lead dust into the air where it can be inhaled, or eventually settle to contaminate other objects, food or water.
That’s why the methods used to remove lead paint are crucial. And why some ways of removing it can be more harmful and actually increase risk of lead exposure.
Understanding the risks and subsequently the training and certifications necessary to mitigate them so that you can hire the right professionals is an important part of the process.
Acceptable Removal Techniques
There are a number of ways to reduce or eliminate lead exposure; however, simply painting over an affected area is not enough. That may be a temporary stopgap but if paint chips, peels or is damaged, your facility is once again at risk.
‘Enclosure’ is the practice of containing an affected area by covering it with drywall, vinyl or another fire resistant material. While this can safely eliminate exposure in the short term, there is always the risk that the enclosure will be damaged or even require removal during a renovation, once again opening up your facility to risk of contamination.
‘Encapsulation’ involves coating the affected area with a special liquid that provides a long lasting and effective barrier against lead paint. Again, the problem arises during a renovation when the area becomes damaged or must be removed.
During a minor renovation you may consider replacing affected elements, especially if they are self-contained, such as doors or windows.
However, lead issues typically affect wider areas. That means removal is often the most viable option.
When removing lead paint or even elements affected by lead paint such as walls or other structural elements, there are several approved methods for doing so.
First, care should be taken not to stir up dust or fumes, which can result from knocking down walls, chipping paint off surfaces or sanding.
To accomplish this, the work area should be sealed off from its surroundings, including sealing heating or ventilation ducts, so that the lead cannot travel to contaminate other areas. Only one area should be worked on at a time to ensure appropriate sealing.
Properly trained lead inspectors and abatement professionals will understand the materials needed to enclose an area, the types of protective clothing that should be worn, appropriate respirators to use and will follow other safety controls such as avoiding eating, drinking or smoking in the work areas.
In addition, special care must be taken to avoid water seepage when removing lead paint. Some acceptable removal practices, including wire brushing or wet sanding, require the use of water to prevent dust and fumes. As a result, the water used in the process becomes contaminated and can run off into ground water or seep into other surfaces if it isn’t properly contained and removed.
When techniques such as wet sanding are used, HEPA filters and respirators are required.
Heat stripping is an acceptable technique that uses a low temperature (below 1100 degrees F) heat gun, followed by hand scraping. However, this can also generate lead dust and must be used with proper precautions.
Finally, lead-contaminated materials must be removed and disposed of properly so that they cannot be the source of further contamination.
Unacceptable Removal Techniques
Several techniques may remove lead paint but they are not approved for use and can result in more dangerous contamination than if the paint had not been disturbed.
These include open flame burning or torching, machine sanding without a HEPA attachment, sand blasting, paint chipping and power washing without the appropriate measures in place to trap water.
When it comes to proper disposal, waste water should never be dumped in the local area and bags containing contaminated materials should never be placed in regular dumpsters or trash.
Lead paint can pose health risks but lead paint that is improperly removed and disposed of can pose even greater risks. That’s why it’s imperative to find the right professionals and to understand the acceptable practices that will lead to its safe detection and removal.
Find A Certified And Trained Professional
Lead abatement is designed to permanently eliminate the hazards of lead in a particular space and requires specialized techniques and skills that general contractors typically don’t have. That means you will need an abatement and remediation professional to do the job properly.
The EPA requires training and certifications for professionals, which includes training in how to properly inspect for lead, how to remove it safely so that it does not contaminate the surroundings and how to properly dispose of toxic materials afterwards.
It specifically requires the person doing the inspection to be licensed as a lead inspector or risk assessor. In addition, both the company and the individual must be licensed.
The inspector certification is required for professionals who conduct investigations in facilities regulated under the EPA and HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), including housing, child occupied facilities, commercial and industrial facilities.
Inspectors are trained in sample collection and reporting, including use of x-ray fluorescence (XRF), atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS) and other material sampling. Certification requires both a written exam and practical exercises to demonstrate the professional’s ability.
