Phase One ESA Reliance – What is it good for?

Here’s a joke for you:

Q: Why did the banker do a Phase One Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) on the used mattress?

A: So they could “re-lie” on it!

If that isn’t the best environmental consulting joke you’ve ever heard I’d be surprised!  That joke works on so many levels (don’t feel bad if you didn’t get it) and is really meant to be an analogy for what this brief article is about…”the reliance and protection that the ESA process will provide you when doing your environmental due diligence”.

I’m not a lawyer so please don’t accept this information as legal advice but use it to be better informed when proceeding with your property transactions and speak to your council about your liabilities.

We all know that a Phase One ESA is important to get done.  If done correctly, it will identify for you the presence of any actual or potential contamination on a property.  More importantly, if there is any, the Phase Two ESA will provide you the verification of the environmental quality of the land. If you are the purchaser of this work (I.e., you hired a consultant to do the Phase One and Phase Two) then you are typically provided reliance on those reports by the consultant. Meaning that if you make certain decisions, such as the purchase of a piece of land that a Phase One said was ‘clean’, and you later found out that there was contamination, you may some protection through that consultant’s insurance company if they missed something during their investigation (errors and omissions policy).

Some people may forego the Phase One ESA process all together and purchase the land outright (maybe in cash if they don’t need financing).  If they were to find out later that the land was contaminated, guess who has to pay for the clean up?  Buyer beware!  Depending on how extensive that contamination might be, it could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to remediate…good thing you saved that $2,000-$3,000 by not doing the Phase One!  This is when it would have been good to have done that Phase One and you would have either identified it before you bought the land, or have the reliance from the consultant to put them on the hook for the clean up costs if they missed something in their investigation.

In many cases involving the financing of a property, that reliance can also be transferred by the consultant to the lender to protect said lender in the event that the land owner goes bankrupt and forfeits the land to the bank (lender).  The lender wants that protection as well.  So in simple terms, having that reliance is a form of environmental insurance for everyone involved in the deal.

Something that people should know when they commission a consultant to complete a Phase One or Two ESA on a piece of land, that they should have something in writing between them and the consultant which clearly identifies insurance amounts, associated liability, and who can rely on those reports.  Quite often, and this goes back to my previous post (When Phase One ESAs Get Weird), people will have hand me down reports that might be technically valid and current, however they are not the owners of those reports, and nor do they have third party reliance from the consultant to use them for the purpose of making business decisions.  This can get complicated when trying to use them at banks to get financing, or when trying to sell that property in the future.  In addition, if you have someone else’s reports, and you did purchase some land thinking it was ‘clean’, because of those reports and without written reliance, and later find out that its contaminated, you will not have that protection…that contamination will be your responsibility.

In summary, here are some key items to consider when commissioning this type of work:

  • Always make sure you have reliance from your consultant on your ESA reports (in writing);
  • Don’t rely on old reports done for someone else (they are worth the paper they are written on if you don’t have that authorization to rely);
  • Regardless of whether or not a Phase One is a condition needed to close a deal, consider doing one to identify any potential unknown environmental liabilities you could be faced with; and
  • Always make sure your consultant is qualified and your ESA reports are done to the applicable standards (CSA or ASTM).

So, like the banker and the mattress situation, consider the Phase One process not as a condition to be met as a part of your deal, but as a form of protection and insurance to make sure your investment and business are safe.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email me at


More on the Gateway Brownfield Development

Great addition to the concept for the potential Gateway Brownfield Development…a new casino in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario would keep the entertainment revenue local. In addition the Greg Nori (Treble Charger) studio at the Mill Square is a great addition to that same area of town.

These are great proposals for the usage of prime waterfront brownfield property here in Northern Ontario.

