Environmental concerns have become an important factor in property acquisition. Standard practice for most commercial real estate transactions generally include some form of environmental due diligence. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has developed standards for determining potential risks from environmental liability associated with commercial real estate. In addition, the EPA has developed the All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI) rule (40 CFR Part 312 – Standards and Practices for All Appropriate Inquiries) that codifies environmental due diligence in a federal regulation.
The Ottery Group is experienced in the use of the various ASTM standard practices and can develop products that meet the technical standards as well as the specific needs of the client. The level of inquiry required will vary depending on the type of property involved in the transaction and the level of risk the user of the ESA is willing to accept. The Ottery Group can assist prospective purchasers or lenders in determining what level of inquiry will constitute good commercial and customary practice.
- Property Transfer Assessments
- Phase I Environmental Site Assessments
- Phase II Environmental Site Assessments
- Lead Paint and Asbestos Inspections
- Risk Assessments
- Regulatory and Compliance Assessments
- Services in Brownfield Redevelopments
A Property Transfer Assessment (PTA) is a preliminary review of a property to identify potential “red flags” that would indicate whether additional environmental inquiry is warranted. The PTA can be a useful tool for a quick and relatively inexpensive evaluation of large portfolios of properties. The PTA is not designed to establish a defense to CERCLA liability, however, it is an effective screening tool to determine whether further inquiry is necessary to assess environmental conditions on a property of interest.
A Phase I ESA is used to evaluate whether historic or current activities on a subject site have a potential to have resulted in contamination, or if possible contamination originating from off-site sources is likely to have resulted in an impact to the subject property. The Phase I ESA is a detailed investigation that is generally used for developing information regarding a property beyond the requirements for meeting the innocent landowner defense under CERCLA. While uncertainty is not eliminated, the Phase I ESA addresses a broad range of concerns to a great level of detail. ASTM is currently revising its E-1527 Standard to incorporate the requirements of the AAI rule.
Although ASTM Standards only address hazardous substances covered under CERCLA and some petroleum products, clients may request that other substances such as asbestos, lead-based paint, lead in drinking water, and radon be addressed in the Phase I ESA. There may also be environmental liabilities associated with local and state regulations not addressed in the standards. Additionally, sensitive environmental issues, such as wetlands and endangered species habitats, can cause future liabilities and constraints on development for the prospective purchaser. The Ottery Group works with our clients to ensure the environmental site assessment takes into account the specific issues related to the property transaction.
If potential environmental issues are identified on a property, a Phase II ESA may be conducted to confirm or refute the suspected presence of contamination. The Phase II ESA involves the collection and analysis of samples to document the presence or absence of regulated substances. Sources of such contaminants include underground storage tanks (USTs), aboveground storage tanks (ASTs), importation of contaminated fill soils, illegal dumping, and accidental surface spills. Sampling and analysis of soils and/or groundwater on a property can also be useful in establishing a baseline context for existing environmental conditions on a property at the initiation of a lease or as part of an exit strategy at the termination of a lease.
The Ottery Group has appropriately-certified and experienced technical staff and maintains various subcontractor relationships in order to provide a wide range of Phase II services to our clients, including:
- superficial soil and water sample collection and analysis
- subsurface soil investigation
- groundwater monitoring well installation, sampling, and analysis
- container (drum) sampling
- sampling of dry wells, floor drains, and catch basins
- transformer/capacitor sampling and wipe tests for PCBs
- geophysical surveys to identify buried tanks and drums
- asbestos surveys
- lead paint surveys
Asbestos and lead-based paint are significant environmental issues for building owners and property managers. If asbestos-containing materials or lead-based paint will be impacted during the renovation or rehabilitation of a building, a survey of the areas that will be affected should be conducted. The Ottery Group has extensive experience conducting lead paint and asbestos surveys and inspections for a wide variety of projects ranging from pre-lease hazard inspections associated with environmental due diligence, to pre-construction coordination with contractors performing work at sites containing lead paint or asbestos, to abatement oversight for projects that require remediation prior to renovation or rehabilitation projects. In addition, The Ottery Group has developed site-specific health and safety plans to protect site workers from exposure to lead dust and asbestos fibers during renovation or rehabilitation projects. The staff performing lead paint and asbestos inspection services are well-trained and certified/licensed to ensure that all work is completed in accordance with applicable state and federal regulations.
A Risk Assessment utilizes soil and groundwater data collected during a Phase II ESA, information concerning potential contaminant exposure pathways, and analysis of regulatory and health-based target concentrations for contaminants of concern to assess the overall impact of contamination discovered on a property. Risk Assessments may be used to evaluate potential exposure risks to site workers, evaluate potential remedial options, or to further clarify potential liabilities for cleanup costs. One key feature of a Risk Assessment is the identification of appropriate institutional and/or engineering controls to minimize potential health and safety risks associated with conditions identified during the Phase II investigation.
An Environmental Compliance Audit is a periodic review of operational facilities focusing on compliance with environmental laws and regulations, the level of achievement of the company’s environmental objectives, and the efficiency of the environmental management system. The environmental regulatory and compliance audit involves some of the elements of the ESA, but also documents the history of a site, permits, emissions data, past and current waste management practices, process flows, storage and handling of hazardous materials, known soil and ground water contamination, and environmental management on the site. The scope of work can also be expanded to other areas including environmental health and safety issues at a facility.
Brownfields are abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination. The Ottery Group staff has regularly been consulted on issues related to land-use planning and historic preservation during the planning phases of brownfield redevelopment projects. Our experience in preparing documentation for a wide range of natural resources, cultural resources, and environmental issues has resulted in a useful framework for addressing brownfield project planning. This allows for a well-rounded approach that focuses on a number of relevant issues that make a redevelopment project economically viable beyond the environmental remediation aspect of a project. As a full-service environmental consulting firm, The Ottery Group is uniquely suited to provide technical services that require expertise in multiple disciplines.