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The Role of the Phase II Study in Assessing Environmental Liabilities

Environmental considerations play a significant role in the sale or transfer of properties for various property stakeholders and as such, environmental due diligence has become a standard in most transactions. Lending institutions, title companies and purchasers often require site assessments to assess the environmental condition of a property and identify potential environmental conditions that could affect its value.

While Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) identify the potential for contamination of a site by hazardous materials (petroleum hydrocarbons, heavy metals, solvents, etc.), a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment is the logical next step when a Phase I ESA identifies Recognized Environmental Conditions (RECs). Also referred to as a subsurface investigation or site investigation, the need for a Phase II may cause consternation, but be assured it does not have to be a deal breaker in the transfer of property. It is in everyone’s interest to be aware of environmental conditions that may affect a property’s value or its ability to be redeveloped.

While Phase II ESAs may follow the general protocols spelled out in ASTM E1903-11 (Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase II Environmental Site Assessment Process), every Phase II is unique because every property is unique. Therefore, the methods and tools used for identifying contamination will be site-specific. Unlike the Phase I ESA All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI) Rule, the Phase II is not a rule, but a standard with basic parameters for performing the assessment. The scope of work is based on the professional opinion of environmental due diligence professionals (professional geologists or engineers who are familiar with federal, state and local environmental regulations) and accepted by the client. The scope of work takes into consideration RECs, applicable regulations, historical use and geology, degree of acceptable risk, and client needs.

The scope of work may include, but is not limited to:

  • Surface Soil, Water and Air Sampling
  • Subsurface Soil Borings
  • Groundwater Monitoring Well Installation, Sampling and Analysis
  • Evaluation and Sampling of buried tanks, drums, dry wells, floor drains, and catch basins
  • Underground storage tank testing
  • Vapor Intrusion Analysis

Lenders may automatically require a Phase II ESA for properties with a history of dry-cleaning operations, filling stations with underground storage tanks, automotive repair shops, industrial plants, and hazardous waste generating facilities. The media and contaminants that are sampled and analyzed vary depending on the historical use of the site. For example, while the investigation of manufacturing and industrial sites may focus on heavy metals in soil and groundwater, sampling at dry cleaner properties would include analyses for the common dry cleaning solvent, perchloroethylene (PERC). Lab results from sampling of multiple media are compared to regulatory limits established by the applicable regulatory agency. If your Phase II ESA report shows that your property has contamination issues, there may be no need to panic. Since most cleanups are risk-based, there are pragmatic, cost-effective options available.

A Phase II ESA can identify areas of contamination and the need for additional investigation, and form the basis to estimate potential remediation costs, and long-term environmental liabilities. Hiring a firm with experienced environmental professionals is crucial in properly assessing risk and moving towards making a sound business transaction.

Contact Our Environmental Consultants

Braun Intertec has many years of experience in environmental site investigations, soil and groundwater assessments, contaminated site remediation and closure. For more information or if you have any questions, please give us a call or click the link below to fill out our Contact Us form.