Why get a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment?
Let’s start in a novel place and take a walk down history lane before we learn what one is.
We all know what a “Superfund” site is? The most famous Superfund site is Love Canal. Someone made an environmental mess, and someone needs to be responsible for cleaning it up. Other Superfund sites are listed here.
Congress didn’t protest either, and in response to realizing that the United States was starting to have a problem with highly contaminated properties, they created the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, commonly known as Superfund).
One principal component of this act, extremely oversimplifying, is that if you contaminate a site, you’re on the hook for cleaning it up.
However, it’s not always that simple. Assume you purchase a site and find out later it’s contaminated. First, unfortunately for you, that means you didn’t get a Phase I done. Second, you’re reasonably wondering who’s going to clean up this mess?! Guess what, it’s your responsibility now.
That’s correct, if you didn’t go through the specific process of investigating the present and past uses of the property, and the potential presence of environmental contamination of the property, then YOU are responsible for the cleanup. That’s the way the law is written. As a result, you can’t fight it.
Without giving you legal advice, or getting in too deep into regulations, if your Phase I was administered in accordance with AAI standards (see below) you may not be responsible for clean-up costs at your location. Conducting a Phase I can provide you with some protection in this situation.
Meaning, you probably may not be liable for the cleanup.
So how do you avoid this? By getting a Phase I ESA.