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Indoor Environmental Assessment

The Indoor Environmental Assessment
Regal Services offers background expertise which includes Industrial Hygiene(IH) in various commercial settings to benefit the homeowner and business person, screening for conditions and constituents that may be impacting the indoor environment. The indoor environment includes a number of complex factors working together to make a space livable or to work in. These include air quality, thermal comfort, lighting, sound, and odor.

Regal Services is capable of addressing all of these factors on an as needed basis or by request. For complaints of an indoor air quality concern, or in preventing an air quality situation from developing, governmental guidelines and standards are followed. The most useful resource for the homeowner or small business enterprise in existing situations is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who has identified the most common sources of indoor air pollution in a home as:

  • Radon
  • Environmental Tobacco Smoke
  • Biologicals (Bio-effluents)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Pesticides
  • Asbestos
  • Lead

Additionally, moisture can be a major contributor affecting indoor health. Either in unregulated humidity levels or uncontrolled or unidentified leaks, moisture can lead to fungal spores or mold that can be very unhealthy to occupants; and can cause extensive structural damage.

What About Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)?
Indoor air is a “chemical soup” made up of a variety of chemicals from building materials, cleaning products, pesticides, personal care and consumer products, emissions from building equipment and activities, etc. There can serious risks to the additive and cumulative effects of these chemicals.

Persistent discomfort due to indoor air pollutants often are the direct result of the materials used in “fitting out” for livability. Many porous materials and furnishings such as carpeting, couches, drapes, and wallboard absorb cleaning chemicals, fragrances, pesticides, and other air pollutants. Chemicals adsorb to virtually all indoor surfaces, but more strongly to rough rather than smooth surfaces. These chemicals are released again into the air for long periods of time, leading to prolonged indoor air pollution. Ever notice how a former smoking space still has the odor lingering long after smoking has ended…days, weeks, months?

Managing Indoor Air Quality
Clean indoor air can be as easy as opening a window or changing filters more frequently. However; with building envelopes becoming tighter for increased energy efficiency, the management of indoor air quality can become very complicated, especially in existing buildings.

Correcting problems with indoor air quality in existing buildings, and occasionally in new structures as well, may require a multi-step approach.

  • Interview - In all cases, a detailed interview with the occupant(s), or person making the complaint, is a necessary first step.
  • Visual Inspection - The second step is a visual inspection of the area where the source of the complaint may be focused.
  • Baseline Screening – In this three step approach, Regal Services uses a strategy which begins with advanced sensor technology to screen for conditions that could be the cause for poor indoor air quality such as those listed by the EPA. Graphic analysis makes understanding the cause less of a guess or a maybe and helps identify the source together with the aid of additional strategies depending on the severity.

An advanced multi-sensor instrument collects baseline data which is represented for analysis and reporting in a graphic format. Testing provides valuable scientific data on potential air quality problems. It is the first step in creating solutions. The data collected is used to diagnose air quality deficiencies, helping to make decisions about remediation in order to improve comfort. The six (6) basic constituents analyzed to evaluate your indoor air quality include temperature, carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dust/particulates, carbon dioxide (CO2), and relative humidity.

The gradient in each graph defines typical concern or action levels.

 


Temperature is a comfort parameter; control of which is important for personal comfort, health, and cost savings.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that can pose a serious health risk, even in small concentrations for some people. CO is a byproduct of burning fuels such as gasoline, wood, oil, kerosene and charcoal.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), often referred to as “odors and chemicals”, arise from a variety of sources such as paint, aerosol sprays, solvents, harsh cleaning products, pressed wood products, tobacco smoke, fuel burning appliances, hobby supplies, carpet and padding, and glues.

Dust/Particulates consist of microscopic particles suspended in air. It is a complex mix of fine solids and even liquid that can be inhaled.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a gas naturally found in outdoor air at concentrations of approximately 350 ppm. Indoor CO2 levels are generally higher than outdoors and is not an immediate health risk at the levels reported on this equipment. Click on the graph for a short discussion about carbon dioxide concentrations indoors.

