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Is there radon in Williamsburg/ James City County ?

Ever hear of Radon Gas  ? If you had asked me a year ago I would have told you that I had only seen one occurrence of radon in the entire Williamsburg VA area, a home in the Riverview neighborhood near the York River.

Now, after selling a home I had listed  in Colonial Heritage, I will tell you that , yes there is Radon here in our area and If you are buying a home with a basement , then you better get a radon test. The funny/ scary thing is that most folks in the building and real estate trade in this area feel the way I did two years ago. 

In a recent conversation with the building inspection department of James City County, they indicated it was not an issue to be concerned with. I was told that no tests are required of new homes built with basements in the area. ( hmmmm, shouldn’t that be a requirement ?)

Most of the real estate agents I know were astounded when they hear of a local Radon issue. The builder’s representatives at Colonial Heritage has the same response.

Isn’t  this the way the Chinese Drywall problem unfolded ? with everyone saying/ thinking we didn’t have an issue? Look at what that has cost homeowners in our area.

Could Radon be our next Chinese Drywall ? I don’t know but ask me in another year after I have had a change to suggest and witness more testing.

 

virginia radon zones

The chart above is from the EPA website, it indicates that all of the Williamsburg VA area and all of Hampton Roads is in zone three. This area is predicted to have a Radon level less than 2pCi/l . (lowest potential for radon there is )

 image

Yet the most recent home that I had tested, a home with basement in the Colonial Heritage community in James City County/ Williamsburg VA had initial reading of 10 pCi/L , an off the chart amount of Radon. In order to confirm the findings we had it retested by another inspection company. Results of that test still came in at 6+ pCi/L which is over the limit that EPA gives as a threshold for mitigation.

Why have I not heard of a Radon problem ?

Elevated levels of radon in homes were not recognized as a potential public health threat until the mid-1980’s. Mr. Stanley Watras, a worker at the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant located in eastern Pennsylvania, set off a radiation detector upon entering the nuclear power plant.  At the time the nuclear power plant was under construction and had not received its nuclear fuel. The utility discovered extremely elevated levels of radon in his new home.  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania began testing homes for radon and found elevated levels of radon in them as well. Elevated levels of radon were associated with a geological structure called the Redding Prong.  In Virginia there is a similar structure called the Triassic Basin.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was enlisted to provide additional assistance and other states were encourage to study the indoor radon issue in their respective state.

In 1986, Va Dept. of Health conducted a state-wide survey of 800 homes and found that approximately 12% of the homes that were screened for radon had elevated levels of radon above 4 picocuries/liter, EPA’s recommended action level.  In 1992 the EPA supported a larger study of approximately 1,600 homes.  The results of this study verified the results of the earlier study.  The results also indicated that radon levels generally were not elevated in Tidewater Virginia, which is east of the fall line of Virginia’s rivers.

One in four homes in the Richmond area of Virginia has elevated radon levels as compared to one in fifteen nationally. Since this odorless gas causes lung cancer second only to smoking, the only smart thing to do to protect your family, is to test your home to see if you are at risk.

What is radon?

Radon is an odorless, colorless, tasteless radioactive gas that is released when uranium in rocks, soil and water decays. There are no warning signs of radon exposure. It is present in very low concentrations in outdoor air, radon concentrates in buildings by entering through cracks in basement concrete, holes around pipes and conduit and/or air rising from crawlspaces. Although rare, well water can also be a source of indoor radon.

How dangerous is radon?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon causes an estimated 7,000 to 30,000 lung cancer deaths per year. 
The Surgeon General, the EPA, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization and the American Lung Association have all identified indoor radon as a national health problem.  . By comparison, drunk driving is responsible for about 12,000 deaths per year.

Smoking increases the risk of exposure to radon, by as much as a ten fold increase.

What Health Effects Are Associated With Exposure To Radon?

An increased risk of lung cancer is the only known health effect associated with exposures to elevated radon levels. When radon decays within your lungs it releases energy that can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer over the course of your lifetime. Not everyone exposed to elevated levels of radon will develop lung cancer. 

Your chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend mostly on: 

  • How much radon is in your home. 
  • The amount of time you spend in your home 
  • Whether you are a smoker or have ever smoked.

Is radon common in James City County/ Williamsburg or Yorktown VA ?

High radon concentrations were found in Colonial Heritage and the Riverview neighborhoods and others. Houses next door to each other can have very different levels. The only way to know if you are being exposed to dangerous radon concentrations at home is to test your house.

Are children more susceptible to radon?

Yes. Children are more sensitive to radon because their lungs are
smaller and their respiratory rates are twice as high. Doctors say
that, by the age of 10, a child receives twice the lung dose of an
adult who’s been exposed to radon for the same length of time.

