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Website Updates – Online Forms

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We are in the process of updating our online forms so that you can fill out and submit online.  

Please check back for that new feature.  

If any of our valuable customers have any other suggestions for improving our site, please let us know. 


What Every Realtor Should Know about Septic Systems

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What Every Realtor Should Know about

Septic Systems

 

 

If you are a real estate agent representing a buyer or seller of a property with a private septic system, also known as an Onsite Sewage Disposal System, (OSDS), you may have questions about how you can best inform your client about a septic inspection for a property transfer.

 

 Knowledge is Power

 

An educated buyer/seller that understands the importance of a properly functioning septic system is better able to make an informed decision about a property that relies on a septic system for waste disposal.

 

There are 4 types of OSDS used in Maryland – Traditional systems, Alternative and Innovative Systems, Best Available Technology for Nitrogen Removal (BAT) systems and Sand Mound Systems.  The majority of systems in Maryland are the traditional systems so the focus of this information is on the traditional type system.

 

Information about septic systems is available from many sources.  The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) regulates septic inspectors and the procedures used for septic inspections.  The MDE recommended procedure is outlined on the attached document.  County health departments in Maryland are responsible for issuing permits for septic system construction.  Do Your Part – Be Septic Smart – A Homeowners Guide to Septic Systems is available online at http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/septic/upload/SepticSmart_LongHomeownerGuide_English508.pdf.

 

Avoid Delays

 

Allowing sufficient time to schedule and conduct a septic inspection for a property can help to avoid delays at settlement.  If any problems are discovered during the inspection they can be corrected prior to settlement.  Conducting the file search, homeowner/occupant interview and the onsite pumping and inspection and preparation of the final report can take up to 2 weeks.  If a problem is found corrective action must be taken and can require additional time.

 

What inspection should be conducted?

 

A dye test alone is not considered acceptable by MDE.  In 1999 the State of Maryland passed a law (9-217.1) that states  “After July 1, 1999; every person engaged in the business of inspecting an on-site sewage disposal system for a transfer of property must certify to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) that the person has completed a course of instruction, approved by the Department, in the proper inspection of on-site sewage disposal systems”.  The procedure mandated by MDE is a four step process outlined below.  Failure to abide by this law by utilizing a dye test not only deprives the buyer of valuable knowledge to which he is entitled but also subjects the seller and the real-estate agent to potentially costly litigation.

The standardized procedure that has been developed by MDE for properly inspecting a septic system is a four step process: 1) file search, 2) homeowner/occupant interview, 3) site investigation and 4) final report.

 

FILE SEARCH

 The purpose of the file search is to determine what, if any, archival information is available about the septic system on the property. This information is often obtained at the county health department for the county in which the property is located. A waiting period may be required for research to be completed.  Archival information may not be available for all systems.  Useful information that can be taken from the file search may include age, type and location.  Other information that may be in the file would be historical info, soils or percolation test data, outstanding complaints or violations associated with the property.  This is a very important step, aiding the inspector in locating components of the system in the field, and showing where evidence of a system malfunction might be expected to be seen.

 

HOMEOWNER/OCCUPANT INTERVIEW

The homeowner or occupant may have information pertaining to the septic system’s current or past performance that may only be revealed by interviewing them or by having them complete a questionnaire.  Key information to gather is the current and past usage of the house.  It is very important to note how many occupants of the house there are, if the property is vacant, or if there is, or has been, a commercial use of the property that may influence wastewater strength.  It should also be noted if a system is under-utilized or is only seasonally used.  The performance of a system can only be assessed based on the existing occupancy of the property.  A system that is functioning adequately for two individuals may be inadequate for a fully occupied house consisting of multiple bedrooms.  Use of the property owner questionnaire conveys responsibility for revealing important information to the property owner.

 

SITE AND SYSTEM EVALUATION/INSPECTION

To accomplish this inspection water must be introduced into the system from the house and the tank opened at the large access lid.  The size of the tank, the depth of material in the tank and the scum and sludge levels must be determined.  The tank must be pumped in order to facilitate this examination and to determine if the drain field is accepting the effluent.

