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In the United States, an environmental site assessment is a report prepared for a real estate holding that identifies potential or existing environmental contamination liabilities. The analysis, often called an ESA, typically addresses both the underlying land as well as physical improvements to the property. A proportion of contaminated sites are “brownfield sites.” In severe cases, brownfield sites may be added to the National Priorities List where they will be subject to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program.
Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments are a common requirement today for most real estate transactions. Typically, the purchaser or the bank that is financing the purchase will require a Phase 1 assessment of the property to qualify for the CERCLA “Innocent Land Owner Defense”, which is designed to allow the owner of contaminated property to defend against liability for hazardous substances that were put on the property by an unrelated third party. Property is site inspected by our certified Environmental Inspector, and a thorough mile radius survey is compiled from state and federal historical data of properties with underground storage tanks/wells, or hazardous chemicals.
The actual sampling of soil, air, groundwater and/or building materials is typically not conducted during a Phase I ESA. The Phase I ESA is generally considered the first step in the process of environmental due diligence.
If a site is considered contaminated, a Phase II environmental site assessment is recommended, ASTM test E1903, a more detailed investigation involving chemical analysis for hazardous substances and/or petroleum hydrocarbons.
- Performance of an on-site visit to view present conditions (chemical spill residue, die-back of vegetation, etc.) ; hazardous substances or petroleum products usage (presence of above ground or underground storage tanks, storage of acids, etc.); and evaluate any likely environmentally hazardous site history.
- Evaluation of risks of neighboring properties upon the subject property
- Review of Federal, State, Local and Tribal Records out to distances specified by the ASTM 1528 and AAI Standards (ranging from 1/8 to 1 mile depending on the database)
- Interview of persons knowledgeable regarding the property history (past owners, present owner, key site manager, present tenants, neighbours).
- A comprehensive report with findings and recommendations is delivered via email within 7-12 business days depending on complexity and size of site.
Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessments
In general, previous site uses that normally create the need for a Phase II ESA may include: service stations, dry cleaners, automotive and machine shops, manufacturing, hazardous waste storage, etc. Further analysis into the specific site details during the Phase 1 ESA help determine, if any of these previous uses have created a significant potential for a release or if a known release has occurred. Sampling and testing of soil and groundwater is required to ascertain the presence of contamination.
Many lenders will automatically require a Phase II ESA for a property that has had any of these environmentally-sensitive uses. These studies can range from Limited Phase II ESA to full Phase II Environmental Studies that may include the installation of groundwater monitoring wells with extensive testing. As part of the due diligence process for real estate transactions, a more limited study is conducted as a screen initially to determine if there is a significant problem. If this is the case, further site characterization may be required or this can help the buyer decide if he wants to go forward with the transaction.
- Savvy Inspections visits the site and lays out boring locations.
- Our driller advances soil borings at the site to depths until ground water, or until the bore bit can go no further due to bedrock or hard obstruction.
- We collect several soil and water samples at various depths.
- Samples are analyzed at a certified independent laboratory for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), benzene/toluene/ethylbenzene/xylenes (BTEX), methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), semi volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), polynuclear aromatics (PNAs), total metals (metals), pH, and dry weight.
- Savvy Inspections will complete a Phase II ESA report summarizing our findings and recommendations.
- Time of project from commencement to final report delivery typically takes 3-4 weeks.