Relative Humidity (RH) is directly related to temperature. Warm air can hold more moisture than cool air. High indoor RH can facilitate the growth of molds, mildews, fungi, bacteria, viruses, and dust mites.

Strategies
Once a baseline has been established and data analyzed, Regal Services offers a number of strategies for determining the source or cause of poor indoor air if not readily apparent. These strategies may be performed simultaneously for cost savings and may include:

  • Infra-red Scanning for sources of moisture using a thermal imaging video camera. A moisture assessment can identify sources of existing and potential indoor air quality concerns related to mold.
  • Sampling for mold, visible and not visible using recognized laboratory methods and analysis.
  • Duct video analysis. Many duct systems harbor the conditions that are ripe for mold growth and bacteria. A special video camera provides visual evidence of these conditions.
  • Duct leakage analysis. A faulty or poorly designed duct system can “pull” polluted air from outside and circulate it throughout the occupied space, creating or worsening health problems, particularly for allergen and asthmatic sufferers.
  • Chemicals of Concern (COC) are those chemicals considered dangerous to the environment or to your health. Regal Services provides an incidental spot sampling strategy for indoor application to identify up to 2,000 known chemical substances that may affect the health of the chemically sensitive.

Water

Quality
Water quality is of concern to everyone. Quality is the acceptability of water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and laundering.

Next to the air we need to breathe, water has become one of the biggest health concerns in our lifetime. Chlorine, chloramines, trihalomethanes, PCBs, Radon, arsenic, and any of hundreds of Emerging Chemicals of Concern (ECC) may be affecting your health through your water supply, whether from private groundwater wells or from municipalities.

Drinking water supplies may be contaminated by many sources. Contaminated water may have off-tastes, odors, or visible particles. And; some dangerous contaminants in water are not easy to detect. Accurate water testing is needed to determine safety and quality. Regal Services has the tools and resources to evaluate the quality of your drinking water and offer recommendations of available options to mitigate the risk of contamination

It is important to remember that no individual treatment device removes every contaminant from drinking water.

Bacteria
The most common bacteria to guard against in well water systems are e-coli and coliform. Most new or prospective property owners who receive their water from a groundwater source (well) get the “economy” bacteria-in-water test as a first introduction to well water management. More often than not the sample is collected from one of a few fixtures within the building and often sent to a laboratory, but; not always. This strategy can be misleading and potentially harmful. It gives no information about their well system requirements or what strategy is suitable for their well water treatment.

 

 

A Typical Well Water Treatment System

 

 

 

 

Regal Services offers a comprehensive sampling strategy that provides peace of mind with greater potential benefit; and with more information as follows:

  • Perform a complete physical survey of all components, size of the service, and water route inspection.
  • Include samples from before and after retention tank.
  • Test for coliform and nitrate at a minimum – specific conductance, ph, and hardness are quality issues. Radon in water testing is also available.
  • Recommend seasonal sampling (once each season) and testing by the property owner since bacteria growth is dependent on temperature, ph levels, and sediment which may change.
  • Use of a laboratory certified for microbial analysis.

A typical well water treatment system may also include UV sterilization. For heavy sediment wells, a sediment filter should be installed.

Septic
Household wastewater contains pathogens (disease-causing organisms), high concentrations of nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen, and some toxic chemicals.

A septic system is one way to treat wastewater on the property where it is generated. Septic systems and similar technologies are called On-site wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS) or decentralized wastewater systems. A septic system can be a cost-effective and convenient solution to wastewater treatment, but; it must be regularly inspected and maintained to function properly and prevent contamination to nearby wells, groundwater, and streams.

Research has shown that many homeowners do not understand who has authority over septic systems and how they work. Septic system sighting and construction are regulated by state and local government. Homeowners are responsible for their own septic system maintenance and repair. Proper maintenance will save money in the long run by preventing system failure and extending the life of the system.

Seller/Buyer – Realtor
For Realtors…knowledge is power! Advise your client to get the most information possible from qualified professionals and the appropriate state agency.

