Updates to Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Standards

The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) Committee on Environmental Assessment, Risk Management and Corrective Action (ASTM Committee E-50) released an updated set of guidelines known as “E1527-21-Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (Phase I ESA) Process,” in November 2021. E1527-21 is a revised version of the previous set of guidelines, E1527-13. Anticipated changes to ASTM E1527-21 were outlined in Walden’s blog published in July 2021.

 

What is the purpose of the ASTM E1527 Phase I ESA?

The purpose of a Phase I ESAs is to evaluate potential Recognized Environmental Conditions (RECs) at a site. A REC is defined as “the presence or likely presence of any hazardous substance or petroleum products in, on, or at a property.”  RECs can be caused by past or current releases, or if there is an impending release at a property. If RECs are present at a site, additional investigation may be warranted. Phase I ESAs are an important step in a real estate transaction’s due diligence phase, and can provide liability protection to property purchasers or owners.

 

What are the key updates made to the E1527-21 Standard?

The new E1527-21 Standard aims to indicate the potential presence of a hazardous substance in a more tangible manner, by modifying the second aspect of a REC from an indicated release to an actual or likely release at a subject property. The new E1527-21 Standard includes Appendix X4, which establishes the differences between RECs, historically recognized environmental conditions (HRECs) and controlled recognized environmental conditions (CRECs). Appendix X4 also provides an updated report format to achieve a well-rounded Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Report.

 

Other propounded revisions in the E1527-21 Standard are as follows:

  • Consistent usage of the term “Subject Property”: With a motive to enable clarity and consistency for readers of a Phase I report, the E1527-21 Standard recommends the use of the term “Subject Property” throughout the report when referring to the site or property that is being investigated.
  • Viability of an E1527-21 Phase I Report: The E1527-21 Standard indicates that the Phase 1 report will remain active if it was completed no more than 180 days before the date of acquisition. After 180 days, the interview, lien search, review of government records and site survey sections may be updated and signed off on by an environmental professional, for up to one year.
  • Requirement to use Standard Historical Sources: E1527-21 requires aerial photographs, fire insurance maps, local street directories and historical topographic maps to be consulted in the preparation of a Phase I. If these four resources are not reviewed, a statement justifying their omission must be included in the report.
  • Use of Additional Standard Historical Resources: The E1527-21 Standard mandates that additional ASTM Standard Historical Resources, such as building department records, property tax files, interviews, and zoning/land use records, be reviewed if they can possibly determine a more specific use of the site, and are reasonably ascertainable.
  • Historical RECs (HREC): An HREC is defined as a previous release of hazardous substance or petroleum products impacting the subject property, which has been resolved to the satisfaction of the applicable regulatory authority. The subject property meets the unrestricted use criteria, and does not need any controls. The E1527-21 Standard mandates that the Environmental Professional evaluate the past closure of a contaminated site and the environmental assessment data associated with the closure to confirm that the assessment meets current standards for unrestricted use.
  • Clarifications on REC, HREC and CREC: The E1527-21 Standard includes a Simplified REC Logic flow chart that elucidates on how to differentiate between a REC, HREC, and CREC. A CREC is defined in the E1527-21 Standard as an environmental condition of the subject property wherein hazardous substances or petroleum products are regulated by controls to levels considered satisfactory by regulatory authorities.
  • Interviews: E1527-21 requires that interviews concerning the historical use of the subject property be conducted by the preparer with knowledgeable persons at the subject property, adjoining properties and surrounding area,
  • Emerging Contaminants: The E1527-21 Standard provides guidance to environmental consultants on including emerging contaminants, such as PFAS, in their scope of work when conducting Phase 1 ESAs, until such time that an emerging contaminant is regulated as a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) hazardous substance. The E1527-21 Standard includes also a provision to categorize emerging contaminants as a “Non-Scope Consideration” in the Phase 1 ESA, until such time that the user of the Phase 1 wishes the environmental consultant to consider emerging contaminants in their scope of work. This provision is important as it avoids redundancy of regulations in states that have already adopted regulatory standards for emerging contaminants.
  • Significant Data Gaps: As per the E1527-21 Standard, a significant data gap can occur if an insufficient amount of information is provided about a release or likely release of a hazardous substance or petroleum product at the subject property. A data gap can also occur if the potential release of a hazardous substance has not been appropriately addressed by regulatory authorities. If a significant data gap occurs, an explanation on the effect of the data gap in classifying a REC must be provided in the Phase 1 report.
  • Inclusion of Maps/Photographs: The E1527-21 makes it clear that photographs and a subject property map must be included in all Phase 1 ESA Reports. The subject property map must depict the boundaries of a property. The photographs must include major site features and locations on the subject property that are considered RECs. Additionally, the photographs must show conditions that aren’t harmful to the environment and generally do not require any regulatory controls.

 

What is the status of the E1527-21 Standard?

ASTM has submitted the new E1527-21 Standard to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the agency’s review, which is anticipated to take up to one year. In the meantime, Walden is prepared to apply the ASTM E1527-21 standard in its Phase I reports. Does a property you are purchasing or selling need an ESA? Contact Walden today at 516-559-6976.

 

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