Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) is designed to produce a reasonable picture of potential environmental conditions relating to a particular property. Performing this work isn’t always technically necessary, but it can significantly improve a new landowner’s liability position if contamination exists or is discovered in the future.
Phase 1 ESA isn’t meant to be an in-depth scientific study. Instead it calls for broad-based research known formally as “all appropriate inquiry” into past usages of the property. The purpose of this over-arching investigation is to meet specific standards of discovery.
The investigation must be conducted by a qualified environmental professional. That’s a somewhat imprecise definition, but the more knowledgeable and experienced your engineering team, the more likely you are to get the most valuable results and recommendations. Your environmental professional will be required to:
- Visually inspect the property and buildings, along with a cursory look at adjacent properties.
- Interview current and/or former property owners and tenants.
- Review historical sources such as directories, maps or public documents.
- Review official records at the local, regional, state, federal or tribal level.
- Specifically consider any gaps in information available about the property.
You or your environmental professional will need to:
- Conduct a search for any existing environmental clean-up liens.
- Identify whether you, as the prospective purchaser, have any personal or specialized knowledge about the property itself or businesses formerly operating on the site.
- Determine whether the price offered for the property reflects fair market value or is suspiciously low, which might indicate the existence of contamination or other problems.
You and your investigative team will want to discuss any pertinent common knowledge or other easily-obtainable information about the property as well as the “degree of obviousness of contamination.”
Hiring a strong team of environmental engineering professionals to perform your Phase 1 ESA will ensure the work is done thoroughly and properly to meet required standards. You’ll get a report of findings and recommendations, which will identify whether the property appears to be clean, contains minimal contamination, contains more substantial previously-documented contamination, or should be subjected to a more detailed Phase 2 ESA.
Photo Credit: Hoboken Condo