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COMPANIES JOIN FORCES TO SOLVE IAQ PROBLEMS

(From “Indoor Environment Connections” Volume 3, Issue 9 – July 2002)

With the increase of the indoor air quality industry, comes a multitude of businesses to answer the call of the consumer needs.  This growth has produced remediation companies, investigation companies, laboratories, consultants, contractors and the list goes on.  All are specialists in their specific fields.  The danger is combining too many of these fields into one company.  This article supports keeping these specialized fields as strictly independent companies, while maintaining a close relationship that supports a strong knowledge and experience base for the customer.  Microscope, a remediation company, and Air Quality Environmental, Inc., an investigative and laboratory service, have such a relationship.  

If a remediation company performs the investigation, writes the protocol, remediates and does its own final clearance, the client may think that would be like asking a rat to guard the cheese.  I’m sure that there are companies that operate this way and are highly ethical.  However, the client sometimes has a different perception.  Typically, when a client has his mold contaminated home remediated, he relies on getting a fair price and having only the property that is contaminated remediated.  He or she is counting on not having to discard all their possessions if they do not have to.  They would not want their home taken to the outer walls if it was not necessary.  Nor would they want to move into a hotel if it was not necessary.  Having two independent companies with one overseeing the other gives the client a sense of comfort.  The investigative lab should be working on behalf of the client.  The client looks to the investigative laboratory to protect them from unscrupulous remediation companies.  The remediation company should be directed to what and how much should be remediated.  Together both companies, if working together, can provide the customer with the best solution to his problem.   

Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood) once said “A man has to know his own limitations”.  The investigative laboratory specializes in knowing what mold is, where it grows, and how it is transmitted.  They are knowledgeable of health hazards they present, and quantities that can be harmful.  Other concerns besides mold are carbon dioxide levels, sewage problems resulting in bacterial contamination, dust mites, and a host of other potential considerations that can effect indoor air quality.  The investigative lab specialist which can also be known as the IH, CIH, field investigator, CIE, etc. is responsible for doing the survey to determine what is contaminated and to what extent.  A good and complete investigation / survey should contain the findings, recommendations or remediation protocol, cause and effect, supporting lab analysis, environmental measurements, and moisture readings.  Most import, are the remediation instructions or protocol.  This limits the scope of the work performed to the damage that exists.  No other remediation should be performed unless the testing lab is informed and approves the extension of work.  This protects the client from unnecessary work performed. When the remediation protocol is written it provides the remediation company with guidelines as to what is removed and replaced, what is discarded and what can be cleaned and reused along with safety and containment guidelines.  Once the remediation is performed, the investigation lab does a final clearance that determines if all work was done professionally and the facility is safe for occupancy.

 The remediation company is the expert in the field.  They  are the ones that see how extensive the mold contamination actually was and how it effected the building materials and personal property.  They have the experience with what works and what does not work in eliminating the mold.  Their experience has taught them how to achieve the ultimate goal, which is the final clearance.  If the remediation company does not pass final clearance, they have not performed the job correctly and face having to redo the work or face possible consequences from an unsatisfied client.  This can prove to be costly and virtually make a profitable job turn into a nonprofit nightmare.  The remediation company would be the one that knows more about building structures, new cleaning techniques, new chemicals and new processes.  

Both these companies have a high degree of expertise.  Keeping the companies independent yet combining their services provides the client the ultimate and secure solution.  This solution gives the client the best possibility of successfully remediating the contamination at the lowest possible cost while protecting valuable possessions.  However, I cannot stress enough that both companies must remain independent of each other or they will be perceived by the client as one large operation that is looking out for their own best interest rather than the clients.

