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Phase 1 site assessment is a mandatory assessment that is carried out when buying or selling any property. It helps determine whether the property is in a good state and whether it will sustain over time. To conduct Phase 1 Environmental, you will first require a competent assessor from any environmental consulting company. It is essential to check if the company is recommended by the bank that will finance the subject property or any bank for that matter. This gives reassurance that the company is legitimate with a reasonable reputation. Each company has an average pricing range that is consistent for all their Phase 1 Environmental Assessments. However, pricing can vary according to the size of the property, site visit travel time, and the state of the property. After discussing the financial aspect and logistics of the property with the consultant, a timeline should be set in place. If there is an upcoming deadline, it is best to conduct an ESA with at least a month at hand. Usually, three weeks is enough time, but in case delays occur, a month is a safer bet. Once a contract is set in place, a deposit is required before the project begins for security purposes, and the rest follows through upon completion of the assessment. The assessment itself has four main components. This includes reviewing records, site visits, interviews, and reporting the information evaluated.

Before the assessment begins, the scope of work must be included in the report. This refers to the agreement between the consultant and the client on what work will be carried out. Its sole purpose is to identify the party for whom the assessment is being assembled, outline the site at which the assessment is being conducted, and all the activities that will occur at the subject property. The first step to performing an ESA is reviewing records. Data is collected with regard to all past activities that could lead to the potential contamination on the property. This search is not limited to the subject property. In fact, it includes neighboring properties that fall within an appropriate search distance. It is mandatory to review Aerial photographs and Property-Use records. For a general list of what should be looked into, refer to the CSA standard for phase 1 environmental site assessment. Reviewing records will give the engineering professional an in-depth understanding of the site history and any information alluding to a possibility of contamination. It is important to gather as much information as possible before the site visit. This gives the assessor a more targeted approach during visual observations.

Also Read: Difference between Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3 Environmental Site Assessment.

The site visit must be carried out with proper PPE to protect the assessor and all personnel involved. It is recommended that the assessor is accompanied by a person who is familiar with the site and is allowed access to it. Potential problems that were found during the records review must be checked during the inspection. Neighboring properties can also be assessed within legal boundaries or publicly accessible viewpoints. The inspector will also record any time a part of the site was inaccessible due to limitations. Both interior and exterior observations are conducted. All present businesses will be inspected, and any generation or disposal of potentially hazardous materials will be noted. Along with that, the location, quantity, and other details of storage tanks that are abandoned or currently in use will be listed. Furthermore, the assessor will look for any odors or stains present as well as possible sources of leaks. The time taken to conduct a site inspection is dependent on how proficient the assessor is and the size of the lot. Sometimes it can take less than an hour to visit a site if it is an empty plot. Otherwise, a building in use can take up to 5 hours.

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During the inspection, interviews will be conducted with as many business owners or workers and other relevant personnel who are aware of any problems that have occurred at the site historically. Participants of the interview include site representatives and government officials who attain knowledge regarding the property. Third-party personnel such as neighbors or past business owners can also be contacted with the permission of the client. If there is no one present at the time of inspection, then interviews can also be done over the phone or via writing. Questions asked during the interview will only be related to the subject property. If no interviews took place, then this should also be mentioned in the report.

Also Read: Strategies to Select the Best Environmental Consultant

The last step to a Phase 1 ESA, involves reporting on a written document. The report includes a summary of the objectives, the assessors’ approach, observations, findings, and recommendations on how to proceed. A report will conclude if any contamination was present and whether a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment is required or not. Along with that, the information on which the conclusion was based must be attached in the document. The report also requires the signature and credentials of the assessor who finalizes the conclusion.

Pinaaz Rahman

Project Coordinator-Environmentalist at prycoglobal
Pinaaz is a Chemical Engineering graduate who has years of experience conducting Environmental Site Assessments. She studied at University of Alberta and brings a fresh perspective on projects. Pinaaz has an impressive background in process analysis/design and is our lead Environmentalist.
Pinaaz Rahman