Firms that perform a Phase 1 environmental site assessment (ESA) on a piece of property will provide a site assessment report that recaps their findings.
These reports contain a wealth of useful information. However, reading one for the first time can be a bit tedious. They include a lot of technical data and industry terminology that might not be relevant to all parties.
To help you find what you are looking for, we have created this guide to ESA reports. Below, we outline everything included in these reports. This outline will save you time and ensure you do not overlook important information.
What is Contained in a Site Assessment Report?
Generally, a site assessment report will include the following elements.
1. Executive Summary
The executive summary comes after the cover page and table of contents. It identifies the firm that performed the ESA. It also outlines who hired them and the location of the ESA. The summary has a brief property description as well.
This executive summary describes what phase ESA the firm conducted. It outlines what standards the firm followed to perform the ESA. This summary even lists the firm’s findings.
Want to get a quick overview of the contents of a site assessment report? If so, then go straight to the executive summary. The subsequent sections go much deeper into every aspect of the ESA process. This information is important to the buyer and seller in a commercial real estate transaction. However, it might not be relevant to the lender.
2. Scope of the Project
The next section covers the scope of the project. This segment of the report includes information like the ESA’s:
- Special terms
- Additional services
This section is not all that relevant to lenders. It is very important to clients as it explains the firm’s methodology during the ESA.
3. Site Location Data
Site location data provides basic details about the property. This section lists roads and other improvements on the land. It also lists adjoining properties and how the site is currently used. This section is usually relatively brief.
4. Information from Current and Past Users
A Phase 1 ESA firm will reach out to current property owners during their research. If possible, it will speak to past owners or lessees. It will document this information in the site assessment report.
Site assessors will document user-provided information like:
- Obvious signs of contamination
- Activities performed on the property
- General occupant and owner information
User-provided information can be quite helpful when it comes time to perform the Phase 1 ESA. If land users have found possible signs of contamination, assessors can focus their analysis on these areas of the property.
On that note, Phase 1 ESAs are only used to detect the presence of recognized environmental conditions (RECs). If RECs are found, then a Phase 2 ESA will be needed to determine the severity of the contamination.
5. Site History
The site history section is one of the most extensive parts of the ESA report. It includes general information gathered from property records. This section also includes historical information from past ESA. Data provided by current land users are listed in this section as well.
Each site history section includes several maps as well. Assessors will review documents such as:
- City directories
- Topographic maps
- Sanborn maps
- Aerial photographs
These files will reveal how much the land has altered over time. They can also reveal if structures were once on the property but no longer exist.
6. Physical Attributes
Phase 1 ESA reports include detailed data about a site’s attributes. This section will provide information on things like:
- Flood zones
You can use the above information to determine whether the site is at high risk of contamination. This contamination could come from nearby properties. It can also guide other remediation efforts in the future.
7. Site Reconnaissance Data
This section details the team’s findings during the on-premises assessment. The team will document findings such as:
- General observations
- Storage tanks
- Pools of liquid
- Steel drums
- Ponds or pits
- Stained soil
- Septic systems
- Solid waste
- Heating and cooling equipment
The on-site assessment is one of the most critical segments of the report. It details what was found and where it was located on the property. Assessors also include photographs of their findings in the report.
8. Findings and Conclusion
The final section of a Phase 1 ESA report includes the team’s findings and conclusions. They will summarize all RECs or other concerns discovered during the ESA. Recommendations also appear in this section.
If no RECs are found, the firm will probably not recommend a Phase 2 ESA. However, a Phase 2 ESA must be performed if any RECs are located. It will determine whether the site has been contaminated and to what extent.
Want to Learn More?
The above information will help you navigate ESA reports and find the needed data. However, reading site assessment reports is only one small component of environmental protection.
Fortunately, RSB Environmental can help you learn about Phase 1 ESAs, site reports, and other due diligence topics. You can browse our extensive content library to find valuable resources for commercial real estate brokers and investors.
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