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What does a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment report include?

The last blogpost discussed the difference between an environmental audit and a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA). This post gives more details about a Phase I ESA,

First of all, why “Phase I”? The answer is that there are also Phase II and Phase III ESAs. Phase I does not involve any sampling or site remediation. In a Phase II ESA, based on recommendations in the Phase I ESA report, soil, groundwater, and/or building materials are sampled and analyzed for various contaminants. In a Phase III ESA, based on recommendations in the Phase II ESA report, the site is remediated and follow-up monitoring is conducted.

A Phase I ESA is conducted within the scope and limitations of the American Society for Testing and Materials’ (ASTM) designation E 1527-13. (EPA regulations also allow ASTM E 1527-05 to be used.) This assessment includes a review of federal and state environmental records and databases, a site reconnaissance, and interviews with persons knowledgeable about the site and its history.

The databases/records searched include, among other records, lists of Superfund sites, Brownfields sites, leaking underground storage tanks, etc. A deed search for the property may also be performed in order to determine previous owners of the site and the existence of environmental liens on the site. The site reconnaissance is to be conducted by an “Environmental Professional”, as defined in the EPA rule 40 CFR 312. The Environmental Professional will observe what potential environmental liabilities may be present at the site and at adjacent sites. He/she will also interview site owners and managers, past owners or managers, and, if available, owners/managers of adjacent sites. The ASTM also gives an outline of what should be included in the Phase I ESA report. It should be noted that asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), radon, mold, and lead paint are not part of the ASTM standard, so if the person requesting the ESA is concerned about these issues, they should consult with someone who specializes in the removal/remediation of such contaminants.

Finally, the buyer of a property may choose to have a specialized Phase I ESA conducted, such as a “limited” ESA which omits the site visit or one or more of the file searches, or an ESA with additional requirements by the lender, particularly is the lender is the Small Business Administration (SBA), Dep’t of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), or Freddy Mac/Fannie Mae.

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