Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESA)

A Phase I ESA (ASTM 1527-00) has become standard practice within the real estate market for the identification of recognized environmental conditions (RECs) as a means of establishing the innocent landowner defense against potential environmental CERCLA liability. This procedure protects the client in a real estate transaction against any liability for clean-up costs that may be involved in any known contamination.

Phase I ESA involves:

  • Reviewing ascertainable historical records from selected years such as historical aerial photographs, and/or Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, and/or county/city directories;
  • Interviewing client and past owners;
  • Reviewing data as to listings under CERCLA, FINDS, ERNS, RCRA, and other federal or state files;
  • Interviewing and reviewing files from local fire jurisdictions and the local government to determine if reports of incidence have occurred;
  • Reviewing USGS geologic, hydrogeologic,, hydrologic and topographic information;
  • Contacting the local electric company to determine the PCB status of electrical transformers and any equipment at the site;
  • Making a site reconnaissance to note use and conditions of the site and immediately surrounding properties for concerns such as:┬ádrums, containers, discolored pavement or stressed vegetation, unusual odors, signs of above- or below-grade fuel or chemical tanks (ASTs / USTs), chemical storage, spill control containment devices, septic tank drain fields, electrical equipment which may contain PCBs, drainage patterns and the potential for drainage from off-site, and storm and sanitary sewers;
  • Visually observing the interior of accessible areas of the site building including maintenance/repair, storage areas, and a representative sample of occupant spaces;
  • Conducting surveys to investigate Asbestos or Lead Based Paint containing materials within a structure, or conduct geophysical surveys to investigate the potential for subsurface drums or other containment structures.

There is no standard format for the Phase I report. A good report, however, is designed to provide the client with relevant information.

INTRODUCTION - Contains general information on the Purpose, Methodology, and Scope of Services for the Phase I ESA, as well as which parities granted Authorization and Access, a Definition of Subject Property Boundaries, the Warranty, and the Limitations of the Phase I ESA.

SUBJECT PROPERTY DESCRIPTION - Describes the Location, Immediate Boundaries, Dimensions, Function, Zoning, Improvements, Utilities, Topography and Drainage Patterns, Geology, and Soil Characteristics of a subject property.

ADJACENT/NEAR PROPERTIES DESCRIPTION - Describes the land use of properties immediately adjacent to and/or near the subject property to a distance at which potential environmental concerns on those properties will no longer represent a concern to the subject property.

HISTORICAL RESEARCH - Includes the reviews of historical information sources such as topographic maps, aerial photographs, city directories, fire insurance maps, and chain-of-title summaries in an effort to determine all past land uses of a subject property and adjacent properties.

REGULATORY AGENCIES RESEARCH - Lists the reviewed regulatory agency databases and summarizes the sites which are potential environmental concerns to the subject property.

INTERVIEWS AND OTHER INFORMATION - Presents information on a subject property or adjacent properties disclosed through persons knowledgeable about those properties, as well as other information including radon gas concentrations and wetlands status.