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What is a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment?

Evaluation and testing of potential site impacts

When a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) identifies a recognized environmental condition (REC) or the potential for impacts to the subsurface at a site, most clients request to evaluate the potential impacts by performing Phase II Environmental Testing. The presence of a REC or an environmentally-impacted property can greatly reduce its value. Stakeholders want to reduce liability and future cleanup expenses on their investment by conducting a Phase II ESA, in which a subsurface investigation tests soil, soil gas and/or groundwater to identify sources of environmental impacts.

If a buyer or lender doesn’t have a full scope and realistic picture of a seemingly limited REC, they could be leaving themselves exposed to hidden risk. The Phase II ESA can limit this risk and, in many cases, it can also protect against substantial long-term costs and complex environmental liabilities.

The purpose of a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment Report is to evaluate the presence, or absence of, petroleum products or hazardous substances in the subsurface of the site. A trained, licensed, experienced staff of geologists and engineers that possesses expertise in Phase II Environmental project design performs these assessments per the ASTM E1903-11 Standard Guide.

ASTM E1903-11 provides some basic parameters for Phase II Environmental Assessments, but there is a huge amount of professional judgment that goes into the final report. A lot more goes into the scope of work than just the number of samples taken – for example what type of drilling and sample collection is appropriate for the site and the kinds of contaminants you are looking for. That’s why it pays to engage an informed, experienced due diligence consultant who understands what’s involved in the assessment and the level of certainty your institution requires.

When designing a Phase II ESA scope, the environmental professional accounts for any areas of concern, chemicals of concern, local geology and/or site access issues as well as local, state and federal regulations. An accurate, helpful Phase II ESA delivers local knowledge of geologic and regulatory environments, and then interpreting geological and chemical data to the client so that they are fully informed of their business risk.

Drilling methods used most often by scientists and geologists during Phase II Environmental Testing projects include:

Push Probe
Hollow Stem Auger
Hand Auger
Mud Rotary
CPT Drilling

When Do I Need a Limited Phase II ESA?

There are circumstances in the due diligence process when a potential property owner does not want to invest in a full Phase II ESA. They may instead opt for a limited Phase II sampling, which is conducted to confirm the presence of a pollutant and may be limited by locations sampled, number of samples, media sampled or a combination. A buyer may conduct a limited Phase II ESA to evaluate the following scenarios to inform their transaction decisions:

●The identified REC from a Phase I ESA is minor or limited in scope
●To confirm a REC that presents more of a risk than the buyer is willing to accept
●To identify a REC that requires more discovery (a full-scale Phase II ESA) to confirm the extent of contamination