We just wrapped up a fairly large batch of Phase I environmental site assessments, and spent some time afterwards discussing changes in the process with our client. They had heard there were some updates regarding what needed to be done during various stages, and wanted to know if that could potentially impact the findings.
If you've heard of the changes, that's great! If not, it's ok too. These changes are important to know, since these changes may make a real difference in how the Phase I environmental site assessments are conducted, including how long they take and yes – even how much they cost.
Not knowing these changes could mean the difference between getting a Phase I that meets current standards, which is acceptable to your lending institution or investors, and getting a Phase I ESA that doesn’t cut it or offer you any protection.
The Phase I environmental site assessment standards I'm referring to are known as ASTM 1527-13 (American Society of Testing & Materials). So what’s new in ASTM 1527-13?
- File Review - I think the biggest change is the addition of standards regarding file reviews. The new standards require that if the property or an adjoining property is identified on a standard environmental record, reviews of agency files should be reviewed. This can be avoided if in the Environmental Professional’s opinion the review is not warranted. If that's the case, then the report must contain an explanation of why the file review was not conducted. Considering how often properties appear on the standard environmental records report, this is going to occur a lot, and will likely mean a lot more time and work in the preparation of the report. Those commissioning Phase I ESAs for property transactions would be wise to consider this early on, otherwise this could potentially hold up a project longer than it used to.
- Changes in definitions to Environmental Conditions. - There have been changes to RECs (Recognized Environmental Conditions), which are conditions indicative of the presence or likely presence of any hazardous substances or petroleum products, in, on, or at a property. HREC (historical recognized environmental conditions) have been redefined to mean any REC that has been remediated or addressed in the past to the satisfaction of the applicable regulatory agency. A new definition of CREC (Controlled REC) has been added, which refers to a past release of hazardous substances or petroleum products which has been addressed to the satisfaction of the applicable regulatory agency, but at which the hazardous substances or petroleum products have been allowed to remain in place with the use of appropriate controls. Want to learn more? Here we discuss What are RECs in a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment?
- Changes in definition to migration - A new term for migration has been added, which refers to the movement of hazardous substances or petroleum products in any form, including solid, liquid, and vapor phases. This is important, since it now requires that potential vapor intrusion and indoor air quality must be addressed as part of the report – again, driving up cost and taking more time.
So what do these changes mean to you? Most likely, Phase I ESAs will take longer, and may be more expensive than they were in the past. This of course is providing you are considering the use of a competent firm to do the jobe, who is aware of these changes, and has implemented them into their processes. Bottom line: you should plan on starting the Phase I ESA process as early as possible, especially with these new changes.