Soil Sampling in Washington

Soil Sampling in Washington State

Like Oregon, in order to determine if a tank is currently or has previously leaked, an investigative process needs to take place through soil sampling. Again, showcasing the differences between the two states, soil sampling in Washington State separates this function into either a Site Check or a Site Assessment.

Additionally, when the initial soil sampling takes place, to determine if contamination is present, the State of Washington requires a minimum of three (3) samples be taken. One sample must be taken from each end of the tank and the third sample must be taken from the middle of one side of the tank. This is unlike OR, in that, the DEQ requires only two (2) samples be taken from each end of the tank. The three (3) soil sampling requirements are the same as when decommissioning an underground storage tank in place or by removal, as long as no obvious contamination is discovered.

Soil Sampling in Washington

Soil Sampling in Washington – three (3) soil samples are taken in a Washington UST. A sample must be taken from each end of the tank and one from either side of the tank in the middle.

Site Check is the investigation of an underground storage tank site for the presence of a release when evidence indicates that a release may have occurred, but existence of such a release has not been confirmed. Once the existence of a release has been confirmed, the release shall be reported to the State of Washington Department of Ecology.

Examples for a site check include:

  • Environmental contamination may be suspected and can include, but not limited to, constituents in soils, basement, groundwater and/or surface waters.
  • If environmental contamination is discovered off site and a UST is a suspected source of the release, the department may require a site check to confirm whether the UST system is the source of the release.

Site Assessment is an investigation to determine if a release has occurred: it may be required as part of a routine closure, change-in-service, and temporary closure extension, or as directed by the Department of Ecology.

  • For the purpose of a real estate transaction or to determine the state of an in-use or abandoned underground storage tank, a site assessment is conducted.
  • If an UST System is being decommissioned in-place or removed, a site assessment must be conducted after the UST system is emptied and cleaned and all liquid and accumulated sludge has been removed. While removed, a site assessment must be conducted following tank removal.
  • If a UST system was permanently closed or abandoned before December 22, 1988 and the department determines that suspected releases from the UST system may pose a current or potential threat to human health or the environment, the department may require a site assessment to be conducted. If an abandoned tank contains product, a site assessment is required.
  • Owner/operator applies to the department to extend a temporary closure of an UST system beyond 12 months, a site assessment must be completed before the application extension will be considered.

Leaking Soil Samples in Washington State

Contamination has been verified through soil sampling, within 24 hours the leak must be reported to the Department of Ecology. Department of Ecology reporting can either be completed through contacting the state directly or through their online system.  Once the contamination submission has been received by the State, an ERTS number will be given to the person who reported the leak. The ERTS number will also be forwarded to PLIA, as PLIA has an agreement with Ecology to evaluate the adequacy of any independent clean-up action performed by the requirements in the Model Toxics Control Act.

PLIA, can also provide homeowners the option of insuring their underground storage tanks before they leak, as well as helping after a leak has been discovered. Please see detailed information on our PLIA informational page.

Important EcoTech Documents

For additional information regarding our service lines, we have attached supplementary documents for your reference.

Heating Oil Tanks

Radon Mitigation

Seismic Retrofits

Septic Tanks & Cesspools

Radon Measurement

Radon Measurement Common Questions

 

How do I find out if I have Radon in my home?

The only way to determine radon levels in your home is to conduct a radon measurement test.

Can I conduct my own test?

Yes, there are two different tests that you can conduct yourself.

  • Short-Term Radon Test. A short-term test kit is the quickest way to conduct a test. These kits can stay in your home from two to 90 days, depending on the device type. Short-term testing requires your home to be under “closed-house conditions”, meaning all doors and windows must be closed during testing, other than normal comings and goings from the home.  However, a short-term test is less likely than a long-term test to tell you what your year-long average radon level is, as radon levels tend to vary from day to day and season to season.
  • Long-Term Radon Test. A long-term test kit remains in your home for a minimum of 91 days, although testing can continue for a year. Long-term testing provides a more accurate reading of the radon levels within your home, especially if the home is tested up to a year. Results from a long-term test are more likely to reflect the variances in the radon level, as levels fluctuate from day to day, season to season, as well as the average “open-house conditions” that consists of the normal comings and goings from the home.
Radon Measurement

Radon Measurement – Different radon measurement devices.

