Phase I assessments are performed as part of pre-acquisition due diligence for real property transfers. These assessments are designed to determine the potential for significant environmental contamination on or in the vicinity of the property from previous and/or existing use, and disposal or storage of hazardous substances. We have performed such assessments on residential, agricultural, commercial and industrial properties ranging over 1,000 acres. Our assessments are designed to meet specific lender requirements and the client’s particular risk management objectives.

Past site and adjacent area usage is determined through review of historic aerial photographs, fire insurance maps, city directories, and personal interviews. Historic aerial photographs are a primary source of information in undeveloped areas. Fire insurance maps and city directories provide a history for municipalities from the late 1800s to the present. Personal interviews with former owners or persons familiar with the site can provide insights which would otherwise be undocumented. Former owners may be identified by a review of chain-of-title information and persons familiar with the site may be identified by our personal knowledge of many local communities. Additional research may include review of records at local building departments, fire departments, planning departments, libraries, and museums.

Up-to-date lists of sites with potential environmental problems are reviewed to evaluate impact to the site. These lists include, but are not limited to:

U.S. EPA National Priorities List
U.S. EPA, Superfund Program, CERCLIS List 8
Cal EPA – The Hazardous Waste and Substances Site List, pursuant to AB 3750
Expenditure Plan for the Hazardous Substance Cleanup Bond Act of 1984, updated January 1990
California Regional Water Quality Control Board, List of Contaminated Domestic Wells, per AB 1803
California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Underground Tank Data Base List and Non-Tank Data Base List
Solid Waste Assessment Test Program List (SWAT)

A request is made to the local County Environmental Health Department for review of their records for the property, and, if necessary, adjacent properties. Records on file with the agency are reviewed for spills, illegal disposal of hazardous materials, underground tanks permits and testing, and other potential impacts to the site from hazardous materials.

A site and area reconnaissance is performed to verify existing conditions. Observations are made of unusual soil colorations, odors or physical irregularities, as well as indications of potential contamination sources such as underground or above ground storage tanks or transformers.

Real Estate Transaction Screen ASTM D1528:
Recognizing that some real estate transactions may not require the level of environmental due diligence inquiry provided in a comprehensive Preliminary Environmental Site Assessment, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) developed the Transaction Screen process. The Transaction Screen follows a questionnaire format that elicits basic information regarding current and past use of the property through interviews with the property owner and occupants, a site reconnaissance of the property, and limited research of government records and historical sources. The Transaction Screen is designed to provide preliminary information that will aid the client in the determination of significant contamination which may exist onsite.

The advantages to conducting the Transaction Screen include:

A reduction in cost to the borrower when a comprehensive investigation may be unnecessary
A shorter turn-around time than that of a full Phase I assessment
A source of information that may alert a lender or buyer of potential environmental problems on the property

If information is obtained through the Transaction Screen that indicates a full Preliminary Environmental Site Assessment may be warranted; portions of the cost of the Transaction Screen will be deducted from the cost of the expanded assessment.

Environmental Audits:
Environmental Audits are generally conducted on ongoing operations to review a company’s operating records and to examine the company’s environmental practices. Information gathered during the audit is evaluated to determine compliance with federal, state and local environmental regulatory disclosure requirements which in turn is used to identify potential risks at the facility.

During the Environmental Audit site inspection, features including buildings, utilities, adjacent land uses, waste evidence, chemical/fuel storage areas, manhole and catch basins/drains, water features, geologic features, process tanks, pits/ponds/lagoons, disposal areas, and chemical transfer points are observed. Environmental problems encountered on a site generally relate to water, air, and solid waste discharges or potential discharges. Company information and records reviewed during the audit are used for evaluating:

Permits and support documentation
Flow sheets
Air-emission inventories
Sampling records
Analytical techniques
Maintenance records
Operating logs
Periodic results filed with regulatory agencies
Permit-exceedance reports
Emergency Action Plans
Oil spill and hazardous substances contingency plans
Notification procedures
Electrical transformer labeling, storage and disposal records

In addition, information is requested from the local County Environmental Health Department regarding spills, illegal disposal of hazardous materials, underground tank permits and testing, and other potential impacts from hazardous materials on the site. Regulatory agency databases listing known or potential hazardous waste sites are also reviewed to determine if the subject site has had reported contamination or to determine if off-site sources of contamination may have impacted the subject property.

Subsurface investigations or surficial sampling (Phase II) are often necessary to characterize potential contamination from suspect improper usage of hazardous materials. Phase II assessments may follow recommendations made in the Phase I report by identifying contaminants of concern and evaluating their distribution in soil and/or groundwater. The goal of the Phase II assessment is to obtain data that may be used to gain closure for the specific project or that may be used for development of a site specific clean-up plan. Commercial and industrial sites present particular problems for contaminant characterization. Our experience provides us with background to efficiently identify potential concerns and perform the required investigation needed for case closure.

Based upon our preliminary assessment and client requirements, a sampling program utilizing random or authoritative methods may be initiated to characterize the potential contamination. Sampling and testing is conducted in accordance with EPA protocols and guidelines as specified in SW 846, Test Methods for Evaluating Solid Waste and California Code of Regulations Title 22. Testing is performed by a state-certified laboratory in accordance with EPA test methods and/or California Code of Regulations Title 22 specifications.

Investigations of underground storage tanks are performed to determine if leakage has occurred and to evaluate the extent of any contaminant plume.

These investigations can be conducted prior to tank removal by drilling methods, or after removal by grab sampling methods. We specialize in researching, locating and investigating previously removed underground tanks.