Everything You Need To Know About Environmental Site Assessment

Introduction: Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)

ESA simply focuses on uncovering any signs of environmental site contamination. Anyone interested in selling, buying or financing property has to carry out environmental site assessment due to past and present land use practices that may have resulted in site contamination. Site contamination is a possible liability for all parties i.e. buyers, sellers and lenders. Understanding the problem is important to identify logical steps towards a solution.

Environmental Site Assessment Phases

It is important to note that ESA has three main phases namely; Phase I, II and III.

Phase I ESA

This phase is characterized by detailed research of all the available site information. Phase I ESA also involves visual site inspection which is done to discover if there are any potential site contamination indications from past and present land use practices on the site and also from adjacent properties. Soil tests among other kinds of tests are usually done during ESA Phase I. In case Phase I results show indications of potential site contamination, a Phase II environmental site assessment is recommended. In such a case, the Phase I ESA report will include preliminary recommendations on the cost and scope of the further investigations required. It is important to note that Phase II ESA can only be done after a client’s approval. It is also important to note that the accuracy of a Phase I environmental site assessment is subject to time. This is because the conditions of a site are bound to change with time.

Phase II ESA

This phase is intended to confirm the existence of any contamination suggested in phase I. This phase also confirms the amount and type of contamination through water and soil testing. Water tests are carried out by installing water monitoring wells in the ground and drilling boreholes. Soil tests are done by collecting soil samples. The scope of Phase II is dictated by the results in Phase I and also by the type/kind of contamination suspected.


This phase involves verification of the extent of the contamination problem. This phase also provides suitable alternatives for site cleanup and remediation. The scope and cost of Phase III work directly depends on factors such as the site and nature contamination.

Benefits of environmental site assessment

There are a number of benefits of ESA. One of the most common benefits is avoiding the consequences of failing to identify a potential problem which can easily result in; expensive legal and litigation penalties, loss of real estate sale/s, unnecessary environmental sampling among other costly implications.

Other environmental site assessment benefits include: determining the risk levels associated with investing in a property as a result of environmental contamination, confirming the value of property, identifying property standing in regards to environmental concerns to improve management practices and rectify environmental concerns.


In summary, the importance of carrying out conclusive environmental site assessment can’t be ignored. For investments to be profitable in the long-term, investors must consider spending some money on ESA. The risks eliminated by ESA justify the cost of carrying out ESA.

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