Where can I buy a short-term or long-term test?

EcoTech sells both the short-term and long-term tests kits, please visit our EcoTech Store for purchasing information. Radon test kits can also be purchased at most hardware stores and cost an average of $15-$35.

What if I’m in a real estate transaction?

If you are purchasing a home, most buyers and their agents, test the new home as part of the inspection period. A Certified Radon Measurement Professional should be hired to conduct the radon test. The third party tester will perform a two day test, the test will be placed in the lowest portion of the home (i.e. crawlspace or basement) and will be required to be under “closed-house conditions”.

Radon Measurement

Radon Measurement – Technician setting a Continuous Radon Monitor (CRM) to measure and report the hourly increments of the radon levels within the home.

Radon Measurement Results

What is measured to determine if there is radon within the home?

To determine the amount of radon within the air, it is measured in “picocuries per liter of air” or pCi/L.  The gas itself is not measured directly, it is actually the radioactivity the radon produces that is measured.

What do the radon test results mean?

  • If the measurement reading reflects a 4.0 or lower pCi/L, you and your agent will receive a detailed report and no mitigation will be needed. Although, the EPA does recommend that you test, using a short-term or long-term test, every two years.
Radon Measurement

Radon Measurement – This is a CRM report which shows 2.4 pCi/l, which is below the EPA Action Level

  • If the measurement reading reflects a 4.0 or higher pCi/L, you and your agent will receive a detailed report and a proposal for a radon mitigation system to lower the radon levels in the home.
Radon Measurement

Radon Measurement – Extremely high CRM test, the overall average is 24.9, which is above the Action Level

I’m in a real estate transaction and I’ve scheduled my sewer scope for the same time as the radon test, is that okay?

EcoTech highly recommends that you DO NOT schedule the sewer scope and radon measurement at the same time.  If the two inspections are scheduled together, a 12 hour delay should be placed on the measurement device after the scope is completed. The sewer scope can be considered a disruption to the “closed house conditions” that are required during the radon test. Open sewer pipes, during a scope, can allow radon gases into a home. Thus, if a sewer scope is performed during a radon test, the exposed sewer can cause a spike in the test, reflecting in a false reading.

Seismic Retrofit Attachments

Seismic Retrofit Attachments – Illustration and Photos

Below we’ve provided seismic retrofit attachments illustrations and photos to present a more in-depth visualization of what a seismic upgrade entails.  Although each home is unique, EcoTech is dedicated to tailor each retrofit plan to protect your home against earthquake damage.

 

Seismic Retrofit Attachments

Seismic Retrofit Attachments – Rendition of basic framing for a home

ATTACHING SILL PLATE TO FOUNDATION & RIM JOIST TO THE SILL PLATE

  • The Sill Plate is attached to the Foundation due to older homes “sitting” atop the concrete foundation, meaning there is nothing keeping the house physically attached, to the base of the home.  Thus, when a violent shaking earthquake occurs, the end result is the house literally being knocked off the foundation.
  • Attaching the Sill Plate to the Rim Joist follows the same logic as attaching the sill plate to the foundation.  When connecting all of these vital pieces of the home together, it is making a solid infrastructure, that allows the house to move as one part, not three separate sections.
Seismic Retrofit Attachments

Seismic Retrofit Attachments – Large Plate is attaching the Sill Plate to the Foundation. Small Plate is attaching the Rim Joist to the Sill Plate.

Seismic Retrofit Attachments

Seismic Retrofit Attachments – Close Up of Large Plate is attaching the Sill Plate to the Foundation. Small Plate is attaching the Rim Joist to the Sill Plate.

