Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment 24

Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment

This first step of environmental due diligence is a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment, or Phase 1 ESA Report. A Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment is a study of historical and current land-use. Additionally, a Phase 1 ESA Report can document the liability of a property undergoing a transaction. Furthermore, a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment evaluates risk using EPA standards. Moreover, ESA reports can serve to legally defend innocent landowners from unforeseeable environmental issues.

Local & National Bank-Approved

When environmental issues are discovered in a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment Report, conclusions can recommend soil testing. This process is a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessmentalso referred to as a Phase 2 Subsurface Investigation.

Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment 

Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment is a subsurface investigation comprised of field testing. The Phase 2 ESA process can include testing soil, soil gas, and/or groundwater. Furthermore, a Phase 2 Subsurface Investigation includes site maps and geophysical reports. Moreover, a Phase 2 ESA documents whether contamination exists or not, due to the recognized environmental conditions (also known as REC items) found in the Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment Report.

Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment & Pre-Purchase Requirements

In order to regulate the scopes of work for all Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment Reports across the country, the US EPA established the All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI) rule.  When Phase 1 ESA Reports qualify, they can provide the users of the report(s) with landowner liability protection. Additionally, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has produce a standard for conducting Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments.  The EPA’s AAI and ASTM’s E1527 standards comply with CERCLA’s Innocent Land Owner (ILO) defense for purchasers with unknown and undisclosed environmental concerns.

Landowners looking to qualify for CERCLA liability protection will require a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment Report which meets the standards mentioned above.  The Geo Forward team prepares all Phase 1 ESA Reports to meet the requirements of the EPA’s All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI), as well as the ASTM E1527-13.

A Phase 1 Environmental will Explore and Document the Earliest Available Records of Land Use

Phase I Environmental at Industrial Properties

Limited Versions of a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment

Sometimes a Phase 1 ESA report isn’t required. If liability protection is not required, a limited environmental site assessment report can be prepared instead for a lower cost.  Click here to learn about Limited Environmental Report Options.

Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment Reports funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) additionally follow standards by the Multifamily Accelerated Process (MAP 223[f]) and completion of Form 4128.

A Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment Includes a Review of Government Files

A Phase 1 Environmental Reviews Government Files

Scope of Work for Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments

Geo Forward Inc. is experienced in conducting Phase 1 ESA Reports for lending entities, investors, real estate developers, brownfields developers, public works agencies, real estate brokers, private parties, and more.  Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Reports are prepared by licensed professional geologists and engineers. Reports include (but are not limited to):

  • Job Site Visits;
  • Review of Historical Property Information;
  • Review of Regulatory Agency Files;
  • Analysis of Historical Photographs, Topo Maps & Permits;
  • A Review of Database Reports;
  • Study and Analysis of Geology and Hydrogeology;
  • Vapor Intrusion Risk;
  • Chain of Title;
  • Environmental Liens and/or Activity Use Limitations; and
  • Conclusions and Recommendations

Common Definitions – Phase 1 ESA Reports

A Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) refers to the presence or likely presence of any hazardous substance or petroleum product on a property under conditions that indicate an existing release, a past release, or a material threat of a release of any hazardous substances or petroleum products into structures on the property or into the ground, groundwater, or surface water of the property.  The term REC includes hazardous substances and petroleum products even under conditions that might be in compliance with laws.  The term is not intended to include “de minimis” conditions that do not present a threat to human health and/or the environment and that would not be subject to an enforcement action if brought to the attention of appropriate governmental agencies.

A Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition (CREC) refers to a Recognized Environmental Condition resulting from a past release of hazardous substances or petroleum products that has been addressed to the satisfaction of the applicable regulatory authority, with hazardous substances or petroleum products allowed to remain in place subject to the implementation of required controls.

A Historical Recognized Environmental Condition (HREC) refers to an environmental condition which would have been considered a REC in the past, but which is no longer considered a REC based on subsequent assessment or regulatory closure.

An Environmental Issue refers to environmental concerns identified by Geo Forward, which do not qualify as RECs; however, require discussion.


A Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment Includes a Review of Historical Aerial Photographs

Historical Aerial Photographs for a Phase 1 ESA

Upon the request of clients, Geo Forward can customize Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment formats for the preference of the reader(s).

For more information about environmental due diligence and the Phase I ESA process, please call (888) 930-6604 to speak with a licensed professional engineer,or geologist. 

Related Links

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Website

§312.20 All Appropriate Inquiries – United States Government Publishing Office

United States EPA – Innocent Landowners

American Society of Testing and Materials


Forward-Thinking Geologists, Engineers, and Contractors

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24 thoughts on “Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment

  • Jason Woodson

    Its helpful to read about the differences between an actual phase 1 environmental site assessment and the other limited report options. thanks for providing the links about all appropriate inquiry and innocent land owner defense laws.

    • Azad A. Kaligi, PG

      Hi Gregg. The Phase I ESA process for properties owned by any government entity (state, county, city, etc) is the same as it would be for a corner lot owned by a private party. In all cases, this process is required to follow the ASTM E1527 standards.

  • Steven Wade

    Does a phase one environmental report in Los Angeles cost differently than a site assessment report in Orange County? How about state to state?

    • Azad A. Kaligi, PG Post author

      Phase I Environmental Reports will pretty much be similar in pricing across most of southern California. And although the Phase I ESA process is practically the same across various states, costs can slightly differ depending on whether the property is rural or difficult to access for site reconnaissance.

  • Devin Palmer

    Can you prepare level 1 environmental site assessments for multiple parcels of land together? Or will there need to be a separate report for each parcel?

    • Azad A. Kaligi, PG Post author

      Absolutely. Geo Forward, Inc. offers Phase 1 ESA reports that are approved by all banks and financial entities across the nation. Each report is prepared under the guidelines of the ASTM and USEPA. Moreover, we are an approved environmental engineering consultant for most local banking groups too.

      Our team provides environmental reports for any/all financial institutions you are working with.

  • Aaron Cruz

    I called other companies that just put me through to clueless salesman (so annoying). One of them even claimed to be the “only company authorized by the bank” (which wasn’t true).

    At geo forward I actually spoke with the main engineer who signs off on these reports. I got real technical info in a free consultation. Authorization and payment was so easy for my clients, and the report came back even faster than expected. The bank approved the report and our loan.

    Thanks again guys!

    • Azad A. Kaligi, PG Post author

      Yes there are. Most consultants offer a “fast turnaround time.” This is usually about 5-business-days. Usually, local environmental regulatory agencies are not able to respond to file requests in such short notice. We generally don’t recommend rush Phase 1 Environmental Reports. The missing files are considered data gaps to the ASTM, EPA, CERCLA and AAI standards.

      The shortest time-frame we recommend for a Phase I ESA is 10-business days.

    • Azad A. Kaligi, PG Post author

      Mr. Bacette,

      Although rush reports can be done, we always advise against them because government agencies tend not to respond to file review requests in such short time frames. As a result of missing agency files, the environmental report would have “data gaps” and not meet ASTM standards.

      A standard turnaround time is generally advised to assure that ASTM and AIA requirements are accomplished in your Phase 1 ESA.

      Feel free to call us anytime for more information.

      Azad A. Kaligi, PG
      (888) 930-6604