Link to casino article:

Link to Greg Nori Studio article:


The Gateway Site…A Proposed Brownfield Redevelopment

A potential brownfield redevelopment in my neck of the woods…I love it!  The Canal Village Development will be multi-use including commercial, residential and parkland.  They are proposing to develop the property known as the “Gateway Site” which used to be a former industrial property.  This property at one time may have had industrial activities occurring on the land associated with a neighboring chrome smelting plant, scrap metal yard, fish hatchery and settling basins for a steel manufacturer.  I applaud the proposal and urge them to push on.

The development and the environmental hurdles will be costly yet will be outweighed significantly by the benefits of repurposing this land.  The developers are known as the Canal Village Development Corporation.  I’m willing to bet that they are aware of what will be needed to develop the land in terms of the brownfield requirements under Ontario Regulation 153/04 (Phase One and Phase Two ESAs, followed by Remediation or Risk Assessment, Record of Site Condition)…who knows, maybe in a couple years we’ll be playing soccer in the Canal District…

Thanks to Darren Taylor and Sootoday for posting this:

When Phase One ESAs Get Weird

I love the title of this post because it really portrays a certain situation consultants, property owners, developers, etc. face when dealing with old Phase One Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) reports.  It happens all too often that these old reports get passed down like a bad family heirloom that no one wants to get rid of because they think it might be worth something.  In actuality they are probably worth nothing more than the paper that they are written on.  If you do end up with an old Phase One ESA and you are faced with making a decision about buying or refinancing a property based on those results, things can get weird, if not end badly, and possibly put yourself into an unnecessary lawsuit, if you do so.

The relationship between the client and the consultant that the client hired to assess their property is very special since the consultant is providing the client with a form of insurance through reliance on their Phase One report (that’s sounds complicated).  Reliance is such an important aspect of the due diligence assessment process which so few people understand.  All too often we have people with these old Phase One reports making decisions based on them without knowing the consequences of not having that reliance.  The reasons why we shouldn’t rely on someone else’s Phase One ESA are as follows:

  1. They might be too old. – Typically I wouldn’t recommend using a Phase One report if its older than a year.  These reports are nothing more than a snapshot in time.  In accordance with Ontario Regulation 153/04, if you need a Phase One ESA for the purpose of filing a Record of Site Condition you cannot use it if it is older than 18 months.
  2. Things can change overnight. – Anything can happen in a short amount of time…spills of fuel, changes in manufacturing or operations processes, moving of waste storage areas, etc.  If that old report was done after things or releases to the environment had occurred there may be hidden liabilities on the property that you will never know about until its too late.
  3. Standards and the Phase One ESA process has changed. – The fundamental components of a standard Phase One ESA haven’t changed much in Canada since the early 2000s.  In Ontario however, major changes in the process and criteria for ESAs have changed with respect to brownfield property assessment and Ontario Regulation 153/04, including the allowable limits for contaminant concentrations on a property.  In Ontario, as of 2011 new criteria used in the comparison of environmental soil and groundwater data have been redefined by the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOE).  Here is a link to the new criteria (  The MOE changed the standard soil and groundwater criteria in 2011 which resulted in more stringent allowable levels of contaminants on a property (for the most part, some levels actually went up).  Due to those reductions and more stringent levels imposed by the MOE we are now seeing properties that were assessed pre-2011 that were assessed as being clean, are now being identified as having levels of contaminants exceeding the criteria (now are dirty?), even though no changes to the operations or sources have occurred.  (email me if you are confused about this and I can give you some better examples,
  4. Why was the Phase One done in the first place? – This is an important factor to consider when reviewing an old Phase One report.  Although the fundamental components of the process shouldn’t change, there are different reasons why a Phase One ESA is done that may affect the outcome, results or recommendations.  It is always recommended that the objectives for doing a Phase One are clearly stated to your consultant so that the Phase One is tailored to suit your needs.
  5. Who did the previous Phase One report? – Unfortunately you can’t go back in time and have control over the quality of the work produced in the prior report. In addition you will likely not even know who the previous assessor was or what company did it.  Lots of times the company doesn’t exist anymore, or maybe the assessor isn’t qualified to be doing Phase One ESAs.  They may not have been following the required standards in place at that time, or even worse, they might have been the cheapest outfit that the other guy could find to do the work.  Maybe they skimped on paying for important regulatory searches or made some short cuts to get the costs down? Remember, you get what you pay for…