ATTACHING POST TO BEAM & POST TO FLOOR

  • Attaching the Post to the Beam and the Post to the Floor follows along the same rule as above, this is accomplishing the goal of making the home as one solid unit.  When the ground shakes, the whole house will move together, not different pieces falling like dominos.
Seismic Retrofit Attachments

Seismic Retrofit Attachments – Attaching the Support Post in the lower part of the home to the Support Beam of the first floor.

Seismic Retrofit Attachments

Seismic Retrofit Attachments – Attaching the Support Post to the Floor of the lower portion of the home.

APPLYING PLYWOOD SHEETING ON CRIPPLE WALL CONSTRUCTION

  • A Cripple Wall is usually found in older homes.  The cripple wall usually occurs between the first floor and the foundation, it is generally thought of as the weakest part of older buildings.  This is due to the fact that there is no concrete between the first floor and the foundation, it is usually made up of horizontal wood siding or stucco.  Since no concrete is between the home and the foundation, the collapse of the cripple wall could result in the main floor dropping to the ground.
Seismic Retrofit Attachments

Seismic Retrofit Attachments – Cripple Wall with only horizontal wood and no concrete, between the foundation and the first floor.

Seismic Retrofit Attachments

Seismic Retrofit Attachments – Plywood sheeting is added to the Cripple Wall construction to keep from the collapse of the first floor into the ground.

BOLTING THE SILL PLATE TO FOUNDATION IN THE GARAGE

  • Bolting the Sill Plate to the Garage Foundation is the same concept as adding this extra security to the home.  The garage maybe attached to the home or there may be living space within the garage, either way bolting the sill plate to the garage foundation, allows the structure to move as one.
Seismic Retrofit Attachments

Seismic Retrofit Attachments – Two bolts within the Sill Plate to the Foundation of the garage.

STRAPPING THE WATER HEATER & NATURAL GAS SHUT-OFF VALVES

  • Strapping the Water Heater to a wall or post protects people from a bursting water heater or reduces fire potential.
  • Installing a Natural Gas Shut-Off Valve help to prevent houses from catching fire due to broken natural gas lines.
Seismic Retrofit Attachments

Seismic Retrofit Attachments – Water heater strapped to basement post.

Seismic Retrofit Attachments

Seismic Retrofit Attachments – Natural gas shut-off valve.

 

UST Tank Search for Buyers

UST Tank Search for Buyers – Common Questions

As a Buyer, searching for an underground storage tank has become integrated as part of the inspection period. These are some of the most common questions that we are asked regarding the tank inspection process and why it is important to protect yourself before you buy.

What is an underground storage tank (UST)?

Homes, apartments, farms and some businesses that are currently or were previously heated using diesel heating oil, used an underground storage tank (UST) to store the heating oil. The USTs were usually buried in the yard, and copper tubing or steel piping was installed to deliver the diesel from the tank to the furnace. In Oregon, an estimated 100,000 USTs were installed for home heating.

UST Tank Search for Buyers

UST Tank Search for Buyers – Rendition of an underground storage tank (UST) buried in a yard, with the supply lines running into the home.

Why should I worry about a UST?

Underground storage tanks are made of steel, which are selected for their strength, not for their corrosion resistance. Therefore steel USTs rust through, given enough time. Like a roof, steel storage tanks have a life of about 25 years, and like a roof it is cheaper to replace the tank or convert to another heat source before it leaks and the damage is done.

UST Tank Search for Buyers

UST Tank Search for Buyers – Removed tank with numerous holes, this allows the diesel fuel to leak into the surrounding soil.

Performing the UST tank search

How do you find an abandoned UST?

The best way to determine if there is an abandoned oil tank on the property, is to conduct a tank search.

How do you perform a tank search?

EcoTech first will perform a Tank Background Search, this entails a detailed examination of state and local databases, as applicable. Besides years of on-the-job experience, our technician conducts a visual inspection for product lines and fill or vent pipes, utilizes metal detectors and Terra, our specially trained Petroleum Detection K-9.

