Home Quest Inspection
Home Quest Inspection
 

Environmental Issues

RADON
Radon is a radioactive gaseous element produced in the disintegration of radium, a radioactive metallic element. It cannot be detected by the senses and can be confirmed only by sophisticated instruments and laboratory tests. The gas enters a house through pores and cracks in the concrete or through floorboards of poorly ventilated crawlspaces, especially when wet ground allows the gas to escape easily through the soil and disperse in the atmosphere. Radon is a lung carcinogen: the National Academy of Sciences estimates radon causes some 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths annually. The U.S. Surgeon General and the EPA recommend all houses be tested for radon. Houses with high radon levels can be fixed.

Excerpts from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Indoor Radon”.

WOOD-DESTROYING ORGANISMS/INSECTS

Termites, which play a positive role in recycling wood and plant material, become a problem when they consume structural lumber. Every year thousands of U.S. housing units require termite treatment. These pests cause serious damage to wooden structures and posts and can also attack stored food, household furniture, and books. Successful termite management requires special skills, including a working knowledge of building construction and an understanding of termite biology and identification. In most cases, it is advisable to hire a professional pest control company for the inspection and control problem.

Wood-boring beetle
larvae feed on wood and wood products. Adults of some species bore holes into plaster, plastic, and soft metals. Many species cause problems when emerging from wood in newly constructed buildings because they leave small circular or oval exit holes in the wood. To avoid these problems, infested wood must be kiln-fried before being used for lumber. The species Deathwatch Beetles is primarily found in soft woods (girder, beams, foundation timbers, some types of furniture, with some species attacking books). False Powderpost female beetles bore a tunnel, or egg gallery, into wood or other materials, then deposit eggs in pores or cracks within the tunnel. Adults of some species bore through such soft metal as lead and silver, as well as plaster and other non-wood materials. Affected structural wood should be removed and replaced whenever possible.

Wood Wasps and Horntails. Wood wasp damage in buildings is likely to be more cosmetic than structurally weakening. Emerging wood wasps can chew through any substance: wallboard or plaster walls, hardwood floors, carpeting, linoleum, non-ceramic floor tiles, and other interior surfaces.

Carpenter Ants. Several species can damage wood in building and other structures. Though ants don’t eat wood, they bore into it to make their nests, sometimes causing serious structural damage. Also, they nest in hollow doors, cracks and crevices, furniture, wall voids, and termite galleries. New building infestation occurs when land-cleaning in the area disturbs existing native colonies.

Excerpts from University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources, UCIPMOnline, “Statewide Pest Management Program”.


WATER TESTING
Drinking water may contain several contaminants, some of which are hazardous, and some are not. Public water supplies are tested by the utility, and must meet stringent EPA standards. Nevertheless, even when the public water supply is safe, problems can arise in the distribution system. Both public and well water supplies can also become contaminated from lead in the solder of a home’s water piping. We work with an independent laboratory and can do the sampling to test your water for the following:
LEAD - Drinking water may be contaminated with lead. This problem may originate with the piping, fittings and fixtures in the home. Over time, water that is acidic or soft, may have a corrosive effect on piping, fittings and fixtures, and cause the lead to leach into the water.

BACTERIA - Well water may become contaminated with bacteria resulting from faulty septic tanks or decayed organic matter that may have washed into the well. Dug wells are particularly susceptible. Water is analyzed for coliform bacteria and E. Coli to determine whether or not it is potable.

WATER ANALYSIS – Our standard water analysis testing includes the following tests: Inorganic Chemicals; Chloride, Nitrite-N, and Nitrate-N. Physical & Chemical; pH, Odor, Color, Turbidity, Sulfate, Calcium, Magnesium, Total Hardness, Iron, and Manganese. (See the Well Water Test Results Interpretive guide below, (Courtesy of Earthwise Analytical Laboratory.) Other testing is also available with advanced notice.

