If you’re considering purchasing real property, caveat emptor. A Phase 1 site assessment can help protect you.
The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 and 2002 “Brownfields Amendments” significantly changed landowner liability with regard to real property transactions. The “innocent landowner defense” protects from liability owners that can show they had no reason to believe their property was contaminated.
The rules apply to commercial and industrial property, but also residential real estate. Performing a professional assessment up front can minimize risk of acquiring liability along with the property. In fact, most lenders require at least the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) portion of an “all appropriate inquiry.”
The point of a Phase 1 site assessment is to determine existence of:
A Phase I site assessment follows this process:
Phase I site assessments are relatively low-cost to perform, they provide early identification of potentially expensive problems such as underground storage tanks or prior usage concerns, and you don’t have to report findings to any regulatory authority. However the process can take two or three weeks and it’s not designed to cover every possible contingency.
Most important, although Phase 1 work can be performed by an uncertified investigator, hiring an experienced professional engineering firm will ensure your Phase 1 results are beyond question. Anything less could leave you at risk.