Learn how long a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment is considered "good" for.
If you’re buying a property, or have one that you are considering selling, you probably have had a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment done at some point. It's pretty common for customers to ask us how long a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is good for, or even what a Phase I ESA is.
Fortunately for many customers, there's no need for any additional work in the form of a Phase II ESA, but for other's it's time to get dirty and see what's in the ground, air, or water at the property in question. This is when a lot of questions start to get asked. What is a Phase II ESA, how much does a Phase I ESA cost vs a Phase II ESA costs?
One of the more common questions we do get is about how long the Phase II ESA itself is good for. This is a great question because when it comes to Phase I & II ESA services it's crucial to know if your report is still applicable and provides liability protection. So, let's dive into the subject and explore how long a Phase II ESA is good for.
How long is a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment good for?
The short answer is, there is no defined expiration date of a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment in the ASTM standard.
The standards (at the time of writing this article) for conducting a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment are known as ASTM E 1903-11, and nowhere in the standards is there a clearly defined “expiration date” for the results of a Phase II investigation.
So does that mean a Phase II can be relied upon forever? No.
The Phase II ESA standard (ASTM E 1903-11, Section 4.2.4, Data Usability) states :
“Investigation data generally only represent the site conditions at the time the data were generated. Therefore, the usability of data collected as part of a Phase II ESA may have a finite lifetime depending on the application and use being made of the data. To the extent that investigation data would fall within the scope of data used in a Phase I ESA conducted pursuant to Practice E1527 or Practice E2247, the lifetime limits defined by those standards apply. In all other respects, a Phase II Assessor should evaluate whether previously generated data are appropriate for any subsequent use beyond the original purpose for which they were collected, or are otherwise subject to lifetime limits imposed by other laws, regulations or regulatory policies.”
How long is a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment good for - in English please!
Let's try to simplify that.
If the Phase II ESA followed a Phase I ESA (under either the “regular” standards of E1527, or the Forestland or Rural Property standards of E2247), then the “expiration date” of the usability of the data collected would be the same time limits as under the Phase I ESA.
In other words, the Phase I ESA would be good for 6 months. This sounds fairly safe.
However, if the Phase II ESA was conducted for any other purpose, then it’s up to the “Phase II Assessor” (the Phase II professional is similar to an “environmental professional” in a Phase I ESA) to determine if the data is still appropriate for any subsequent use.
In other words, it’s up to the professional’s determination. This sounds somewhat tricky and subjective!
Finally, there’s the disclaimer that the use of the data in the Phase II ESA is otherwise subject to limits imposed by laws, regulations or regulatory policies.
In other words, if laws that apply to your property (local, county, state, etc.) says that past investigations can only be relied on for 1 year, then the Phase II work has the same 1 year time frame.
So the answer about how long a Phase II ESA is good for is, “it depends”. It depends on what it was done for, and what it’s going to be used for.
The problem is, properties change due to what happens at them, and a lot can happen in a very short period of time. Relying on a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment done 2 years ago might sound reasonable, unless in that time there’s been spills or leaks of petroleum or hazardous substances (like chemicals) at the site since that time. That’s why the standards behind the use and reliance of Phase I Environmental Site Assessments dictate that they can only be relied upon as being current for a finite, short period of time – 6 months. Any longer than that, you need a new Phase I.
So why would you rely on an old Phase II? If there were releases of petroleum or hazardous substances at a property since a prior Phase II was done, then it’s clear why a new Phase II would be required. Whether that took 6 months or 6 years between Phase II is immaterial – if there’s releases, or any good reason to believe there was releases, or if there’s RECs, then you’ll need a new Phase II ESA.
As crazy as it sounds, there have been cases where prior Phase I / Phase II investigations came up “clean”, only to come back in later years to find out that more recent activities resulted in releases at the property. If you’d have relied on those past investigations, you’d have missed this and someone might get stuck holding the bag for a lot of expense and liability. If you don't know, environmental investigations and clean ups can be extremely expensive.
If anything, a Phase II is not an area to cut costs. Holding out and using an old Phase II might save you a few bucks in the short term, but could cost you big in the long run. Play it safe – get a new Phase II.