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Common Environmental Consulting Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

We’re proud to not only be a respected name in the environmental consulting industry but to be a resource to our clients and those seeking information about navigating environmental risk. We hope that the information below is helpful, and encourage you to reach out to us for further guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is environmental due diligence?

Environmental due diligence is a process in which real estate is assessed for possible risk of environmental contamination. This process is designed to protect innocent landowners and prospective buyers from environmental liability.

What is the current standard that the Phase I follows?

ASTM E1527-13 (EPA has not currently accepted ASTM E1527-21)

Why do I need a Phase I ESA?

You want protection from environmental liabilities! You deserve to know what you are buying and you want to pay a fair price for the property. Whenever a commercial or industrial property is sold, leased or financed, a Phase I report is used to identify potential or existing recognized environmental conditions that can impact the property’s value and the owner’s legal responsibility. A Phase I ESA satisfies requirements to conduct all appropriate inquiries into previous ownership and property uses and empowers buyers and lenders with the knowledge to make informed decisions about a property purchase. If the due diligence process is not properly completed, the property owner can be financially and legally responsible for environmental liabilities on the property. The Phase I ESA report also satisfies one of the requirements for the user to qualify for innocent landowner, contiguous property owner, or bona fide prospective purchaser limitations for environmental liability under CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation Liability Act of 1980).

When is a Phase I required?

It is required prior to purchasing a property in order to attain Innocent Landowner Protection (ILP) status per USEPA CERCLA regulations.

How long does the process take?

ASTM 1527 allows up to 20 calendar days, but most Phase I’s take 10-12 business days.

If the bank is not requiring a Phase I, why should I get one?

To attain Innocent Landowner Protection (ILP) status per USEPA CERCLA regulations prior to purchasing a property.

What are the steps in the process of a Phase I?

  • Site Reconnaissance
  • Records Review
  • Interviews and Inquiries
  • Completion of a Written Report

What are the limitations of a Phase I?

The Phase I is not an exhaustive evaluation and is limited to the information available for the property at the time of the assessment.

What are the possible outcomes of a Phase I?

Identification of the following in connection with the subject property:

  • No recognized environmental conditions (RECs)
  • Historical recognized environmental conditions (HRECs)
  • Controlled recognized environmental conditions (CRECs)
  • Recognized environmental conditions (RECs)

What affects the price of a Phase II?

  • Location of a property (i.e. rural versus urban or residential versus industrial)
  • Size of property
  • Complexity of the report due to volume and frequency of regulatory agency records required to be reviewed
  • Timeframe (expedited versus non-expedited)

When do I need a reliance letter?

When you (the entity or person) are requesting to rely on the findings and conclusions within a Phase I ESA that has been completed within 180 days and you are not listed as a user within the report.

Will a transaction screen offer CERCLA protections? What about a Records Search and Risk Assessment (RSRA) or Environmental Desktop Review Report (EDRR)?

These practices are less exhaustive and are not subject to review by an Environmental Professional. However, these tools can aide in lender decision making by indicating risk tolerance associated with a subject property. A transaction screen, EDRR or RSRA will not satisfy the requirement to conduct all appropriate inquiries into the previous ownership and uses of the property. The Transaction Standard does not offer liability protection under CERCLA.

Does a Phase I ESA include analytical testing?

If a recognized environmental concern is identified as part of a Phase I ESA, soil, groundwater, surface water or soil vapor sampling may be recommended. These practices employed are part of a Phase II ESA.

Does a Phase I ESA include asbestos, mold and lead based paint sampling?

Mold, asbestos and lead-based paint sampling are not included in the scope of work for a Phase I ESA, however, non-scope considerations associated with commercial real estate can be added to the typical Phase I ESA package. Common non-scope considerations include, but are not limited to asbestos containing building materials, ecological reviews, endangered species, lead-based paint, mold or microbial growth and naturally occurring radon.

What triggers the need for an asbestos inspection?

Any planned renovation or demolition within a public access building requires an asbestos inspection.

What building products may contain asbestos?

Anything that is not metal, wood, plastic or concrete.

What is included/not included in a Property Condition Assessment (PCA)?

A PCA is a visual assessment of a property and its improvements that does not involve any material or system component testing. The PCAs also include a reserve and replacement analysis.

Learn more about Phase Engineering.