If you have questions about lead remediation in your building or facility, contact us and we’ll be glad to speak with you.
Mold may be visible or concealed, detected or only suspected. Whether you’ve got obvious mold or water spots, or you’re noticing possible side effects of mold including allergies, coughing and sore throats, it’s time to call in an environmental consultant who can help you determine the source and cause of your trouble.
But how do you know who to call and more importantly, who to trust? When it comes to mold you don’t want to take any chances. It can be dangerous and detrimental to your health and to those who share your space. So it’s important to find a reputable company to help with inspections and remediation.
Use these tips to help you select a company that will root out your mold problem at the source and help prevent it from recurring.
Experience And Longevity
Before you hire an environmental consultant, check their company history. Have they been around the block a few times or is this their first foray into mold remediation?
It’s a good idea to know not only how long the company has been in business but how long they’ve been handling mold.
And while experience doesn’t always guarantee quality, it can be a good first sign that the company you’re dealing with understands your needs and what to do about problems that arise.
Check to see that their experience matches your needs, too. Some mold remediation companies focus on residential services and have extensive experience dealing with mold in homes. Others are known for their experience in the public sector, in schools, government buildings and historical sites or even commercial sites like retail and other corporate or industrial locations.
Be sure that the experience and qualifications of the company you’re considering match your own needs and expectations.
Who Is On Staff?
Check with the company you’re considering hiring to see which professionals they have on staff and which are outsourced or contracted.
Ideally, look for a company with on-staff certified safety professionals, including an industrial hygienist.
An industrial hygienist will use an exacting methodology to determine the potential for hazards and assess the risk in your particular situation. The hygienist will also implement controls to minimize risk and ensure the safety of those involved.
On-staff safety professionals create a more streamlined experience with a clear chain of command, designated responsibilities and a team-oriented approach to addressing your needs.
When you’re already dealing with the challenge of mold, you want a reasonable assurance that the company you hire will be accountable and make the remediation experience smooth.
Check For Certifications & Training
Whether on-staff or outsourced, relatively new to the field or long entrenched, you want to be sure that you’re dealing with certified professionals.
Hygienists should be certified by the American Industrial Hygienists Association (AIHA) and other professionals should be certified by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP).
These organizations set quality standards and provide members with the training and resources that they need to protect your space from the ravages of environmental hazards.
Beyond certification, check to see whether the professionals you’ll be dealing with keep their training current and skills refreshed. Experience is one part of the equation; continuing education is the other.
As tools, techniques, technologies and even scientific understandings of mold and hazardous materials change, your professionals must continue to learn and to stay abreast of new information, changes in the industry and even regulatory requirements.
Ongoing education can reassure you that you’re dealing with people who are dedicated to providing you with the best service possible.
You may also want to ask whether technicians and safety professionals hold multiple certifications. This can help make for more efficient use of staff on a project and result in not only a quality result but also a lower cost to you.
Ask For References
Reputation in any industry is important and arguably none more so than when dealing with health and safety.
Even if all other signs look positive – an experienced company, staff that is engaged in ongoing education, certified professionals – few things are as powerful as a good reference.
Ask the company that you’re considering hiring to provide you with references and then follow through by checking those references and asking questions about the quality of the company’s work, their responsiveness, accountability and expectations.
A reputable company will be happy to provide you with multiple references to support their services.
Check For Insurance
It may seem like a small detail and it often goes overlooked as you consider your options, but a reputable company will carry insurance and can provide you with their certificate of insurance on request.
Having insurance provides you with the peace of mind that should something go awry, you have a fallback. It also lets you know that the company you’re considering takes their business and responsibilities seriously and has taken measures to protect themselves and you as their client.
Watch The Workmanship
You probably won’t be able to judge their workmanship before you hire them, but even after you hire a company it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on what’s happening in your space so that you can be assured that the job is being done properly.
It’s also a good question to ask as you check references: does this company contain the work area so mold isn’t inadvertently spread throughout the space?
