phase-1-esa-questionIndeed there is a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment. It comes into play if your Phase 1 ESA indicates lingering concerns about whether or not the property you’re considering for purchase is contaminated with hazardous substances or petroleum products. Phase 2 is the next step in determining the extent of contamination and – most important for you – assessing liability for remediation.

Whereas the Phase 1 ESA focuses on historical research, visual inspection and perhaps some basic scientific testing, Phase 2 focuses on the science — chemistry and environmental engineering issues. The point is to identify overall and, in particular, leachable contaminants such as volatile or semi-volatile organic compounds and inorganic compounds on the Resource Conservation & Recovery (RCRA) or other pertinent metals lists.

If your Phase 1 report indicates the need for further Phase 2 study, it will be more important than ever to hire a professionally qualified and experienced environmental engineering team to do the work.

Phase 2 studies could include:

  • Flow studies to understand migration of contamination.
  • Surface or subsurface soil sampling.
  • Surface water sampling.
  • Monitoring wells or using a Geoprobe vehicle-mounted hydraulic probing system to sample groundwater.
  • Vapor sampling.
  • Dust sampling.
  • Using underground injection well sampling to test leaching pools.
  • Geophysical surveying using ground penetrating radar to discover if there are buried tanks or drums or other subsurface physical issues.
  • Additional tests required by New York’s State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES).

Phase 2 costs more.

The Phase 1 ESA is relatively inexpensive. Cost to conduct a Phase 2 ESA generally ranges between $5000-$20,000, but it could go as high as a half-million dollars. It all depends on the Phase 1 findings – the number of conditions identified and their scope —  and how extensive the follow-up testing needs to be.

Phase 2 is sometimes referred to as the “testing phase” since its role is to more clearly determine whether subsurface problems exist in the soil or groundwater. Additional testing may show that no problems exist that would create liability for you as the new property owner. But if contamination is confirmed, that could result in a large escrow requirement or it could cause your lender to decline funding for your purchase. And it might also result ongoing regulatory reporting.