UST Tank Search for Buyers

UST Tank Search for Buyers – Terra finds a tank

UST Tank Search for Buyers

UST Tank Search for Buyers – The UST Terra found during the tank search, is now marked out for sampling.

What if there is an in-service tank already on the property, should I still do a tank search?

EcoTech highly recommends doing a tank search to rule out any additional tanks that may or may not be on the property. On average our tank searches cost $99.00, during the inspection period this is money well invested. Not only does a tank search give you peace of mind that there are no additional tanks on the property. It can also save you from years of worry or money spent if there is indeed an additional leaking tank on the property, which you now own and are responsible for cleaning up.

 

Underground Storage Tank or UST Decommissioning

Underground Storage Tank or UST Decommissioning Common Questions

 

What does it mean to decommission a UST?

The most generic term, is to take the tank out of service.  Underground Storage Tank or UST decommissioning is accomplished by ensuring the tank has been properly cleaned and removed or completely filled with an inert material. The inert material consists either of perlite, a sand-like material or slurry, concrete.

If the tank is to be registered with DEQ, two soil samples will be taken from inside the bottom of the tank, after being pumped and cleaned, and analyzed for diesel and heavy oil. Each sample needs to be analyzed at an independent laboratory that is DEQ certified.

If the samples come back as non-detected, the tank can be then registered with the DEQ.

If the samples come back above the DEQ reporting limit (50.1 PPM), remediation will need to take place and once the corrective action has been completed, the tank will be registered with DEQ.  If soil remediation is need, please see our Decommissioning via Heating Oil Contaminated Soil Clean-Up page.

Why should homeowners decommission their UST and register it with the DEQ

I’ve emptied my tank of oil years ago and don’t use it any more, doesn’t that mean it is decommissioned?

No, in order to decommission the tank you will need to take the tank permanently out of service. This is completed by either removing the tank or filling it in place with an inert material.

Can I decommission my own UST?

According to the DEQ, it is legal for a homeowner to decommission their own UST, assuming that you perform the work yourself and comply with all applicable local, state and federal rules. Before deciding to decommission your own tank, the DEQ highly recommends that you read the DEQ Cleanup Guidance for Homeowners to understand the full scope of work involved in completing a decommissioning project. DEQ Decommissioning Guide for Homeowners

I’m selling my home and have switched over to gas years ago, should I decommission my tank?

It is not a requirement to decommission your tank before selling your home. Unfortunately in this highly active real estate market, many buyers will require at a minimum, proof of recent clean soil samples. Additionally, you will need to provide the buyer with documentation that the tank has been pumped of all of its contents. The documentation that the DEQ requires is dated receipts from the company that pumped the oil out of the tank; or receipts from the oil recycling company, if you pumped the tank yourself.

Do I have to decommission my UST?

No, it is not a requirement to decommission your tank once you stop using it.  However, if you are thinking about selling your home, most buyers and their agents request decommissioning and registration before closing. Per DEQ, you will need to ensure that the tank has been emptied of oil and you will need to provide that documentation to the new buyer.  DEQ Requirements for Tanks No Longer in Use

Do I have to register my UST?

It is not required by DEQ to register the tank, but it is highly recommended. However, if you are decommissioning the tank as part of the sale of the home, this is usually a prerequisite prior to closing.

Why should I register my UST?

There are three primary benefits of registering the UST decommissioning with the DEQ:

  1. The decommissioning becomes public record.  So, even if your copy of the paperwork is misplaced or the name of the contractor that performed the work is forgotten, the record remains in the DEQ files.
  2. When the DEQ changes any of their rules (i.e. reporting limits, remediation guidelines, etc.), previously closed or registered tanks are “grandfathered” in.  Tanks that were decommissioned and not registered are subject to the new rules.  For example, over time the DEQ required the locations of soil sampling to change.  Meaning a previously unregistered decommissioned tank, would need to obtain additional soil samples to bring the tank up to the new DEQ sampling requirements.
  3. Most buyers are requiring DEQ registration because they don’t want to deal with future DEQ rule changes.  Even if you don’t plan to sell the property any time soon, registering the tank now can prevent added costs prior to and during a future sale.

