Many fields have their own technical jargon that is not comprehensible to the layman. Unfortunately, the environmental consulting industry is no different. If you have ever read a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment report, you will see it is filled with acronyms, abbreviations, and terms you may have ever seen before.

In all Phase I reports prepared by STC, we always preface the report with a listing of the special terms and words. In addition, this website gives you a little help in understanding some of these terms. Just click on this link for this information:

Disclaimer on this section 1


AAI - All Appropriate Inquiry
These are federal regulations that became mandatory on November 1, 2006 for the assessment of real estate. In brief summary, these new regulations set forth specific methods for perspective landowners to prove they searched diligently for environmental problems prior to purchasing a property. If the search is adequate, the landowner may qualify for one or more of three Limited Liability Protections. These protections allow the land buyer a certain degree of immunity or protection from enforcement actions if some problem is discovered in the future, after the property is purchased.

ASTM - American Society for Testing and Materials
ASTM publishes thousands of technical standards for a wide range of professions and industries. For the work performed by STC, the following ASTM method or practice is critical to a significant portion of the work performed by the staff:
1. In part, this list of special terms and words is designed for education of laymen visiting the web page and is not a statement of fact or formal recognized definition of the term. Some of the definitions and descriptions listed in this section are specifically designed to inform non-technical members of the public and better describe the work performed by STC in the State of Texas.

Designation: E-15275-05 Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments:
Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process

This method guides the Phase I Assessment process for the evaluation of commercial real estate and was created to follow the federal AAI regulations. A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is primarily a historical record search for possible environmental problems at a particular property. More information about ASTM can be found at

Abatement/Remediation - In Texas, the terms abatement and remediation are both synonyms for some type of cleanup. The term abatement is mostly commonly used to refer to the removal of asbestos, mold, or lead-based paint in buildings. The term remediation is most commonly used to refer to some form of soil or groundwater cleanup.


STC is an environmental consulting firm. In the environmental industry, consultants identify the problem and then prepare plans for cleanup, remediation, or abatement of the problem. STC is not a remediation contractor or an abatement contractor. However, STC commonly prepares plans and specifications for remediation and abatement contractors. STC may then monitor and report on the contractor's implementation of the cleanup. When all cleanup is completed, then STC commonly prepares final reports that document the successful completion of the work.

In the construction industry, the equivalent to the consultant is the engineer and architect. The engineers design the building, but do not construct the building. Construction is the job of the general contractor.

TRRP - Texas Risk Reduction Program - TRRP refers to a set of regulations published in Title 30, Chapter 350, of the Texas Administrative Code and managed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). In brief summary, these regulations set forth detailed methods for evaluating the risks posed by pollutants in soil and groundwater on a particular property. If the risk is low, then no action is typically required. If the risk is moderate, TRRP allows controls such as deed restrictions to reduce human exposure. If the risk is high, then remediation or cleanup is necessary. Soil excavation or the chemical treatment of groundwater are examples of remediation.

VCP - Voluntary Cleanup Program - The VCP is a department of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The VCP is one of two departments of the TCEQ that typically review reports containing soil and groundwater test data from commercial and industrial properties. The other department is the Corrective Action Program of the TCEQ. There are fees associated with the VCP. When an affected property has been cleaned up and all VCP requirements are met, perspective land buyers and future owners are provided a certain release of liability from enforcement actions. The release of liability is documented in what is known as a VCP Certificate of Completion. The Corrective Action Program does not have fees and does not offer the same release of liability.


AUL - Activity Use Limitations

ACM - Asbestos Containing Material

APAR - Affected Property Assessment Report

AST - Aboveground Storage Tank

ASTM - American Society for Testing and Materials

AUL - Activity and Use Limitations - legal or physical restrictions or limitations on the use of, or access to, a site or facility: (1) to reduce or eliminate potential exposure to hazardous substances or petroleum products in the soil or ground water on the property, or (2) to prevent activities that could interfere with the effectiveness of a response action, in order to ensure maintenance of a condition of no significant risk to public health or the environment. These legal or physical restrictions, which may include institutional and/or engineering controls, are intended to prevent adverse impacts to individuals or populations that may be exposed to hazardous substances and petroleum products in the soil or ground water on the property.

