A Brief Overview of Environmental Site Assessments

Any tract of land targeted for human habitation should be free from hazardous elements that may lurk unseen underground. To avoid the regrettable act of living on real estate that is unsafe for its residents, landowners should hire an independent third-party consultant to conduct on-site environmental site assessment to find signs of hazardous waste left by previous dwellers. Typically, this occurs when the tract of land in question was once used in industrial activities such as factories, manufacturing facilities, and corporations involved in the energy and mining sector.

Although it is uncommon, there are instances when privately owned real estate is subject to inspection for possible environmental waste. This usually happens when the buyer is a commercial entity whose intention is to redevelop the targeted land into commercial property. Back in the 1970s, agencies assessed sites for toxicity to give the corporate property owner a general idea how much it would cost for site cleanup.

In the 21st century, increased emphasis on environmental issues among the mainstream population has influenced governments in many countries (including the United States) to impose regulatory practices focused on environmental conservation and protection. Thus, site assessment has become widespread and is extensively carried out in the real estate industry.

There are many reasons for initiating a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment; and these are not limited to lands for commercial and industrial use. Perhaps a property owner is intent on passing his land on for distribution to several new owners. Potential conflicts in the future among the new titleholders are avoided by scrutinizing each land part for risks and contamination.

At the same time, regulatory agencies such as government organizations conducting routine inspections of real estate property who suspect that evidence of contamination is present can confirm their suspicion by requesting an environmental site assessment.

However, note that Phase I Environmental Site Assessment does not cover many aspects of general site inspection for environmental contamination. For instance, nothing is physically collected from the site; this process is done on the next step, Phase II Environmental Site Assessment. In addition, Phase II is only executed when results of the Phase I assessment need further confirmation of hazardous chemicals in the area. There is no need for worry, though. Most real estate redevelopment projects are not built on sites with dangerous substances. At the same time, a report from such an assessment confirming a site is free from any environmental contamination liabilities adds a layer of clean reputation for the landowner.

Photo by Seattle Municipal Archives on Flickr

Garfield Street Bridge under construction, 1930

Available under CC-By license


Video from Environmental Pollution Centers on YouTube:



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