Mitigation, Restoration, Remediation and the Rules of Containment

January 8, 2001
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Dr. Eugene Cole of DynCorp discusses biolumiescent testing equipment use on building materials.


Edward Cross, Esq. of Edward H. Cross & Associates discusses disclosures and disclaimers and other emerging contract issues for the water damage restoration industry.
More than 250 professionals working in water loss and restoration attended to gather information on the latest issues affecting their industry during the Fifth Annual Water Loss Institute (WLI) Conference held in Bellevue, Wash., Oct. 20-21. The newly expanded format allowed presenters to cover specific topics in-depth and provided a foundation for each successive session.

WLI President Glenn Ray, CR, recognized the individuals who played a vital role in coordinating the event: Ron Reese, CR, WLS; Jim Holland, CR, WLS; Art Johnson, CR, WLS; Paul Campbell, David King, CR, WLS; Ben Yanker, CR, WLS; Phil Rosebrook, Sr. and Joe Arigo, CR, WLS.

Larry Robertson, president of Mycotech Biological, Inc., discussed microbial containment. The role of microbes in indoor space is gaining much more attention, especially on the health and legal fronts. Interior pollutant levels are often higher than outside. With individuals spending approximately 93% of their time indoors and 5% of their time in transit, the economic impact translates to hundreds of millions of dollars.

While a host of health effects can be attributed to indoor fungal bioaerosols, there are three major types: allergenic (causes allergies), toxigenic (toxic response) and infectious disease (grows in or on human host). Allergies are the most common and reactions include allergic rhinitis (runny nose, sniffles), bronchitis, eczema, allergic contact dermatitis and asthma. The results can include increased absences from school or work, impaired performance and a hypersensitivity to the allergens or irritants.

Joe Arrigo, CR, WLS, discussed the importance of sampling and clearance testing. Final clearance testing levels should be based on the initial protocol designed for a specific project. Every job is different (service station vs. day care center). Arigo said a contractor must first decide the project’s goal. In order to set the goal for the end result, however, one needs to determine the extent of microbial contamination, establish the areas that need only localized restoration and then rule out the areas that do not need to be addressed at all.

He suggested dividing the project into work areas, isolating each one and maintaining a negative air pressure differential to clean areas. “This separates more contaminated from less contaminated, lowers the risk of cross-contamination and allows for clearance (cleaning) testing by area,” Arrigo said. “It may also allow for quicker reconstruction.”

Rachel Adams of Indoor Air Management explained testing methods and which ones to use in certain circumstances.

Sampling should occur during different times of the day and can be affected by seasonal conditions. Samples are most often taken for bacteria, fungi, mycotoxins and microbial volatile organic compounds. Adams recommended starting the collection process with a building inspection, walking through the entire building and asking questions about history and other details. She suggested looking in HVAC/duct systems for signs of water damage, musty odors, visible growth and “active” reservoirs.

Several analytical methods can be used to provide information: microscopy, cultures, biochemicals and molecular biology. Through microscopy, one can identify recognizable fungal spores, but cannot differentiate between spores with similar traits. Cultures only work for viable fungi and bacteria. Viable spores are any spores, seeds or organisms that are alive. They may be dormant or require an essential nutrient or a host to grow. Success depends on the media selection, how the sample was collected and the incubation times/temperatures.

Molecular biology detects genetic elements and is not limited by the state of the organisms. Fungi can be quickly detected (usually in five hours), but is limited to a few organisms.

There are four types of surface sampling: contact plate sampling, tape sampling, swab sampling and bulk sampling. Contact plate sampling is limited to viable microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) and is used primarily for smooth surface sampling. It only provides estimates of concentrations.

Tape sampling can confirm the existence of fungal spores, but cannot provide information on species. It is used primarily for smooth surfaces and requires the services of an experienced microbiologist. Swab sampling can be used on smoother, roughened or irregular surfaces for viable bacteria and fungi. Bulk sampling requires destructive sampling and is particularly useful for wallboard, particleboard and carpeting.

Ernie Storrer of Injectidry Systems, Inc. reviewed pressure differentials in structural drying and various drying methods. He explained that the major factors in structural drying have been temperature, air, materials, relative humidity, air movement and time. If one aspect is increased, the others can be decreased to compensate without negative consequences.

Storrer outlined three drying methodologies: passive, positive and negative. Passive drying involves measures that do not directly affect wet areas by moving dry air. Positive drying involves blowing air directly into interstitial spaces via air movers or other machines. Negative drying involves moving the moisture and contamination to a location where no further damage can occur.

Negative drying is effective when there is a need to control known or suspected contamination by directly outputting to a HEPA filter, when the interstitial spaces being dried are smaller and more restricted or there is a need for caution due to concerns over health in a facility (hospital, nursing home, day care) where exposure could compromise health.

It is slower under many, if not most circumstances; is not as controllable directionally and can draw moisture from unknown sources such as cracks in foundation walls or subfloors.

Positive drying works faster under most conditions, is more easily controlled and directed, and works well when speed is important.

The downside to positive drying is that what goes in, must come out (cfm in = cfm out). Moving air in the wall cavity can also disperse any debris in the space, which can be a problem if there are concerns about the health of the occupants such as in hospitals or nursing homes, day care centers, food establishments or homes with elderly or young children.

Storrer concluded that the best drying method minimizes liability and potential health issues, while maximizing drying speed. Some circumstances may dictate that speed is compromised in order to minimize the other issues, and every job should be considered individually.

Ed Cross, Esq., of the Law Offices of Edward H. Cross & Associates, discussed disclosures and disclaimers.

Disclosure is a tort issue involving a civil wrong. It is a legal action brought by one citizen against another. In the IAQ and water damage industries, Cross said it mainly involves a failure to warn. Disclosure is one of the best ways to defend against the tort of negligence.

Disclaimers are a contract issue, not a tort or negligence issue. “A written contract is a document to create evidence of an agreement,” said Cross. “It needs to be fair and meaningful.” The court will look to see if it is an elusory contract without consideration or whether there is a fair exchange. If there are too many disclaimers, then there is no contract.

Only an immaterial part of the exchange can be waived without consideration. A waiver is unilateral and can be withdrawn by one person. Consideration is not necessary as long as the waiver is immaterial.

A modification is a bilateral change that affects both parties and can only be withdrawn by mutual agreement. It also requires consideration in the contract.

The goals of the contract are to secure your right to payment, design the scope of the work and exclude any pre-existing conditions, and disclose any hazards and conditions. The terms in the contract should be relatively balanced. The forms needed to address specific issues should be included, but they should not be too cumbersome. At the conclusion of the project, Cross recommended that the contractor continue to do walk-throughs until it has been established that everything appears to have been cleaned up.

A joint conference sponsored by the Water Loss Institute and the National Institute of Disaster Restoration addressing environmental and remediation issues will be held on September 21-23, 2001 in Chicago, Ill. For additional information on the conference, contact ASCR International at (410) 729-9900.

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