How much does a Phase I ESA cost in Florida?

Written By: Doug Ruhlin | Sep 20, 2018

Time to Read 14 Minutes

Learn how much a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment might cost in Florida.

Regardless of whether you're new to the topic of a Phase I ESA in Florida, or you're familiar with them, one of the primary questions we get folks asking us is simply, what's the price? It's never been easier to find the price of anything before thanks to the internet, so it makes sense that a lot of people are looking around and asking us how much does a Phase I ESA cost in Florida.

Simply put, just like the price of anything else out there, whether it's a car, home, or swimming pool, the answer is simply it depends. Things like what type of property are we talking about, where is it located, and how quickly do you need the report all factor into the price of a Phase I ESA in Florida. I know what you're thinking, great, I'll never be able to figure this out! Not so fast. When you look at the factors, it's generally pretty easy to figure out the cost, and what you might expect to pay for a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment in Florida.

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What's the cost of a Phase I ESA in Florida?

Phase I Environmental Site Assessment costs in Florida are going to be similar to anywhere else in the country. Depending on the particulars of the property in question, a Phase I ESA in Florida could cost anywhere from $1,500 to $6,000 or more. That's a pretty wide range, so let's take a look at the reasons why a Phase I costs what it does, and the top 6 factors that impact the overall price.



1 - Location & Phase I ESA Costs in Florida

As you can imagine, just like how the location impacts the price of the property, the location will also impact the price of the Phase I, but for two very different reasons.

The first reason is strictly the location of the property. Is it located in a highly developed urban area like Miami, Tampa, or Orlando? Is it located out in a rural area? The difference is the location usually equates to property use, both current and historically, and the more the property's been in use will usually mean more records and details to pour over.

Part of the Phase I process is to review any reasonably ascertainable information regarding the property. So if a piece of property is located in Miami, and has been in use for 100+ years, that could mean we have 100+ years of history to review at that property. Occasionally that means pouring over hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents on a computer regarding the property, and in certain instances, visiting local, county, state, or even federal offices to review physical paper copies of documents. If your property is in a rural area in the center of the peninsula and hasn't been used or developed in the past at all, there may be no documentation to review. The need to review that documentation could mean an hour or two spent reviewing documents, or several days out of the office visiting government facilities, it all depends. As you can imagine, the time needed to review documents for the property can and does impact the cost of the Phase I. Generally properties in urban areas will be more costly than properties in rural or suburban areas.

Another consideration regarding location is the location of the property compared to where the environmental professional is located. For example, if you need a Phase I at a property in Pensacola, and you look to hire an environmental consultant who's located in Miami, you're most likely going to pay a bit more since that environmental professional would factor in travel time & costs. Driving time, rental cars, air travel, hotel costs, etc., could all impact the price of the Phase I. Our office in Florida is located Orlando, so being centrally located, we're usually a pretty cost effective choice for a majority of the state when it comes to Phase I prices & any travel considerations.

Phase I ESA Costs in Florida

2 - What is the current use & size of the property in Florida that needs a Phase I?

The cost of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment in Florida will reflect the amount of effort put into the project. To think about it in simple terms, if you have a complex industrial in Jacksonville property spread over 50 acres with 5 different buildings and intricate structures, oil tanks, chemical tanks, and other hazardous substances, you can expect to pay more (probably a lot more) for a Phase I ESA. If you're getting one done on at a strip mall on 1/2 acre in a rural area of Polk County, you're most likely looking at a lower-cost Phase I ESA.

This is not always the case though. Sometimes smaller properties have more issues or complex development than larger properties. This is related to what I said above about the property location and it's history impacting records that need to be reviewed. If you're looking at a vacant, 10,000 square foot property in the downtown area of a major city, it's probably going to cost more than a vacant 5 acre property in a rural area. While Phase I Environmental Site Assessment prices can be based on property sizes, there's often more to consider.

3 - How many properties across Florida need a Phase I ESA?

