You can perform a Phase 1 site assessment at any time. The primary purpose of this investigation is to determine whether a particular property suffers from any level of contamination prior to changing hands, but it’s never too late to know more about your property. And if you’re considering refinancing, it’s quite likely your lender will require a Phase 1 site assessment before approving your loan. Know the costs of a Phase 1 Site Assessment. Or you could always look into our free Phase 1 Site Assessment.
A professional environmental engineering firm should be your first call.
These are the people who have exactly what you need to conduct your Phase 1 site assessment. Board certified environmental engineers have extensive training and hands-on experience studying the interactions between chemicals, soil and water.
They’re familiar with the specific regulations and requirements of a Phase 1 site assessment as well as the broader regulatory environment. They won’t overlook anything, or mistakenly interpret results.
Phase 1 isn’t a comprehensive examination of your property.
It’s meant to be a first step, to identify if there’s reason to investigate further. So it typically takes only two or three weeks, and it’s not particularly expensive. Your environmental engineering consultants will look at surface and sub-surface conditions — not just the land itself, but any structures that exist, by:
- Studying official records on file with government or tribal agencies as well as public documents, maps, aerial photos and directories.
- Conducting personal interviews with property owners or managers.
- Visually inspecting the property.
- Possibly taking soil samples and testing them. This isn’t usually required, but it’s a good idea if there is any question about the condition of soil or groundwater.
- Preparing a written report that explains what was done, findings and recommendations for next steps, if any are indicated.
Their findings will indicate your property:
- Is not contaminated.
- Contains known environmental issues that have not been addressed.
- Contains minor contaminants not considered dangerous to environmental or public health — usually things like asbestos, lead paint or mold.
- Contains more significant levels of one or more hazardous substances – it’s time for a more detailed Phase 2 investigation.
You don’t have to share your Phase 1 site assessment report with anyone, but if nothing else, it will be a good addition to your permanent files. You’ll know where you stand and the best way to approach any problems uncovered.
Ignorance is not bliss.
And it doesn’t work as an excuse. You’re the landowner, and that means you’re legally responsible for maintaining environmentally safe conditions on and around your property.
Since you already own the property, conducting a Phase 1 site assessment probably won’t carry any weight in defining you as an “innocent landowner. ” Nonetheless, if you aren’t 100% certain about the property’s history and present condition, common sense indicates you should investigate sooner rather than later. You may not have known all the facts about your property up till now, but you certainly don’t want any gaps from now on.
If there’s a problem, it won’t go away. More likely, it will fester and get worse. Contaminants in the soil and water migrate, so the longer they’re there, the farther they will travel. They could contaminate neighboring properties and additional water supplies, endangering more people, plants and animals along the way. More costly to remediate. More damaging to your reputation.
Even if you’re merely curious – or something about your property seems suspicious – and you want the peace of mind of knowing for sure, conducting a Phase 1 site assessment now means one less step later on if you want to do something new with the property. And if you ever want to sell, you’ll be in the best position if you can show the property is clean.