The main purpose of a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) is to discover recognized environmental conditions (RECs). RECs require some additional investigation that MAY OR MAY NOT include Phase 2 subsurface investigation.
The ASTM Standard (E1527, latest version dated 2013) defines a REC as the presence of likely presence of any hazardous substances or petroleum products on a property under conditions that indicate an existing release, a past release, or a material threat of a release of any hazardous substances or petroleum products into structures on the property or into the ground, ground water, or surface water of the property.
Some environmental consultants assume that ALL Properties are contaminated unless you can prove otherwise. This idea negates the very purpose and scope of the ESA process.
The definition of a REC is complicated, so complicated and subject to opinion that even experienced environmental professionals differ as to its meaning. However, the environmental professional must make a judgement that could lead to un-necessary or unjustified, Phase 2 recommendations that are costly and potentially harmful*.
The following is a list of questions that should be asked when evaluating a leak:
- Do you observe a chemical leak from the site inspection or identify a leak from historical records?
- Has the leak affected buildings on the Property or entered ground water or surface water on the Property?
- Would this leak constitute a de minimis condition that would likely not present a threat to human health or the environment? Even if there is a leak is it SIGNIFICANT or is it just poor housekeeping that can be easily corrected)?
- If the leak was brought to the attention of appropriate governmental agencies, would the agency open the case as a leak site?
Some environmental consultants want to consider ANY leak or potential leak to be a significant leak that requires Phase 2 investigation.