If you rely on a prior Phase One done by someone else, and you end up finding contamination on your property at a later date (that the original Phase One didn’t identify due any one of the five reasons above) you may be held liable for that contamination since its on your property.  Furthermore, if you haven’t been given any legal permission to rely on that report from the prior consultant,  you will be left on the hook for possible clean up costs and not have their insurance to fall back on.  You may also be susceptible to fines or environmental penalties as a result of the contamination.

The best advice I can give is that if you end up with an old Phase One report, don’t put too much faith into it and rely on it as your only source of information…hire a good environmental consultant and give it to them as part of the records review of a new updated Phase One.  Your business and land are worth it, you have too much riding on it, financially and otherwise to make that mistake!

Remediation…The Saga Continues

Remediation is the glory work of the brownfield industry.  In my opinion, this is when environmental consultants shine and can show their true colors.  Who’s got the guts to face this site, immerse themselves in the all the data, and come up with the best game plan to clean this thing up?  Some of these remedial plans and projects take years to implement…some of them take a few days to complete.  Some plans are as simple as taking a truck load of dirt to the local landfill, and some are so beautifully complicated that its nearly impossible to understand what’s going on, but both have the same end goal and both work…the property gets cleaned up.

The face of remediation has changed significantly over the past 20 years or so.  From the legacy sites I’ve been involved in and from the historical reports I’ve read, there is certainly a developing change in the remedial strategies being used.  Historically remedial activities would have either consisted of the traditional dig and dump strategy or else the implementation of mitigation measures such as encapsulation or capping (which really isn’t remediation its more like hiding the contamination on site in order to protect people from it).  These traditional methods still exist and are widely used today but now we are seeing such a wider variety of engineering solutions that can support these projects and get the job done at a lower cost or shorter timeframe.  (Now that I think of it, the “History of Remediation” would be a great blog post for the future…if anyone has any cool stories out there about historical remediations they encountered send me an email I’d love to hear them

…So to keep with the theme of the two previous posts regarding the evolution of a Phased Environmental Site Assessment (ESA), I introduce to you the final chapter called “Remediation” aka the “Phase Three ESA”.

In a very short recap:

  1. The Phase One ESA has been done and areas of concern have been identified;
  2. The Phase Two ESA has been done and contamination has been found; and
  3. Then its time for the Phase Three ESA, remediate the property and bring the contaminant concentrations below the allowable limits.

Before starting there is a need to develop a remediation plan which will be designed to meet the client’s needs and wants.  Do they care how much its going to cost? Do they need it cleaned up right away?  Many things to consider…I prefer, and I think most people would agree with me, simplicity in designing these projects is the key to success as well as to avoid the burden of unnecessary costs and duration.

Similar to the Phase Two ESA process, a Remediation starts with a good game plan detailing how its going to be completed.  I like to refer to this as the Remedial Action Plan (RAP).  The RAP cannot be completed until a thorough evaluation of the property’s geophysical and contaminant characteristics has been completed.  The two work so dynamically together that without completing this evaluation your RAP will be truly limited in its full potential of performance, and may not even be successful.  The following are a few examples of remediation strategies that are often considered when designing the RAP:

  • Soil excavation and disposal/treatment (ex-situ)
  • Chemical Oxidation (in-situ, also referred to as ISCO)
  • Bioremediation
  • Soil Vapor Extraction
  • Pump and Treat
  • Air Sparging
  • Permeable Reactive Barriers
  • Solidification
  • Phytoremediation
  • Thermal Treatment

