Environmental assessments are an essential step during any financial transaction of a property. Phase I ESA reports are usually required to determine the preliminary environmental liabilities associated with the subject property. The assessment is carried out to find if there is potential contamination. If contamination is suspected, then a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment will be required. Phase II ESA requires more time and money. It is a drastic change compared to ESA Phase I and requires much more preparation. To find out more about the difference in environmental site assessments, click here.
The first step to carrying out any environmental site assessment is coming up with an elaborate plan. Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessment reports are pretty complex, and creating a strategy will reduce stress. Practice makes perfect so that a plan will ensure efficient work. Below are a handful of steps on how to plan for an environmental site assessment.
To prepare for what’s to come, it is essential to understand what type of assessment is being conducted and what the general process will look like. Phase I Environmental Assessments essentially have three main stages before writing the report. These include reviewing records, site assessments and interviewing relevant personnel. First, the consultant will gather all relevant regulatory search response documents, air photos dating back to as early as 1920, etc. This will give the consultant foresight into what to expect before the site assessment. During the site assessment, the assessor will look for any signs of contamination. The assessor will also interview workers at the property and the owner/handler of the property. All findings will be stated in the Phase I report.
Phase II Environmental Site Assessments require sampling plans to determine the nature and extent of the contamination. The sample testing will be quite intrusive to trace the specific areas of contamination. The report will specify the number of samples collected, the parameters that are being tested, sampling method and hazards associated.
Choosing a knowledgeable consultant:
It is vital to choose an engineering consultant with specialized experience in your property to perform an assessment. This can be done by research, referrals, budgeting and finally, shortlisting. Review their websites and have various candidates to choose from. While interviewing the consultants, ask them if they’re certified by the provinces engineering association. For example, if your project is located in Alberta, the consultant should be approved by APEGA. For more details on strategies to select the best environmental consultant, click here.
Doing your research before talking to an experienced professional, will set the basis for your interviewing process. If Phase I is required, what is a standard timeline for related projects? A minimum of two weeks is usually needed for any type of property, even if the plot is empty grasslands. If the field is currently vacant, there is no guarantee that there wasn’t a building onsite ten years ago. If you are the owner of the property, you are likely aware of previous developments and activities. Collecting accurate information is an essential part of planning for an environmental assessment. Create a list of issues that exist on your property. Gather previous environmental assessments that have been performed onsite, if any. The consultant will likely ask you for basic information, like when the property was built. How big is the property? Why do you need an assessment? Therefore, having a comprehensive list that is prepared prior to the interviews will ensure a smoother process. If Phase II is required, it is likely a Phase I has already been conducted on the subject site. A Phase II assessment runs for a more extended period since testing is done, and it takes time to attain lab results. Phase II assessments are also significantly more expensive than a Phase I ESA.
Phase II assessments require collecting samples and testing for contamination. It is important to use the correct software and testing equipment to ensure successful results. Ensure all data collected are digitized so that it can be accessed easily. This makes tracking more accessible and sharing information in the future easier. For example, suppose the property is being sold, the next owner would require all information and assessments handed over to them. Digital files are easier to track than, say, a physical file with a bunch of paperwork. Sorting through binders is a tedious task; therefore, organization is key. Keeping the information digitized and organized on a safe platform ensures protection against future liabilities associated with the property. For example, if contamination is detected onsite and the future owner claims it was due to activities performed when you owned the property. The most recent Phase I assessment would act as insurance that contamination occurred after transferring the property ownership.
So as property owners, it is very important that they are aware of environmental liability and hence plan accordingly before buying any commercial property or land.
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