BSA - Brownfield's Site Assessment - A site assessment performed by a contractor engaged by the TCEQ under the Brownfield Redevelopment Program

BTEX - benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene. Four organic compounds typically found in fuels - especially gasoline

CERCLA - the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act

CERCLIS - Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information

System - A list of sites compiled by EPA that EPA has investigated or is currently investigating for potential hazardous substance contamination for possible inclusion on the National Priorities List.

CLI - Closed Landfill Inventory

EPA - Environmental Protection Agency

ERNS - Emergency Response Notification System - EPA's emergency response notification system list of reported CERCLA hazardous substance releases or spills in quantities greater than the reportable quantity, as maintained at the National Response Center. Notification requirements for such releases or spills are codified in 40 CFR Parts 302 and 355.

EC - Engineering Control โ€“ This term refers to one type of environmental lien that may be placed on a property. For example, a concrete slab may be designated an Engineering Control. The purpose of the slab is to prevent human expose (inhalation, ingestion, etc) to contaminated soils beneath the slab. The area above the slab may be used for any purpose as long as the slab remains in good condition as functions as designed. The design and function of the slab may be specified in a set of documents that are referenced in the deed records for the property (Also see definition for Institutional Control โ€“ IC)

ESA - Environmental Site Assessment

IC - Institutional Control - This term refers to one type of environmental lien that may be placed on a property. For example, in Texas there are Institutional Controls for soils on a property that exceed the human health standard for residential sites. If the residential standard is exceeded, the site may be used only for commercial/industrial purposes. This land use restriction is noted in the deed records for this property. The note in the deed records is an Institutional Control and is also defined as an environmental lien on the property (Also see definition for Engineering Control - EC)

IC/EC - Institutional Control/Engineering Control

IOP - The Innocent Owner/Operator Program managed by the TCEQ

LLP - Limited Liability Protections - These protections include the Innocent Landowner Defense, the Bona Fide Prospective Purchaser Liability Protection, and the Contiguous Property Owner Liability

Protection - (see definition for each item in next section)

LPST - Leaking Petroleum Storage Tank

MSW Landfill - Municipal Solid Waste Landfill

NCP - National Contingency Plan - the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan, found at 40 CFR & 300, that is the EPA's blueprint on how hazardous substances are to be cleaned up pursuant to CERCLA.

NFA - No Further Action

NFA Letter - No Further Action Letter - See Closure and Closure Letter

NFRAP - No Further Remedial Action Planned - A component of the CERCLIS database where investigation shows that no further action was required by regulatory officials.

NPL - National Priorities List - a list compiled by EPA pursuant to CERCLA 42 USC & 9605(a)(8)(B) of properties with the highest priority for cleanup pursuant to EPA's Hazard Ranking System. See 40 CFR Part 300.

NRS - National Response System

PAH - polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

PCB - Poly chlorinated biphenyl - an organic compound โ€“ this compound formerly had widespread use as a cooling oil for electrical transformers

PST - petroleum storage tank

RCRA - the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

RCRA/GEN - RCRA generators -those persons or entities that generate hazardous waste, as defined and regulated by RCRA.

RCRA TSD facilities - those facilities in which treatment, storage, and/or disposal of hazardous wastes takes place, as defined and regulated by RCRA.

TAC - Texas Administrative Code

TDH - Texas Department of Health

TCEQ - Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

TNRCC - Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission - The predecessor agency to the TCEQ

TPH - Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon

TSD facility-treatment, storage, or disposal facility (see RCRA TSD facilities).

TxDOT - Texas Department of Transportation

USC - United States Code

UST - Underground Storage Tank

VCP - Voluntary Cleanup Program - A department of the TCEQ that manages cleanup activities for owners and operators of affected property on a voluntary basis.


Bona Fide Prospective Purchaser Liability Protection-(42 U.S.C. ยง9607(r))-a person may qualify as a bona fide prospective purchaser if, among other requirements, such person made "all appropriate inquiries into the previous ownership and uses of the facility in accordance with generally accepted good commercial and customary standards and practices." Knowledge of contamination resulting from all appropriate inquiry would not generally preclude this liability protection. A person must make all appropriate inquiry on or before the date of purchase. The facility must have been purchased after January 11, 2002. See Appendix X1 for the other necessary requirements that are beyond the scope of this practice.

