It seems that we hear a lot about environmental concerns these days. Much of it is simply the result of a greater awareness than in the past. And even though there isnt anything to be concerned with in most homes, there are still a number of potential home environmental issues that buyers should be aware of.
Water quality is probably the most common concern and the one most often tested for. Typically, a basic water quality test will check pH, water hardness, the presence of fluoride, sodium, iron and manganese, plus bacteria such as E-coli. Additionally, water may be tested for the presence of lead or arsenic.
In homes built before 1978, lead based paint may be present. Generally, if the lead based paint is in good condition, not cracking or peeling, it is not a hazard. If the condition is hazardous, the paint will either need to be removed or sealed in such a manner as to eliminate the hazard.
Another common environmental concern with the home is radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural decay of uranium in the soil. Pretty much all homes have some radon present, tests can determine if the level present is higher than what is considered safe. If the level is too high, a radon reduction system will need to be installed.
In older homes built more than 30 years ago, asbestos was used in many types of insulation and other building materials. If the asbestos is releasing fibers into the air, it needs to be removed or repaired by a professional contractor specializing in asbestos cleanup. But, if the asbestos material is in good repair, and not releasing fibers, it poses no hazard and can be left alone.
PHASE I II & III
An ASTM Property Condition Assessment or ASTM PCA is a specific kind of due diligence, pre-purchase, pre-lease, or post-lease inspection, performed in accordance with specifications developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). This assessment is an evaluation of building systems to assess their physical condition, general code compliance, capacities/adequacies, repair/maintenance issues and identification of potential environmental contaminants.
The ASTM PCA assessment includes:
Review of government records Review of building specifications and drawings Walk through survey Overview of the building's major systems (HVAC, MEP, etc.) Recovery and deferred maintenance costs evaluation In addition to completion of the ASTM PCA, BAI Services can provide an evaluation of the indoor air quality (IAQ) conditions in the building including a visual and sensory assessment for mold. BAI Services also provides ASTM Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) services, and asbestos/hazardous materials inspections.
Transaction Screen Assessment reports adhere to the American Society of Testing & Materials Standard E-1528-06. Most lenders no longer accept these reports to meet their due diligence requirements, based on the new EPA Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment standard. However, these reports can be useful as an initial screen on low-risk properties
Our TSA reports include:
1. Transaction screen questionnaire
2. Government environmental database review
3. Inspection of subject property and surrounding areas
4. Conclusions regarding the risk of presence or potential presence of environmental liabilities at the subject property
TSA reports are limited in nature and no longer meet the regulations required for the "Landowner's Liability Protection." However, some lending institutions still use these reports to assess environmental risk for a low-risk property prior to underwriting a loan.
A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is a report which identifies potential or existing environmental contamination liabilities. The analysis, often called a Phase I ESA, typically addresses both the underlying land as well as physical improvements to the property; however, techniques applied in a Phase I ESA never include actual collection of physical samples or chemical analyses of any kind. Scrutiny of the land includes examination of potential soil contamination, groundwater quality and surface water quality. The examination of a site may include: definition of any chemical residues within structures, identification of possible asbestos containing building materials, inventory of hazardous substances stored or used on site, assessment of mold and mildew and evaluation of other indoor air quality parameters. Contaminated sites are often referred to as "brownfield sites." In severe cases, brownfield sites may be added to the National Priorities List where they will be subject to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund program.
Actual sampling of soil, air, groundwater and/or building materials is typically not conducted during a Phase I ESA. The Phase I ESA is generally considered the first step in the process of environmental due diligence. This type of study is alternatively called a Level I Environmental Site Assessment. Standards for performing a Phase I site assessment have been promulgated by the US EPA and are based in part on ASTM in Standard E1527-05. If a site is considered contaminated, a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment may be conducted, ASTM test E1903, a more detailed investigation involving chemical analysis for hazardous substances and/or petroleum hydrocarbons. BAI Phase 1 add.pdf
What is a wetland?
The US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the US Environmental Protection Agency define wetlands as follows:Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas. Wetlands are areas that are covered by water or have waterlogged soils for long periods during the growing season. Plants growing in wetlands are capable of living in saturated soil conditions for at least part of the growing season. Wetlands such as swamps and marshes are often obvious, but some wetlands are not easily recognized, often because they are dry during part of the year or "they just don't look very wet" from the roadside.
Why is it necessary to consider whether an area is a wetland?
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires that anyone interested in depositing dredged or fill material into "waters of the United States, including wetlands," must receive authorization for such activities. The Corps has been assigned responsibility for administering the Section 404 permitting process. Activities in wetlands for which permits may be required include, but are not limited to:
- Placement of fill material
- Ditching activities when the excavated material is sidecast
- Levee and dike construction
- Mechanized land clearing
- Land leveling
- Most road construction
- Dam construction
How can wetlands be recognized?
Three characteristics of wetlands are used when making wetland determinations: vegetation, soil, and hydrology. Unless an area has been altered or is a rare natural situation, wetland indicators of all three characteristics must be present during some portion of the growing season for an area to be a wetland.
Nearly 5,000 plant types in the United States may occur in wetlands. These plants, known as hydrophytic vegetation, are listed in regional publications of the US Fish and Wildlife Service
There are approximately 2,000 named soils in the United States that may occur in wetlands. Such soils, called hydric soils, have characteristics that indicate they were developed in conditions where soil oxygen is limited by the presence of saturated soil for long periods during the growing season. If the soil in your area is listed as hydric by the US National Resource Conservation Service(NRCS), the area might be a wetland.
Wetland hydrology refers to the presence of water at or above the soil surface for a sufficient period of the year to significantly influence the plant types and soils that occur in the area. Although the most reliable evidence of wetland hydrology may be provided by gaging station or groundwater well data, such information is limited for most areas and, when available, requires analysis by trained individuals.
One or more indicators of wetland vegetation, hydric soil, and wetland hydrology must be present for an area to be a wetland. If you observe definite indicators of any of the three characteristics, you should seek assistance from our office as we are are experts at making wetland determinations.