Sampling and Post-Remediation Verification

December 7, 2005
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Q: In our area, there are a couple of IEPs that are not sampling as part of the post-remediation verification. They are relying on a visual inspection only and then passing or failing the remediation project. How reliable is this method of post-remediation verification?

A: For those of you that are not familiar with the acronym IEP, it stands for an "indoor environmental professional." IEP is defined in the IICRC S520 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Mold Remediation as "an individual that is qualified by knowledge, skill, education, training and/or experience to perform an assessment of the fungal ecology of property, systems and contents at a job site, create a sampling strategy, sample the indoor environment, interpret laboratory data and determine Condition 1, 2 and 3 status for the purpose of establishing a scope of work and verifying the return of the fungal ecology to a Condition 1 status."

Post-remediation verification is defined as "an inspection and assessment performed by an IEP after a remediation project, which may include visual, olfactory and/or sampling methodologies to verify that the building, system or contents have been returned to a Condition 1 status."

An IEP should perform a visual and/or other sensory (meaning odor detection) inspection prior to post-remediation sampling. If it is determined that there are moldy odors or visible signs of mold and/or debris then the IEP should not provide any verification that the project is completed. If on the other hand the inspection does not reveal any odors or visible indications of mold or debris, then the IEP should perform an assessment that includes sampling. The sampling then verifies the hypothesis that the remediated area is clean. Sampling is an integral part of the process. During the remediation the aerosolized spore levels can exceed 10 million spores per cubic meter of air. If these spores are allowed to settle on horizontal surfaces, they would not necessarily be visible. The only way to definitively determine that the area is clean is to sample. This is consistent with the S520, which says that post-remediation sampling includes "an inspection and assessment."

Individuals that have encountered this approach have been told by the IEP that the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), in their publication "Bioaerosols: Assessment and Controls," only recommends a visual assessment. However, in section 15.5 Judging Remediation Effectiveness, it states that "The success of a remediation effort is judged in part by the visible degree of contaminant removal that is achieved. Effectiveness may also be confirmed by sampling [see 15.2.3.4]." Additionally, in section 15.2.3.4, it states that, "Air sampling by spore trap or other means may also be conducted to verify that air concentrations of fungal spores and indicator materi-als (e.g., glucan or ergosterol) in the containment zone are qualitatively and quantitatively similar to ambient out-door air. Use of surface sampling (e.g., adhesive tape sam-pling) is advisable to determine that only background con-centrations and types of fungi are present on porous sur-faces [see 15.5]."

Notice that in 15.5 it says that, "The success of a remediation project is judged in part" [by a visual inspection and that it is] "confirmed" or in 15.2.3.4, "verified" by sampling. In my opinion the practice of using a visual inspection as the criteria to "confirm" or "verify" the effectiveness of remediation is subject to error and not consistent with IICRC or ACGIH as a verification process. Relying on an IEP that uses solely a visual inspection as the criteria does not provide verification that the remediation was successful.

I contacted attorney and microbiologist Michael Bowdoin and asked his opinion on the risk to the remediator and to the IEP if the IEP only uses a visual inspection as his/her sole criteria for post-remediation verification, and no sampling of any kind is undertaken by the IEP to verify the effectiveness of remediation.

JH: What is the risk to the remediator?
MB: This question presents a myriad of potential problems for the two parties primarily involved in the mold remediation project. Initially, it should be noted that to prevent any appearance of impropriety the remediator should not be involved in the choice of parties performing the verification or the methodology utilized by those parties. The remediator's only role in this area should be that of self-policing his own remediation work and determining when to call for third party verification of the effectiveness of the work. Although some states allow for the remediator to also provide post-remediation verification services and/or testing such as those performed by an IEP, those services should never be performed by the same party on the same project.

The remediator's duty is to perform the remediation services in accordance with standard industry practices. The methodology utilized (whether to only utilize visual inspection versus sampling) should never be within the scope of the work of a remediation contractor. Therefore, as long as the remediation contractor performs those services for which he is hired on the project, (i.e., mold remediation and none other) the remediation contractor should never be exposed to liability concerning the methodology utilized for post-remediation verification.

JH: What is the risk to the IEP?
MB: On the other hand, the IEP is the proper party who should bear the full legal burden of documenting the effectiveness of remediation. The IEP is charged with the necessary knowledge, skill, training, and experience to perform those tasks in accordance with industry practices.

As part of the methodology utilized by the IEP, visual inspection should be the first criteria in the verification process. In the event that an IEP chooses to utilize visual inspection in lieu of sampling, the IEP could potentially be subjected to legal liability. The better practice, in accordance with general legal principles, is to perform an inspection that can be verified by third parties at some undetermined time in the future. Without the specific laboratory results that sampling would provide, an IEP could be placed in a particularly critical position of not being able to verify the effectiveness of the remediation or determine if proper engineering controls were utilized during the remediation process. I would also recommend that photographic documentation be kept verifying the visual results. However, some states require sampling in addition to visual inspection as part of post-remediation verification.

Pursuant to the Texas Administrative Code, Section 295.324, a licensed IEP must specify in his initial report what type of analytical methodology will be utilized for post-remediation verification. This includes a statement detailing the visual, procedural and analytical methodology to be utilized by the IEP for each work area. No sampling is required for an area that fails visual inspection. Consult your local attorney or licensing authority for rules applicable in your area.

While the remediator might not be exposed to liability concerning the methodology utilized for post-remediation verification, there is also no verification that the services performed by the remediator actually achieved the desired and expected goal. The remediator is left in the position that he or she cannot substantiate that the work was complete or effective. In other words, the IEP's lack of sampling still leaves the remediator in a vulnerable position if sued.

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