Contiguous Property Owner - The CERCLA contiguous property owner liability protection excludes from the definition of "owner" or "operator" a person who owns real property that is "contiguous" to, and that is or may be contaminated by hazardous substances from other real property that is not owned by that person but "solely by reason of the contamination". In Texas, formal designation of the contiguous property owner liability protection is obtained through the Innocent Owner Operator Program (IOP).

Deminimis Condition - A deminimis condition is one that meets two criteria: (1) no material risk of harm to public health or the environment; and (2) would not be subject to enforcement action if brought to the attention of regulatory officials.

Data Failure - a failure to achieve the historical research objectives specified in the ASTM Standard, even after reviewing the standard historical sources that are reasonably ascertainable and likely to be useful. Data failure is one type of data gap.

Data Gap - a lack of or inability to obtain information required by the ASTM Standard, despite good faith efforts by the environmental professional to gather such information. Data gaps may result from incompleteness in any of the activities required by the standard, including, but not limited to site reconnaissance (for example, an inability to conduct the site visit), and interviews (for example, an inability to interview the key site manager, regulatory officials, etc.)

Environmental Lien - a charge, security, or encumbrance upon title to a property to secure the payment of a cost, damage, debt, obligation, or duty arising out of response actions, cleanup, or other remediation of hazardous substances or petroleum products upon a property, including (but not limited to) liens imposed pursuant to CERCLA 42 U.S.C. 9607(1) & 9607(r) and similar state or local laws.( Also see IC/EC - Institutional Control/Engineering Control)

Environmental Professional - a person meeting the education, training, and experience requirements as set forth in 40 CFR 312.10(b). The person may be an independent contractor or an employee of the user. Employees of STC that supervise Phase I ESA's are Environmental Professionals.

Historical Recognized Environmental Condition - an environmental condition which in the past would have been considered a recognized environmental condition, but which may or may not be considered a recognized environmental condition currently. The final decision rests with the environmental professional and will be influenced by the current impact of the historical recognized environmental condition on the property. If a past release of any hazardous substances or petroleum products has occurred in connection with the property and has been remediated, with such remediation accepted by the responsible regulatory agency (for example, as evidenced by the issuance of a no further action letter or equivalent), this condition shall be considered an historical recognized environmental condition and included in the findings section of the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment report. The environmental professional shall provide an opinion of the current impact on the property of this historical recognized environmental condition in the opinion section of the report. If this historical recognized environmental condition is determined to be a recognized environmental condition at the time the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is conducted, the condition shall be identified as such and listed in the conclusions section of the report.

Innocent Landowner Defense - (42 U.S.C. 9601(35) & 9607(b)(3)) - a person may qualify as one of three types of innocent landowners: (i) a person who "did not know and had no reason to know" that contamination existed on the property at the time the purchaser acquired the property; (ii) a government entity which acquired the property by escheat, or through any other involuntary transfer or acquisition, or through the exercise of eminent domain authority by purchase or condemnation; and (iii) a person who "acquired the facility by inheritance or bequest." To qualify for the first type of innocent landowner LLP, such person must have made all appropriate inquiry on or before the date of purchase. Furthermore, the all appropriate inquiry must not have resulted in knowledge of the contamination. If it does, then such person did "know" or "had reason to know" of contamination and would not be eligible for the innocent landowner defense. See Appendix X1 for the other necessary requirements that are beyond the scope of this practice.

Off-Site Recognized Environmental Condition. This term is not specifically recognized by ASTM. When used by STC, this term refers to off-site properties that have the potential to release hazardous substances and these substances may have or are known to have migrated on to the subject site.

Recognized Environmental Condition - The presence or likely presence of any hazardous substances or petroleum products on a property under conditions that indicate an existing release, a past release, or a material threat of a release of any hazardous substances or petroleum products into structures on the property or into the ground, ground water, or surface water of the property. The term includes hazardous substances or petroleum products even under conditions in compliance with laws. The term is not intended to include deminimis conditions that generally do not represent a material risk of harm to public health or the environment and that generally would not be the subject of an enforcement action if brought to the attention of appropriate governmental agencies. Conditions determined to be deminimis are not recognized environmental conditions. This is the standard definition for recognized environmental condition - Also see historical recognized environmental condition and off-site off-site recognized environmental condition.

User - the party seeking to use ASTM Practice E 1527 to complete an environmental site assessment of the property. A user may include, without limitation, a potential purchaser of property, a potential tenant of property, an owner of property, a lender, or a property manager. The user has specific obligations for completing a successful application of the ASTM method..


