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I Have a Low-Risk Site; Why Do a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment?

You don’t know what you don’t know.

I often hear from clients “This site is just residential, it has always been residential; why do I need to do a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment?” The question is understandable, especially when our clients feel pretty familiar with a property.

My answer is: You don’t know what you don’t know.

Specifically, historic uses and adjacent properties can often represent unpleasant surprises. Even if a site has been residential for 30 years, the Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment looks at the property back to 1940 or first developed use, so we often uncover prior uses that the current owner, lender, or broker were not aware of. For example, the site is a multifamily complex now, but back in the 1950s there was a gas station on the corner portion of the property. These prior uses are particularly important to know about because environmental regulations and technology were not in place to help prevent contamination (such as fiberglass underground storage tanks and tightness testing), and releases often went unreported because no one required it be reported.

Or, say that multifamily property previously used heating oil from underground tanks. An Environmental Professional would be able to identify those tanks remaining on the property.

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