How to Clean Up After a Flood

Since RI is presently still trying to asses the depth and breadth of damage cause by the historical flooding we all just faced, I though I’d look up and provide some tips on how to deal with the clean up after flooding. Across RI and surrounding states, homeowners are presently faced with one of the worst floods many of us have ever seen. When your house floods, the water can wreak havoc on the structure of the house, your personal belongings, and the health of the environment inside your home now and into the future. Faced with no flood insurance and lacking resources, many do not even know where to start.

Here are some tips on cleanup that may help you and I wish you the best in your burdensome and painful mess. Before you start any clean up, and even if you don’t insurance, document everything.  If your insurance covers the damage, your agent will tell you when an adjuster will contact you. List damage and take photos or videotape as you clean. You’ll need complete records for insurance claims, applications for disaster assistance and income tax deductions.  Apply for the federal money coming into the state. If they tell you to wait to clean up, then wait, but once you have the clearance to clean, here’s a list of common techniques for sanitizing and cleaning flooded items compiled from various expert sources:

Contaminated mud
Flood waters are contaminated and considering the sewage treatment overlfows we’ve had throughout the state, the mud is load with bacteria. Shovel out as much mud as possible, then use a garden sprayer or hose to wash away mud from hard surfaces.

Pump out the basement
If your basement is full or nearly full of water, pump out just 2 or 3 feet of water each day. If you drain the basement too quickly, the pressure outside the walls will be greater than the pressure inside the walls. That may make the walls and floor crack and collapse. Help the drying process by using fans, air conditioning units, and dehumidifiers.

Clean and disinfect every surface. Scrub surfaces with hot water and a heavy-duty cleaner. Then disinfect with a solution of 1/4 cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water or a product that is labeled as a disinfectant to kill germs.

Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as, mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and most paper products).

In the kitchen

  • Immerse glass, porcelain, china, plastic dinnerware and enamelware for 10 minutes in a disinfecting solution of 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach per gallon of hot water. Air-dry dishes. Do not use a towel.
  • Disinfect silverware, metal utensils, and pots and pans by boiling in water for 10 minutes. Chlorine bleach should not be used in this case because it reacts with many metals and causes them to darken.
  • Cupboards and counters need to be cleaned and rinsed with a chlorine bleach solution before storing dishes.

Furniture and household items

  • Take furniture, rugs, bedding and clothing outside to dry as soon as possible. Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to remove moisture or open at least two windows to ventilate with outdoor air. Use fans to circulate air in the house. If mold and mildew have already developed, brush off items outdoors to prevent scattering spores in the house. Vacuum floors, ceilings and walls to remove mildew, then wash with disinfectant. Wear a two-strap protective mask to prevent breathing mold spores.
  • Mattresses should be thrown away.
  • Upholstered furniture soaks up contaminants from floodwaters and should be cleaned only by a professional.
  • Wood veneered furniture is usually not worth the cost and effort of repair. Solid wood furniture can usually be restored, unless damage is severe.
  • Toys and stuffed animals may have to be thrown away if they’ve been contaminated by floodwaters.
  • Photographs, books and important papers can be frozen and cleaned later. They should be dried carefully and slowly. Wash the mud off and store the articles in plastic bags and put them in a frost-free freezer to protect from mildew and further damage until you have time to thaw and clean them or take them to a professional.

Ceilings and walls

  • Wallboard acts like a sponge when wet. Remove wallboard, plaster and paneling to at least the flood level. If soaked by contaminated floodwater, it can be a permanent health hazard and should be removed. If most of the wallboard was soaked by clean rainwater, consider cutting a 4- to 12-inch-high section from the bottom and top of walls. This creates a “chimney effect” of air movement for faster drying. A reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade works well, but use only the tip of the blade and watch out for pipes, ductwork and wiring.
  • Plaster and paneling can often be saved, but air must be circulated in the wall cavities to dry the studs and sills.
  • The three kinds of insulation must be treated differently. Styrofoam might only need to be hosed off. Fiberglass batts should be thrown out if muddy but may be reused if dried thoroughly. Loose or blown-in cellulose should be replaced since it holds water for a long time and can lose its antifungal and fire retardant abilities.

