Learn about Phase I Assessments


Phase I Services: Transaction Site Screens, ASTM and AAI Phase I

In the environmental services industry, the term “Phase I” has come to mean a research-based report that identifies potential environmental concerns on and around those properties that are the subjects of the assessment. It is generally regarded as the first step in the process of performing due diligence. When properly performed, this report serves as a reliable indicator of whether real or potential environmental risk exists, or if additional assessment work is warranted to satisfactorily determine the level of risk. It is sometimes referred as an Environmental Site Assessment (ESA).

Phase I assessments are conducted regularly on industrial and commercial properties, and rarely on residential properties. This is because potentially negative environmental risks are more commonly associated with industrial and commercial processes or operations. Phase I assessments are usually performed as a result of a pending property sale, or, in some cases, a refinance, and may be commissioned by either a seller or a buyer; however, it is normally the buyer, or a buyer’s lender, that requests such an assessment.

The assessments includes a thorough review of historic ownership and land use, as well as an inventory of all known and potential harmful operations or processes that might have occurred on the subject property or surrounding properties. Federal, state and local environmental databases, property ownership records, and personal interviews with those that have knowledge of a site’s history are key elements of Phase I assessments. 

Although there are several “standards” for conducting Phase I assessments, the most common is the guidance offered by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). The most recent revision is ASTM-1527-05. The U.S. EPA has adopted a standard based on ASTM guidance called All Appropriate Inquiry. (AAI). This standard is required on all properties that seek entry into the Brownfields regulatory program.

In some cases, it may be advantageous to perform as Transaction Site Screening (TS) before conducting a Phase I assessment. The TS is an abbreviated assessment based on a standard questionnaire. The results of a TS often serves to determine whether or not a full Phase I is required to reach the level of discovery necessary to accurately evaluate a property’s environmental condition.

Northwest Geoscience personnel have conducted hundreds of Phase I assessments, and have extensive experience working on both hazardous and non-hazardous sites whose histories might offer insights into the nature and extent of potential environmental problems on a site undergoing a Phase I assessment.