An ESA is a study of the history of use(s) of properties and the encompassing area to establish, using readily available sources of information, whether the past or present generation, use, storage and/or disposal of hazardous materials including petroleum hydrocarbons, on or near a property (site), has significant potential to impair the conditions of the site and /or require mitigation. If a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC)* is identified by the ESA, a Phase II investigation may be recommended, to establish whether there has been an impact to soil and/or groundwater.
EC&A performs ESAs in general conformance with the guidelines, procedures and limitations presented in the ASTM standards on Phase I Environmental Site Assessments for Commercial Real Estate (ASTM E1527-05) and we have State Registered Environmental Assessors (REAs) on staff to perform these studies. ESAs commonly consist of:
Site History Review
This task is intended to try and identify present and past, known and potential sources of hazardous substances that may have adversely impacted a site. EC&A searches various sources of easily accessible data, including aerial photographs, for historical uses of the site and nearby properties. Information gained through the historical review helps guide subsequent site inspections and provides useful information for designing sampling and analytical testing programs, if required.
Where warranted, EC&A will use the following sources of information pertaining to the past and current ownership of the property and its uses.
- Chain-of-Title (if available)
- Documents from city and county historical societies, old business directories and telephone directories, Sanborn maps, and other historic documents
- Historical aerial photographs and site maps or plans
- Records from local, state and federal regulatory agencies
- City and county hazardous waste plans, business plans and inventories
Historical Records Review and Interviews
EC&A acquires and reviews published regulatory agency lists of hazardous materials sites within the study area. Among the lists reviewed are:
- Regional Water Quality Control Board Fuel Leaks List
- Environmental Protection Agency CERCLIS
- Cortese List of Hazardous Materials Sites in California
- State Water Resources Control Board’s Hazardous Substances Storage Container Information
- California Department of Health and Services’ Expenditure Plan for the Hazardous Waste Board Cleanup Act of 1984
EC&A also reviews public records and interviews regulatory agency staff, as necessary, to identify and examine reported occurrences of hazardous materials problems. The agencies likely to be contacted include: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Department of Health Services, California Regional Water Quality Control Board, county public health departments and the local fire department.
EC&A interviews the regulatory agency personnel most familiar with the area of the property. Interviews are conducted in person or by telephone, depending on the location of the regulatory agency, time constraints of the proposed transactions and budgetary considerations. The name, title and telephone number of each person interviewed and date of the conversation are recorded for the final report. Information sought may include:
- Known or suspected cases of hazardous materials contamination at the site, including environmental enforcement files (e.g., past or active litigation, consent decrees, administrative proceedings, notice of pending citizen suits and notices of violations and spills)
- Known or suspected cases of hazardous materials contamination on properties surrounding the site
- The presence and status of underground storage tanks at the site or on surrounding properties, including results of leak-detection testing, tank registration, product-content records and other records
EC&A also interviews other people associated with the properties (e.g., past and current owners and tenants, maintenance personnel and property manager) to gather knowledge of past and present hazardous materials management practices, known spills, the presence of underground storage tanks or other environmental and human health concerns.
Site and Area Reconnaissance
A Registered Environmental Assessor (REA) from EC&A reconnoiters (inspects) the site and surrounding area to corroborate possible hazardous materials situations revealed during the historical review, records review and interviews. Additionally, visual evidence of other possible or potential hazardous materials impacts is documented. This may include:
- USTs and product supply lines
- Hazardous materials and hazardous waste storage areas
- Sumps, pits, ponds and landfills
- Barren or discolored unpaved surface conditions, including the signs of dead and stressed vegetation
- Electrical transformers and capacitors
- Existing groundwater monitoring wells
- Maintenance areas
- Existing water supply wells
- Storm drains and sewer lines
- Noxious odors
During the site inspection, the possible presence of hazardous substances in soil and/or groundwater is based on visual evidence. In a similar manner our opinion regarding the presence of asbestos is based on observations and questioning facility personnel. If building plans are available, they are reviewed for use of asbestos during construction.
Data Evaluation and Report Preparation
Following completion of the tasks described above, EC&A evaluates the data acquired and prepares a written report that includes a compilation of the results of records reviewed, interviews, aerial photo interpretation and observations made during the site visit. If appropriate, we make recommendations for further work needed to evaluate or confirm any suspected environmental problems i.e., Recognized Environmental Conditions (RECs).
It is sometimes difficult to obtain written responses from regulatory agencies in the limited time frame available for an ESA. Although EC&A is generally aware of and can report on information in the agency files within the specified project schedule, some of the formal written responses from the agencies may not be available at the time the report is prepared. Occasionally the written agency responses necessitate a modification to the conclusions in the report. If necessary, EC&A prepares and issues an addendum to the report.
*Recognized Environmental Condition (REC):
The presence or likely presence of any hazardous substances or petroleum products on a property under conditions that indicate an existing release, a past release, or a material threat of a release of any hazardous substances or petroleum products into structures, on the property or into the ground, groundwater, or surface water of the property. The term includes hazardous substances or petroleum products even under conditions in compliance with laws. The term is not intended to include de minimis conditions that generally do not present a material risk of harm to public health or the environment and that generally would not be the subject of an enforcement action if brought to the attention of appropriate governmental agencies. Conditions determined to be de minimis are not recognized environmental conditions (ASTM E1527-05).