What Does an ASTM Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (Ph. 1 ESA) Include?

The two items that will save any non-residential real estate buyer money are a low interest rate on the mortgage and a thoroughly performed Phase I ESA.  The Phase I ESA for all practical purposes can save more money than shopping interest rates as a Phase I can find that $$$$$$$-eating environmental problem (Recognized Environmental Concern) BEFORE you pay (too much) for the property. Note that a Phase 1 ESA does not substitute for an environmental review record, but may satisfy HUD site contamination and toxic substances review elements in a federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review.

The form and content of any Ph. 1 ESA will follow the form and content outlined in ASTM standard E 1527-05

A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) is meant to identify the potential for contamination of a site by hazardous or toxic materials and to identify other possible environmental constraints on the site.  It is not meant to be a detailed, comprehensive investigation based on quantitative or qualitative analytical data.  No environmental sampling and analysis will be performed under the normal Phase I scope of work.  The results of the Phase I ESA will be used to determine whether or not further study (such as a Phase II ESA) is warranted, based on the background information gathered and the results of the site inspection.  To obtain and develop the information required for the Phase I ESA of the property in a timely and efficient manner, the scope of work shown below is needed, subject to minor additions and deletions, as indicated by the availability, relevancy, and adequacy of the background information, and by best professional field judgment.

Task 1 Off Site Review

A.        Identify the city, county and state where the site is located.

B.        Obtain and review current Federal and State databases of suspected and confirmed contaminated sites within the zip code of the site, or within a minimum of one (1) mile, including the following:

1.    NPL [Superfund], FINDS [EPA’s Facility Index System], CERCLIS, RCRA, Open Dump Site listings, ERNS [Emergency Response Notification System], and the State Priority List, UST Facility Information, and Solid Waste  Facility Information listings.  State and local agencies will be contacted as necessary to determine if environmental monitoring or enforcement activities, investigations or claims are or have occurred on or near the site, and if industrial or waste water discharges to surface waters occur near the site.

2.    Scope of relevant minimum search distances:

  • Federal RCRA Generators List Property/Adjoining Prop.
  • Federal Institutional Control/Engineering Control Registries Property Only
  • Federal Emergency Response Notification System (ERNS) List Property Only
  • State- and Tribal-Equivalent NPL 1 Mile
  • State- and Tribal-Equivalent CERCLIS 0.5 Mile
  • State and Tribal Landfill and/or Solid Waste Disposal Site Lists 0.5 Mile
  • State and Tribal Leaking Storage Tank Lists 0.5 Mile
  • State and Tribal Voluntary Cleanup Sites 0.5 Mile
  • State and Tribal Brownfield Sites 0.5 Mile
  • State and Tribal Registered Storage Tank Lists Property/Adjoining Prop.
  • State and Tribal Institutional & Engineering Control Registries Property Only

C.      1.           Indicate other agencies contacted, the name of the person contacted, and the information obtained.

2.           State the name and address of any listed facility found to be within one mile of the site.  Based on the search, indicate the distance and direction from the site to these facilities.

Task 2 Past Uses of the Site and Surrounding Land

A.        Review title information of the property (provided at Client’s expense), and Sanborn Maps, if available, to obtain information on past uses of the property possibly pertaining to the storage, treatment or disposal of hazardous substances.

B.        Interview the current owners, employees, neighbors, government officials etc., regarding present and previous uses of the property and surrounding area, to a reasonable extent.  Indicate the name of the contact and information obtained.

C.        Examine readily-available historical aerial photographs and/or maps for indications of historical uses of the property, and for any evidence of potential on-site contamination, such as dumping or land filling.

D.        Investigate whether the site or surrounding land within a one (1) mile radius of the site is being or has been used for any of the following purposes:

 1.        Agricultural (may be indicative of pesticide or herbicide used).

 2.        Landfill.

 3.        Tank/drum/equipment storage.

 4.        Industrial/manufacturing facility (type).

 5.        Oil/gas exploration.

 6.        Chemical/petroleum or waste storage/processing/ injection wells.

 7.        Military installations.

 8.        Fill areas.

 9.        Quarries/sand and gravel extraction.

E.         Investigate whether there are or have been any storage tanks on the site and, where possible, what was stored in them.  If possible, determine the age and the capacity of the tanks and whether a suspected release from the tanks has been reported. Determine if any existing tanks are in compliance with applicable tank laws and regulations.

