FAQ: What are Phase I ESAs?  Phase II and Phase III?

What are Phase I Environmental Site Assessments? How do they differ from a Phase II and Phase III Report

What are Phase I ESAs?

Customers often ask us:  What are Phase I ESAs, aka Phase I Environmental Site Assessments?

An Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) is a report prepared for a property to identify potential or existing environmental contamination liabilities. The analysis addresses both the underlying land as well as physical improvements to the property. The examination of a site includes the definition of any chemical residues within the structures. These may include the possibility of asbestos-containing materials, inventory of hazardous substances stored or used on-site, assessment of mold or mildew, lead-based paint, and a competent historical background on the subject properties and surroundings. The Phase I ESA is generally considered the first step in the process of due diligence.  Subsequently, the government may require a Phase II ESA if a site is contaminated.

Techniques applied in the Phase I ESA never include the actual collection of material samples or chemical analyses of any kind.  At the Phase I stage, the examination of the land consists of reviewing potential soil contamination, groundwater quality, surface water quality, and sometimes issues related to hazardous substance uptake.  The examination of a site may include, for example, the determination of any chemical residues within structures; identification of possible asbestos-containing building materials; inventory of hazardous substances stored or used on-site; assessment of mold and mildew; and evaluation of other indoor air quality parameters.

What is a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment?

A Phase II Environmental Site Assessment is also known as a Subsurface Investigation.  The Phase II Environmental Site Assessment is an investigation that collects samples of soil, groundwater, or building materials to find the levels of various contaminants. This investigation is done when a Phase I ESA indicates the likelihood of site contamination.

What is a Phase III Environmental Site Assessment?

A Phase III Environmental Site Assessment is an investigation of a site’s remediation. The purpose of Phase III is to outline the physical extent of contamination based on recommendations made in the Phase II report.  Phase III is a remedial device using the most recent studies and modeling programs detailing alternative cleanup methods.  The costs and logistics for the most effective restoration systems available today for the clean up of impacted soil and groundwater are considered.

Environmental remediation deals with removing pollution or contaminants from soil, groundwater, sediment, or surface water for the general protection of human health and the environment.  Remediation is generally subject to many regulatory requirements.  Additionally, it can be based on assessments of human health and ecological risks where no legislated standards exist or where standards are advisory.

What is Environmental Engineering?

Environmental engineering is applying science and engineering principles to improve the environment (air, water, and/or land resources).  It also provides healthful water, air, and land for human habitation and other organisms and is useful for remediating polluted sites. Adverse environmental effects can be decreased and controlled through public education, conservation, regulations, and sound engineering practices.  Pollutants, for example, may include chemical, biological, thermal, radioactive, or even mechanical. Environmental engineering emphasizes several areas.  For example process engineering, environmental chemistry, water and wastewater treatment (sanitary engineering), waste reduction/management, and pollution prevention/cleanup.