Mold comes with many dangers, from mild to deadly. And removing it requires care, not only to ensure the safety of those contending with the mold but to prevent it from becoming airborne or contaminating other spaces.
Any work space should be carefully contained, affected materials should be properly sealed and removed, and specialized filtration and cleaning processes should be used to eliminate spores and purify the air.
When in doubt, ask questions. Your health and safety is worth the time it takes to qualify the company you intend to hire, to understand the process and to obtain a reasonable assurance that the results will meet your expectations.
Lead is a naturally occurring element found in the earth’s crust and one of the first metals used by humans. It is also one of the most dangerous and has been accountable for diseases ranging from high blood pressure to nerve disorders, mental problems and kidney damage.
It’s prevalence in everything from batteries to solder, fishing weights to ceramics made it a common companion in every day life and consequently, the cause of the first recorded occupational disease.
Its pervasiveness in household items from paint to toys meant that lead exposure and poisoning was common throughout human history, even dating as far back as the Roman Empire when it was used to sweeten wine. Some historians say that lead poisoning was responsible for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.
The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) states that there is “no safe level of lead in blood” and that when dealing with lead the best option is to eliminate it from living and working environments completely.
If lead is so dangerous, why then is it still used today?
Lead does have its benefits, and though they come at a high price, lead is often the best tool for some jobs. In paint it brightens some colors, it’s durable, fast drying and inexpensive compared to other types of paints. It resists mildew, which makes it great for wood surfaces or other surfaces likely to get wet. It’s anti-corrosive and sticks well with far less likelihood of flaking off. It also resists the color-dimming effects of ultraviolet light, which makes it perfect for painting those double yellow lines down the middle of the road.
All those reasons are why it’s still used in paints today, not only for roads and parking space dividers but also on bridges, tanks, heavy equipment and other large structures and projects.
Fortunately, it’s also controlled by The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has enacted a number of regulations to limit the use of lead, reduce lead exposure and mitigate its harmful effects. Through lead inspection, risk assessment and controlled removal when it poses a threat, the EPA has made working and living conditions safer for all involved.
What Does Lead Regulation Mean To You?
Some states enact their own regulations but the state of New York defers to the EPA. That means if your building comes under scrutiny or if you’re undertaking a renovation project, you’ll be subject to the requirements of the EPA.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) specifies that before construction can begin on a renovation project, workers must understand their risks, including their potential exposure to lead.
This is particularly relevant to renovation projects in state facilities including prisons, correctional facilities, psychiatric facilities, armories, hospitals, office buildings and other facilities that tend to be older and more likely to contain lead paint and need renovations.
Even after a renovation project is completed and lead abatement work is done, a lead inspector is required to take dust samples to validate that the environment is safe and lead-free.
Practically speaking, that means you will need to hire a trained lead inspector and an independent EPA-certified abatement contractor. Not only must the individual person performing the lead inspection be licensed and trained but the company that the individual works for must also be licensed.
Since the burden of liability and safety falls on each property owner or manager individually, it pays to understand how regulation affects you and what to look for when it comes to risk assessment, inspection and abatement.
Know What To Look For In An Abatement Professional
Remember, in the state of New York an abatement professional must be EPA-certified, so inquiring about this is a good place to start. Both supervisors and workers must be certified and should use abatement methods sanctioned by state health codes.
Discuss a plan for lead abatement that includes how the work will be performed and what safety precautions will be put into place to prevent lead dust and debris from spreading.
Understanding the different methods of lead abatement can help.
Enclosure is the simplest process and means covering a dangerous element, like a wall covered in lead-based paint, with paneling, plasterboard, gypsum board or sheetrock. This is only effective if the renovation project will not disturb the element in question and if the element is strong enough to support the enclosure.
Encapsulation involves sealing a contaminated element to prevent exposure to the lead beneath. While this is the most cost-effective, it also tends to be the least effective at mitigating lead risk and it only works when an area won’t be disturbed or exposed to weather because the sealant can wear away over time.
