Phase 1


An Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) is a report prepared for real estate holding that identifies potential or existing environmental contamination liabilities. 


The actual sampling of soil, air, groundwater and/or building materials is typically not conducted during a Phase I ESA. The Phase I ESA is generally considered the first step in the process of environmental due diligence. Standards for performing a Phase I site assessment have been promulgated by the US EPA and are based in part on ASTM in Standard E1527-13.

If a site is considered contaminated, a Phase II environmental site assessment may be conducted, ASTM test E1903, a more detailed investigation involving chemical analysis for hazardous substances and/or petroleum hydrocarbons

PHASE I will determine PHASE II

Common Reasons for an
Environmental Site Assessment

​In 1998 the necessity of performing a Phase I ESA was underscored by congressional action in passing the Superfund Cleanup Acceleration Act of 1998. This act requires purchasers of commercial property to perform a Phase I study meeting the specific standard of ASTM E1527: Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process

  • Purchase of real property by a person or entity not previously on title.

  • Contemplation by a new lender to provide a loan on the subject real estate.

  • Partnership buyout or principal redistribution of ownership.

  • Application to a public agency for change of use or other discretionary land use permit.

  • Existing property owner's desire to understand toxic history of property.

  • Compulsion by a regulatory agency who suspects toxic conditions on the site.

  • Divestiture of properties.

What Happens During an
Environmental Site Assessment
  • Performance of an on-site visit to view present conditions (chemical spill residue, die-back of vegetation, etc.); hazardous substances or petroleum products usage (presence of above ground or underground storage tanks, storage of acids, etc.); and evaluate any likely environmentally hazardous site history.

  • Evaluation of risks of neighboring properties upon the subject property

  • Review of Federal, State, Local and Tribal Records out to distances specified by the ASTM 1528 and AAI Standards (ranging from 1/8 to 1 mile depending on the database)

  • Interview of persons knowledgeable regarding the property history (past owners, present owner, key site manager, present tenants, neighbors).

  • Examine municipal or county planning files to check prior land usage and permits granted

  • Conduct file searches with public agencies (State water board, fire department, county health department, etc.) having oversight relative to water quality and soil contamination issues.

  • Examine historic aerial photography of the vicinity.

  • Examine current USGS maps to scrutinize drainage patterns and topography.

  • Examine chain-of-title for Environmental Liens and/or Activity and Land Use Limitations (AULs).