 

The septic tank must be structurally sound and operational with required inlet and outlet baffles/tees and or necessary components.  Tanks and access riser connections should be watertight and not leak untreated sewage or allow infiltration of surface or groundwater.  Liquid levels in the tanks should reflect that the system is functioning according to design.  Toilets or drains on the lowest level of the house must flush or drain adequately.  There should be no discharge of effluent to the ground surface or to surface waters.  If there is ponding of water or effluent on the ground’s surface, or if there are discharge pipes on the property, it may be necessary to dye test the system.  However, dye tests used by themselves do not constitute an adequate septic inspection as at best they can only support a conclusion that a system is not functioning.  For questionable systems or underutilized properties, it may be necessary to charge the system with a hydraulic load to evaluate its performance.  Tanks should never be pumped before an inspection.  They should usually be pumped only after careful observation of the liquid levels in the tank(s).  Observations should be made of the tank during the pump out to see if effluent or groundwater flows back into the tank as it is evacuated.  Once emptied, certain components such as baffles and tees can be clearly observed and only then can the structural integrity of the tank properly evaluated.  Some excavation is usually necessary to perform a proper septic inspection as all components of a system may not have ready access.

 

FINAL REPORT

The final report for a septic inspection should include the following minimum information:

 

The address of the property and date of the site inspection

The type, size, structural integrity and number of system components

Information from current/recent occupants of the house/facility about the system operation and usage

Information obtained from the local health department (or permitting agency) concerning the septic system.  It should be noted if no information was available or if the information was requested but not received as of the date of the final report.

A sketch of the septic system layout showing the location of all system components relative to the house and/or other prominent site features (eg., sheds, pools, etc)

A conclusion/comments section that specifies what was observed.  At times, it will be necessary to characterize the condition of the system.  Suggested terminology could include: system is acceptable, system is acceptable with concerns, further evaluation is needed, or system condition or performance is unacceptable.

 

Contact Fredericktowne Labs for information about other potential contaminants or specific concerns.

 


What Every Realtor Should Know About Private Drinking Water Wells

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What Every Realtor Should Know About Private Drinking Water Wells

 

If you are a real estate agent representing a buyer or seller of a property with a drinking water well you may have questions about how you can best inform your client about private well water issues during a property transaction.

 

Water, our most precious commodity, never wears out; but it can become contaminated.  The safety of the water we use – for drinking, cooking and bathing – cannot be taken for granted.  Water may look safe, taste good and smell fine – yet be unsafe to drink.

 

Water quality is based on guidelines established under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).  Primary Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) are the maximum level of a contaminant in water that is considered safe for human consumption.  Any level of a contaminant that exceeds the MCL is considered unsafe for human consumption.  Municipal and Community supplied drinking water providers are required to test water they provide to the users to demonstrate that contaminants do not exceed the MCLs.  Private water well contaminant levels are not enforceable by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but must meet MCLs for some parameters as required by state, county and lender specifications.

 

Knowledge is Power

An educated buyer/seller that understands the importance of well water quality is better able to make an informed decision about a property that replies on well water for the drinking water supply.

Information about well water quality is available from many sources.  The Maryland Department of Environment Water Supply Program oversees drinking water supplies in Maryland.  Their website address is: www.mde.maryland.gov/programs/ResearchCenter/FactSheets/WaterFactSheet/Pages/MDGroundwaterAwarenessWeek.aspx.   A guide entitled Drinking Water from Household Wells is available from the EPA to help answer questions and provide links to additional information. The booklet can be viewed at www.epa.gov/safewater/ pwells1.html.  Information is also available from local county health departments.  Another informative website for well owners is www.wellowner.org.

 

Avoid Delays

Having the well water tested as soon as you have a ratified contract can ensure a smoother ride to the settlement table.  It can help to avoid delays in selling the home if there are water quality issues that need to be addressed and remedied.  The buyer’s lending institution will most likely require testing and the testing required will vary depending on the type of loan that is being obtained. Lenders will have a time limit on how long the results are valid, often they are only good for 30 days.  If the well has been tested and fails, appropriate treatment can be installed. A failed bacteria test may only require a chlorination treatment to the well or it may require the installation of a permanent disinfection system such as a UV light. Elevated nitrate levels may require the installation of an RO system, elevated turbidity may require installation of a sediment filter and an elevated lead may require the installation of an acid neutralizer and so on.  There truly is some sort of treatment available to remedy almost any water quality issue.