Just like heading to Costco, if you need more than one Phase I you might be able to get a "buy in bulk" discount. Don't expect to "buy one, get one free", but if you are in the need of a handful or properties then you might get a lower per property cost as opposed to getting Phase I reports one at a time.

So if you need a couple of Phase I's at locations up in St. Augustine, then you might get a break on the price per property. However, if you have a couple of properties and they're spread across the state, then you still might get a break on the price per each property, but travel costs and expenses might negate those savings. It all depends on the particulars of the overall project.

Florida Phase I Environmental Site Assessments

4 - Are you sure you only need a Phase I ESA?

This is a common problem we run into, since a lot of folks out there aren't familiar with the Phase I ESA process.

A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment in Florida, just like every other state in the country, needs to follow the current ASTM standard. The standards say you have to do certain things to conduct the Phase I correctly in order to provide liability protection, which is the reason why you get a Phase I in the first place. These certain things are considered "scope" items. Anything above and beyond is a non-scope item.

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For example, many of our clients want additional, non-scope items for certain property types, and are often surprised to hear they're not included by default. We conduct Phase I's for industrial operations and occasionally have clients request that we conduct an environmental audit of the business operation as well. We have other clients looking at residential or commercial properties asking for things like lead, mold, or asbestos testing, wetlands evaluations, and other considerations.

Let me give you a quick analogy. Imagine you take your car in to a mechanic for an oil change. An oil change might include draining the oil, checking it for any problems, recycling it, and putting in new oil. Those are the "scope" items of an oil change. If you wanted your tires rotated, you would specifically ask for that service in addition to an oil change. Most folks out there wouldn't expect that service to be included automatically, unless they had never owned a car before and weren't sure what a mechanic actually does.

Point being any non-scope item will raise the price of a Phase I in Florida, just like anything above and beyond the oil change would raise the price of your trip to the mechanic. When talking with clients, we always make sure the client is getting exactly what they need, discuss what a Phase I includes, and ask them if there are any additional considerations or environmental services that are necessary.

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5 - How quickly do you need the Phase I completed?

There's generally two types of people we talk to out there when it comes to discussing Phase I projects. It's either "I need it eventually, no rush" or "I need it yesterday, how quick can you get it done?!"

For the ladder, it should come as common sense that if you need something done quickly, regardless of whether it's a Phase I, a home repair, or your taxes done the day before they're due, if you are expecting a professional to drop everything and work on your project, expect to pay a higher price.

Often customers will turn to us at the 11th hour of a project and tell us someone, like a bank or legal counsel, says they need to get a Phase I done ASAP. Sometimes that's doable, sometimes it isn't. Regardless, if you're looking to get something completed as a rush job at the last minute, expect to pay an "expedited" fee to get that project completed. Just like any other business out there, if we need to revise schedules, arrange last minute travel, work overtime, or drop everything for your project, we may elect to charge an expedited fee which will raise the cost of a Phase I ESA.

The way we work here at RMA is like this - We break down Phase I project terms into 10, 20, and 30-business day projects lengths. The 30-business day turnaround time is our standard, normal turnaround time. The 10 and 20-business day Phase I delivery terms are our "expedited" project turnaround times and normally have an associated fee to accompany the expedited work.

When we figure out the price of a Phase I, we look at the other factors discussed above to calculate the expedited project fee. Sometimes it could be $0, while other times it could be a couple hundred to a few thousand dollars, all depending on the project and the variables listed above.

Can we complete a project quicker than 10 business days? No. It will be filled with so many data-gaps that the Phase I most likely will not provide any sort of liability protection, and therefor we don't do that. For example, part of the Phase I process involves reaching out to government agencies and asking for copies of any documentation relating to the property. I can 100% tell you from experience that government agencies will not provide any documentation or possibly even respond in under two weeks. This means, when we're quickly working on your report, we would have to say something stating we did this project so fast we didn't get a chance to review everything, and aren't sure if there's more information out there that might change the report.

6 - The Qualifications of the Environmental Professional.

