Why you should avoid a cheap Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

Written By: Doug Ruhlin | Jul 29, 2014

Time to Read 5 Minutes

Learn why you should avoid a cheap or low-cost Phase I ESA.

A Phase I is a piece of protection on your investment. Whether you're refinancing, buying, a bank's making you do it, or you know the value, a Phase I shouldn't go to the low bidder.

Something about summer time always makes our phones ring off the hook with people calling in and asking about Phase ESAs. We call it the buying season. They invariably ask if we do them (yup, we sure do) and how much a Phase I ESA costs. The second question is a great one, because after working in this field for over 20 years, I've seen some scoundrels offering services for insane prices, both good and bad.

So of course understanding the price of something is the immediate question to ask. We all want to know what everything costs, both in our personal and business lives. The problem here with quickly estimating the price is there are a ton of variables that go into providing a price quote. So when someone calls and says "I need a Phase I ESA, how much?", it's our job to educate them on what they're getting, and the true value of it.

Avoid a Cheap Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

So why avoid a cheap Phase I Environmental Site Assessment?

So let's suppose for a moment that instead of reading this blog, you were on the phone with me right now. You want a price quote. No problem! So you get a quote from me, and start comparing all your quotes, and start deciding who to hire. Like everything else in life, you get what you pay for, and when it comes to Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, if you pay for a cheap one, expect shoddy work.

Here's why we recommend you avoid going with the low bidder and avoid getting a cheap Phase I Environmental Site Assessment:

  • If someone is doing in on the cheap, they’re cutting corners. If it’s a rock-bottom price, don’t expect satisfactory results. Chances are pretty good it doesn’t measure up somewhere, even if you don’t know it. It could have been done too quickly, without adequate research, or without a thorough, complete site inspection. All meaning, your Phase I could be overlooking some major issues without you knowing it. What's the good in that?
  • "Consultants" adding on unnecessary Phase II ESA work. We usually see people who get a cheap one get saddled with reports calling for additional work. If that's the case, you're on the hook and need to get that additional work. There's almost no getting out of it. What we see is those who offer Phase I ESAs for a low-ball price expect to make up for it, normally with more expensive Phase II work, even when it's not needed! After they’ve done the Phase I on the cheap, and pointed out "problems", you can’t bale. You're obligated to move forward on Phase II work, usually at any price they want. I've yet to meet anyone who would do Phase II work on another company's Phase I, so you're going to be stuck with that company until the bitter end.
  • Your "environmental professional" might not have legitimate credentials. Low prices usually mean that the preparers aren’t experienced, aren’t knowledgeable, or don’t understand the relevant standards for report research and preparation. Even worse, they may not meet the ASTM qualifications for an "environmental professional" at all. You want both your site inspections and records research conducting by a professional, someone who has years of experience, and knows what they're doing. There are pretty strict standards on who an environmental professional is, and you want to make sure they meet those standards.
  • If it doesn't follow standards, it's useless. If the cheap Phase I ESA doesn’t follow ASTM Standards for whatever reason, chances are pretty good that things will be missed. Things like the presence of contamination that you’ll be financially responsible for later on. If they didn’t follow the standards, their work won't protect you if contamination is found. Your property value is on the line. Why would you risk losing tens or hundreds of thousands by saving a few hundred dollars on a cheap Phase I?

A cheap Phase I ESA is a bad Investment!

Consider this - a Phase I is an investment. It tells you a lot about the transaction you're about to make, including whether or not you even want to go through with the transaction at all!. A good Phase I is going to provide you with real safeguards should it be found your property has environmental issues. Just like everyone else, you don't want to waste your money, but there are some serious red flags with a cheap Phase I Environmental Site Assessment.

Think about it. If your car was broken, would you use the cheapest mechanic in town? If you were buying a house, would you get the cheapest home inspector possible? If you were sick, would you go to the cheapest doctor you could find? If you think like me, than I'm assuming the answer to all of them is no.

Bottom line is this - If all you’re concerned about is price, you’re likely going to get burned sooner or later. A cheap Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is not worth it.

My advice is find someone who understands the standards, and only uses qualified environmental professionals. You're going to want an organization that conducts their investigations and report preparation to ASTM standards. You're going to want an organization that has the experience and expertise to give you the information you need to protect yourself and your investment. You're going to want an organization with experience, integrity, and one you can trust.

So like I said, you get what you pay for. You want a cheap Phase I, you're going to get a cheap result. If you're looking for an environmental professional with experience and expertise, and are in the market for a Phase I, click here to contact us or give us a call at 609-693-8301 today.


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