The Purpose Of The Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment

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The Purpose Of The Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment

The Phase I Environmental Site Assessment, or Phase I ESA as it is often referred to, is the first step in determining whether a commercial property is at risk of being contaminated. It is a type of report that is typically used by sellers or buyers of the property to either determine if it, or the area surrounding it, need further investigation to determine the environmental liability risks. The potential buyer will often run a Phase I ESA to prevent the burden of cleanup on a contaminated property once it becomes their while the seller may use the inquiry to improve the marketability of the property.

Unlike the Phase II assessment which uses samples and analytical data to assess the contamination, the Phase I ESA is a report that relies on various types of information to determine if further investigation is required.

The information used for the assessment includes:

• Review of Various Records

• Inspection of the Site

• Interviews

Review of Various Records

Records include information about who owned the property previously and what they used it for. Some types of usage may raise red flags to the potential contamination. The same is true for the surrounding land. If it has documentation of contamination or the potential for contamination, it can impact the assessment. Aerial photographs are typically included in the review, including past photos which are compared to current ones to show the time-line for the development of the property of concern and those surrounding it. Also, agencies like the fire department, health departments and others are contacted for related information.

Inspection of the Site

The visual inspection of the site and any improvements that have been made to it play an important role in the overall assessment. Photos will be taken, the confines of any structures inspected and an observation will be made of property boundary measurements.


Interviews are made with any person who may have information that will be valuable to the report, including but not limited to previous owners, tenants or managers. They may extend to people involved with surrounding businesses.

The Final Report

A number of details will make up the final report including:

• All of the documentation required to support the findings, opinions and conclusions resulting from the assessment

• Details of the services performed to the degree that a second party can reconstruct the work that has been performed

• The findings which lists any known or suspected environmental conditions

• The environmental professional’s opinions of the impact that has been founded on the property

• Any significant gaps in the data that may have interfered with the examiner’s ability to properly assess the property

• Conclusions based on all the findings of the assessment

The Phase I ESA is a simple process overall that can save the time and money of the purchaser of commercial property that they prefer not to invest in a newly acquired property. Although the results may be used in a number of ways, requesting a Phase I ESA prior to the purchase will prevent them from having the liability to clean up the property before it can be used for a new business.

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