Phase I Environmental Site Assessments

STC routinely performs Phase I Environmental Site Assessments of commercial real estate. Phase I Assessments are not a side line business that we offer as a convenience to our clients. Phase I Assessments are of one of our three core business activities.

If you are familiar with the Phase I Assessment process, then you know the assessment needs the following items to qualify for the AAI Limited Liability Protections and the new ASTM standard. In brief summary, a Phase I Assessment needs to include the following items:

  • A site inspection.

  • Review of multiple environmental databases.

  • Review of historical aerial photographs.

  • Review of historical fire insurance maps.

  • Performance of the assessment by an Environmental Professional that meets the federal qualifications. (In Texas this is usually a Professional Geoscientist or Engineer).

  • Designation of the "User Responsibility" and a statement or information regarding "Fair Market Value" of the property in relation to any environmental concerns.

  • A clearly defined and prescribed statement regarding the presence or absence of recognized environmental conditions.

  • A review of land title records back to a time before commercial development.

We've noticed a recent trend by some consultants regarding the last item (land title records). The trend is to exclude the item from the Phase I Assessment. This exclusion will reduce the cost of the Phase I Assessment. But, were you aware that exclusion of the item could make you ineligible for the three Limited Liability Protections? And, in the unlikely event that the lack of title information missed a major problem, what recourse would you have for payment of the cleanup costs? On this issue, we feel the risks outweigh the rewards. Hence, STC rarely offers to exclude the title work unless some special circumstance exists. If you are comparing proposals, please be sure to check for the title work. For STC, the costs for a basic title search through qualified title subcontractors typically run $200.00 to $250.00.

Methods for performing a Phase I Assessment are clearly defined in the ASTM standard. Did you know the ASTM standard does not require the consultant to provide or specifically excludes the following items?

  • Any evaluation of wetlands.

  • Any evaluation of radon.

  • Any evaluation of endangered species.

  • Any evaluation of special historical or archeological concerns.

STC concurs that the aforementioned items are indeed excluded by the ASTM standard. Further, any detailed evaluation of such concerns would clearly increase development costs. But, if at least a limited amount of information is available on these topics, for no additional fee, and your money is at risk, wouldn't you want to know all the information that is readily available?

STC thinks the information is valuable, especially for developers that intend to alter the property use. For example, there is little time lost by STC to pull the Federal wetlands maps from our in-house files and confirm or deny whether a portion of your property has a mapped wetlands feature. A mapped wetlands feature does not automatically trigger a property use restriction. But, it is a good indicator that suggests some further study might be prudent, and presents an item that can be brought to the property bargaining table. Consequently, you will see almost all STC proposals and Phase I reports have at a limited review of the aforementioned issues, which go beyond the ASTM standard.

STC Environmental Services, inc
4754 Research Drive
San Antonio,Texas 78240
Office: 210-696-6288
Fax: 210-696-8761

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