Some of these examples are much more widely used than others and each of their viabilities are completely dependent on the individual site characteristics, the type of contamination and how its reacting in the subsurface.   For more information on these strategies, I recommend you visit my favorite environmental website called CLU-IN, sponsored by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (

Once the best strategy(ies) have been determined, a sampling or confirmation program has to be designed.  This confirmation program is used to monitor the effectiveness of the remediation and ensures that the vertical and lateral extents of the contaminants are cleaned up.  For some examples of sampling plans and confirmation program design (in Ontario) check out the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change document titled “Guidance and Sampling  and Analytical Methods for use at Contaminated Sites in Ontario” (

When the contractor implementing the RAP commences there is usually a role for a consultant to be on-site at this time to monitor and document the process as third party verification.  The consultant will be implementing the confirmation program by collecting samples and directing the work.  As confirmatory data validates that the remediation work is complete, the construction activities come to an end…the dust settles and things are put back together.  In most cases a formal remediation report is prepared by the consultant that documents everything that was completed and the results of the confirmation program.  When complete and done correctly you are left with a piece of land free of any environmental liabilities…a ‘clean’ site.

Some people might be asking why do we even need to remediate?  I ask why wouldn’t we want to?  Notwithstanding the most important reason (i.e., to protect our health and environment), we recycle everything else in our lives from coke bottles to newspapers, why not recycle our land?  I can accept that pollution happens…unfortunately that seems to be part of business, whether by human error or negligence.  What I can’t accept is businesses not cleaning up their mess and abandoning their brownfield properties for years to come, letting our future generations be the ones left to clean them up.

So What’s Next…Phase Two?

I’ve never had to get a Phase Two Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) done on any property that I own, but I have to imagine it’s got to be a lot like going to see the doctor when you’ve noticed that you haven’t been feeling well.  You might luck out and come out of your doctor’s office with their recommendation to lay off the McDonalds or maybe quit smoking…or on the contrary, you might find out that you have something seriously wrong like a tumour or heart problem and they are going to have to go in and surgically remove whatever it is to make you healthy again, or inject you with medicine to make you feel better.  I’m not trying to make light of serious health issues through this comparison.  There is no question that one’s personal health is paramount above all else, however some people may argue that their land is everything they have and is truly their livelihood, especially if their business resides and operates there, or if its their home.

What I’m trying to say is that during the due diligence process of a land transaction for example, the Phase Two is when things start to get serious. Someone has made the opinion that there needs to be some further investigation into the quality of the land to determine if historical or current activities have caused an issue which might be harming the occupants.  All of this is being spurned from the Phase One (read my previous post about how we get to this point).  In brief summary, the Phase One ESA is completed which leads the project to either some form of closure by not finding anything that warrants further investigation, or else it will come to the determination that there is enough actual evidence of contamination, or potential for contamination to exist, on the land that there is a need to do a Phase Two in order to confirm those opinions or findings.

And in a nutshell that is what the Phase Two is…an intrusive investigation of the environmental condition of the property…there is going to be some actual digging into the past…there is going to be some poking around to see what’s going on down there.  Test pits will be excavated, boreholes will be drilled, monitoring wells will be instrumented, soil will be stuffed into jars, water will be pumped, chains of custody will be filled, coolers will be shipped, labs will be busy doing whatever they do, data will be crunched and reports will be written…this is really the front line of the environmental due diligence industry.

The Phase Two ESA can be a really complex process but doesn’t have to be complicated.  Once the decision has been made to commence with the recommendation to move forward with the Phase Two, the majority of the work comes in the initial preparation and planning stage.  First and foremost a sampling plan needs to be designed.  This is the most important step.  If the sampling plan isn’t well thought out you are going to either miss something or end up with a bunch of lab data that doesn’t mean anything or is worth nothing.  This could be a very costly mistake at your client’s expense.  Sampling plans take so much into consideration and should be designed by someone with experience, and whose considerations might include:

  • Where are we going to sample?  Are we going to collect samples randomly or are we going to focus on a certain area like the old underground storage tank nest?
  • Once we decide where we are going to do the testing, what contaminants are going to test for?  Petroleum hydrocarbons?  Cyanide?  Mercury? Methylethylmeatball?
  • What are we testing?  Soil? Groundwater? Sediment? Air?
  • How are we going to get the samples?  Test pits?  Boreholes?  Monitoring wells?  All of the above?
  • What lab is going to test them?  The one in some guy’s garage or an accredited certified and approved lab?