Task 3 Present and Proposed Use of Property/Surrounding Land

A.        Provide a Site Location Map of the area using a USGS Quadrangle Map with the site clearly identified.

B.        Identify any land within one (1) mile of the site that is indicated or proposed as a permitted landfill, hazardous waste, or solid waste facility.  If so, determine potential for environmental impact on the site.

C.        Determine if there is evidence that water wells, in use or abandoned, exist on the property.  Indicate if they are the primary source of drinking water.  Specify the present and proposed method of supplying drinking water.

D.        Determine the present or proposed method of sewage disposal, whether public or private.  Determine if a septic system, abandoned or in use, exists on the site.

E.        Provide a preliminary hydrogeological characterization of the site by reviewing soil survey maps, geological maps, topographical maps, flood plain maps and data, and any other pertinent data available for the property and its vicinity.

Task 4 Walking Inspection of Site’s Property

A.        A qualified Environmental Professional will conduct a walking inspection of the property in order to determine whether any of the following were discovered:

 1.        Discolored or disturbed soil areas.

 2.        Areas of sparse, sick or dead vegetation.

 3.        Drums or storage tanks (note type).

 4.        Discolored or polluted water; unusual or noxious odors.

 5.        Groundwater monitoring wells.

 6.        Floor drains.

 7.        Roads with no apparent outlet or purpose.

 8.        PCB containing transformers within structures or on power poles and lighting ballasts in older buildings.  Other potential PCB containing    material, such as soil near current or former railroad tracks.

 9.        Maintenance practices and hazardous materials handling procedures.

10.       Any storage of significant quantities of potentially hazardous chemicals, including herbicides and/or pesticides.

11.       Potential use of lead based paint.

12.       Potential wetlands and flood plains.

B.        Provide documenting photographs/ written results of interviews with anyone knowledgeable that was contacted during a site visit.

Task 5 Final Report

A.        Review the data developed from the field reconnaissance, agency contacts and records for technical accuracy and corroboration.  Analyze and assemble the data into a final report stating conclusions and recommendations either that no further study of the site be undertaken or that a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment be initiated.

B.        Determine whether there are any unique environmental factors, observations, or aspects of the site history which would justify further investigations.

The report will detail the information obtained from the site research.

It should be noted that a warranty on the environmental condition of the site cannot be provided, nor a guarantee of any kind.  The report provided will represent professional opinion based upon the information disclosed by the Client and available in public records, together with the application of standard scientific field investigation methods.  It must be recognized that at the completion of the Phase I ESA, there may be unresolved issues regarding the possible contamination of the site, or the potential presence of suspect materials.  Based upon preliminary findings of the Phase I study, the Client will be immediately informed by letter of any suspect or unusual conditions which may result in a recommendation for further study.

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How many human generations have passed?

The last common ancestor (LCA) between humans and their closest genetic relatives, Chimpanzees and Bonobos, is found roughly a quarter million generations ago, estimated by Richard Dawkins to occur between 5 and 7 million years ago. The first species of the genus Homo to appear distinct from other apes is found about 2.5 million years ago. The first Homo sapiens appeared about 160,000 years ago (and using other assumptions a distinctly “modern human” with the same faculties we humans share today could be found walking about 50,000 years ago). “Our” record of civilization extends back to three isolated language groups, the Indus (Mehrgarh and Lahore city-states), the Elam (Susa city-state), and the Sumer (Ur city-state), which all traded one with another beginning only about 250 generations ago. The most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of humans alive today, which by fecundity crowded out many other humans that lived with it, appeared 2000 to 4000 years ago, which averages to about the past 100 human generations.