Removal is exactly what it sounds like – removing an element such as a door or window that contains lead paint and replacing it with one that does not. This is necessary in larger scale renovation projects where entire buildings, sections of buildings or elements must be torn down, which will result in disturbing lead-painted surfaces and releasing lead dust into the air, soil and even groundwater.
Before you hire an abatement professional, discuss your options and the methods your contractor recommends. Some removal methods are explicitly prohibited by the EPA. Dry scraping and sanding lead paint, for example, are methods that should never be included in your abatement plan.
Removing lead paint with an open-flame gas torch is also prohibited, along with any grinding or sanding methods done without HEPA filtration.
If you know your lead abatement plan ahead of time, you can educate yourself and look for problem areas that should be addressed before work begins – or caution you against working with a particular vendor if safety requirements aren’t being met.
Know What To Look For In A Lead Inspector
As per EPA requirements, the company that you hire for lead inspection must be independent of the one you hire for abatement. Inquire before you begin inspections.
The inspector should also use a New York State-approved laboratory to analyze dust samples.
It may also help to understand how inspectors test for lead. One way to test is by taking chip samples of the paint from various surfaces in the room. This can be costly, time consuming and require numerous samples to ensure that no surface or part of a surface is overlooked. It is also the most invasive and can require extensive repairs after testing is completed.
A second method involves x-ray fluorescence (XRF) in which a handheld device is used to instantly determine whether a surface tests positive, negative or inconclusive for lead paint. In the case of an inconclusive result, a laboratory test would be required.
In the state of New York, lead inspection with XRF requires that the inspecting company hold a radioactive materials license.
Before you hire a lead inspector, discuss your options for inspections and ensure that your prospective vendor can explain the methods and reasons to you.
For A Smooth Renovation Project, Choose Vendors That Comply With Lead Regulations
Nobody knows who discovered lead but it’s been mined for well over 6,000 years. It has been used in everything from glassware to cosmetics and although its harmful effects have been recognized and documented for thousands of years, lead was not banned for consumer use until as late as the 1970s.
Since then, the EPA and various regulators have worked to protect the population from lead poisoning as a result of contaminated food, water, soil, household products and even air.
If you’re tackling a renovation project and your property was built or renovated prior to 1970, a lead inspection prior to renovation is the right place to start. If lead is discovered, a proper abatement plan can mitigate risks and a post-renovation inspection can ensure that the property is safely habitable.
A little bit of education when it comes to understanding risk and removal can help you choose the right team to assist and result in a safe and successful project.
Mold. Whether black, green, orange, or some other color in the spectrum, it’s never a pleasant sight.
Visible mold can have you running for a remediation specialist but the effects of mold can be felt even when it’s not visible – including allergies, coughing, sore throat or respiratory ailments.
Mold can arise from a variety of sources, from water damage to old food, wet paint and excessive moisture and it can stick around even after you think it’s been cleaned up. Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of mold is how resistant it can be and how quietly it can slip under the radar and out of view until it becomes a bigger problem than you might expect.
The good news is that with the right inspection and remediation team you can tackle the problem at its core and ensure that your space is mold-free – and stays that way.
The First Step To Solving A Mold Problem Is Recognizing It
When it comes to mold inspection and remediation, there is no federal, state or local regulation, which means that it’s much easier to ignore an issue with mold even when it’s suspected.
But a neglected mold issue can easily turn into a gigantic headache because mold can spread quickly and root deeply, making removal more invasive, time consuming and ultimately expensive.
By the time you see visible mold it may already be too late, which is why it’s important to be aware of other signs of mold.
On the visible spectrum, if you see water damage, even if you don’t see water, it may be a good time to get an inspection done. Those dirty-ringed water spots on walls or ceilings, even after they appear dry, can indicate a deeper issue.
Less visible are the health effects of mold which can also disguise themselves as common, everyday ailments that most of us ignore – stuffy noses, scratchy throats, even sneezing.
But if these health effects occur systematically and regularly in certain areas of a building or space, then that’s a good sign that there’s more to it than something fleeting or seasonal.
