North American Coalition for Maintaining Mother Earth

Posted by Alexa On April - 5 - 2017 0 Comment

What You Need to Know About Phase I ESAsESA stands for Environmental Site Assessment. These assessments are broken up into two phases, though this article will mostly speak to Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) sets the standards for both phases of ESAs to address CERCLA (the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act).

CERCLA, which passed through the United States Congress in 1980, addressed the inappropriate practices several companies used for the management and disposal of hazardous waste during the 1970s. Also known as Superfund, CERCLA funds and provides guidance for efforts to clean hazardous waste dumping sites, which are often abandoned by the companies and organizations that created them. Though ESAs are primarily meant to address regulations set in place by CERCLA, you must keep in mind that your state or local government may have other site assessment requirements.

If you plan to purchase property once used for commercial purposes, a Phase 1 ESA is highly recommended as avoiding this assessment is akin to not having a trusted mechanic check out a used car before you purchase it, and can lead to costly damages. In many situation, completing a phase 1 ESA is the law in order to complete a commercial property transaction. This prevents the buyer from unknowingly inheriting an environmental liability, or the seller from selling a property that is more valuable than what they think.

What You Need to Know About Phase I ESAsThough each ESA is different depending on the property involved, a Phase I ESA almost always involves a site inspection, a complete review of site records, and extensive interviews with previous and current owners and occupants, neighbors, and government officials. Environmental testing, including sampling and laboratory analysis, do not always occur, but should be done by someone thoroughly trained in both federal and local standards. This may take a long time to complete, especially for the interviews and review of records, so make sure to allow sufficient time.

In most cases, a Phase I ESA finds that the property in question is uncontaminated, but it could also find the opposite. Contamination can come from actives on or near the site, and is most often identified by searching through the property’s records and the interviews conducted in the assessment. If the Phase I ESA concludes that there is potentially contamination on the property, a Phase II ESA will move forward in which sampling and laboratory analysis will be used to confirm.

You can easily learn about and identify local contaminated properties as they are on public record, though it should be noted that your local What You Need to Know About Phase I ESAsgovernment, and even the federal government, may not be aware of some contaminated properties. Note whether or not your property or the property you might purchase is either listed or is near listed properties. If your property is near a contaminated site, an ESA is even more important as this increases the likelihood that your property is also contaminated.

A trained and experienced environmental professional must conduct an ESA as they are aware of its intricacies as well as all applicable standards and regulations. To find one, simply refer to your local Yellow Pages, and look for keywords like “environmental”, “geotechnical”, “consulting”, etc. under the “engineers” section. Another easy way is to search “ESA” and its long form in Google. You may also want to refer to your state’s DNR website, as they often have important information on selecting a consultant.


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