Environmental Site Assessments 101
April 29, 2021
By: Alexa Palmer
An Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) evaluates property conditions concerning contamination and environmentally hazardous materials. A site assessment is needed when a commercial or industrial land transfer happens, and this could be when land is bought, sold, taken over, or any other form of transference. Often to complete the land transfer, the site needs to be inspected to ensure that there isn’t any trace of residual contamination. A site assessment can be multiple phases, described most commonly as Phase I and Phase II.
Phase I Environmental Site Assessment
Phase I starts with a full inspection of the property. The property inspection will determine if there are any potentially environmentally hazardous findings. This inspection includes reviewing relevant property documents and sources, visually evaluating the site and surrounding areas, and reporting any results for review. If there is any evidence of contamination during Phase I, the property will move into Phase II.
Phase II Environmental Site Assessment
Phase II is where communication and collaboration with your analytical laboratory becomes a key factor. Your lab partner will analyze the areas of concern documented in the Phase I report. Each site is unique, and there is not a single list of analytes that the lab can test, so it uses the site’s history as a guide. For example, a property used for agricultural purposes, herbicides, and pesticides might be an area of concern. However, if it were an old petroleum site, petroleum-based hydrocarbons would be a focus area. Also, the property’s intended use will be another guide to determining what potential contaminants the lab will consider.
What happens if the lab data confirms that the property is contaminated?
If a property is contaminated or hazardous, environmental remediation may be required to remove pollutants and return the property to its natural state. In most cases, a state environmental regulatory body will need to get involved to provide a set of standards for remediation. For example, in Virginia, this could be the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The regulatory body will ensure the site is compliant with federal, state, and local limits.
Environmental Site Assessments are critical to ensuring our land and properties are sustainable and environmentally sound.
Assistant Project Manager
Alexa is a Project Manager Assistant at our laboratory in Richmond, VA. In her role, she strives to provide excellent customer service along with reliable solutions for your testing needs. She recently received her Bachelor of Science degree from Longwood University.