Electrical system
The system must be shut off and repaired and inspected by an electrician before it can be turned back on. Wiring must be completely dried out- even behind walls. Switches, convenience outlets, light outlets, entrance panel, and junction boxes that have been under water may be filled with mud.

Heating and cooling systems and ducts
Will need inspection and cleaning. Flood-soaked insulation should be replaced.

Appliances
Appliances will get stains, odors, silt deposits, and gritty deposits and need to be serviced, cleaned and sanitized. Running equipment before it is properly cleaned could seriously damage it and/or shock you. Professional cleaning is recommended for electronics, TVs and radios, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, and vacuum cleaners. The hard exterior can be hand cleaned. All metallic appliances that have been flooded should be properly grounded to prevent electric shock. Mud or dirt in a grounded outlet or adapter may prevent the grounding system from working, and you could be electrocuted.

Floors
With wood subflooring, the floor covering (vinyl, linoleum, carpet) must be removed so the subflooring can dry thoroughly which may take several months. Open windows and doors to expose the boards to as much air as possible.

Carpeting
Clean and dry carpets and rugs as quickly as possible. If sewage-contaminated floodwater covered your carpeting, discard it for health safety reasons. Also discard if the carpet was under water for 24 hours or more. To clean, drape carpets and rugs outdoors and hose them down. Work a disinfecting carpet cleaner into soiled spots with a broom. To discourage mildew and odors, rinse with a solution of 2 tablespoons bleach to 1 gallon water, but don’t use this solution on wool or nylon carpets. Dry the carpet and floor thoroughly before replacing the carpet. Padding is nearly impossible to clean so should be replaced. If the carpet can’t be removed, dry it as quickly as possible using a wet/dry vacuum and dehumidifier. Use a fan to circulate air above the carpet, and if possible, lift the carpet and ventilate with fans underneath.

Vinyl flooring and floor tile may need to be removed to allow drying of subfloor.

Wood floors
Wooden floors should be dried gradually. Sudden drying could cause cracking or splitting. Some restoration companies can accelerate drying time by forcing air through the fluted underside of hardwood floorboards. Remove hardwood floor boards to prevent buckling. Remove a board every few feet to reduce buckling caused by swelling. Clean and dry wood before attempting repairs.

Roof damage and leaks

  • Defective flashing– Flashing is the sheet metal used in waterproofing roof valleys, hips and the angle between a chimney and a roof. Wet spots near a chimney or outside wall may mean the leak is caused by defective flashing, narrow flashing or loose mortar joints. Look for corroded, loose or displaced flashing on sloping roof valleys and at junctions of dormers and roof.
  • Clogged downspouts or eaves– Check for choked downspouts. Accumulated water or snow on the roof above the flashing may cause a leak. Ice accumulations on eaves sometimes form ridges, which cause melting snow to back up under the shingles.
  • Cracks and deterioration– Roofing (especially wood or composition shingles) usually deteriorates first on southern exposures. Check southern slopes for cracking or deterioration.
  • Holes– Missing shingles or holes in the roofing may be causing wet spots. To find holes, check for a drip trail or spot of light coming through in the attic. Stick a nail, straw or wire through the hole to mark the spot on the outside.

Private sewage systems
Flooding of a private sewage system can be a hazardous situation for homeowners. It may lead to a back-up of sewage in the home, contaminated drinking water and lack of sanitation until the system is fixed. When flooding or saturated soil conditions persist, a private sewage system cannot function properly. Soil treatment systems for wastewater rely on aerobic (with oxygen) regions to reduce the amounts of chemicals and living organisms (viruses, bacteria and protozoa). When the soil is saturated or flooded, those hazardous materials can enter the groundwater and your drinking water supply.

As you prepare for the clean up remember to keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed. For yourself, please wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected area. After completing the cleanup, wash your hands with soap and warm water. Use water that has been boiled for 1 minute (allow the water to cool before washing your hands). Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens. And remember, seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill during or after a clean up.

