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  Phase I Environmental Site Assessments

The Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) is the first step in identifying potential "Recognized Environmental Conditions" (RECs), or environmental contamination, associated with a Property that may affect it's market value or create a health hazard.

The Phase I ESA is concerned with current and historic activities at a Property and surrounding Parcels to determine if releases of hazardous materials into the soil or groundwater have ocurred.

  What is a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment ?

A Phase I ESA (also known as a Level I Evironmental Site Assessment) is a comprehensive document prepared for any real estate Property and is considered the first step of due diligence to identify potential or existing specific environmental contamination liabilities. The Phase I ESA report addresses not only the underlying environmental aspects of the Property (groundwater, geology, wetlands, floodplain, etc.), but also the historical use of the property and adjacent properties.

However, a Phase I ESA does not includes the actual collection of physical samples or chemical analyses, although collection of radon, asbestos, and/or lead samples can be collected at the same time for convenience, and added to the report.

When should a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment be used ?

Several actions may trigger a Phase I ESA for a real estate Property, the most common being:

• The purchase of a Property by a person or entity not on the current title,

• The contemplation by a new lender to provide a loan on the real estate Property,

• A partnership buyout or principal redistribution of ownership,

• The submission of an application to a public agency for change-of-use
      or other discretionary land use permit,

• The desire by the existing Property owner to understand environmental history
      of the Property, or

• The compulsion by a regulatory agency which suspects environmental
      contamination liabilities on the Property.

Leaking underground storage tanks (USTs) are one source of environmental contamination liability, and the demand for this type of Property assessment increased dramatically in the 1980's following judicial decisions related to liability of property owners to effect site cleanup.

Interpreting the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), the U.S. courts have held that a buyer or lender may be held responsible for remediation of toxic residues, even if a prior owner caused the contamination. Performance of a Phase I ESA on a Property, according to the courts’ reasoning, creates a safe harbor for such a new purchaser and their lender(s).

In 1998, the Superfund Cleanup Acceleration Act of 1998 required purchasors of commercial property to perform a Phase I study meeting the specific standard of ASTM E1527-05. Residential property purchasers need only conduct a site inspection and chain of title survey.

What does a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment include ?

A Phase I ESA includes an inspection of the property, historical use research, analysis of local groundwater conditions, review of nearby known environmental liabilities that may be impacting the value of the property throughout land used limitation, potential cleanup costs or civil or tort liability, due to offsite migration of contamination. The Phase I ESA may also include surface water quality and sometimes issues related to toxic uptake by biota, identification of possible asbestos- or lead-containing building materials, inventory of toxic substances stored or used on site; assessment of mold and mildew; and evaluation of other indoor air quality parameters such as radon.

Specific components of a Phase I ESA include:

• Limited review of state and federal review,

• Review of USGS 7.5 minute topographic maps,

• Review of aerial photographs,

• Review of fire insurance maps,

• Physical setting review,

• Review of local street directories,

• Review of Property tax files,

• Review of building department records,

• Review of other geologic, hydrogeologic and soil surveys or maps (discretional),

• Interviews with Property owner and occupants (if applicable),

• Review of recorded land title records,

• Review of zoning/land use records, and

• A site visit (reconnaissance).

Who can perform a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment ?

A Phase I ESA should be performed by a qualified environmental professional experienced in geology, subsurface contaminant movement, and soil and groundwater sampling procedures. Typically, a Phase I ESA will be performed and/or directed by a person having a minimum of a Registered Environmental Assessor I (R.E.A. I) certification, and preferably a Professional Geologist (P.G.) or Professional Engineer (P.E.) Certification.

What standards control the performance and scope of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment ?

The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) established the following two standards, or practices, for Phase I ESAs in commercial real estate transactions to standardize "Environmental Due Diligence":

• ASTM E 1528-13 Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Transaction Screen Process (Transaction Screen), and

• ASTM E 1527-13 Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process (Phase I ESA).

Links to Phase I Environmental Site Assessment-related Information:

Wikpedia: Definition of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment.

ASTM: Document Summary of E1527-13 Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process.

How much does a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Cost ?

The cost to perform a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is based on the location, size, and number of buildings on the Property.

Please contact us by phone at 207-838-3168 to speak with a knowledgeable member of our team.

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