If you read my last post you know we had some extremely serious testing done last week at The Merc. A Phase 2 Environmental Test. Testing that we absolutely should have had done before we bought the building, I didn’t realize the serious implications that not having the testing done could have until it was already too late. My main environmental concern before we bought the building was the underground gas storage tank. After talking to someone at the city and having them tell me that the tank wasn’t there I naively thought that that was enough. I was wrong, and if you ever find yourself in this situation, DO THE TESTING.
A lot of you asked why none of the previous owners had to do the testing and why no one was aware of the potential issues.
The short answer is that its a fairly new requirement that banks have. Talking to the scientist that came and did the testing really opened my eyes to the implications for the bank if there are issues found. The property owner can walk away and the bank can’t. He told me that there are loads of properties that are bank owned that are unusable because of the environmental issues and the banks are stuck with them. In order to prevent this from happening banks are beginning to require environmental testing. Once test are preformed and the property is given a No Further Action letter or the remediation is outlined and agreed upon then they’ll loan on the property.
That being said, the previous owner (that we bought The Merc from) did owner financing so it wasn’t a requirement, and the owners before that bought it long enough ago that most likely it wasn’t on the radar as being an issue.
Many of you also wondered if the previous owner knew about potential issues and bailed because of that. Honestly, I don’t know if that is the case or not. I do know that by law you have to disclose information like that and there was nothing in the disclosure. I don’t think that they knew about it. There is a chance where he was possibly in the same situation that we were. You know there is a potential issue that you can choose to confront (by doing the testing) or you can turn a blind eye and hope for the best. From what I was told the sale of the building was motivated by revoked permits and the use of the building, not the owner changing his mind without an apparent reason. Regardless, we were the irresponsible party in this situation by not having the testing done before we bought the property.
There were 3 Recognized Environmental Concerns (REC’s) that came up in the Phase 1 results that needed further investigation.
1. The existence of an underground storage tank
2. Soil contamination around said tank.
3. Toxic vapors on the interior of the building because of solvents used for the approx. 10 years that it was used as a repair garage.
The cost of a Phase 2 test can range from $3,000-$15,000 depending on loads of different factors. Our test was $4350 and had a 3 week timeline.
The tests they preformed were relatively simple. To check for the tank they used a hand auger to drill down approximately 8 feet. They did this in 2 different places based on the historical photos of The Merc. This test kills two birds with one stone. If they hit the tank, obviously its there, if they don’t, then its not. They also take a core soil sample to see what is underground. There are immediate visual and olfactory clues of contamination but they also send the samples into the lab for more extensive testing.
The interior test that they did is called a Sub Slab Vapor Intrusion test. Basically they are testing to see if toxins are in the air and if they are, if it is coming from underneath the concrete slab.
They collect 3 different bags of air for this test. An exterior sample as a baseline, an interior sample, and a sub slab sample.
The test runs over the course of 4-6 hours. The exterior and interior samples are collected with this little machine that quietly hums along and fills the bag with air.
The process for the sub slab is a little more involved.
A 3/4″ hole is drilled through the concrete pad into the soil below. (This is Daryl the scientist, he patiently answered my incessant questions.)
Once the hole is drilled, its cleaned out with suction and a brush to remove excessive dust.
When everything is properly prepped this probe is inserted. The rubber sleeve around the middle makes sure that everything is sealed off. The 3 little holes at the end on the right side are where the air underneath the concrete slab is sucked through. The length of the probe depends on how thick the concrete slab is.
From there, Daryl hooked it up to an airtight vacuum box. The pvc pipe around the probe is then to fill with water, that way if for any reason the probe isn’t completely sealed, the water will seal it so that no exterior air can get in. Brilliant right? Once everything is hooked up he let it sit for a while so that whatever vapors were expelled when the hole was made have time to build back up.
These are the most expensive bags of air I’ve ever seen.
After the test is finished, the hole is patched, everything is sent off to be analyzed, and the waiting begins.
We got our results back yesterday and I am THRILLED! There was no evidence of an underground storage tank and the soil sample came back clear. They could see that the tank was removed because the dirt used to backfill it was different and they believe that it was done around the time the garage was turned into the post office (1956).
The vapor intrusion testing came back great too (miracles!!) There were trace amounts of the toxins, but well below what is considered harmful. In fact out of the 3 samples, the exterior one came back the worst. They believe that because of the sandy top soil and amount of time since exposure that everything that would have been there has long since been washed away.
I AM SO GRATEFUL. This could have turned out bad in so many ways, but instead I get to add it to the growing list of Merc miracles. The best part is now we get to close on our loan and get this freaking thing going!!!
Have a fabulous Memorial Day weekend and I’ll see you on Tuesday!
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