Should I test my home for radon?

The Surgeon General and EPA recommend that every home be tested for radon. Affordable and easy to do, radon testing can be done by a professional or homeowner. Short-term tests can be as brief as 2-days. Radon levels fluctuate day-to-day and season-to season. Therefore, long-term testing provides a more accurate exposure average. Radon test kits can be purchased online and cost $15-$35.

You can  also hire a certified company to test your home for you.

NEHA or NRSB listed radon testers within Virginia can be obtained from  NRSB http://nrsb.org/ and NEHA http://radongas.org/

(Note some states certified radon testers. Virginia does not.)  Professional measuring typically costs $125-$195.

The radon levels in my home tested high, now what should I do?

If the test was short-term and below 10 pCi/L, retest in the same location with a long-term test device to determine the long-term concentration. If the initial test exceeds 10 pCi/L, retest in the same location with a short-term device. Radon mitigation should be performed if the average of two short-term tests or one long-term test is at or above 4 pCi/L.

What should I know about radon when purchasing or selling a home?

A buyer or buyer’s agent should ask the seller for radon test information.A certified radon measuring professional should be hired to conduct a test . The testing protocol  is to locate the measuring devices in the lowest lived in area, i.e. the  basement. If the radon concentration exceeds 4 pCi/L, mitigation is recommended.

What is radon mitigation?

Radon mitigation involves reducing the radon level to below 4 pCi/L by preventing radon entry into the building. While there many methods, the most common and cost-effective is a process called active soil depressurization (ASD). Using suction pipes and an inline fan, these systems creates a vacuum beneath the basement floor, concrete slab, or crawlspace to intercept and route the radon around the habitable area of the home. Installation of a residential ASD system typically costs $800 – $2,500 and should include a guarantee to reduce radon concentrations to below 4 pCi/L. Annual operating costs are as little as $50 and as much as $200, depending on heating/cooling loss and local energy costs.

Will opening my windows solve my radon problem?

Probably, but only if you kept your windows open 24-hours a day 365-days a year. However, the additional cost to heat the house would more than pay for a mitigation in the mid-term.

How can I find a reliable radon measuring or mitigation contractor?

Do your homework. Use only a certified radon contractor  in good standing with your state’s contractor board. The National Environmental Health Association’s (NEHA) National Radon Proficiency Program (800-269-4174 or online at www.radongas.org) the National Radon Safety Board (866-329-3474 or online at www.nrsb.org) train, certify, and maintain updated lists of certified radon measuring and mitigation contractors.

Additional ventilation points are additional, typically $250-$450 depending on routing. Per the Federal Radon Mitigation Standard a follow-up radon test should be performed by an independent contractor following the installation of the radon control system

 Where Can I Obtain More Information on Radon in Virginia ?

Virginia no longer has a state radon program. here is the VA Dept. of Health’s website

You can also call one of the following EPA numbers:

Safe Drinking Water Hotline:1-800-426-4791

Indoor Air Quality Hotline:1-800-438-4318 

Radon Fix-it Hotline: 1-800-644-6999

Also read the  EPA’s brochure "Consumer"s Guide to Radon Reduction" – also available from the EPA Public Information Center 202/260-2080 (document number 402-k92-003)) or http://www.epa.gov/radon/pubs


Where can I obtain a list of certified contractors to mitigate my radon problem?

A list of NEHA or NRSB certified radon mitigators within Virginia can be obtained from NRSB http://nrsb.org/ and NEHA http://radongas.org/ 

 

Like what you are reading ? Want to receive updates by email in the future ? Sign up here  banner psst … I’m a Realtor! Thanks for stopping by my website. I  would love to help you find your dream home and community in the Hampton Roads or Williamsburg area or to sell your existing home. This post was authored by local resident and REALTOR, John Womeldorf. John is known around town as Mr. Williamsburg, for both his extensive knowledge of Hampton Roads and the historic triangle, and his expertise in the local real estate market. His websites, WilliamsburgsRealEstate.com  and Mr Williamsburg.com were created as a resource for folks who are exploring a move to  Williamsburg, VA , Hampton Roads VA and the  surrounding areas of the Virginia Peninsula. On his website you can search homes for sale , foreclosures, 55+ active adult communities,   condos and town homes , land and commercial property for sale in Williamsburg, Yorktown, New KentPoquoson, and Gloucester, VA as well as surrounding markets of Carrolton,  Chesapeake,Gloucester, Hampton, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth  Mathews, Newport News Norfolk, Poquoson, Smithfield, , Suffolk, Surry,  Va Beach, Yorktown  and York County Virginia

You can reach John by email John@MrWilliamsburg.com or phone @  757-254-8136

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