 

What tests should be conducted?

The buyer’s lending institution will most likely require that the well pass a water quality test prior to settlement. Most lenders require, at a minimum, testing for bacteria. Some lenders may require additional tests.  Checking the lender’s testing requirements for each loan can help to avoid delays at settlement.

 

Keep in mind that these tests are intended to ensure that the lender is not making a loan on a property with a faulty system in case they have to repossess the property. The testing is not necessarily required to protect the health of the residents.

 

What are the MCLs for drinking water?

Coliform bacteria/E.coli <1/100 ml or absent  (the < sign stands for less than and means not detected)

Coliform bacteria are present in soils and E.coli in human and animal feces.  The presence of these bacteria may indicate surface water intrusion contamination or contamination from a septic system.  EPA considers them to be the indicator organisms for “safe” drinking water.

 

Nitrate                           10 mg/L.

Nitrite                              1 mg/L

Major sources of nitrates or nitrites in drinking water include fertilizer, sewage and feedlots.  Infants who drink water containing nitrates in excess of MCL may develop shortness of breath and blue baby syndrome.

 

pH                    Recommended range for pH is 6.5 to 8.0; a pH of 7.0 is neutral

pH is a measure of how acid or alkaline the water is.  Low numbers indicate acidic water and can be associated with corrosion problems, pin hole plumbing leaks and can contribute to high lead and copper levels.

 

Lead                             0.015 mg/L

Lead enters drinking water primarily as a result of the corrosion of materials containing lead that are in the household plumbing such as lead based solder, brass and brass and chrome plated brass faucets.  High levels may cause delays in physical and mental development in children.  In adults it may contribute to kidney problems and high blood pressure.

 

Copper             1.3 mg/L

Water can be a significant source of copper intake depending on the pH of the water, the temperature of the water and the presence of copper pipes.  Copper has toxic effects at high dose levels and may cause kidney or liver damage but it is an essential element at lower levels.

 

Turbidity                       10 NTU

 

Turbidity refers to the degree of cloudiness in water due to suspended particles.  If turbidity increases after a rain, it can indicate that surface water intrusion is occurring in the well.  High turbidity levels are sometimes associated with disease-causing microorganisms such as viruses, parasites and bacteria.

 

Contact Fredericktowne Labs for information about other potential contaminants or specific concerns.


Employment Application (click here)

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Date ______________

Last name ________________________  First name ________________ Middle name________

Street Address _________________________________________________________________

City _____________________  State _______  ZIP _______

Telephone ___________________________ Social Security # ___________________________

 

Position applied for __________________________________________

How did you hear of this opening? __________________________________________

When can you start? _____________________  Desired Wage $______________

Are you a U.S. citizen or otherwise authorized to work in the U.S. on an unrestricted basis? (You may be required to provide documentation.) q Yes  q No

Are you looking for full-time employment? q Yes   q No

If no, what hours are you available? ______________

Have you ever been convicted of a felony? (This will not necessarily affect your application.)   q Yes   q No

If yes, please describe conditions. __________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

 

Education      

School Name and Location                                        Year      Major   Degree

High School ________________________________________       ______ ______ ______

College ___________________________________________         ______ ______ ______

College ___________________________________________         ______ ______ ______

Post-College _______________________________________         ______ ______ ______

Other Training ______________________________________        ______ ______ ______

In addition to your work history, are there other skills, qualifications, or experience that we should consider? ______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

 

Employment History             (Start with most recent employer)

Company Name ________________________________________________________________

Address ____________________________________ Telephone _________________________

Date Started ___________  Starting Wage ____________  Starting Position ________________

Date Ended _____________  Ending Wage ____________  Ending Position ________________

Name of Supervisor ____________________________________

May we contact? q Yes   q No

Responsibilities _______________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

Reason for leaving ______________________________________________________________

 

Company Name ________________________________________________________________

Address ________________________________________ Telephone _____________________

Date Started ____________  Starting Wage ____________  Starting Position _______________

Date Ended _____________  Ending Wage ____________  Ending Position ________________

Name of Supervisor ____________________________________

May we contact?   q Yes   q No

Responsibilities ________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

Reason for leaving ______________________________________________________________

 

Attach additional information if necessary.

