Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment 2

Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment

A Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment is a direct test of the shallow subsurface materials at a property to screen for possible contamination. Typically, Phase 2 ESA testing parameters are a result of the environmental conditions and historical land-uses that come to light during a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment. Generally, a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment follows ASTM Standards. And the standards include drilling to achieve soil, groundwater and soil gas samples for contamination testing. Moreover, Phase 2 Reports can include laboratory analysis, custom site mapping, geophysical surveying using ground penetrating radar, indoor air quality testing, and complex vapor intrusion modeling for human health risk assessments. Updated April 26, 2019.

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For short, “Phase 2 ESA” typically refers to a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment. Often times, reports may have an alternative title, such as: “Phase 2 Subsurface Investigation.” Regardless of nomenclature, the objective of a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment is to investigate whether contamination exists at a property, based on the results of a prior Phase 1 Site Assessment Report.

Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment Drilling Using Direct Push Methodology

Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment Drilling via Direct-Push Rig

Phase 2 ESA Objective

Not all Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments lead to a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment. However, when a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) or any other environmental issues or conditions are identified, the need for a Phase 2 ESA becomes apparent. And a Phase 1 ESA is the prerequisite to a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment. Thus, without a valid Phase 1 ESA to base on, a subsurface investigation cannot hold the title “Phase 2.”

Drilling depths, sampling medias, sampling intervals, chemical analysis and more are all strategically based on the environmental concern being tested. For example, soil contamination testing for underground storage tanks typically require deeper drilling than the above ground storage tanks. And the laboratory analysis parameters are based on the chemical and physical properties of the stored content.

Phase II ESA Environmental Site Assessment Drilling via Hollow-Stem Auger

Phase II ESA Environmental Site Assessment Hollow-Stem Auger Drilling and Soil Sampling

Other factors, such as structural characteristics and more, also play a role in the Phase 2 ESA standard scope. For instance, a geophysical survey can be a requirement if the location or size of certain RECs are unknown. And this task of the assessment would have to be completed prior to drilling and sampling. 

Phase 2 Environmental Scope

Geologists and engineers must prepare entirely new scopes of work for each Phase 2 ESA. No two jobs are ever the same. The testing parameters are certainly always site specific, and custom for each property.  Some Phase II projects will also require a geophysical survey. Using ground penetrating radar, geophysicists can identify the precise locations of underground tanks, utility lines, pipelines, and more. Additionally, local regulations and standards pay a role in scope of work development. For instance, the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board has differing contamination standards than the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board or the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality.

Geologists and engineers also study the health risks in regards to the human exposure of contamination (if any). For example, small quantities of low-risk contaminants may be temporarily permissible in soil samples under certain conditions. On the other hand, they may not be. There are numerous pillars to this assessment. For instance, scientists compare peak concentrations to advisory levels. Furthermore, geologists analyze the lateral and vertical extent of contamination and evaluate possible migration pathways to public health receptors.

Similarly, toxicologists prepare air quality and inhalation risk models. With these methods and more, a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment provides reliable conclusions and recommendations for the report users.

Using Ground Penetrating Radar for a Geophysical Survey During a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment

Geophysical Survey Ground Penetrating Radar During a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment

Beware of Low-Price Phase 2 ESAs

Inaccurate and non-representative Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment results are typically a reflection of a suspiciously low sale price. Recent case studies have shown suspiciously low bidders dropping prices below reasonable rates, solely to win the attention of consumers on a budget. However, unknown to the consumer, the scope of work is also usually reduced below industry standards, in order to maintain a profit. This scenario renders the Phase 2 ESA essentially ineffective. For example, shallower drilling depths, fewer drilling locations, shorter geophysical survey time frames, and less laboratory analysis can make a difference of thousands of dollars. Although consequently, severe contamination and underground anomalies can also be missed due to the omissions.

Equally important to a proper scope of work, is proper quality of work. Usually, a low cost Phase 2 ESA also reflects on low quality service. For instance, laboratory equipment method detection limits can be greater than the minimum significant figures of regulatory agency standards. As a result, significant contamination could exist, without any detection by a laboratory’s testing equipment. The result could be faulty conclusions and recommendations and misleading information. 

Reliance Letters for Phase II ESA

Phase 2 ESA Reliance Letters allow other parties, such as financiers or investment groups, to legally rely upon the technical findings and conclusions of the site assessment report. This must occur during the lifetime of a valid Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment Report. Typically, this letter is jointly written for a Phase 1 ESA, as well as a Phase 2 ESA. A reliance letter does not serve as an update or modification to the technical report. The costs for an average Phase 2 Subsurface Investigation reliance letter can range between $500 and $800 dollars.

A Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment can Additionally Include the Analysis of Soil-Gas and Groundwater

Phase 2 Environmental Investigation Drilling

Geo Forward Phase 2 Environmental Reports are budget and scope optimized. And all scopes of work are prepared by a licensed geologist or engineer, per the ASTM Standard. Clients can also request to customize reporting formats for a Phase 2 Subsurface Investigation. For more information about Phase 2 ESAs, please call (888) 930-6604 to speak with a licensed professional engineer or geologist.

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2 thoughts on “Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment

  • Allstar Loan

    Our Phase I ESA says a Limited Phase II Environmental Site Assessment. What is meant by “Limited” Phase 2 Subsurface Investigation and does this include all the work on the property for the banks and EPA?

    • Project Geologist II Post author

      All Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessments are “limited subsurface investigations.” The word “limited” applies because a Phase 2 ESA does not actually intend to define the total lateral and vertical extent of contamination (if it exists). To do so, would be far too expensive. Instead, a Phase 2 ESA is an affordable best-practice approach. It’s just to test whether contamination exists or not, in the most-obvious locations. This is why Phase 2 Investigations only cost about $10,000 and up. On the other hand, if one were to request an all-inclusive subsurface investigation, the costs can be $100,000 and up.