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What is a Phase I ESA? Part 2

What is a Phase I ESA? Part 2

( Click here to access Part 1 )

What does a Phase I ESA contain?

If you have ever had a Phase I ESA performed or looked at the report, you know they are large documents to say the least. These reports can be incredibly overwhelming if you do not have a basic understanding of the report, the basic format, and key parts. In this section, we will show you the four main components that go into a Phase I ESA. Prior to the preparation of the report, there are three procedures that MUST be performed by the environmental professional prior to writing and then issuing the report. The three procedures are:

  • Perform a records review
  • Perform a site reconnaissance
  • Perform interviews with key site personnel.

More details on each of these procedures can be found below. If you have had a Phase I ESA performed for a property and the environmental professional did not completely perform one of the three key steps above, this should be a major red flag and you may not be protected as a result. Once the first three aforementioned items have been satisfied by the environmental consultant, the last component is writing and issuing the report.

Records Review:

The environmental professional MUST perform historical research focused on historical aerial photographs, historic topographic maps, Sanborn fire insurance maps, city directories, building permits, and planning records. A records review also includes research from regulatory sources including fire departments, state environmental agencies, and federal environmental agencies. Each of these historical and regulatory searches needs to be made by the environmental professional by any reasonably ascertainable means. This means that the information researched is publicly available or from a source within a reasonable time and cost restraints.

Site Reconnaissance:

A site reconnaissance MUST be performed by the environmental professional to obtain information that may indicate the likelihood or presence of “recognized environmental conditions,” or RECs, at a property. This is done by visiting the property and observing the exterior including the periphery of the property and all onsite structures, and interior of all onsite structures, if possible. The site reconnaissance will also include a visual observation of the surrounding area and adjacent properties. Like the records review, the environmental professional must make their reasonable best effort to observe as much of the property as possible. In some cases, obstructions or hazardous conditions may limit how much of the site may be observed which will be determined by the environmental professional. Any limitations or data gaps must be presented in the Phase I ESA along with the environmental professional’s opinion and recommendations of their effects.

Key Site Personnel Interview:

The environmental professional must give their reasonable best effort to interview any available key individuals that may have information regarding the current and past operations of the property. This can include:

  • Past and present owners
  • Operators
  • Occupants
  • Site managers
  • State or local government officials.

Content of questions must attempt to obtain information about past and current uses and conditions at the property. Due to the potential for timing and availability constraints, the key site personnel interview can be administered in person, by phone, or in writing, at the discretion of the environmental professional.