I have a tank that was decommissioned years ago, but never registered with the DEQ, how do I now get it registered?

In order to establish if the tank has been decommissioned properly, soil samples and a tank inspection would be required. Soil samples need to be taken in order to determine if the tank had leaked prior to decommissioning. A tank inspection is necessary to establish if the tank has been decommissioned properly.

If the soil samples are clean and the tank has been decommissioned properly, the tank then can be registered with the DEQ.

USTs that have been Decommissioned inproperly

What happens if it isn’t decommissioned properly?

There could be a couple of different reasons a tank has not been decommissioned properly.  There may be inadequate or contaminated fill material, water within the tank or simply something that shouldn’t be in the tank (i.e. paint cans, large rocks, etc.).  Besides what is inside the tank, the soil samples will need to be taken into consideration to allow the tank to be certified as decommissioned to register with the DEQ.

  • Fill Material:  If the fill material within the tank is not an approved by the DEQ, that material will need to be removed and the tank will be re-decommissioned to DEQ standards for certification.  The same reasoning will go with contaminated fill material, even if it is DEQ approved material.  The contaminated material will need to be removed and the tank will need to be re-decommissioned to DEQ standards for certification.
  • Water:  If there is water within the tank, all water will be pumped out of the tank and re-decommissioned in order to certify with the DEQ.
  • Unconventional Items:  From time to time, items are found within a tank that should NOT be there.  Items such as large boulders, paint cans, trash cans and even tires have been discovered within a tank.  If this situation does arise, all items will need to be removed and disposed of in a landfill and the tank will need to be decommissioned.
Underground Storage Tank or UST Decommissioning

Underground Storage Tank or UST Decommissioning – Concrete, pain cans and water found within a tank.

What exactly do you do to decommission a tank?

In order to decommission an underground storage tank, we need to follow some step-by-step processes to ensure that we are able to take soil samples and inspect the tank properly.  This is the process by which EcoTech begins each in-place underground storage tank decommissioning project:

1.  We dig down, expose the tank and cut it open.

Underground Storage Tank or UST Decommissioning

Underground Storage Tank or UST Decommissioning – Exposed tank top.

2.  All tank contents are removed; heating oil, residual liquids, sludge.

3.  Clean and dry the tank interior and inspect it for holes.

Underground Storage Tank or UST Decommissioning

Underground Storage Tank or UST Decommissioning – Holes from within a tank.

4.  Collect soil samples from the inside and through the bottom of the tank.

Underground Storage Tank or UST Decommissioning

Underground Storage Tank or UST Decommissioning – The technicians cut two holes in the bottom of the tank to expose the soil underneath, two samples are then “grabbed” underneath the tank bottom.

5.  Soil Samples are submitted to the lab the same day for analysis, with results typically back the next business day by noon.

6.  Pending favorable laboratory results (less than 50 PPM), the tank can be backfilled with perlite or slurry.

***If soil sample results come in above the 50 PPM, remediation would be required to bring the site up to DEQ requirements.  (Please see our Heating Oil Contaminated Soil Clean-Up section for additional information on remediation Clean-Up with Decommissioning).

Underground Storage Tank or UST Decommissioning

Underground Storage Tank or UST Decommissioning – Tank filled with slurry.

7.  After the tank has been filled, the tank is then covered back over with the previous landscape (i.e. grass, concrete, dirt, etc.).

Radon Common Questions

Radon Common Questions

What is Radon?

Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless, and naturally occurring gas. Radon is produced by the radioactive decay of radium, which is found in numerous forms of soils and rocks, especially granite.

Why is Radon harmful?

When inhaled, the radioactive radon particles can damage the cells that line the lungs.

Where is Radon found?

Radon is present in nearly all air, usually at very low levels, and has been identified in all 50 states.

How does Radon enter buildings?

Radon gas enters a building directly from the soil, through the lowest level in the building that is in contact with the ground. Typical entry points of radon are cracks in solid foundations, construction joints, cracks in walls and gaps in suspended floors.