 

I certify that the facts set forth in this application for employment are true and complete to the best of my knowledge. I understand that if I am employed, false statements on this application shall be considered sufficient cause for dismissal. This company is hereby authorized to make any investigations of my prior educational and employment history.

I understand that employment at this company is “at will,” which means that either I or this company can terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without prior notice, and for any reason not prohibited by statute. All employment is continued on that basis. I understand that no supervisor, manager, or executive of this company, other than the president, has any authority to alter the foregoing.

 

Signature_______________________________________________   Date _________________


RADON TESTING

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I am concerned about radon, what do I need to know?

What is Radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It is the decay products of radon, called “radon daughters” that cause the hazards attributed to radon. These “daughters” are atoms of heavy metals and readily attach themselves to whatever they contact.

Can I see, taste, or smell radon?

NO. That is why people have a tendency to feel that their home is safe.

 

Is radon harmful?

The surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States; only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths.

How does radon enter the home?

Air pressure inside the home is usually lower than pressure in the soil around the home’s foundation. Because of this, your house acts like a vacuum, drawing radon in through foundation cracks and other openings.

Who should test for radon?

Everybody.  Everyone is susceptible to lung damage by radon, and there is no way of knowing whether or not you have a problem unless you test.

How is radon measured?

It is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). Short term or canister method tests measure radon levels over a period fo 2-4 days. Long term tests such as Alpha Track measure an average value for a period of 2 months to a year. Continuous methods give hourly radon readings which are then usually averaged. Fredericktowne Labs is listed by the EPA as an approved laboratory for performing these tests.

 

What level of radon is considered “safe”?

The EPA’s goal is that the indoor radon level be no more than the outdoor level, which is about 0.4 pCi/L; however, levels below 4.0 pCi/L are considered acceptable.

Should I take steps to repair my home if it tests higher than 4.0 pCi/L?

The EPA recommends fixing your home if the results of one long-term test or two short-term tests taken in the lowest lived-in-level of the home show radon levels of 4.0 pCi/L or higher. If you choose to do two short term measurements, it is advised that you perform the test during different seasons of the year.

If radon is found in my air, should I test my water?

It is a good idea to test your water as well if your radon in air test comes back with a level above the MCL.  Radon comes from the ground, as does your water, and corrective actions taken to reduce the amount of radon in your air will not help reduce the amount of radon in your water.

 

CALL FREDERICKTOWNE LABS FOR ALL YOUR RADON TESTING NEEDS….. 


Private Drinking Water Wells

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Private Drinking Water Wells

 

 

 

 

 

If your family gets drinking water from a private well, do you know if your water is safe to drink? What health risks could you and your family face? Where can you go for help or advice?

EPA regulates public water systems; it does not have the authority to regulate private drinking water wells. Approximately 15 percent of Americans rely on their own private drinking water supplies, and these supplies are not subject to EPA standards, although some state and local governments do set rules to protect users of these wells. Unlike public drinking water systems serving many people, they do not have experts regularly checking the water’s source and its quality before it is sent to the tap. These households must take special precautions to ensure the protection and maintenance of their drinking water supplies.

Call Fredericktowne Labs with any questions you may have on Private Drinking Water Wells.

301-293-3340           

 

Source: http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/well/


How often should I test my well water?

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Private well water should be tested a minimum of once per year. If your drinking water is obtained from a shallow well and/or surface water sources you should test more frequently (i.e. seasonally), as they are more susceptible to contamination.

Call Fredericktowne Labs, Inc. at 301-293-3340 to set up an appointment.  


Real Estate Matters

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Dr. Mary Miller talks about how environmental testing relates to realtors (as well as home sellers and buyers) on WJEJ 855 with Lou Scally as guests for “Real Estate Matters”; Clover Realty’s bi-monthly radio show!


Clients and Staff in the News

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Our new “Clients and Staff in the News” board has been put up in the front office.  Please bring pictures, articles, or information about your successes so we can post them!  We love to hear good news from our clients!