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You buy it, you own it, even the contamination: The clean up also, unless you complete a phase I Environmental assessment prior to purchase.

According to the EPA’s Regulations, a phase I ESA must include a thorough walkthrough by an experienced (10+ years) environmental professional.

The historic use of the site must be researched to 1940 or when first developed. About 20 different government databases, such as Superfund, are searched to determine if the site or surrounding properties are listed.

Throw in interviews and a technical report with an easy to read summary concludes most of the phase I ESA.

A phase I takes around 2-4 weeks to complete depending on current/previous use. Industrial land is the most complex.

If no environmental concern is identified, the process ends with the Phase I ESA.  It ends up being an insurance policy or sorts because since it satisfies the due diligence process under the federal law, CERCLA, if contamination is found later, and there was no way of knowing through the Phase I ESA process, the liability is restricted under federal law.

If an environmental concern is noted, the a Phase II Investigation may be warranted.  The Phase II is invasive in that soil borings are advanced on site so soil and/or ground water samples can be collected. 

If the site is found to be contaminated, the next step is to determine if it can be easily cleaned.  If not, certain states allow for a baseline report to be completed and limit the new owner’s responsibility.

Related Links


Storage Tanks

Phase II

Property Transactions