When hiring an environmental services provider, it is critical that you control several factors to keep costs down and arrive at results as fast as possible, without sacrificing quality. Four factors are critical to selecting the right provider to cost-efficiently succeed at a high-quality environmental site assessment (ESA). They include the following:
- Knowing what to test
- Avoiding over-testing
- Planning and researching properly
- Knowing site area & history
Knowing What to Test
Having a provider that knows what to test for enables you to effectively and cost-efficiently arrive at critical data to help inform your business decisions.
Certainly, the first phase of an ESA will involve in-person viewing of a site for recognized environmental conditions (RECs). A service provider should plan to combine this data with a Historical REC and Controlled REC to arrive at the likely testing activities that should take place in the Phase I ESA. Typical Phase I tests include the following:
- Physical, on-site visit to note current site conditions, such as chemical residue, vegetation die-back, existence of storage tanks for hazardous substances or petroleum products, and any other potentially hazardous site issues
- Evaluation of risks posed by neighboring properties
- Review of federal, state, local, and tribal records
- Interviews with anyone having knowledge of the site’s history
- Examination of municipal or county planning files for prior land usage and permits
- Searches of public agency databases (state water board, county health department, etc.) for past issues related to soil contamination or water quality
- Viewing of historic aerial photos of the site and its vicinity as well as USGS maps that provide topographical and drainage patterns.
- Examination of land use limitations and environmental Liens
Anything beyond the standard set of Phase I testing should be well explained so that you do not waste money on testing too much and for the wrong hazards.
Non-scope items in a Phase I ESA can include visual inspections or records review searches for the following:
- Asbestos-containing building materials (ACBM)
- Lead-based paint
- Lead in drinking water
- Threatened and endangered species
- Mercury poisoning
- Debris flow
- Earthquake hazard
- Vapor intrusion
But are any of these tests necessary? Your ESA services provider should justify why any of these should occur in Phase I.
Planning and Researching Properly
Your potential service provider should present to you a plan for approaching the Phase I ESA. In that plan, there should be cost estimates associated with each research and planning activity. For example, the research and planning may be a very brief document for a site that has never been developed and which is located in a rural area of Vermont. By contrast, the document may describe a prolonged research effort, followed by a complicated plan if the site under consideration were in downtown Chicago and has a 100-year history of development. As such, you need to ensure a service provider can provide the proper level of planning and research that is likely required for your site.
Knowing Site Area and History
Knowing a site’s area and history is critical to selecting the right environmental tests to properly characterize your property. Therefore, in most cases, you will want to select a service provider with longstanding service success in the local area of your site. Not only will they know more about a site’s history, they will have a better understanding of the context surrounding what they find on preliminary on-site inspections. For that matter, they will also know to test for hazardous substances that may not show up in a REC but which they know to likely exist based upon local experience.
In addition to local site knowledge, a firm with local experience will have experience navigating the historical records and departments within the relevant state, municipality, and town. This, along with thousands of dollars saved in travel for not using an out-of-state firm, can help reduce costs and time.
Finding an environmental services provider with local knowledge, context and a track record of proper planning is key to avoiding over-spending and unnecessary delays in your environmental assessment process.
Contact us if we can be of assistance.