Anthropogenic - relating to or involving impact by man on nature - When utilized by STC, this term often refers to low or moderate levels of pollutants in urban soil that are probably caused by multiple historical operations over time rather than one single industrial operation or spill. The term anthropogenic may also refer to chemicals that are placed in soil for an intended purpose (e.g. pesticides).

Affected Property - This term refers to a property that contains concentrations of pollutants in soil or groundwater that exceed the Tier 1 levels specified in the Texas Risk Reduction Program (TRRP).

Affected Property Assessment Report (APAR) - This term refers to a report that follows a prescribed format specified in the Texas Risk Reduction Program (TRRP). This is a comprehensive report that typically defines the extent of pollutants in soil and groundwater, provides a review of regional and local geology, determines the class or natural purity of the on-site groundwater, and clearly specifies exactly what types of pollutants on the property exceed TRRP standards.

Background Pollutant Concentrations - When used by STC, this term refers to substances that meet one of three criteria, which are:

1) The substance is a metal in soil and the concentration is less than the Texas-Specific Background Concentration recognized by the TCEQ and published in 30 TAC 350.51(m), or;
2) The substance is naturally occurring and a study shows the substance is present at levels on the subject site that are consistent with naturally occurring levels in that particular region, or;
3) The pollutant is man-made, but a study has been conducted that indicates the on-site level of pollution is anthropogenic and the pollutant is also present at similar or greater concentrations across a much larger area than the subject property.

Closure and Closure Letter - Closure is a term that indicates a site assessment and/or cleanup has been conducted and regulatory officials have agreed that all actions are sufficient to meet the requirements of the regulations. A written correspondence by regulatory officials which indicates all actions are sufficient to meet regulatory requirements is commonly called a "Closure Letter". An "NFA Letter" or "No Further Action Letter" is a synonym for a Closure Letter.

Determining Which Releases are Subject to TRRP - This is the title of a guidance document issued by the TCEQ and dated October 21, 2003. This guidance document details initial assessment and reporting requirements for soil and groundwater pollutants. The reporting requirements include sites where pollutant levels are relatively low and below Tier 1 standards. If certain criteria in this guidance document are met, the responsible party can avoid a more comprehensive assessment of the property (The APAR).

Method Quantitation Limit (MQL) - This term refers to the concentration of a particular pollutant in soil or groundwater and the ability of the laboratory method to measure the pollutant. For example, many laboratories will specify a MQL of approximately 1 part per billion (ppb) for the compound benzene in groundwater. If benzene is found at a concentration that at least equals the MQL, then the result is considered valid and scientifically reproducible. Pollutant concentrations that exceed the MQL may be subject to certain regulatory reporting requirements in Texas.

Halogenated - an organic compound or other substance containing halogens. Halogens include chlorine, fluorine, bromine, and iodine.

Naturally Occurring Level - Certain pollutants (primarily metals) are naturally occurring in the earth's crust. The State of Texas has designated median levels for numerous metals. These median metal concentrations for soils in Texas are published in 30 TAC 350.51(m). If the level of metals on a site are below the median level, no reporting is typically required and the site is not designated an Affected Property as defined by TRRP. Note: Some areas in Texas may have naturally occurring concentrations of metals that are above the median level. In these cases, a background study may be required to confirm no further action is required.

Texas Risk Reduction Program (TRRP) - This term refers to the regulations specified in Title 30, Chapter 350 of the Texas Administrative Code (30 TAC 350). These regulations specify the requirements for conducting assessments and cleanup of Affected Properties in Texas.

Tier 1 Standards - This term references the concentration of a specific pollutant in soil or groundwater and the regulations specified in the Texas Risk Reduction Program (TRRP). When a pollutant exceeds a Tier 1 Standard, then this condition typically triggers the need for a more comprehensive assessment of the property (e.g. the Affected Property Assessment Report or APAR). Properties exceeding Tier 1 Standards may also require remediation and potentially be subject to enforcement actions by regulatory officials. However, at some sites, the Tier 1 standards may be exceeded and no further action is required if certain criteria are met. These exemption criteria are specified in the TCEQ Guidance document dated October 21, 2003 and entitled Determining Which Releases are Subject to TRRP

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