On the more serious side, mold can exacerbate asthma and cause other respiratory problems. If people begin to complain of breathing issues then it’s more likely that the air quality in your building has been seriously compromised.
These are all signs that it’s time to call someone in for an inspection. Don’t delay – mold doesn’t just disappear on its own and you’ll want help conducting an effective cleanup.
Make Sure It’s Mold
If you see what appears to be mold, an inspector should always begin by determining whether your problem is really mold.
After all, you don’t want to go through the hassle and expense of mold remediation for the more benign concerns of soot, mineral deposits or rust, all of which can be mistaken visually for mold.
When mold is suspected, an inspector will take surface samples with a swab to test and identify whether the substance is, in fact, mold.
If it’s determined to be mold, the next step is to determine its type, which can vary from relatively benign strains to highly toxic black varieties.
Surface tests are non-invasive and non-destructive and should be taken as a first step in identifying the problem and mapping out next steps.
Track Back To The Source
When no mold is visible in an area that is the source of complaints about respiratory problems, air samples should be taken to test the air quality. A good inspection will compare indoor air quality to outdoor air quality to test for consistency. Elevated mold levels on the interior compared to the exterior is a sign that you’ve got an invisible problem, which means an inspection will need to dig deeper to uncover its roots.
A thorough visual inspection can not only help to spot troublesome mold but it can also identify mold’s likely breeding grounds.
There are a number of culprits when it comes to mold and each of these should be visually inspected. Drainage locations around the exterior of a building, roof vents and dislodged flashing, basements, bathrooms, kitchens and ductwork should all be on the list.
Inspections should include walls, ceilings, closets and carpets, all of which can harbor mold, both seen and unseen.
Sometimes mold can hide out of view. When visual and surface tests fail, a last option is destructive testing, in which layers of a structure are removed and tested until a source is found.
But even destructive testing doesn’t have to be a nightmare if it’s done properly. Mold likes to hide in certain dark, moist spots, such as behind walls and in crawl spaces. An inspector can carefully and strategically remove part of a wall, ceiling or floor space to inspect beneath, minimizing destructive effects and building upon an inspection until the source and the extent of the problem is found.
It’s important to conduct destructive inspections with extreme care, not only from the standpoint of protecting a building structure but to protect the people around it. Careless destructive testing can stir up dangerous levels of airborne mold and bacteria so it should only be done by a seasoned professional with precautions for containment and air quality control.
Get To The Root Of The Problem
You’ve confirmed that there’s mold in your building. The visual, surface or other means of inspection has most certainly identified that this persistent fungus is affecting your space. Now what?
Unfortunately, simply cleaning up a patch of mold won’t necessarily solve the problem. You’ve got to get to the source of the problem and eliminate it, and sometimes that’s easier said than done.
In some situations – where old paint has been left improperly sealed or food has been left unheeded, you may easily be able to remove those breeding grounds, clean up the mold, and with more care in the future, prevent the problem from recurring.
However, in areas of poor drainage, damp basements, water leaks or other systemic issues, mold will return unless the conditions in which it thrives are eliminated. That may mean tearing down and resealing walls or roofing, repairing damaged ductwork or plumbing, or otherwise correcting and eliminating the source of the problem.
Remember, the goal of mold remediation is not just to put it “out of sight out of mind”. It’s to cut the mold problem out at its roots so that the health and safety of your building is restored. A quality inspection can help you identify the root cause of mold so that a good plan can be built around its removal and it can be addressed effectively during remediation.
Mold can be persistent and cause a multitude of problems, from the cosmetically ugly splotches we’re all familiar with to more serious health conditions. If you see mold or find yourself fielding complaints about air quality, start with a good inspection as your first line of defense. It will provide the right foundation for a remediation plan and a positive result.
Just this week Pope Francis confirmed his visit to the U.S. for September of 2015. His destination includes Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families with an expected stop in New York.
That’s exciting and much-anticipated news for the parishioners of New York but it can also come with challenges for local churches that may want to be in top shape for the visit – and one of those challenges comes in the form of asbestos remediation and removal.
