Phase I & II Environmental Site Assessments

Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) are typically conducted prior to a real estate transfer. The goal of any ESA is to determine if a property has been contaminated with petroleum products or hazardous wastes.

Many states have a lien provision as part of a state law that allows the environmental regulatory agencies to spend money to investigate and clean up properties contaminated with petroleum products or hazardous wastes, and to recover the monies by filing a priority lien to that property.

Both state and federal courts have interpreted the clean-up liability as being joint and several, meaning that one party may be held responsible for the site investigation and remediation, even if several other parties were involved. This has resulted in the “deep pockets” being targeted first, and it has been left up to them to recover costs from the other parties. This type of liability means that someone who purchases a contaminated site can be held liable even if they were totally unaware of the existence of the contamination. This trend has required lending institutions, developers, and insurance companies to require a site assessment prior to becoming financially involved with a property.

Standards for conducting environmental site assessments have been developed by the American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM). Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) must be conducted according to Standard Practice E1527-13. Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) are usually conducted in phases. For some properties, it may be appropriate to begin with a Desktop Review of environmental databases to determine if there have been any documented releases of oil or materials, or whether underground storage tanks are present the target property. More commonly, a Phase I assessment is conducted by means of an initial site walkover, a review of site history, and interviews with local officials. The site walkover is an important task to evaluate property-specific conditions.

If the Phase I ESAt reveals that a property has a history of chemical use, environmental problems, or underground storage tanks, then a Phase II subsurface investigation should be conducted. A Phase II study should be tailored to the site-specific conditions and to the requirements of the client’s risk-management objectives. A Phase II Environmental Site Assessment investigation may include test pits, soil borings, the installation of groundwater monitoring wells, environmental sampling, analyses, and geophysical surveys.

The principal staff of Exeter Environmental have conducted hundreds of environmental site investigations in the New England area. Clients served have included lending institutions, insurance companies, attorneys, developers, industries, municipalities, and private individuals.

Please call us to assist you with your environmental site assessment needs.