Case In Point  

An example of a project both my laboratory and the remediation company worked on together was a State Park historical building.  This was a turn of the century art theater on the grounds of the state park.  The state had contracted to have a new roof put on the structure.  During the installation, the contractor failed to cover the roof with temporary sheeting.  There was a rainstorm with approximately ten inches of water that entered the building through the roof causing water damage to the attic area.  Additionally, through an error of communication, the park turned the air conditioning up rather than down thinking it would dry things out.  Rather, it caused extensive condensation and mold growth to the lower seating area of the theater.  Assuming that mold growth did occur, the park administration called Microscope, a remediation company, to have the problem taken care of.  Brian L’Hommedieu, of Microscope, informed them that they should contact an investigative laboratory service to do the investigation to determine the extent of the mold growth and write the protocol to be used as the guideline for remediation.  The report would also be used for recovery of the costs incurred.  This report would go to the insurance company or the roofing contractor for recovery of costs.  Wolfgang Paltian, of Air Quality Environmental, Inc., was contracted for the project.  They confirmed that mold growth did occur and the protocol that was written gave the client a couple of options.  It was found that the attic insulation and wood planked ceiling did get very wet and remained wet causing mold growth on the attic side as well as coming through the joints and appearing on the interior ceiling side in several places.  The remediation protocol stated that the insulation should be removed and the planking allowed to dry out.  Once the planking dried, mechanical scrubbing or light sanding of the planking would be done along with running negative air pressure.  The other option was that the architects involved with other renovations would consider the cost feasibility of the mechanical scrubbing verses removal of the planking and replacing with new planking.  This would eliminate contamination that could be lying between the boards that could later be exposed if moisture was reintroduced.  The lower part of the building would need to have the planked walls mechanically scrubbed with negative air pressure applied to the containment area.  Once Air Quality Environmental presented the protocol and lab / testing results to the client, the client called Microscope Remediation Company back to do the cost quote for remediation.  Once Brian was at the facility there were some questions that concerned the project but were not necessarily covered in the written protocol report.  One was discussing the options of mechanically scrubbing verses the removal.  Another was that there may be a cost advantage to the client if they replace the chairs in the facility verses cleaning / sanding and refinishing.  Also, there were questions regarding the locations where mold was found and was easier to locate once Brian was in the building.  All of the questions and locations of contaminations that were confirmed and verified made quoting the remediation costs far more accurate than if Brian and Wolfgang had not discussed it.  Therefore, the client got an estimate that had less chance of being amended later.

Construction Project  

Another unique project we worked together on was a construction site that had its project halted for three months after the foundation, crawl space and first floor were completed.  The site was a 3.5 million dollar resort club house that was 30,000 square feet.  During the construction halt, several heavy rains occurred flooding the crawl space and causing severe mold growth to the flooring support lumber and structural beams.  Additionally, the first floor plywood sheeting and framing also had heavy mold growth.  Microscope Remediation was consulted and Air Quality Environmental was given the job of inspection and writing the protocol.  Because we were both involved we were able to work together on the solution.  Air Quality Environmental had limited knowledge of what would work in that type of situation and the client felt that just spraying it with something would work.  Microscope on the other hand was unclear of how extensive the cleaning process should be in the crawlspace with its limited accessibility and some of the first floor framework once it would be enclosed.  Questions regarding water activity and how it could affect mold that had not been removed were a great concern.  Our combined knowledge and experience proved to give the client the best solution at the most feasible cost.

Solution

The ultimate goal combining our knowledge and efforts on a project are to design the perfect solution for a sensible and economical cost that passes final clearance.  If final clearance is passed then it can be said that the protocol that was written and the remediation was successful in removing the contamination without contaminating other areas or other property. 

In conclusion, it is usually in the best interest of the client that there remains a distinct separation between the remediation company and the investigating lab service.  The two must never get too close or risk compromising the presumed honesty of the analysis of the client’s project.  The remediation company’s role is to take instructions from the investigating lab service knowing what the intent is but being allowed to do what is within his abilities to get the job done.  The investigating lab service on the other hand, should be able to guide the client to the type of contractor or Remediation Company that is best suited for the situation.  The client should have all options open to him so he can choose the one that fits his budget and still provides him with a safe place to live.  The client must always feel that one is watching the other to make certain that the job is done correctly, efficiently, and at the lowest possible cost to the client and still pass final clearance.  If done properly, the client can be assured that his property is a safe place to inhabit.    

Wolfgang Paltian is the President and Microscopist at Air Quality Environmental, Inc. located in St. Petersburg, Florida.  His Company provides indoor environmental consulting with in-house (EMPAT participant) laboratory services throughout the state of Florida.  He has been in the IAQ industry for 6 years.  For more information, you can browse our web site at www.AirQualityEnvironmental.com.  You may also reach me by phone, (727) 327-7477 or email, wpaltian@AirQualityEnvironmental.com.

Brian L’Hommedieu also contributed to this article.  He is president and owner of Microscope Ltd., a remediation contracting firm based in Fort Myers, Florida.  He is a CMR with seven years combined experience in the catastrophe restoration and IAQ industries.  You can reach him by calling (800) 903-MOLD (6653) or by e-mail at microscope@earthlink.net.

 

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