Some homes have been fitted with water treatment equipment. In these instances we recommend two sets of water samples, one set of sample drawn from the raw well, the second set after the water treatment equipment. This helps determine the water quality that the well is actually providing and what the treatment if any is doing to that water.
Well Water Test Results Interpretive Guide

Coliform bacteria are not disease producing organisms themselves, but are used as an indicator of disease producing organisms. When Coliform bacteria are present, this is a good indication that the source of the water may have been contaminated by surface water or fecal matter and may contain disease producing organisms.  Chlorination and/or U.V. light are the best methods for eliminating bacteria from the water, but the source of the contamination should be located and treated so the problem does not recur.

Water color may be caused by dissolved organic material from decaying vegetation and/or certain inorganic material such as iron or manganese. While color is not objectionable from a health standpoint, its presence is aesthetically objectionable and suggests that the water needs appropriate treatment. 

Foreign matter such as organic compounds, inorganic salts or dissolved gases can cause odor in the water. These materials may come from domestic, agricultural or natural sources. The advisory level has been set according to aesthetic values but acceptable waters should be free of any objectionable odor.

Turbidity is the presence of suspended material such as clay, silt, plankton, finely divided organic material and other inorganic materials. Turbidity in excess of 5 units is detectable in a glass of water and is usually objectionable for aesthetic reasons.  The most common method of removing turbidity is with a filter system.

When any physical property exceeds the advisory level, knowledge concerning the chemical quality is important in order to determine what treatment, if any is required to make the water acceptable for use.

Sulfate in drinking water has no beneficial effects. The desirable limit is 250 mg/L. At higher concentrations sulfate may have a laxative effect and cause taste deterioration.

An elevated Nitrate-N level may be an indication that agricultural fertilizer or waste disposal is polluting the water. The limit of 10.0 mg/L has been established to prevent a disease called methemoglobinemia, “blue baby disease” in infants. Reverse osmosis and ion exchange resins can remove nitrates effectively.

pH is a measure of the acid or alkaline content of water. Water with low pH (acidic) is corrosive to plumbing and may cause leaching of toxic metals such as lead and/or copper. Soda ash can be added to the feed water to effectively raise the pH. High pH values, greater than 10, are rare.

The limit for chloride was established primarily as an aesthetic standard. The concentration at which the average person can detect a salty taste in the water is 250 mg/L. A very high chloride level can lead to corrosiveness of water on pipes and heating equipment and is usually associated with high sodium content. Elevated chlorides may be caused by sewage contamination, road salt run-off or a water softener.

For healthy persons, the sodium content of water is relatively unimportant because the intake of sodium from other drinks and foods is much greater. Persons with salt restricted diets should be concerned with elevated levels of sodium in the water. The usual low sodium diet allows 20 mg/L in the drinking water. Elevated sodium levels are likely to be seen with the use of a water softener. Other sources are road salt run-off or sewage contamination.

Iron levels above 0.30 mg/L can discolor fixtures and laundry and may impart a metallic taste to the water.
Iron is frequently present in water because of the large amounts present in soil. Corrosive water can also pick-up iron from pipes. Filters are available to remove elevated levels of iron.

Manganese
at levels greater than 0.05 mg/L may produce a brownish black stain in laundry and on fixtures and impart an objectionable odor and taste. It is usually found along with iron in soil with a high mineral content.

Calcium and magnesium salts are the major cause of hardness in water. Although not detrimental to health, hard water retards the cleaning action of soaps. When hard water is heated, it will deposit a hard scale on heating coils, cooking utensils and the inner walls if pipes with a subsequent waste of fuel. A water softener will effectively remove hardness. Hardness scale [0-75] low/soft, [76-150] moderate, [151-250] hard

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are contaminants that are small and lightweight and can easily dissipate from the water into the air. Methyl-tertiary-butyl-ether (MTBE) has been the predominant VOC detected on account of its use as a gasoline additive and it’s high degree of solubility in water. It is unknown at this time if MTBE is a carcinogenic contaminant. Toluene is likely to be detected in newly constructed wells and should dissipate over time.