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Water Damage – How to Minimize Mold and Costs

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Oct 4, 2010 5:07:40 AM

Dale Wilson, CIH, LEED AP

When the National Weather service issues a forecast calling for 3 to 4 inches of rain, most people react by wondering how it will affect their plans or travel.  I think about what water damage will occur.

 When heavy rains are forecast, are you ready? Do you know what to do if your building is affected by rain penetration through the roof or walls? What is your plan if your building is flooded by a local stream or river?  Even without bad weather, water damage is always a possible threat if your building has a water line break.  Or worse yet, do you know how to react if there’s a sewage back-up?

Depending on the water source your options for cleaning up and salvaging property vary greatly.  But for all kinds of damage, you need to have a plan in place anticipating what you will do, who you will call, and how quickly they will respond.  Emilcott was recently asked to work in four, very different, water-damaged commercial and/or multi-tenant residential properties.   These events included:

  • Retail and Office Complex – Roof and Façade Leak

  • Office and Warehouse – Broken Water Supply Main

  • Multi-tenant Apartment building – Sprinkler Activation

  • Public Housing Complex – Steam Leak

What did all four projects have in common?  The answer is time.  Lots of time!  Too much time between the initial event, the response and Emilcott’s resulting late involvement!  Time and water combined can grow to be an expensive and time-consuming enemy.  Failure to respond promptly will, very likely, result in mold growth within the building requiring significantly more demolition than if the condition is handled in a timely manner.  What is the definition of timely? As soon as it is discovered!

With the retail complex, we were called in approximately one month after the roof and walls began leaking.  An employee actually complained to their nearest OSHA office and OSHA issued a notice of potential violation to the employer.  Mold was present in a localized area of the store, along with a significant insect infestation due to wet, damp conditions of building surfaces.   Unfortunate results of the delay:  a mold remediation project was required and portions of the retail space were out of use for weeks.

The damage to the office and warehouse operation was more significant.  Water from the broken water main filled the 5400 sq. ft.  office to several inches and made its way to the adjacent warehouse.  The initial response by the building owner seems logical:  removal of standing water, placement of a few box fans to attempt to dry the carpet, and operating the air conditioning 24/7 as cold as the occupants would tolerate.  By the time we arrived just 5 days after the event, sheetrock walls were saturated at the base of every wall and elevated moisture readings were present up to 8 feet above the floor. Relative humidity was close to 70%, carpets had a strong musty odor, and internal wall cavities were impacted by mold growth even though no visible growth was observed on the exterior of the wall.  Final results of a mere 5 day delay in appropriate responsiveness:  the tenant and their sub-tenants loss use of the office area as trailers were brought in to house them while remediation and reconstruction occurred over a two week time period.

A kitchen fire occurred in the residential apartment complex triggered sprinklers to turn on which caused water to run from the sixth floor down to ground level.  Removal of standing water was the only initial response.  When Emilcott arrived 2 weeks later sheetrock walls were still saturated with water, visible mold was appearing in multiple, occupied apartments, and paint was bubbling and peeling from the walls.  Another significant mold remediation project was required, which in turn required relocation of tenants while remediation was in progress.

Finally, the public housing complex had experienced a steam leak for a period of several months.  Tenants in effected units were relocated and those apartments remained unoccupied.  However, an unusual occurrence happened with this steam leak as these apartments had plaster walls.  Mold grew quite well on the painted surface of the walls, something that may be expected, but due to high, high humidity and moisture levels in the plaster for extended periods of time, the analytical laboratory verified that the mold growth penetrated into the plaster from the surface.  This resulted in the demolition of the plaster walls and loss of effected housing units for several additional months.

For each of these properties and water-related circumstances, delayed and improper response increased the magnitude of the problem resulting in increased time that each space was unusable, and increased the total cost of response and repair. What should you do instead?  Bringing in a water-remediation expert immediately to identify the scope of the problem, develop a water response action plan, and implement that plan right away will minimize the damage to building materials and reduce impacts to building occupants.  In each of the four instances listed above, response actions like relocating furnishing away from walls or out of the area completely, immediately removing cove moldings, installing commercial grade dehumidification equipment, installing commercial grade floor fans, selective limited demolition, and actively monitoring and evaluating the drying process would have significantly reduced the duration of the response activity and the overall cost of each event. 

So, how can you reduce the costs of the surprise water problem? My advice is to plan now -- whether it is for rain and flooding that may occur due to weather conditions or for the pipe break that always happens unexpectedly.  Knowing who to call to determine the scope of the problem and who can implement the recommended response will save you significant time, money, property and hassle.
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Topics: OSHA, indoor air quality, health and safety, General Industry H&S, General EHS, Construction H&S, EPA, Air Sampling, Mold, environmental air monitoring, Respiratory, Water Response Plan

Water Safety at Work

Posted by Shivi Kakar

May 24, 2010 2:57:16 AM

Capt. John DeFillippo, CHMP, EMT-B

Does your company have employees that work on, near or over water? Hazardous waste site and emergency response workers, those in the construction trades, surveyors and bridge inspection/repair crews are but a few occupations where this applies. OSHA regulations (29 CFR 1926.106 for example) cover the safety of such workers including training and protective equipment requirements. Other federal and state (USCG and TSA) regulations may also apply to your operation. For example, if you are working over water, such as bridge work, you must have a rescue skiff at the ready, with trained personnel to operate it, in case someone falls in. Working at piers, refineries or other marine facilities may entail very specific security requirements.

Water can be unforgiving of carelessness. As a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, an EMT and a licensed captain working in the marine salvage industry, I’ve seen plenty of tragedies on the water. Nearly all were avoidable. Here are some essential questions to help you assess your water safety knowledge:

  • Is everyone wearing personal flotation devices? Are they the right type, worn correctly, and U.S. Coast Guard approved?

