Do You Need an Environmental Assessment? 7 Issues that Need a Closer Look
Some commercial properties are unambiguous candidates for environmental assessment. If you’re getting ready to renovate a building that went up in the heyday of asbestos fireproofing or is located on or near the site of proven or suspected soil or groundwater contamination, a thorough environmental review is a practical – and quite likely legal – requirement.
California is a strict enforcer of environmental regulations and in many cases, requires some form of assessment as a permit condition. Likewise, banks and other lenders, insurance companies and even prospective buyers may impose an assessment as a condition of agreeing to lend, insure or purchase a property.
But there are other circumstances in which the case for an assessment may be less familiar, but equally important.
7 Environmental Threats
The first step is knowing what you need to know. Below are seven other potential threats that warrant a closer look.
Asbestos Drywall & Floor Tiles
Most people associate asbestos contamination with the fireproofing on structural steel used routinely in construction before 1980. This type of asbestos typically creates the greatest hazard because it is more likely to be broken into fragments that shed fibers into the environment and become airborne. But depending on the project or condition of the property, you may also be responsible for removing or managing asbestos-containing tiles, wall board and many other suspect asbestos-containing materials that were still used in construction for more than a decade after other asbestos-containing materials were discontinued due to potential adverse health affects.
PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyl)
Often used as electrical insulation in the base of light fixtures installed in the 1950s, 60’s and 70s, PCBs are also found in other construction materials used up until about 1979. These materials are carcinogenic and pose serious environmental concerns. Failure to remove materials that contain PCBs can expose a property owner to steep fines and litigation. Pro-active assessment and sampling can significantly reduce health risks and liability.
Mold & Moisture
Even if you do not see actual mold or mildew, visual evidence of a leak or other water intrusion can be a sign that further investigation is warranted.
Pockets of hydrogen sulfide released from aging or poorly maintained sewer lines can create an acute reaction to anyone exposed and can be fatal at high concentrations. Unless you can trace it to someone’s forgotten lunch bag, the persistent odor of rotten eggs should be investigated.
Building occupants’ clustered complaints of nausea, headaches or other physical symptoms, sometimes at a certain period of time each day should be investigated to ascertain the possible source.
Indoor Air Quality
Clustered respiratory symptoms in an office or other public building may be a sign that an air quality assessment is needed. A simple adjustment of the percentage of recirculated and outside air may resolve issues. Other buildings, like those containing asbestos, may need annual or bi-annual assessments to ensure that air quality is maintained. Unresolved air quality issues may require testing for chemical agents releasing vapor into the indoor environment.
Additionally, vapor intrusion may migrate (volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or chemicals) from contaminated groundwater or soil intruding into an overlying building’s indoor air through cracks in the foundation or other openings like utility or sewer lines.
Chemical Handling & Storage Compliance
California has many strict requirements around the proper storage, handling and disclosure of chemical compounds in use or in storage. An assessment can ensure that you are in full compliance and not at risk of expensive and time-consuming compliance headaches.
Find Out What You Need to Know
At Omega Environmental, we have decades of experience in conducting environmental assessment, remediation and decontamination, and extensive expertise in the safe removal and management of environmental hazards in a wide variety of commercial and government settings.
We partner with property managers, construction and engineering firms, and state, local and federal environmental officials to ensure safety and compliance. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your project move forward safely, cost-effectively and without unnecessary delays.