Shield Engineering Spotlight: Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments

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One of the primary responsibilities of Shield Engineering’s Environmental Engineering department is to perform Phase I Environmental Site Assessments. What exactly is an Environmental Site Assessment (ESA), and what is involved in this first phase?

Phase I ESAs, Explained
Officially, an “Environmental Site Assessment” is a report that details a  property’s potential environmental  liabilities. The analysis is designed to address both the land itself and any existing structures; it could cover everything from groundwater contamination to lead paint. Phase I ESAs are considered the first step in the environmental due diligence process.

What is Involved in Phase I?
The Phase I  ESA is more concerned with records and public notices than with comprehensive physical tests of the property. The US EPA has outlined the specific steps required in a comprehensive Phase I assessment; the standards for these steps are set by the ASTM.

A few of the steps involved in a complete Phase I assessment include:

  • An on-site visit to visually inspect current conditions and evaluate any neighboring properties
  • Review of any state or federal records (in addition to local records and even tribal records) regarding land within a certain distance, as specified by the ASTM
  • Review of county or city files to check for prior-use and/or land permits granted
  • Communication with agencies that may be involved in the oversight of water, soil, or other contamination issues (fire department, county health department, etc.)
  • Examination of current and historical photos, maps, and plots of the property itself
  • Full examination of the chain-of-title to check for Environmental Liens or Activity Use Limitations

Who Can Perform a Phase I ESA?
The EPA is very specific regarding the qualifications requirements for a Phase I ESA inspector. Because these inspections are so interdisciplinary, requiring a knowledge-base of chemistry, geology, botany, and more, most property owners find that working with a full-service ESA provider is the best way to avoid outsourcing too many aspects of the project. Shield Engineering has the necessary experts on-staff to handle any issues that arise within a Phase I ESA including Environmental Scientists, asbestos, lead, and mold specialists, and a wide variety of specialized engineers.

What Happens After Phase I?
Once a Phase I ESA is completed and presented to a property owner/buyer/lender, the project could  move on to Phase II.  A Phase II assessment is more “intrusive,” involving collection of groundwater, soil, and/or building materials for lab analysis. If remediation is necessary, the subsequent  project phases are referred to by a variety of nomenclature.


Questions about the scope of a Phase I site assessment? Shield Engineering is your one-stop-shop for Environmental Site Assessments, starting at Phase I. Give our experienced team a call today to find out more. 

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