This is such a problem and we come across this constantly when talking with customers and even other environmental professionals, and this is a HUGE issue for folks who are solely shopping a Phase I prices alone. When you purchase a Phase I, it needs to be completed by an environmental professional. An "environmental professional" has to meet very strictly defined qualifications which are described out in the same ASTM standards that say what needs to be included in a Phase I ESA.

Here's where unscrupulous, low-bidder Phase I providers cut corners. Whether it's a cheap environmental professional conducting the Phase I on their own, or a company that cranks out cheap Phase I's at a rapid rate (aka a Phase I mill), what we hear is someone who's providing the low-cost Phase I ESA will get someone else to more or less complete the entire thing. As long as the "environmental professional" oversees the process, it meets the rules laid out in the ASTM standards, which in our mind is a big problem.

You could have a college intern who got a half hour pep talk about Phase I's working on your project, reviewing your records, or conducting the site reconnaissance. You could have another person write your report who never stepped foot on your site. You could have subcontractors working on the project who's not even qualified. You could have a company completely farming out every step of the process and just acting as a middle man. As long as an "environmental professional" oversees everything (and there's not really any strict definition what overseeing actually means) your report is completed as per ASTM standards.

Understanding the problem with low-bidders and the issue with qualifications? There's not too much accountability, and by passing the buck, sure, you might get a low-cost Phase I, but you could end up with a report that provides zero liability protection.

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When we here at RMA conduct a Phase I, our environmental professionals are directly involved in every step of the process. They're the ones in the field conducting the site reconnaissance, they're reviewing and sifting through documents, and they're the ones actually writing the reports themselves. If your Phase I is done by inexperienced professionals, interns, sub-contractors, or others, it's going to be cheap. If you have a knowledgeable, experienced environmental professional do the Phase I, it's going to be more expensive. Just like everything else out there, you get what you pay for.

Why a Cheap Phase I Can Ends Up Being Very Expensive

Another typical tactic unscrupulous "professionals" employ. Something we commonly see is the findings of these cheap Phase I reports will recommend getting costly follow up work conducted in the form of a Phase II ESA, regardless of whether you need one or not. We routinely see reports that offer poor proof, shoddy work, and outline expensive next steps even if there's barely any evidence of RECs at a property.

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Often times we hear folks say so what, we'll ignore their recommendations and move on. That might work, unless you're using a financing institution, like a bank, to purchase the property. If a bank sees the recommendations to get a Phase II, even if it's not truly needed, they're going to demand you get a Phase II, or you won't get financing.

Phase II costs can vary wildly. We've seen Phase II costs between $5,000 to well over $100,000, and it all depends on your property and what may or may not be present and being investigated. So lets say you get a $1,000 Phase I and a Phase II for soil & water sampling might run $20,000 because your environmental professional recommends it (and just so happens to also own a testing company), you're on the hook for $21,000 because you assumed you were getting a good deal.

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So what do you do? Either follow through on that unnecessary Phase II, or get a second opinion in the form of a second Phase I. Either way, you're spending more money.

Florida Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Costs

Average Phase I ESA Costs in Florida

But you made it this far, and it's only fair that we answered the question of "what does a Phase I ESA cost in Florida?". So let's take a stab at it.

From our experience and industry knowledge, we'd say that the range in costs for a Phase I ESA in Florida can vary between $1,500 on the low side to more than $6,000 on the high side, with about $2,000 to $4,000 being average.

So for you, if you're in the market for a Phase I ESA in Florida, think about these factors first before you call around for the price for a Phase I. A little thought on your part will get you into the ballpark before you even pick up that phone.

Are you looking for a quote, or even just more information on Phase I Environmental Site Assessments in Florida? If so, let's talk. We specialize in providing Phase I ESA services across Florida and have worked all over the US at a variety of facilities conducting Phase I Environmental Site Assessments. We'd be happy to learn more about your property, your project, and if our company is the right fit for your needs. Feel free to contact us online or give us a call anytime at 888-RMA-0230 to talk Phase I's.


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