Good luck

posted by Kimberly Lancaster |  Twitter

White House Easter Egg Roll Goes Green

Easter is just around the corner and everyone is anticipating the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. This year’s event will have a bit of a different, albeit healthier, greener feel to it.

White House Easter Egg Roll will be held on Monday, April 5, 2010 with the theme of “Ready, Set, Go!” promoting health and wellness. The event will feature live music, sports courts, cooking stations, storytelling and, of course, Easter egg rolling. All of the activities will encourage children to lead healthy and active lives and follow the First Lady’s ‘Let’s Move!’ initiative, a national campaign to combat childhood obesity. The White House will open its South Lawn for children aged 12 years and younger and their families.

Rather than using chocolate or real eggs, the White House has opted for environmentally friendly FSC-certified hardwood eggs dyed with vegetable based eggs featuring the signatures of the American President and First Lady. The White House Easter Egg Roll attracts about 20,000 people each year and invitations are issued via an online lottery.

Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative forms to foster adoption of the smart grid

Washington, DC –To help build consumer acceptance and use of the smart grid, a group of smart grid leaders today announced the formation of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC).   The founding members of the SGCC include consumer electronics and technology companies, retailers, consumer advocacy groups, and utilities dedicated to maximizing the value of the grid for consumers.  Launched at DistribuTECH, which is the nation’s largest gathering of energy utilities and technologists, the SGCC will work to understand consumer needs and preferences, reach out to build awareness and educate consumers about the benefits of the smart grid, and share best practices for consumer engagement and empowerment.

The SGCC has three priorities:

1. In-depth research on consumer awareness, acceptance, and use of the smart grid with emphasis on their needs, preferences and priorities 2. Outreach and education to allow consumers to better understand the smart grid, its issues and its potential 3. Development of  best practices to involve and empower consumers  in the roll out of smart grid technologies

The federal stimulus program for the smart grid will reach more than $4 billion and by 2015, nearly half of all North American consumers will have next generation smart meters.   The SGCC wants to ensure these investments engage consumers and deliver the energy efficiency and the savings promised.  Consumer adoption of the new technology and services being deployed is the key to the success of the smart grid.

“For many reasons — energy independence, energy efficiency, integrating renewables, accommodating electric vehicles, and global competitiveness — we must modernize our electric system. But we can’t do that without the support and involvement of the ultimate customer,”  said Jesse Berst, acting Executive Director of the SGCC.  “We formed the SGCC to bring important stakeholders together to do the necessary research, education and collaboration to make sure we include the consumer in the conversation.”

The cross-industry initiative started after Control4, a leader in affordable IP-based home control systems and newcomer to the smart grid space, recognized a common concern emerging from partners, customers, and smart grid conferences; that the industry wasn’t equipped to understand and support consumer reactions to the technology upgrade.  In just a few months’ time, the concept to bring industry leaders together to take on smart grid consumer education became a reality in the formation of the non-profit organization, the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative.  The broad representation of the group and support from established smart grid and consumer advocacy organizations reinforces the importance of the SGCC’s mission.

“There’s been intense work and focus on the technology, energy efficiency and economic advancements the smart grid enables, but if we as an industry don’t turn our attention to the consumer, to drive participation and acceptance, the real promise of the smart grid, energy independence, can never be realized, ” said Richard Walker, President, Control4 Energy Systems.

“The smart grid is of critical importance to the future of the United States.  The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative will help its member companies to further the transformation of our power grid by focusing specifically on the energy consumer,” said Guido Bartels, General Manager of Energy and Utilities at IBM.  “Along with our utility clients we have long been looking at ways to empower consumers to make informed decisions, so taking on a founding role with this collaborative is a logical next step for IBM.”