Somebody good better have some good answers to these questions…you need to hire a good consultant and trust them, but ask lots of good questions about the sampling plan they design for you (the word ‘good’ 4 times in one sentence is emphasis).  I’m sure there are lots of cases where the over design of the plan due to the conservatism of the practitioner possibly leads to unnecessarily overspending or inflated costs for the Phase Two project…do we really need 5 boreholes for one underground storage tank?  Do we need to test for every element on the periodic chart?  And the under design of the sampling plan will lead to big misses which could possibly lead to contamination not being discovered.

Once a good sampling plan is established and agreed upon by all stakeholders the project moves forward with the field investigation.  It is important that everyone agrees and understands what is going to happen during the Phase Two so there are no surprises when a drilling crew shows up to drill a 20′ borehole through the ceramic floor tiles in your office’s foyer).

Underground utility locates are filed, safety concerns are addressed for the field staff and then the sampling plan is implemented.  It is critical that the people conducting the field work specified in the sampling plan are qualified…I can’t stress that enough.  Mistakes made in the field can be very costly if you have to go back because a sample was missed or insufficient data was collected because the field technologist “didn’t know”.  In Ontario the Ministry of Environment (MOE) has provided a general guidance document for public consultation in regards to the sampling of contaminated sites.  Although it’s a bit dated (1996) it is still relevant as one of our industry standards (  In later posts I will provide additional details for sampling procedures as there is a ton of information out there worth reviewing and posting about.

Once that sampling plan is executed, the field data and samples are gathered and analyzed.  An accredited laboratory follows analytical procedures to determine the concentrations of the contaminants that are in the samples.  Those procedures are defined by our good friends at the MOE (

Typically an environmental scientist, engineer, hydrogeologist or someone with the necessary qualifications and experience, will evaluate all the field and lab data and come to a conclusion about the environmental quality of the land under investigation.  In Ontario there are criteria or limits used for the comparison of the lab data to define the presence of contamination (

At the end of the evaluation stage a formal written report is normally prepared which outlines all the work that was completed and conclusions regarding the results.  The report usually ends in one of two statements (not in these exact words): 1) The concentrations found on the property are below the allowable limits and no further investigation or work is required, or 2) The concentrations exceed the allowable limits, contamination is present, and something should be done about it…CONSULTANT INSERT RECOMMENDATIONS HERE.

Recommendations based on unfavorable results usually include some form of supplemental delineation, remediation or risk assessment.  Without writing a novel about this stuff I will delve into that in separate posts.  Those recommendations may proceed further if needed to meet the overall objectives of the whole ESA process.  For example the sale of a parcel of land to a buyer may not go through unless they get financing and the bank will not lend money until they can get a clean bill of health.  Therefore remediation will need to take place to clean up any contamination that was found.

Similar to the Phase One process, the following two versions of the Phase Two ESAs are typically completed in Ontario:

  1. The standard Phase Two that is used for day-to-day business/property transactions.  This type generally follows the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Standard “Z769-0o (Reaffirmed 2013) – Phase II Environmental Site Assessment“.
  2. The MOE Ontario Regulation 153/04 (as amended) version of the Phase Two ESA that is used for filing a Record of Site Condition.  This type of Phase Two has specific requirements of what is completed during the assessment which are defined for us by the MOE.  A copy of the MOE’s guide to completing a Phase Two ESA to the regulated standard is here

The costs to complete a standard due diligence Phase Two are highly dependent on the results of the Phase One.  Simple Phase Twos could range anywhere on average from $5,000 up to $10,000 and might include the investigation of one or two areas of concern only.  More detailed investigations for larger properties with many areas of concern requiring investigation could range easily between $20-50k and could involve multiple rounds of testing to narrow down the volume of contamination.  Driving factors in the determination of the costs for Phase Two investigations are usually the lab fees and drilling subcontractor costs.  Both easily add up to 50% or more of the total cost of the project.  The costs for the regulated version of the Phase Two are typically double the costs of the standard.

