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Phase I Environmental Assessment Report

What is a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment, often referred to as "environmental due diligence," is utilized by purchasers and lenders to evaluate a property for potential environmental contamination and to assess the potential liability for contamination present at the property.
Information obtained through environmental site assessments can greatly impact the economics of a property transaction, affecting the owner, buyer, seller and lender.

What are the laws?

Federal, state and local laws make current and prior property owners potentially liable for the entire cost of cleaning up a contaminated site. With new laws in effect in many locales, financial institutions, facilities managers and real estate managers are instituting procedures and guidelines to assess the status of a property with regard to environmental laws before a property ownership transaction.

With municipalities requiring an environmental assessment before the issuance of a construction permit, the site assessment process can save considerable money and prevent costly delays associated with agency-mandated cleanup operations.

The prevailing standard for pre-acquisition environmental due diligence (also known as all appropriate inquiry, or “AAI”), has traditionally been ASTM’s Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process. The ASTM Standard Practice was issued originally in 1997 and updated in 2000 and 2005.

A major law (Brownfields Amendments) signed by President Bush in 2002 directed EPA to issue regulations establishing standards and practices for AAI. 

The EPA published its Final Rule on for AAI on November 1, 2005 that took effect November 1, 2006. Parties seeking liability protection as bona fide prospective purchasers, innocent landowners, or contiguous property owners may conduct “all appropriate inquiry” by complying with the AAI Rule either directly or by meeting the 2005 ASTM Phase I Standard.

What's Included?

The EAI Phase I Environmental Site Assessment intends to satisfy the due diligence requirements of a property transaction using ASTM standards and client-specific guidelines by identifying possible environmental impairments on a particular property. 

Typical Phase I services include: 

  • Review of chronology of ownership, and site utilization using title company files, aerial photography, and interviews with previous owners as primary resources. This effort is valuable in attempting to identify possible former industries or uses presenting some probability of generating a waste stream which may have included dangerous or hazardous substances as defined by regulatory agencies.
  • Acquisition and review of available reports and other documentation pertaining to soil and water conditions observed on the surface and beneath the surface at the subject site or nearby sites.
  • Review of EPA CERCLIS, EPA ERNS, EPA TSD, EPA RCRA Notifiers, CORRACTS, and other data base lists of sites which are potentially contaminated or which produce hazardous substances as a normal part of their commercial operation in the vicinity of the subject site.
  • Review of the Washington Department of Ecology listing of registered and/or leaking underground storage tanks.
  • Review of County Health Department documents pertaining to landfill operations in the vicinity of the property.
  • Interviews (as timely availability and cooperation permits) of owners, representatives, operators, etc.
  • A site visit and reconnaissance to review existing site conditions. This effort may be to review and clarify particular points which surfaced in the report review, but will also provide an opportunity to look for evidence of the possible presence of contamination in the form of soil discoloration, odors, asbestos, lead-based paint (LBP), vegetation stress, discarded drums, discarded industrial debris, building construction materials, and other clues. 
  • Risk evaluation for radon.
  • A summary report which documents the process and findings of the preliminary effort.

Sample report (pdf, 573 kb)