“Around the world, countries, including the United States, are realizing the clear need to modernize our electrical infrastructure to support the energy demands of our 21st Century society,” said Bob Gilligan, vice president, GE Energy Services. “A smarter electricity grid will enable us to integrate and optimize more renewable energy such as wind and solar, as well as plug-in electric vehicles. It will also increase power reliability and operational efficiencies to deliver greater productivity both for the utility and the consumer.  It will empower consumers to manage their energy usage and save money without compromising their lifestyle. To make this smarter grid a reality, informing and engaging consumers is critical. The SGCC is an opportunity for key stakeholders to work together to better understand consumer needs and articulate the value and benefits of a smart grid for consumers.”

“It is crucial that all stakeholders can work cooperatively to move our industrial-age electric grid into the information age,” said Katherine Hamilton, President GridWise Alliance.  “We have reached a point of deployment where consumers are as important an ingredient as the technology that backs the system and the dollars that fund the modernization of this nation’s new energy economy.  The GridWise Alliance is looking forward to participating in the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative to help consumers reap the benefits of the smart grid.”  The GridWise Alliance is a coalition of 125 organizations advocating for the deployment of a smarter grid for the public good.

“There is a tremendous amount of change going on in the electric world,” said Janine Migden-Ostrander, Ohio’s Consumers’ Counsel. “The availability of carefully designed programs that can benefit residential consumers is key to providing them additional choices and giving them more control over their energy consumption.  But education will be a key component to making the smart grid a useful consumer tool. We are excited to work with the SGCC, to share our knowledge and draw from the expertise the collaborative will offer.” The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC), the residential utility consumer advocate, represents the interests of 4.5 million Ohio households in proceedings before state and federal regulators and in the courts.

Members from Industry to Consumer Advocacy The SGCC launched today with founding  member companies that span key stakeholder groups, including utilities, technology  and consumer electronics companies, retailers, and consumer advocates.

•     Magnolia/Best Buy

•     Control4

•     Ember

•     General Electric (GE)

•     GridWise Alliance (GWA)

•     IBM

•     NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

•     Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC)

•     Silver Spring Networks (SSN)

Additionally the Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition (www.drsgcoalition.org) and the Future of Privacy Forum (http://www.futureofprivacy.org/) have  joined as affiliate members, contributing resources to the SGCC.

For more information about the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative,  visit  www.smartgridcc.org.

UPS’s Green Smart Pickup Option

UPS announced last week their new Smart Pickup option, a new “green” option within their Decision Green program. Smart Pickup is for small to mid-sized businesses and gives them the option of scheduling a pickup for a package only when a package is actually being shipped. UPS will use their technology to make sure a driver only stops at the customer’s location if and when a package is ready to be shipped. Before this option many UPS drivers would stop daily at customer locations and there would be no packages, only there wasting time and fuel.

UPS says this new service is expected to eliminate 8 million miles from the total driven by UPS each year in the United States and will save an estimated 793,000 gallons of fuel and 7,800 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions. This new option saves time, miles, and lessens the UPS carbon footprint overall.

UPS customers will also be happy to know that if they enroll in this new “green” option they will be saving money as well. The weekly flat fee for the Smart Pickup is $10. The process is also convenient and easy, all you have to do is use one of UPS’s three online shipping systems (UPS WorldShip 2010, UPS CampusShip, or UPS Internet Shipping) to process a package and notify a driver that you have a package.  

Other options in the Decision Green program include UPS Carbon Neutral Shipping. This is a way for your business to reduce its environmental impact, just pay five cents more per package and UPS carbon neutral will offset the carbon dioxide emission generated by the transportation of your packages.

The Brown-Deeply Rooted in Green plan is another part of Decision Green that uses advanced route planning, reducing left turns for thousands of vehicles, and using one versus multiple trucks for international, air, and ground deliveries; another way for UPS to use less miles, fuel, and lower emissions.

Posted by Megan/ Follow me on Twitter

Veggies Fresh from the Farm–Without Getting Dirty!

…well unless you want to…

Imagine receiving a weekly delivery of farm fresh vegetables, flowers, dairy and pasture grazed beef every week without getting one ounce of dirt on your hands…for those that agree that a little dirt won’t hurt you, there are ways to get your farming fix by helping to plant crops for your local farmer and with each delivery you’ll smile knowing you played a part in cultivating the delicious bounty before you.