Organized and efficient firms can generally turn basic Phase Two projects around in 3-4 weeks; however a Phase Two ESA for the purpose of filing a Record of Site Condition can take months, or over a year to complete if remediation is required.  A project’s schedule should be carefully considered if any environmental due diligence requirements need to be met.

This post is intended only to give an overview of the Phase Two process.  What I’ve put down in words only scratches the surface.  I haven’t spent any time discussing important topics such as what do with off-site contamination issues and reporting to the regulators; Phase Two liability importance; quality assurance and control practices; the actual science behind environmental contamination and its mobility in the subsurface, etc. etc. etc.

Phase Two investigations are really quite interesting especially if you are crazy about hydrogeology and environmental science, or if you are really into the business models behind brownfield sites and what value they hold for redevelopment purposes…the Phase Two is the key to unlocking what steps are needed to move forward.

The First Phase aka Phase One

In keeping with the theme from my recent post about Brownfield Redevelopment I’ve realized that I need to write dedicated posts about the individual Phases for assessing contaminated land.  These Phases are very unique and I can appreciate the work involved to complete each of them.  Its really worth spending the time to describe each, since they are so detailed.  I’ve also realized that there aren’t many websites out there that are user friendly and accessible to the public with good links to the resources needed to conduct projects such as these.

I’ve been looking at this over the past few years and I’ve noticed that its very hard to find any direct training on Phased Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs).  Its not like you can just take a course on Phase One ESAs and learn everything you need to know.  I’ve seen consultants produce such a wide variety of content in these types of reports.   Its hard to imagine where their training comes from for these specific types of projects??….Likely their predecessors or some sort or supervisor taught them and now they are passing down that information to their technicians or interns…all highly variable in experiences and education.  As of 2011 the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) has attempted to level the playing field for consultants in terms of the preparation of Phase One and Two ESAs for the purpose of filing a Record of Site Condition (Brownfield Property Development – go back to my previous post for all that in a nutshell).  I’ll get into that more later…

I’m hoping that as I develop these posts I can keep a catalogue of reference material for people like consultants to use in the future to help them learn about these types of projects and to be a library in a sense, which is really the spirit of the website.

The Phase One ESA is really the backbone of the environmental due diligence consulting industry.  It all starts here and is really (to me) the most interesting portion of the whole assessment process.  Its interesting to me because every new site and Phase One tells a different story about a property’s history, how it was developed, who/what business lived there, what did they do, and what impact did they have on the land.  Some Phase Ones tell a very short and lonely story (maybe about an old farm house on some agricultural land) and some Phase Ones tell a long intriguing story about maybe an old bulk fuel storage facility, old gas station, or manufacturing plant, or a combination of many activities, some of which could have had environmental activities like illegal dumping and spills which lead to further investigation…doing a Phase One its kind of like being an environmental sleuth, looking for clues from the past that will help you solve some kind of environmental mystery.

Phase One ESAs are conducted for a number of different reasons.  For the most part banks or financial institutions trigger the need for a Phase One to be done to determine if they are lending money on a property that may be dirty and possibly become a liability for them…if they were ever to be the receiver of the land through a possible bankruptcy per se.  Its really the beginning of a transactional environmental due diligence process (if transactional is even a word).   This is done as part of the redevelopment of a property, refinancing of a property, divestment or acquisition of a property to determine if there are any areas on that subject land that could carry any inherent environmental liability.  In simpler terms, the objective is to find out if there is going to be anything in the land that could harm or cause an adverse effect to anyone or anything that occupies the property (people, animals, trees, etc.).