The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) poses special challenges for Catholic schools and churches holding elementary or secondary school classes within their buildings because regulations require routine inspections and a remediation plan.
With limited budgets and busy buildings, it can be demanding for schools and churches alike to comply with regulations successfully. But armed with a little bit of knowledge, the right team and a good plan, you can be on track and ready for His Holiness’ visit next year.
Recognize The Trouble Spots
Buildings that were built or remodeled before the change of the millennium are at special risk for asbestos. That means there’s a good chance that asbestos will be found in the churches and schools of New York.
Some common trouble spots include ceiling tiles and panels, pipe insulation, decorative and textured wall coverings, ductwork and even within equipment such as switches and motors used for organs.
It’s important to recognize where these spots are because some may require special access, especially in “out of sight” places within the mechanics of an organ, in bell towers or in crawl spaces above or below buildings.
A good environmental consultant will have experience dealing with these spots and know where to look so that inspections are thorough and comprehensive. A thorough inspection will put your church or school on the right path but an incomplete or hurried inspection can result in lost time, project delays and budget overruns.
Consider The Timing
Churches are especially sensitive to timing issues because it’s important to be considerate of the Fathers, Monsignors and staff, parishioners and visitors.
Unplanned or poorly planned inspections can interrupt your daily flow of activities and asbestos removal should certainly not be done in the presence of an unprotected congregation, class of children or during other times when it may affect the safety of others.
With a good environmental consultant on your side, you can plan for work to be done during times that do not conflict with masses, confessions, school day activities or other events. If that means your remediation team needs to work from midnight to 2AM then that’s what you should expect.
Another way your remediation team can mitigate interruptions is to conduct inspections and other processes in phases so that only specific and controlled parts of your building are closed or undergoing work at any time. A phased approach mitigates disruptions and can also help reduce costs.
Your remediation team should always work around your schedule and your needs, and maintain the integrity of the use of your building.
Understand Budget Realities
Budget is a reality that few can escape. Regulations or not, asbestos remediation and removal still costs money and churches and schools are particularly susceptible to shortfalls.
That can make it especially tempting to choose the lowest bidder for a project. Unfortunately, sometimes that leads to even worse budget outcomes because low bidders sometimes perform low quality work. When inspections are done poorly or they are incomplete, it may require you to start over with a brand new set of costs and interruptions.
AHERA is quite specific about the types of samples that must be taken and how many samples constitute a complete inspection. If a low cost bidder is left unchecked to cut corners in the interest of cutting costs, your entire project is at risk.
A contractor or a Department of Labor or Department of Environmental Protection representative may uncover asbestos where you thought it didn’t exist. That can result in change orders for construction, lengthy delays, cost overruns and additional budget for new inspections.
You can mitigate budget risks with a good asbestos abatement plan even without going with the lowest bidder. When it comes time to choose your consultants and team, you should demand a thorough, well-thought-out and careful plan.
You should also choose a team with the experience to navigate the New York State and City regulations and who can effectively support you through the process as cost-effectively as possible while ensuring the integrity of your project.
These steps will go a long way towards controlling costs and reassuring you of a job done properly the first time.
Think Beyond Asbestos
Asbestos is not the only potentially harmful substance lurking in your church and school. Other common culprits include lead, radon, mold and more, and they can pose safety and health threats, too.
While the regulations may be different, the premise is the same: a good plan with the right team can go a long way toward controlling costs, minimizing interruptions and getting the job done right.
Whether you need one or more of these harmful substances remediated and removed, consider hiring an environmental consulting company that can supervise, plan and manage the process along with the other experts you require for the job. This will free up your time and resources to focus on your own job and tasks, keep budget under control by ensuring that everything is being run effectively and avoid the hassles and miscommunications that can occur when projects are managed separately.
Let Us Help
At Adelaide Environmental Consulting we have deep experience with and knowledge of all aspects of hazardous material remediation in the New York area. We have worked extensively in both the public and private sectors.