During the last 1500 years and before the advent of birth control, the average period between generations has been 30 years. This is known from accurate genealogical records. It is calculated by dividing the number of generations into the years elapsed. I’m sorry we don’t have a reference to publish for this. It is borne out by an author’s own genealogical work with numerous lines over 10 generations and the lineage of an acquaintance who was descended from Mohammed (his was 29.5). Also, many other genealogical results fall close to 30 years per generation. To use another tiny sample, from my own Grandpa’s birth in 1905 to my birth in 1962, two new generations consumed 28.5 years each. If I were somehow late in life to produce a child in 2018, let’s see, that would throw off my family’s average to 36 years each for three generations. But you can see how, over many generations, the years between generations average about 30.

Using 30 years per generation, Homo appeared distinct 83,000 generations ago and Homo sapiens appeared 5,300 generations ago, with fully modern humans appearing just 1,666 generations ago, and the roots of western civilization (from the Euphrates to the Indus rivers) developing 250 human generations ago.

I believe it remains an open question as to whether other stable periods of suitable climate produced other unknown, and possibly technological tropical human civilizations during those long years that ramped up the last ice age or during its stable maximum, or even during the previous warm period and prior ice age that preceded it. If such occurred, they apparently had better energy alternatives than to exploit fossil carbon fuels, or perhaps found them too inaccessible from civilization centers at the time, all of which would have been located in the tropics of a 5 degree C cooler Earth near their earlier, lower shorelines than the one humans experienced during the Holocene age. To search for possible ice age civilization(s), we would need to look near major river mouths to evidence buried beneath the sea on the order of 10,000 years ago located at a current depth of around 400 feet. It is worth pointing out that a millennium from now our own descendants will have to search for the remains of our current civilization’s great centers at rest beneath up to 212 feet of seawater that increasingly inundated coastal communities until the last Antarctic icecap disappeared and climate stabilized at a global temperature five or six degrees C higher than today’s. The long dinosaur ages occurred during that kind of climate, when no sea ice or glaciers were able to form for hundreds of millions of years. However, the amount of free oxygen in the atmosphere from the previously overgrown Carboniferous age was higher back then helping to make such great and terrible animals possible.

But what of commonly read records of ancient civilizations? Hebrew biblical records seem to owe much to Babylon’s preservation of a Sumerian Kings List. The Sumerian Kings List appears to reach back to the Rissian Stage glacial, a date contemporary with some of the earliest Indian paleoart and ostrich shell disc beads from Lake Fezzen in today’s Libya. The earliest record in the Sumerian Kings List is that of Alulim of Eridug, noting that “after the kingship descended from heaven” (perhaps meaning came down from the mountaintop refuge used by survivors of the prior ice age meltdown?) “it was in Eridug.” Though it is dismissed as mythical by today’s scientists, a literal reading places the historical era of Eridug as the ruling Sumerian city according to the Kings List extended from about 263,792 years ago to 198,992 years ago, a period of around 64,000 years. Did Alulim live and rule for 64,000 years? Hardly possible, but just as we remember the early years of the United States from 1776 to 1812 to be dominated by its first President, war hero George Washington, perhaps the people of Sumer remembered their earliest history to have been dominated by Alulim in Eridug. This may have been a dynastic reign, but I doubt that too, knowing how much world history can happen in only the short 7,500 years within which “our” civilization incubated from agriculture to driving to the moon and Mars. Instead I would propose that the earliest events in a history become compressed and associated with the most memorable story from those times. For instance, regarding the 239-year history of the United States, I would recall that its early days are remembered for George Washington winning the American Revolution up to the time of the 1812 War with Great Britain, and then Abraham Lincoln fighting an American Civil War that filled the 19th Century, and then the World Wars’ Roosevelt’s and the post-war Kennedys’ Camelot-like American (20th) Century when a fearfully nuclear-armed USA dominated its world. Then its detailed modern history ensued with a long War in Iraq and constant fears about terrorism and a slow decline of its empiric fortunes and power. Such a synoptic view of history would seem more common the farther back the memory ranges.