There are two different types of Phase One ESAs that are commonly seen done in Ontario:

  1. The standard Phase One that is used for day to day business/property transactions.  This type generally follows the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Standard “Z768-01 (Reaffirmed 2012) – Phase I Environmental Site Assessment“.  Because this standard is a private document I can’t post a link to it, but here is a link to the CSA website where you can buy it  If you email me at I will lend you a copy of mine.
  2. The MOE Ontario Regulation 153/04 (as amended) version of the Phase One ESA that is used for filing a Record of Site Condition.  This type of Phase One is somewhat different than the standard version as the requirements of what is completed during the assessment is strictly defined by the MOE.  A copy of the MOE’s guide to completing a Phase One ESA to the regulated standard is here

No matter what type of Phase One you are intending on completing they both have the same objective which was stated above…to find out if there are any environmental liabilities associated with a specific piece of land.  They both also have the same four fundamental components: 1) a visual inspection of the property; 2) a series of interviews with people that are knowledgeable about the property; 3) a review of records and documents pertaining to the property; and 4) the compilation of a Phase One report.  The main difference between the two is that the regulated version (for Brownfield Redevelopment purposes) is very strict in terms of what and how the fundamental components are completed and evaluated, i.e., more intensely scrutinized and defined.

I could write a post about each of those fundamental components (and maybe I will…actually I should) but for now I will keep descriptions short…

Inspections of the property are typically walkthroughs that looks for obvious signs of contamination or hidden liabilities like vent pipes for underground storage tanks or surface staining from leaks and spills.  Interviews are usually done with the property owner, or someone that is very knowledgeable about the property, in hopes of finding out what they know happened there over the years such as who the previous occupants were or history of tenants (and hopefully they are truthful and honest about it!).  A review of records can include a huge database of information, most typical sources include aerial photographs, fire insurance plans, insurance reports, waste records, MSDSs, and public records with the MOE, TSSA, and local Municipality (just to name a few).  The report itself is basically that.  All the findings that the assessor discovers is laid out into some form of a written report.  Like I mentioned before I’ve seen a wide range of interpretation of what is thought to be needed to be contained in these, some are 3-5 pages, some are over 1000 pages.  All of them have a conclusion though and that  is whether or not the property is or might be contaminated.

Generally at no point does a Phase One complete any intrusive soil or groundwater testing of a property.  And on many occasions the Phase One undergoes a review of the property’s assets to determine if there are any harmful building materials, such as asbestos, that might be of a concern.  Variations of the Phase One have been seen to include limited versions of these testing such as this but are not always normal practice.

For the sake of the reader I’d like to comment on the general cost and timeframe to complete a Phase One…but I don’t want to be misleading anyone so I make the caveat known that there are many factors that can affect the deliverable such as: where the property is, how big it is, how much history it has, how many records need to be reviewed, etc.  However, as a ballpark I’ve seen the median range (excluding the outliers) go anywhere from $1000 to $5000 for a standard Phase One and shouldn’t take any longer than a week to a month to complete.  I won’t comment on the time and costs for the regulated RSC version of the Phase One since there are so many factors in making those determinations (you can always email me offline if you are looking for some guidance with that).

As I mentioned before, what I like most about Phase Ones is their story that they tell.  I’ve read and written some that tell tales of gross negligence leading to the ugliest contamination…and I’ve read and written some that tell stories about legendary companies developing a piece of land to build their empire in industry and manufacturing, and how they toiled to clean up their land from their past activities, only to bury their dirty secrets somewhere safe in a landfill so no one will ever find them…If there is anything romantic or thrilling about environmental consulting…its the Phase One…I’m glad I was gifted with a good imagination or else it would make my day job pretty boring.