The main reason consultants are hired for an ESA is to determine the safety and longevity of a property. It is important to carry out environmental due diligence when buying, selling, or even refinancing a property. Doing so ensures that all legitimate environmental and fiscal risks are mitigated.
ESA’s are especially mandatory when purchasing a commercial property because they help in recognizing the scope of the contamination and how to deal with it. Anyone from owners, tenants, and others who have or had “control” over a property can be held accountable for the contamination and breaching environmental laws.
The consulting company’s Environmental Due Diligence and Remediation team can assist in evaluating, managing, or removing any risks that are associated with the property. There are three phases to an ESA. Phase 1 is a prerequisite for Phase 2 and so on for Phase 3. Phase 2 cannot be conducted without performing a Phase 1 first unless it is known contamination has occurred.
The differences between the three ESA Phases are discussed below:
Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment involves a historical review, site reconnaissance, and interviews with relevant personnel before reporting. It is an evaluation of historical and current property use in order to point out any potential contamination that have or can occur. This is done by visual observations and knowledge gained through research on the property’s previous uses. Information is also collected on neighboring properties because it can have a significant effect on the subject property. This phase also includes collecting all past ESA’s of the subject property. Research is conducted using the information gathered, which will then be revised by a professional who will recommend the next steps of action according to the environmental conditions of the property. The first phase of an ESA does not involve any form of sampling, laboratory testing, or a physical analysis component. This first phase identifies if there is any possibility of contamination and concludes how it should be handled.
If a possibility of contamination exists in a Phase 1 site assessment, the next step would be to move into Phase 2. Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment addresses the concerns brought up in Phase 1 and involves an extensive investigation into the level of contamination. The purpose of Phase ii environmental assessment is to assess the presence or absence of hazardous substances on the surface. This is done by collecting soil and groundwater samples. The samples are then sent to labs to be analyzed for contamination by being compared to appropriate soil, sediment, and groundwater remediation guidelines. This process will determine the extent of contamination and if remediation needs to be conducted to eliminate it. The process discussed above is consistent with a limited Phase 2 assessment. Limited Phase 2 ESA is conducted to confirm the presence of contamination. Whereas a full comprehensive Phase 2 requires a substantial amount of investigation and testing to determine the extent of pollutants present. It evaluates the costs that would be needed for cleanup and analyzes if the pollutants have migrated to subsequent properties. Phase 2 ESAs tend to cost significantly more money than Phase 1 due to all the physical assessments, extra labor, and testing that are required. Along with that, depending on which Phase 2 is carried out, the time it takes to complete the project can also be longer.
A Phase 3 Environmental Site Assessment is only conducted when contamination is found in Phase 2. Once contamination is discovered, an action plan has to be set in place for any remediation to occur. Phase 3 will closely analyze details regarding the contamination, such as the pathway of movement along with the removal and disposal of the materials that are contaminated. The first step in conducting a Phase 3 ESA is delineation, which basically determines the volume of the contamination and its boundaries. A lot of planning is required surrounding the approach of remediation, the time it will take to complete the project, and strategizing risk management. A Phase 3 assessment can take as little as a day if it is a simple excavation. However, that is a rare occurrence, and other remediation such as bioremediations can be months or years. It is important to realize that the process of cleaning up is unique to each project and its case. Therefore, the time it takes can vary, but removing the hazard should be more of a focus than how long it would take. The purpose of conducting a Phase 3 assessment is to simply remove any traces of contamination and return the site to a state where no such event occurs again. Lastly, as in all ESAs, a professional will document the work done and confirm that the contamination is removed.
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