  • What is the water temperature? In April in the mid-Atlantic region, the water is about 45 degrees F which means you can last about 15 minutes before hypothermia sets in.

  • Do you understand the risk of hypothermia? Even if the water is at 80 degrees F, it’s the same as being in air of 42 degrees F. And, water removes heat from the body 25 times faster than air of the same temperature.

  • Does everybody know how to swim? What to do if caught in a current? Will they know to swim parallel to the shore or go with it until you out of it? You can't swim against a current, even a gentle one, for very long, so don’t try.

  • If someone does fall in, what’s the plan? Formulating a plan when you hear the splash is too late! Having the proper rescue equipment and understanding how to use it is essential.

  • Who is trained in CPR and Basic First Aid? Knowing what to do in an emergency saves lives! Too many would-be rescuers become victims themselves, so leave water rescue to those who have the training and tools.

  • Is the boat operator trained? Employers who would never think of allowing an untrained person to operate a crane often have no problem letting someone without proper training operate a boat on a navigable waterway. Many states, including New Jersey, now require all operators of power-driven vessels to take an approved Safe Boating Course. Fines can be steep and may get the vessel impounded.

The Emilcott Training Institute offers many training programs that can help keep workers safe, including an 8-hour Water Safety and Boating Basics that is approved by the NJ State Police and recognized in several other states as well. Fall Protection, Water Safety and Red Cross CPR and Basic First Aid are also offered in-house or on-site. If you have ANY questions about water safety at work, give Emilcott a call or comment below.
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Topics: OSHA, Personal Protective Equipment, health and safety, General Industry H&S, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, H&S Training, worker safety, Occupational Safety, emergency response training, Occupational Training, water safety, Water Response Plan

10 Items You Need To Know About Water and Mold Damage In A Commercial Building

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Sep 1, 2009 2:37:34 AM

Mike Gfroehrer
1. The uncontrolled release of water may result in mold (fungi) growth in a previously non-water damaged area of a building if the water release is not adequately addressed within 48 hours of its occurrence. In addition to mold growth, water damaged can result in structural damage and support the proliferation of other types of biological organisms including dust mites, cockroaches, rodents, algae, and/or bacteria.

2. The uncontrolled release of water in a building with a history of water damage may cause dormant mold colonies from prior water releases to become active in less than 48 hours.

3. One of the most important factors in effectively preventing or controlling mold growth inside a commercial building is to have a written Water Response Plan in place before an uncontrolled release of water occurs.

4. An effective Water Response Plan will include provisions to immediately stop the uncontrolled release of water and prevent its’ reoccurrence.

5. An effective Water Response Plan will include provisions to immediately start removing the water by mechanical means such as extraction with wet vacuums and the use of commercial-grade drying equipment. Areas where drywall (sheetrock) are covered by large pieces of furniture, wallpaper, or cove base/moldings may require special attention that potentially includes removal of sections of the drywall. The source of the water (domestic drinking water vs. rain penetration through the building vs. widespread flooding vs. sewage backup) will also impact the required response activity. Visible inspection, moisture meters, infrared cameras, measurement of temperature and relative humidity are all tools that that may be used to identify where water damaged materials exist.

6. Depending on the capabilities of the commercial building’s maintenance staff, the Water Response Plan should anticipate the use of outside contractors such as licensed plumbers, roofing contractors, environmental consultants, water/fire damage restoration contractors, and/or qualified mold remediation contractors. It is advisable to have an established relationship with each type of contractor in order to best control costs once the Water Response Plan requires activation.

7. The most common health effect resulting from indoor mold exposure is an aggravation of allergies and/or asthmatic conditions. Prolonged exposure may cause hypersensitivity in some individuals, resulting in these individuals experiencing a severe respiratory reaction even when very low concentrations of airborne mold are present at work or at home. The variety of responses is often seen when employees working in the same area report a wide range of individual responses when near the water damaged building materials.

8. If an uncontrolled release of water is not properly responded to mold growth will likely result. Once mold growth is suspected or confirmed a qualified individual should conduct an investigation to determine the extent of the mold growth and develop a Mold Remediation Work Plan. The Mold Remediation Work Plan should identify procedures to follow when cleaning or removing mold damaged building materials so that building occupants are protected and not adversely affected by the remediation project.

9. The Mold Remediation Work Plan must include: which building materials require removal; which building materials require cleaning and disinfection; a plan for the isolation of the work area using barriers (polyethylene sheeting) and negative air machines to control airborne dust generation; documentation of worker training in proper mold remediation work procedures; and the criteria of the Post Remediation Assessment. Simply put, spraying with bleach or covering with an anti-microbial paint is not an appropriate response where mold growth is confirmed to be present on installed building materials.

10. A Post Remediation Assessment (PRA) determines if the Mold Remediation Work Plan was successful in returning the area to non-water damaged condition. The PRA must be conducted prior to the removal of isolation barriers and should include: a visual inspection to confirm water and mold damaged has been removed and the area has been appropriately cleaned; a moisture survey, using moisture meters, to document remaining installed building materials are satisfactorily dry; and confirmation that corrective actions are in place to prevent additional water damage. Depending on the extent of the mold damage air and surface samples may be collected as part of the PRA. Whenever air or surface samples are collected a qualified individual, such as a Certified Industrial Hygienist, should be chosen to determine the sample locations and assist with the interpretation of results.
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Topics: health and safety, Construction H&S, worker safety, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, Mold, Occupational Training, Working Green, Water Response Plan

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