Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment
Any parcel of real estate may be the subject of a Phase I ESA which is also known as a due diligence environmental assessment, Phase 1 Study, or Phase 1 Investigation. A Phase 1 ESA serves the following purposes:
* Determines whether the Property complies with local, state and federal environmental regulations;
* Identifies non-compliance issues regarding the Property; and
* Recommends economical solutions that will achieve compliance with applicable regulations and reduce environmental liabilities.
A properly performed Phase 1 ESA for real estate transactions consists of three components:
* A review of government records and interviews with appropriate officials regarding the property and adjacent properties;
* A site reconnaissance of the Property and all structures; and
* An evaluation of acquired information and the presentation of findings and recommendations in a written report.
The Department of Justice, in regard to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), recognizes the fact that Phase 1 environmental assessments (ESA's) benefit the environment and considers such proactive measures as significant factors towards mitigation of enforcement matters. Regulators have little tolerance for non-compliance so that the due diligence performed in the form of a Phase 1 environmental site assessment may provide significant protection from liability for a relatively small cost.
A Phase 1 ESA is a report prepared for a real estate holding which identifies potential or existing environmental contamination liabilities. The analysis typically addresses both the underlying land as well as physical improvements to the property; however techniques applied in a Phase 1 ESA never include actual collection of physical samples or chemical analyses of any kind. Scrutiny of the land includes examination of potential soil contamination, groundwater quality, surface water quality and sometimes issues related to hazardous substance uptake by biota.
The examination of a site may include definition of any chemical residues within structures; identification of possible asbestos containing building materials; inventory of hazardous substances stored or used on site; assessment of mold and mildew; and evaluation of other indoor air quality parameters. Contaminated sites are often referred to as "brownfield sites." In severe cases, brownfield sites may be added to the National Priorities List where they will be subject to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund program.
Actual sampling of soil, air, groundwater and/or building materials is typically not conducted during a Phase 1 ESA. The Phase 1 ESA is generally considered the first step in the process of environmental due diligence. This type of study is alternatively called a Level 1 Environmental Site Assessment. Standards for performing a Phase 1 site assessment have been promulgated by the U.S. EPA and are based in part on ASTM in Standard E1527-05. If a site is considered contaminated, a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment may be conducted, ASTM test E1903, which is a more detailed investigation involving chemical analysis for hazardous substances and/or petroleum hydrocarbons.