Conducting a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

When purchasing, developing, or lending on a property, the first step in evaluating the site for potential contamination is to perform a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA).

Typically, when property or a development is being financed, the lending institution requires the Phase I ESA to protect against recognized environmental conditions (RECs).  While some loans may not require Phase I ESAs, performing an ESA may well be worth the cost to identify RECs that may ultimately prevent or delay using, developing, or selling the property.

Examples of RECs include:

  • Underground hazards (landfills, tanks, etc.)
  • Chemicals, metals, or petroleum contamination of soils and/or groundwater
  • Vapor intrusion hazards

The use of a property at the time of purchase may appear relatively benign; however, its historical use may have included operations that impacted the subsurface.  If you intend to use the property for public, commercial, or residential purposes, identification of these conditions early in the planning stages can save costly architectural changes and construction delays.

While most buyers will conduct their own Phase I, the seller of a property is wise to conduct an independent ESA.  Property owners are aware of the activities that have occurred during their ownership of a property, but depending on when ownership began and the degree of control over operations on the property, there may be concerns from a buyer’s perspective that were not previously known or considered by the seller.  In addition, concerns identified during a Phase I ESA may require further investigation.

Byington Group professionals have performed Phase I ESAs throughout the United States for buyers, sellers, and property owners planning development.  We have encountered countless scenarios where we have addressed environmental risks in an environmentally responsible manner.  A recent example involved an ESA on Property for a proposed medical building.  Identified former facilities and potential risks at the site and surrounding areas included medical facilities, laundries, plating facilities, filling stations, greenhouses, and underground storage tanks (UST). Subsurface investigations eliminated chemical impact concerns and vapor intrusion; however, ground penetrating radar identified an underground utility tunnel, along with other anomalies that proved critical to planning and design phases of the planned building.

Byington Group stays informed of regulatory developments that are critical for a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment and that will satisfy the requirements of CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act), allowing for liability protection and qualification as an innocent landowner, contiguous property owner, or bona fide prospective purchaser.

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