This perfect balance of free veggies with or without dirt does exist, and it’s called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) my friends!

Community farming initiatives started out in Japan and Chile in the early 1970s, with influence in the United States coming from the biodynamic agricultural traditions of post World War II Europe from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The idea crossed the pond in 1986 and the idea of CSAs was born simultaneously at Indian Line Farm in Massachusetts and at the Temple-Wilton Community Farm in New Hampshire.

CSAs help to create a local, safe, and sustainable community. When people share in the harvest and even planting of their own food they feel a sense of pride. The benefits of owning a share in your local CSA is knowing exactly where your food is coming from, how it’s grown, and who the farmer is, minus the concerns of genetically modified organisms, cruel animal farming practices, and the contribution to fertilizer laden ecosystems from harsh over use. Because they are not government funded, the best part about CSAs is that all they need to thrive is involved members, farmers looking for community support, green thumbs and a good piece of land.

CSAs do have a few drawbacks just like anything else in this world. Shareholders must adjust to eating with the seasons and the inconsistencies of the harvest. Many CSAs will send out surveys asking what’s working and what families would like to see grown, but the farmers make the final call, and with any CSA, you take what you get.

But the thought of paying half the price of retail for locally grown produce, flowers and locally raised dairy and meat products outweighs any negative aspects in my opinion. If you keep track of how much you spend on average in the produce section or your local market each week–then multiply that by 26 you’ll have a figure to compare with what a six month share at your local CSA would be.

Great websites like Local Harvest and Sustainable Table can help you find local CSAs in your area, the farmers are more than happy for you to contact them regarding CSA product and pricing information.

Love your farmer–eat locally!

Posted by Amanda| follow me on Twitter

Greenest Communities in Westchester win first Green Star Awards

142-Point Evaluation Addresses Local Efforts on Climate Change, Sustainability and Environmental Health

Pleasantville, NY, March 24, 2010 — Grassroots Environmental Education, a non-profit organization, in partnership with the Pace University Academy for Applied Environmental Studies, announced today the results of a county-wide assessment of the efforts of towns and villages in Westchester County to address key environmental issues.

Using a comprehensive checklist developed by Grassroots called “How Green Is My Town?”, over 100 Pace students conducted interviews with municipal, school and business officials of 43 Westchester towns from November through early March.

The communities with the highest combined scores on 142 widely-accepted attributes of a sustainable and environmentally-aware community will receive Green Star Awards in recognition of their achievements at a ceremony today in Pleasantville.

The six towns receiving Green Star Awards are: Bronxville, Chappaqua, Katonah, Larchmont, White Plains and Yorktown. Survey results for these and all other communities in Westchester have been posted, with recommendations, online at www.HowGreenIsMyTown.org/westchester where the municipalities are rated but not ranked.

Electric vehicle parking?

Pace University is the first to complete a pilot program that Grassroots intends as a model for change on a national level. Students from universities in Nassau and Suffolk counties will be next to complete the assessments of their areas. The pilot program in Westchester was funded in part by Con Ed.

Questions included in the survey ranged from “Does your town provide special incentives for ‘green’ building projects?” to “Does your town recycle e-waste?” and “Does your town offer preferred parking for electric vehicles?”

“We were delighted to find so many of the towns in Westchester out in front on these issues,” says Patti Wood, Executive Director of Grassroots, “but there is always room for improvement. The goal of our program is to help communities share ideas and resources, and to find ways to move ahead on a green agenda even during these tough economic times.”

“Each sector of the community has a vital role to play in making a town truly green,” says Michelle Land, Director of the Pace Academy, and the Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges & Universities. “When the local government, school system and business community are working together in a cooperative effort, the results can be innovative and significant.”

Ready-to-go ideas

Grassroots first announced the launch of their comprehensive, science-based web site, www.HowGreenIsMyTown.org last spring. The “greenweb” offers a resource for government agencies and school systems seeking to address key environmental issues, providing links to ready-to-go policies, program ideas and cost-effective solutions. It is designed to give local citizens and decision makers the tools they need to bring about change.

