Chances are you were thinking about purchasing or rezoning a property, and you were required to conduct a Phase I ESA. If you have no idea what a Phase I ESA is, it is used as a tool to ensure due diligence before you purchase a property and can prevent a bad investment. An ESA is put
in place to help you make the right decisions. Some people think of ESAs as a burden when it actually reduces the amount of risk you’re taking as a buyer. An ESA is an excellent way to gain assurance on your purchase.
What does ESA stand for?
An ESA is short for Environmental Site Assessment. Depending on your Canadian province, an ESA has alternate names. In British Columbia, an ESA is also known as a PSI or a Preliminary Site Investigation. There are different phases/stages to an environmental assessment. To summarize, the first phase (Phase I) involves a non-intrusive investigation that includes four steps according to CSA Z768-01:
i. Records review
ii. Site visit
iv. Evaluation and reporting
A Phase II can only be conducted when contamination is known or suspected. Phase III goes hand in hand with remediation and usually occurs once the extent of contamination is known. For more information about ESA, click here.
When discussing Phase I ESA, a common question is how much will it cost? Considering all other expenses involved in purchasing a property, it is understandable why this question is invariably asked. The good news is that the cost of Phase I is less variable than that of Phase II.
An excellent way to anticipate the cost of a Phase I ESA is to estimate how much time would be required for the consultant to conduct their due diligence.
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1. How old is your property? The age of your property matters because lead paint and asbestos were commonly used in the 1900s and are harmful to people, living things and the environment. On the other hand, the older the property, the more records to review.
2. What are some past businesses that were on-site? Remember that the purpose of an ESA is to determine if there is a possibility of soil or groundwater contamination. Therefore, businesses that use heavy metals, petroleum, pesticides, or any hazardous materials would need a deeper investigation. An automobile repair shop, a gas station, any fueling station, a manufacturer of products, and dry cleaners are all examples of businesses that pose high risks. Again, more time will be spent reviewing records and in evaluations.
3. What area/zone is your property located in? If your property is in a primarily residential neighbourhood, the potential for contamination is the lowest. If your property is a vacant/agricultural lot that has been adequately maintained over the years, then it is
likely that there will be a minimal chance of contamination. On the contrary, if your property is vacant land used as a junkyard where metal scraps were disposed of, fueling trailers were stored, or an industrial storage yard existed, there is more cause for concern. If your property is in a heavy industrial area, where the surrounding properties have multiple ESAs, more time will be needed to review records and evaluate the property.
While the points mentioned above can vary the cost slightly, the search request we send usually come at a fixed range of prices that are accounted for in our quotes. Therefore, the price change is based primarily on time spent. It is essential to keep in mind that the prominent variability in cost comes from the size of the property, the number of properties and if there are any travel costs associated.
4. How big is your property? The total area of the property has a significant impact on cost. However, it is not necessarily a one-to-one scale. For example, vacant land that is 4 acres can cost less than a commercial building with three floors in a 3-acre lot. The number of floors and rooms in a building increases the time spent during the site visit, increasing the price of your Phase I ESA.
5. How many properties? We’ve had ample experience with one client requesting an ESA for six units at once. Our price is based on the lots having different addresses. Then there is a more significant jump in cost. The city treats our search requests as individual requests for each lot, and we cannot send one request for all the lots. For example, a single request to the city is allowed if you’re requesting an ESA for Lots 1-5, Block 20, Plan XYZ123. However, if you’re requesting an ESA for Lot 1, Block 20, Plan XYZ123 and Lot 10, Block 20, Plan ABC789, those would have to be separate requests to the city.
6. Where is your property? The location of your property is another major cost. The further it is from the consultant’s primary office location, the more your ESA will cost. For example, inspecting a property that is a 3-acre vacant lot anywhere in Edmonton has no travel costs associated. However, inspecting a 3-acre vacant lot in Hinton will defer in price.
Considering all these factors, an ESA can cost anywhere from $2000 to $5000 for an average property. For multiple or large properties, an ESA can range from $4000 to $10000. To find out how much your property will cost, contact us at 780-729-7325!
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