Radon Common Questions

Radon Common Questions – Different ways radon can enter a home.

Can’t I just open my windows to get rid of the Radon?

Yes, this would help eliminate the radon levels in your home. Yet, when opening all of the windows in your home to eliminate the radon level, you would then be opening yourself up to sky high energy costs with the loss of conditioned or heated air.

Radon Measurement Questions

How do I find out if I have Radon in my home?

The only way to determine radon levels in your home is to conduct a radon test.  For more information on radon testing, please see our Radon Measurement Common Questions page.

What if I’m in a real estate transaction?

If you are purchasing a home, most buyers and their agents, test the new home as part of the inspection period. A Certified Radon Measurement Professional should be hired to conduct the radon test. The third party tester will perform a two day test, the test will be placed in the lowest portion of the home (i.e. crawlspace or basement) and will be required to be under “closed-house conditions”.

What Radon level should I be concerned about?

The EPA recommends that action be taken to reduce radon levels of 4.0 pCi/L or higher, and to consider lowering the radon to a level between 2.0 – 4.0 pCi/L. The EPA also recommends that you test your home every two years using a short-term or long-term test, to monitor radon levels.

Why does the EPA recommend 4.0 pCi/L and the World Health Organization recommends 2.7 pCi/L?

The EPA does recommend that homeowners should consider taking corrective action if their homes reflect radon levels between 2.0 and 4.0 pCi/L, since there is no safe level of radon exposure.  Radon measurement companies that have been certified are required to follow the EPA protocols, not the World Health Organizations.  Also, those companies that have been certified are mandated to observe all EPA protocols, if a company follows the WHO recommendations, they are in violation of their radon certification.

Removing radon from homes

How do I get rid of Radon from my home?

The method of reducing homes with high radon levels is through a process called Radon Mitigation. The most common and cost-effective mitigation system installed is called an active soil depressurization (ASD). The ASD system intercepts the radon before it enters the home from the soil and re-routes it into the atmosphere. An ASD system incorporates a suction pipe and an inline fan, creating a vacuum beneath the lowest level of the structure, intercepting and rerouting the Radon gases out of the home.  For more information on mitigation systems, please see our Radon Mitigation System Information page.

Radon Common Questions

Can’t I just seal cracks and other openings in and around the foundation to stop the radon from getting in?

The EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone to limit radon gases. Sealing alone has not demonstrated to lower radon levels significantly or consistently.

Is there anything specific I should be worried about when it comes to mitigation systems?

Yes, not all radon mitigation systems are created equal. Below are just a few reasons it is important to do your homework when installing a mitigation system.

  • The system that is installed does not address the whole house. It is important to think of where the fan will be placed, is it under a bedroom window, will there be a noise issue effecting everyday life.
  • Poorly constructed systems can increase utility bills by hundreds of dollars a year, with the release of air conditioned or heated air.
  • Back-drafting of combustion appliances and fireplaces can kill occupants of the home.
  • Not using licensed electricians for installation or pulling proper permits with the city.

Radon Common Questions

I’m going to be converting my basement into livable space, should I test before hand?

Yes, a radon test should be done before starting construction and after the project has been completed. Generally, it is less expensive to install a radon mitigation system before or during renovations rather than afterwards.

I’m going to be sealing my home for energy efficiency, will that effect radon levels?

It can. Insulating and air sealing your home will reduce your carbon emission, save you money and energy. While achieving energy efficiency, you can also create an increase in radon due to a reduction in outdoor air entering the house. A radon test should be conducted before and after the weatherization improvements to ensure the home is safe from high levels of radon.

Both houses next to me have very little radon levels, doesn’t that mean mine does too?

Not necessarily. Radon levels can vary from home to home and cannot be based on someone else’s test. Homes which are next to each other can have different indoor radon levels. Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the US is estimated to have elevated radon levels. The only way to find out your radon level is to test your home yourself.

Radon Common Questions