For Catholic schools and churches we have developed specific methodologies for record keeping to ensure accuracy and to help you clear up space by keeping records and documents out of basements and safely online. Instead of boxing up thousands of pages of documents, we’ll help you keep them electronically and publicly available as required.
Contact us to learn how we can help keep your next project on time, on budget and done well.
As an educator or school administrator you’ve chosen a labor of love. The students in your care rely on you not only for their intellectual and emotional growth but for their well being and safety, too.
That puts a lot of pressure on you to be sure that you’re taking the best care of your realm possible, and that includes keeping your schools free of toxic substances like asbestos.
As a naturally occurring substance, asbestos has some unique properties. Its fibers are strong, easily woven into flexible materials and heat resistant. That’s what made it such a popular choice for building materials, pipes, floor tiles, insulation and more.
Unfortunately, we have since learned that it’s also toxic when it’s ingested or inhaled. Asbestos doesn’t dissolve or evaporate so it can end up in the air or water supply in dangerous quantities, especially during renovation projects when materials containing asbestos are disturbed. Inhaling asbestos can damage lungs, impair breathing and cause cancer.
That makes it vital to ensure that it isn’t a danger in your schools, where a safe and healthy environment has been entrusted to your care.
Since Congress passed the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) in 1986, with regulations mandating routine inspections and requiring an active asbestos removal plan, it has been not only morally but also legally incumbent on schools and their administrators to improve and maintain the safety of their facilities.
However, educational institutions face special challenges when dealing with asbestos removal.
One of those challenges is budgetary constraints.
With many schools already cutting staff, extracurricular activities and sports, allocating budget to asbestos removal may seem like a significant hurdle. That’s why it’s crucial to perform inspections and plan remediation properly.
Improper inspections is one of the leading causes of cost overruns. AHERA requires a specific number of samples to be taken before a designated area can be considered asbestos-negative. Poorly executed inspections may result in an inadequate number of samples being taken, requiring additional inspections and cost.
Samples must also be taken from diverse locations within a designated area. Failing to do this may result in a false “all clear” only to turn into a problem later when construction or renovations begin. Discovery of asbestos at that point will stall construction efforts and increase costs.
With a proper inspection, schools can control costs and avoid unnecessary expenditures.
A lack of a good asbestos remediation plan can also contribute to cost issues. You’ve heard the cliché “you get what you pay for” and unfortunately that’s true for asbestos remediation planning. Low planning costs may come with trade offs in quality and thoroughness. But when it comes to remediation planning, you don’t want to be cutting corners.
An inadequate remediation plan will become obvious as soon as you bring in the removal team. And with an on-the-clock asbestos removal team on site, that’s not the time that you want to discover that there’s a lot more work to be done than you thought – or budgeted for.
Good planning is an important component of keeping costs under control and avoiding unpleasant surprises, either during removal or expensive renovation projects.
One way to help control costs is to create an asbestos remediation plan that spans several years, with buildings or areas being cleared systematically over time instead of all at once.
In New York school districts, state and city requirements for the remediation and permit processes are different. That makes it even more important to hire an asbestos consultant that is familiar with the intricacies of the system and who can get it done right the first time – with no additional or unnecessary costs.
Educational institutions face other challenges, as well. Asbestos remediation and removal may be difficult to impossible to do while school is in session, which narrows your window of opportunity for putting key pieces of the process in place.
In most scenarios, it’s important for schools to begin the inspection process in the fall so that planning can begin in January, with the intent of being prepared to perform the removal during the summer months when students are typically home and the property is clear.
Your asbestos consultant should guide you through the process and set expectations so that you can effectively plan your year, or even multiple years at a time.
Asbestos remediation and removal doesn’t have to be a budget-killing, stressful process. With the right team and a good plan, you can control your costs and let the process unfold smoothly, creating a safer, healthier environment for your students and educators.
If you’d like to talk to an experienced team about your school or educational institution, contact us today. We have a history of success and satisfied clients since our beginnings in 1983. Let us help you meet your AHERA requirements in a cost-effective and stress-free way.