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Phase I Environmental Site Assessments

altPhase I Site AssessmentPhase I ESAs are needed when acquiring all properties, primarily commercial and industrial sites, in order to evaluate the historical use of the site and determine if there is a potential for hazardous materials use and/or release from the site.

Our Phase I ESA service includes:

A Phase I ESA report compliant with ASTM E 1527 Standard and the US EPA All Appropriate Inquiries regulations
High-quality electronic (pdf) report delivered to you via e-mail through our internal web document service
A link to download the full report in PDF format
Qualified personnel to perform site visit, complete regulatory review, and prepare the report documentation
Dedicated project manager to ensure project quality and schedule
Standard two week turnaround (faster turnaround times available as needed, time frames dependant on availabiilty of local regulatory agency records)

Why do I need a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)?

Phase I ESAs are needed when acquiring all properties, primarily commercial and industrial sites, in order to evaluate the historical use of the site and determine if there is a potential for hazardous materials use and/or release from the site. Phase I ESAs are completed for both commercial and industrial lands as well as rural and open land sites, multi-family residential properties, and other lands to be acquired in a real estate transaction.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) in 1980. CERCLA is commonly known as Superfund, and “created a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries and provided broad Federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment.”

In the United States, a buyer, lessor, or lender (including state and local governments) can be liable, by virtue of property ownership, for remediation of hazardous substances in the soil and/or groundwater underlying a site, even if the prior property owner caused and/or contributed to the contamination. Completion of a Phase I ESA represents due diligence and provides an "Innocent Landowner Defense" for a prospective property purchaser or lenders.

Phase 1 ESA Procedures

The purpose of the Phase I Environmental report is to identify, to the extent feasible, recognized environmental conditions in connection with the property. This assessment will include a site reconnaissance as well as research and interviews with representatives of the public, property management, and regulatory agencies. Diablo Green will perform a Phase 1 ESA in accordance with the current ASTM standard E1527-05 and the AAI final rule.

In response to a request for a Phase I ESA, Diablo Green deploys experts to conduct an inquiry into current and past environmental management practices. We query property owners and key facility personnel and review historical documentation including deeds, records of use of the site and surroundings, historical fire insurance maps, historic city directories / criss-cross business directories, aerial photographs, and regulatory agency databases. In accordance with the ASTM 2005 standards, a search is also completed for environmental liens related to a property through the County Assessor and/or Recorder and review of available title report(s). A Phase I ESA includes a regulatory search of historic records to evaluate the potential presence of concerns on or near the property being evaluated.

What is Superfund?

The Superfund hazardous substance cleanup program was created by CERCLA in 1980. It was enlarged and reauthorized by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA, P.L. 99-499). CERCLA was established to address abandoned hazardous waste sites, and was enacted primarily as a result of a major environmental disaster that began in the 1920s but only became a significant public issue in the late 1970's, after public attention focused on the community named Love Canal.

CERCLA authorizes the federal government to respond to spills and other releases (or threatened releases) of hazardous substances, as well as to leaking hazardous waste dumps. Hazardous substances are identified under the Solid Waste Disposal Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), or are designated by the United States EPA. Response is also authorized for releases of “pollutants or contaminants,” which are broadly defined to include virtually anything that can threaten the health of “any organism.” Most nuclear materials and petroleum are excluded, except for those petroleum products that are specifically designated as hazardous substances under one of the laws mentioned above.

Per the EPA, a "potentially responsible party" (RP) include any person or party who (1) currently owns or operates the property, or owned or operated the property at the time of disposal of hazardous substances; (2) arranged for hazardous substances to be disposed of or transported to the site for disposal; or (3) transported hazardous substances to the site. Per the US EPA, a person who owns a property from which there is a release of hazardous substances can be held liable just by virtue of ownership.

Do I need to perform a Phase 1 ESA for a foreclosed property?

If you are working with a financial institution that is taking ownership/responsibility for a commercial or industrial property, due to foreclosure, short sale, or owner abandonment (for example), Diablo Green can assist.

In such instances, Diablo Green recommends that a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment be performed for the property. The Phase I ESA will establish the historic use of the property, date(s) of any development, historic use, etc. We will establish if there is a potential for historic materials use, underground storage tanks, dry cleaning operations, etc. at the property. Diablo Green will further complete the Phase I ESA inclusive of interviews with the property owner (if possible), adjacent landowners (upon approval from the client), regulatory agencies, building and planning departments, etc. Additionally, a regulatory review, review of historical documentation, and a site inspection will be completed. Please see below for further data regarding the complete scope of a Phase I ESA.

If a single-family residential property is under consideration, Diablo Green will complete either an environmental questionnaire and site inspection or an ASTM Transaction Screen, depending upon the current use and known history of the property. For example, homes which have been converted to commercial uses, such as religious operations, or commercial offices.

Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) Regulatory Requirements

The scope of work for the Phase 1 ESA meets the technical requirements as stated in the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) guidelines published as the Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process (Standard E 1527). The ASTM practice is intended to permit a user to satisfy one of the requirements to qualify for the innocent landowner, contiguous property owner, or bona fide prospective purchaser limitations on CERCLA liability.

On November 18, 2005, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) released a new standard entitled “Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process” (ASTM Standard E1527-05). The purpose of this practice is to define good commercial and customary practice in the U.S. for conducting an environmental site assessment of a parcel of commercial real estate with respect to the range of contaminants within the scope of Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) (42 U.S.C. 9601) and petroleum products. As such, this practice is intended to permit a user to satisfy one of the requirements to qualify for the innocent landowner, contiguous property owner, or bona fide prospective purchaser limitations on CERCLA liability.

On November 1, 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) published the final All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI) Rule (70 FR 66070) titled “40 CFR Part 312, Standards and Practices for All Appropriate Inquiries; Final Rule.” The final rule establishes specific regulatory requirements for conducting all appropriate inquiries into the previous ownership, uses, and environmental conditions of a property for the purposes of qualifying for certain landowner liability protections under CERCLA. The final rule will be effective on November 1, 2006, one year following the date of publication. After November 1, 2006, parties must comply with the requirements of All Appropriate Inquiries Final Rule, or follow the standards set forth in the ASTM E 1527 - 05 Phase One Environmental Site Assessment Process, to satisfy the statutory requirements for conducting all appropriate inquiries. All appropriate inquiries must be conducted in compliance with either of these standards to obtain protection from potential liability under CERCLA as an innocent landowner, a contiguous property owner, or a bona fide prospective purchaser.

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