Patti Wood of Grassroots stressed that the evaluation scores for local towns are dynamic, and towns that adopt policies or take other steps to address the issues contained in the program should contact Grassroots to have their scores updated. An annual review and update of the evaluations is planned.

All of the questions, answers, as well as details of every town’s scores, are available online at the web site: www.HowGreenIsMyTown.org/westchester

About Grassroots Environmental Education
Grassroots Environmental Education is a NY-based not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) organization founded in 2000. Grassroots is dedicated to educating the public about environmental toxins and their impact on human health. Through the production and distribution of science-based materials, the organization seeks to empower individuals to act as catalysts for positive change in their own communities.

About Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies
Pace University Academy for Applied Environmental Studies works with every academic unit of Pace University in a comprehensive program to increase interdisciplinary educational opportunities for students and faculty, expand collaborations and partnerships with external institutions and experts, and create research and advanced study programs on matters of community, national and global import. www.pace.edu/academy

Become a Jedi of the Farmer’s Market

Now that spring has officially sprung itself here in our lovely state of Rhode Island my thoughts are drifting towards the 2010 farmer’s market season. I am a huge fan of the Aquidneck Growers’ Market; I get there early so that I can get first dibs on all the goodies while sipping on an icy cup of deliciousness from Custom House Coffee. Since buying locally is the biggest way to high five mother earth I thought I’d put together some tips and tactics in preparation for the upcoming season–to make sure you find the produce you are looking for.

Straight from the horses—or in this case farmer’s mouth

Don’t be afraid to talk to the person tending the booth—it is an amazing opportunity to speak with the people who grow it–they want to answer your questions! Ask where your food comes from, are they certified organic? If not ask why, I guarantee they’ll have a good reason…maybe they are a very small family run farm who practices sustainability because the price tag of organic just doesn’t add up…but hey…sustainable farming is great too!

If you don’t know how to cook parsnips, rutabagas, artichokes or that some squash blossoms are edible (and delicious when panko breaded and fried!), ask for suggestions on preparing them.

Make a list, no need to check it twice

Knowing what’s in season won’t be very hard to figure out while you are at the farmers market since it will be all around you…but doing a little recon before making any purchases will help you out in two ways.

  1. Do a little research for in-season produce and look at seasonal menus to help you figure out what you’d like to be looking for and what to do with your locally grown haul. Oranges and Avocados don’t grow in Rhode Island in May…but Asparagus does!
  2. Make a loop around and take in all the sights before buying (I like to grab a coffee and a blueberry muffin…grazing while I take in the sights) you’ll kick yourself if you find amazing looking basil two tables down…for half the price!

It always helps to have a few loose ideas in your head as to what you are going to do with your produce…often the grower will want to hear about that delicious blueberry trifle you made the week before, your feedback can help them sell to the next person who doesn’t know what they’d do with a pound of fresh berries.

Money talks…debit cards walk…

Please oh please do not get frustrated when the farmer forgets their credit card machine at home…unless you are at in indoor farmer’s market most of the time there is no electricity at such events. You’d think this was common sense…but since I’ve seen it—I had to put it out there…

Also don’t be afraid to use your cash to shop for bargains—it doesn’t hurt to ask especially if you are at the tail end of the day—if two items for $5 instead of $6.50 will work.

Tote along for the ride…

Since fresh produce hasn’t been dipped in wax or petrified to survive shipping thousands of miles it will absolutely bruise and damage easily. Collapsible market totes, boat tote bags and coolers will become your new bff and always go with you to the market. Damp paper towels or cheese cloth in water proof containers or baggies will protect herbs from wilting on your way home—and can be used in the refrigerator to help keep them a little longer. Chances are your farmer will have a few recommendations for storing, watering, and enjoying your purchases.

Do or do not…there is no try.” ~Master Yoda

Happy hunting–see you at the market!!

Here are a few great websites to help you along your journey:

Local Harvest

Epicurious’ seasonal map

Farmers Market online in season listing

Posted by Amanda| follow meow on Twitter