Use the list below to educate yourself with industry terms.

ON-SITE SEWAGE: On-site sewage systems come in many different forms; however, the common factor is that the sewage is not sent to a municipal treatment facility. In most cases, the entire sewage treatment system is located on the property. These systems usually have a storage component, in which the solids accumulate and an absorption field(s) where the liquid is directed. However; cesspools are often just a vessel which accumulates the solids and allows liquids to leach through it to the earth that surrounds the tank. Proper operation of the system is critical to it's long term success. If the baffles within the tank are damaged or missing, scum and solids can be directed into the absorption fields and these will quickly damage the ability of the gravel bed and earth in the fields to absorb any additional water. If the distribution boxes are out of level or damaged in multi-field systems, one field can become overworked and fail as a result. In addition, cracked tanks, improperly pitched piping and other issues can all have a negative impact on these important and expensive systems. A common problem in septic systems occurs when the ground around the absorption field suffers from hydrostatic overloading. In essence, the earth can no longer absorb the water quickly enough or at all and the water breaks out at the surface or at an area down-grade of the field. In most cases, extensive repairs or system replacement is required to remediate this condition. Whether the system is a cesspool, septic system, sand mound or on-site treatment plant, all of these systems have their inherent strengths and weaknesses. The important thing to remember is that a comprehensive inspection and routine maintenance is your best protection against system failure. In comparison to the $15,000.00 to $30,000.00 that these systems cost, the investment in a good inspection and routine care of the system is a modest one.

ON-SITE SEWAGE SYSTEMS HYDRAULIC LOAD TESTS: On-site Sewage Systems Hydraulic Load Tests in cases where the absorbtion fields are found to be "holding" water, there are more occupants moving into the home than are currently living there* or if the home has been vacant for a period of 7** days or longer, a hydraulic load test is recommended. This test involves the introduction of a prescribed volume of water into the absorbtion system and documentation of how much water is absorbed over a 24 hour period. Additional water is then introduced on the second day of the test and monitored. The inspector then applies a mathmatical equation to determine whether or not the system is fuctioning properly and can handle the load requirements. A hydraulic load test will not damage a septic system.

* This is required because a system that is currently servicing two people may not be capable of servicing four people. The number of baths in the home is irrelevant.

** If the home has been vacant for a period of seven or more days no sustained amount of water has been introduced into the system, thereby allowing the absorbtion fields to "dry out". Performance of the hyraulic load test will enable the system to be operated in "normal conditions" even though the fields have dried out.

ON-SITE SEWAGE-TEST: ValueGuard utilizes a semi-invasive testing and inspection technique in all on-site sewer inspections. In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Septage Management Association standards are utilized. These guidelines are the product of a collaboration between Penn State University and the septic industry. During an on-site sewer inspection the tank will be located and the cover will be excavated to facilitate an inspection of the inside of the tank, the baffles, scum/sludge levels and the water level. The inspector will then locate and probe the absorption fields to determine if they are "holding" water which would indicate a potential problem. Dye testing is not an accurate or credible on-site inspection as it is not complete and does not provide reliable results. If there is a problem with the tank, baffles or piping, the system is deemed to be in unsatisfactory operating condition. Repairs or replacement would be required. If there is a problem with the absorption field(s) the system would again be deemed to be in unsatisfactory operating condition. This finding would warrant further testing via hydraulic loading or repairs/replacement. On-site sewage systems exist in many forms. If you need specific information please contact ValueGuard.

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RADON: You cannot see, smell or taste Radon; however, it may be a problem in your home or a property you are purchasing. Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium is soild and rock. This gas moves through the earth and enters buildings through cracks and/or holes in foundations and floors and accumulates. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Surgeon General have identified Radon gas as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Living in a home with elevated radon readings for a long period of time significantly increases your chances of contracting the disease. The risk is even more pronounced if you smoke or have ever smoked. The only way to determine if you are at risk from Radon is to perform testing. The EPA and Surgeon General recommend testing for all homes below the third floor for Radon. The EPA also recommends that all schools be tested. However, since Radon can get into any building, it is certainly advisable to test office and other buildings as well. Testing is simple and inexpensive. If your test results are elevated (at or above 4.0 pCi/l per the EPA action guideline) additional testing or mitigation may be required. Even high levels of Radon can be reduced to acceptable levels for a relatively low-cost.

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RADON TEST TYPES: There are several types of testing devices for radon; however, all fall into one of two different categories - active or passive. The following are the testing devices that ValueGuard utilizes:

Continuous Radon Monitor - CRM The continuous radon monitor is a small active device that collects samplings of air from the home and counts the radon products in the sample. These machines are very precise and give our DEP certified radon technicians read-outs that are useful in diagnosing the radon picture within the home should the concentration be found to be elevated. This test is always conducted using "closed house conditions" in accordance with EPA protocols.

Electret Ionization Chambers - E-Perms
The ionization chamber represents a state-of-the-art radon test in which the radon diffuses inside a chamber and discharges an electrically charged TeflonÒ disk. The resulting voltage drop is computed and plugged into a mathematical computation to obtain the radon concentration. This test is always conducted using "closed house conditions" in accordance with EPA protocols.

Charcoal Canisters
Diffused barrier charcoal canisters are an effective measurement method, however, these devices are more susceptible to tampering and environmental fluctuations than are CRM or E-Perm tests. This test is always conducted using "closed house conditions" in accordance with EPA protocols.

Long-term Measurements
ValueGuard utilizes Alpha-Track devices for all long term tests (a long term test runs for over 90 days). The alpha particles in the air scratch a small plastic film within the device during exposure. The scratches are then counted using sophisticated equipment to determine the Radon concentration. This test is conducted using "non-closed house conditions".

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RADON IN WATER: The primary source of radon in homes is from the soil and rock beneath them; however, in some cases elevated Radon levels can be attributed to Radon in the water supply. This is of particular concern in homes that rely on a well or community well.

When the water is agitated in the home, by such means as washing clothes and showering, the Radon in the water is released into the air.

If the radon in water concentrations are high, a mitigation system is installed at the point where the water enters the home. There are two types of systems; water aeration or activated charcoal. The activated charcoal systems are the most widely used and typically cost $1000.00 to $1500.00 to install. The charcoal media in the system also needs to be replaced and disposed of properly on a periodic basis.

The EPA is proposing the regulation of public water supplies (systems that serve 25 or more individuals and have 15 or more service connections). Private wells are not currently slated for regulation; however, the regulations will likely be of value to purchasers of homes with private wells.

Radon in water can be tested accurately and at a low cost. Contact ValueGuard for further information.

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