If you are a Seller or a Buyer involved in a real estate transaction where a well and/or a septic system is installed, there are several recommended steps you or your realtor should take:

  • Testing and inspection before listing – increases marketability, identifies problems early enough to be remedied, avoids delays. (Note: Lender likely to still require additional minimum testing)
  • Advise client to rely on qualified professionals
    • Qualified home inspectors can inspect plumbing system (general age, appearance, performance), storage tank and/or other water system appliances like water filters and treatment systems.
    • Registered/licensed well driller or pump installer should be contracted to inspect the well, area around the well for possible contamination sources, tight construction, the pump, and perform a yield test.
  • Do not perform any work (including pumping out) on the well or septic system two weeks or more before listing, or attempt to treat with chlorine. These activities are easily detected by trained professionals and may compromise the sale of the property.

Neighborhood “Environmental” Report (Residential)

 

Get a health report on your home!

 

 

The Benefits
When people buy a home, they research nearby schools, crime rates, and average property values. So what about potential environmental risks that could affect you and your family’s health? Until now, there really weren’t any options:

Regal Services is an Environmental Data Resources’ (EDR) certified provider; the nation’s leading resource and most trusted provider of environmental risk information for residential and commercial real estate. Some of the most dangerous or costly hazards exist outside and can contaminate a home through pathways to human contact such as vapor intrusion, soil, and groundwater. Just because an area appears pristine does not mean that issues are not present.

The Neighborhood Environmental Report will help to:

  • Protect you and your family’s health
  • Ensure a sound investment
  • Understand nearby risks

Included in the report is information about issues such as:

  • Leaking underground oil tanks
  • Hazardous waste sites
  • Landfills
  • Homes that have been used as illegal drug labs
  • Contamination from nearby industrial sites, farms, or accidental toxic spills
  • U.S. EPA’s top clean-up priority properties.

Records of concern are identified to within 300 feet of your home – about a 6-acre circle.

What if?
If an issue does arise, often it can be resolved through inexpensive and easy to implement solutions such as:

  • Installation of a ventilation system, like the ones used to dissipate Radon
  • Installation of a water filtration system
  • Periodic water-quality testing

Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (Commercial)

A Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment, often referred to as “environmental due diligence”:

  • Performed in accordance with ASTM E-1527 Standard.
  • Used by purchasers and lenders to evaluate property for potential environmental contamination; and to asses the potential liability for contamination present at the property.
  • It is a non-intrusive investigation of a tract of real property with the purpose of identifying the likely presence of any hazardous substances or petroleum products under conditions that indicate an existing release, a past release, or the material threat of a release into the structures on the property, or into the soil, groundwater, or surface water of the property.
  • Information obtained through environmental site assessments can greatly impact the economics of a property transaction, affecting the owner, buyer, seller, and lender.

Federal, state, and local laws make current and former property owners potentially liable for the entire cost of cleaning up a contaminated site. With new laws in effect in many locations, financial institutions, facilities managers, and real estate managers are instituting procedures and guidelines to assess the status of a property with regard to environmental laws before a property ownership transaction.

Typical investigation includes:

  • Review of government records
  • Research into prior uses of the property
  • Physical inspection of the property
  • Conduct of interviews with Owners and Occupants of the property, and local government officials
  • Preparation of the report (referred to as a Phase One report)

Transaction Screen Process
A limited scope environmental site assessment may be used instead of a complete Phase 1 when “Innocent Landowner” defense is not required. Benefits of the Transaction Screen Process:

  • Meets ASTM Standards
  • Quicker turn-around time
  • Less expensive

The Transaction Screen Process includes the following:

  • Transaction Screen questionnaire
  • Detailed on-site Inspection and visual inspection
  • Off-site recognizance (approximately 1 mile)
  • Government database search
  • Interviews with Owner/Operator(s) with Historic knowledge of the site
  • Interviews with local officials (Fire Marshal, Township manager/engineer, Health Department, etc.)
  • Report preparation