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Environmental Site Assessments:

Environmental Site Assessments, often called "Phase I" studies, are now mandatory for almost any transaction involving commercial real estate. They review past and present usage of a site and its vicinity for the likelihood of an enforced environmental cleanup. Owners who arrange for such "due diligence" prior to purchase may avoid responsibility for cleanups of spills, leaks, etc. which occurred under previous ownership.

Reasons for performing Phase I Studies:

They may provide an "innocent landowners defense" against cleanup enforcement costs.
Lessors can defend against abuse of a site by a lessee.
Lessees can defend against blame for damage done prior to tenancy.

Lenders often require a Phase I prior to a new loan or refinance.


A typical Phase I Site Assessment includes the following elements:

Inspection of the site and survey of its vicinity to look for the following: storage/use of chemicals or signs of improper practices; signs of previous environmental investigations, architecture features indicative of adverse site usage; stained or malodorous soil or surface water, or distressed vegetation; transformers or other electrical equipment (as may contain PCBs); and the condition of potentially asbestos-containing or lead-containing materials.

Government Records Review from the following agencies: City offices (fire, building, and planning), County Offices (Health Department/Fire Department records of underground storage tanks (USTs), releases from USTs, spills and violation enforcements), and State and Federal published lists and databases of NPL Sites, CERCLIS sites, LUST sites, UST locations, landfills, and hazardous waste generation/disposal locations within prescribed research radii of a site location.

Review of private records of property managers, owners and tenants, such as title reports, appraisals, previous environmental investigations, inventories of stored materials, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), manifests and permits for waste disposal, and stormwater management and spill prevention plans.

Interviews and collection of other historical data, including interviews with tenants and neighboring properties and previous and current owners, research of historical aerial photographs and other historical documents including cross-referenced street directories, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps and information from local historical societies if/as readily available.

Review of information concerning the likelihood of release migration onto the site including review of geological/ hydrogeological information, soil maps, prior geotechnical/environmental reports and review of topographic maps.

In some instances, information gathered during the Phase I Assessment process indicates a need for further investigation (e.g., the presence of an underground tank, areas of stained soil, or adverse historical site usage). In such instances, "Phase II" investigation may be recommended.


A Phase II investigation typically includes the following elements:

A review and further research into the history or usage of the site. Preparation of a Work Plan describing the proposed investigation and an associated Community Health and Safety Plan to be implemented during the physical investigation.

A typical assessment may involve the submittal of work plans and reports to local enforcement agencies (Health Department, Regional Water Quality Control Board, Fire Department, etc.) depending on the site's location.

Physical investigation of the site (e.g., drilling or direct-push boring of soils and groundwater investigation) to first assess the presence of contaminants and then, if present, assess the lateral and vertical extents of contamination (this may occur in several Phases of work).MBCE can assess the extent of such contamination in soil and groundwater. Our technical experience in geology and engineering have enabled us to work with regulatory agencies and achieve site closures for many clients.

Characterization of the types of contaminants present at the site using approved Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Health Services (DHS) methods of laboratory testing. Analysis of the laboratory analysis results, field work data and preparation of a report including recommendations for remediation or site closure.

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