Houses for Sale

What Is an Environmental Site Assessment?

Are you searching for an empty plot of land to build on? Before you finalize anything, it is a good idea to perform an environmental site assessment. This is to verify that you aren’t taking on a property that will come with expensive issues or endanger the environment.

The Benefits of an Assessment

Once you own a property, you are responsible for any issues that arise. This includes the safe cleanup of toxic substances found in the land after purchasing. Also, if you decide to sell the property at a later date and the new buyer performs an assessment, you will have to pay for the cleanup since you are the owner. This is why it is a good idea to find out what the condition of the land is before you agree to buy anything. An environmental assessment will let you know whether the soil is contaminated or if any water sources are polluted. Performing the assessment will give you leverage with the seller and you can request that they fix the problem before you agree to buy. If the problem is too large, you can always search elsewhere for land.

Who Performs It?

An environmental assessment is usually performed by an EPA (environmental engineering company). There are different phases of assessments depending upon your preference and needs. A Phase one assessment is the most frequently requested and is sufficient for most plots of land. The engineer will utilize a combination of past data and their own observation to determine the chances that there are any harmful substances on or near your land. If anything is found, it will likely be recommended that you perform a phase two assessment.

The Process Engineers will first take a look at the overall physical state of the land. They will take a walk through the property to see if there is anything that could be evidence of the presence of chemicals or other contaminants left by the previous owner. The engineer will look into the records of the land’s prior use to see if there is any reason for concern. For instance, if the land was once a chemical plant, there would most likely be a phase two assessment to gain further insight. The assessment will also take into account the federal and state environmental databases. These will reveal any sort of incidents that have occurred on the land or any violations in the past.

The database could reveal that there was a toxic spill in the past, in which case you would need to dig further to find out whether or not the owner at that time did a proper cleanup job. It would also be a good idea to test the soil for residual toxins. It is very common for engineers to interview other people who have owned the property during a phase one assessment. At times, not all information can be gathered from the historical records. It is often much more productive to speak with someone who has owned the property before since they have hands-on experience. During the assessment, the engineer will also evaluate the site plans and take aerial photos to help spot issues not immediately noticeable up close.

How to Understand Your Report

Your report will be a summary of any issues that came up during the assessment. It will also include how the engineer recommends you handle those issues in order to achieve the best results moving forward. It might be hard to absorb the terminology in the report, so it is a good idea to reach out to an environmental lawyer or the company that performed your assessment so they can go over your results with you and make sure you understand everything.

Phase 2 Assessment

If necessary, you might need to have a phase two assessment done. This is a more in-depth look into the water supply, soil, and air quality on the property. Also, anything found in phase one that needs more clarification will be looked into as well. After taking samples of the soil, water, and air, there will be tests done to determine whether or not any further action needs to be taken.

Make it a Contingency When negotiating your contract, it is a good idea to try to include an environmental assessment as a contingency. This means that you have the right to get an assessment done before closing and if any issues arise, either the seller will pay for them or you can get your deposit back if you opt to back out of the deal. In order to write up a proper contingency clause, you should reach out to a real estate lawyer for assistance on the matter.

It is very risky and potentially quite costly to buy land without knowing what might come with it. Paying a little bit of money out of pocket upfront to be aware of any issues will be worth it in the long run.