A Preliminary Assessment (PA) is conducted to identify any areas of concern and determine if contaminants are or were present on a site at any time. Areas of concern are broader than the recognized environmental conditions included in a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment. They include: where any hazardous substances, waste, or pollutant were known or suspected to have been discharged, generated, manufactured, stored, transported, handled, treated, or disposed; electrical transformers, roof leaders, compressor vent discharges, rail lines, aboveground or underground storage tanks, floor drains, septic systems, etc. Like a Phase I ESA, historic records, property owner details/tax records, town, state and county files are reviewed, a site inspection is conducted, aerial photographs, Sanborn maps, City Directories, and topographic maps are reviewed.
The PA includes a search and evaluation of site specific operational and environmental information, both current and historic, to determine if a site investigation is warranted due to any confirmed or potential releases/discharges. This is especially important for a site that falls under the NJDEP’s Industrial Site Recovery Act (ISRA) or any site that formerly operated as an industrial property. The PA investigates and assesses any previous environmental activities or conditions and determines if an old No Further Action or Remedial Action Outcome filed for the Site remains protective through an Order of Magnitude Evaluation. The PA will make recommendations for a site investigation to be conducted if suspected impact is observed.
The most important reason to conduct a Preliminary Assessment in compliance with the Technical Requirements for Site Remediation (NJAC 7:26E) is to obtain protection from potential liability under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act as an innocent landowner, a contiguous property owner, or a bona fide prospective purchaser. New Jersey’s Spill Compensation and Control Act (N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11) establishes that any person who has discharged a hazardous substance, or is in any way responsible for any hazardous substance on a property, shall be strictly liable, jointly and severally, without regard to fault, for all cleanup and removal costs. ISRA, however, is unique in that it imposes, as a precondition of the sale or transfer of an industrial establishment or upon cessation of its operations, the requirement to conduct a Preliminary Assessment and other remediation requirements on the owner or operator of the industrial establishment. One can rely on the seller to conduct a Preliminary Assessment, but it is recommended that the potential buyer conduct their own Preliminary Assessment to ensure all areas of concern are properly investigated as Licensed Site Remediation Professionals can interpret regulations based on professional judgement.