ASTM International Approves Latest Revisions to Standard for Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process
ASTM International Committee E50 on Environmental Assessment, Risk Management and Corrective Action has issued the revised version of ASTM E1527, Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process, under the jurisdiction of Subcommittee E50.02 on Real Estate Assessment and Management.
ASTM E1527 describes the Phase I ESA process, a tool that is used to conduct research to identify the potential for releases of hazardous substances or petroleum products that could lead to liability to new property owners if not identified, evaluated, addressed and properly managed.
There are three primary sets of users for ASTM E1527:
- Initially drafted in 1993 to meet one of the requirements for a federal “innocent landowner defense,” ASTM E1527 was originally intended to be used by those buying commercial real estate. Federal legislation in 2002 expanded these federal liability protections to include “bona fide prospective purchasers” in an effort to facilitate commercial property transactions on properties where contaminants were known or expected to be present.
- The 2002 federal legislation also broadened the user group to include municipalities or quasi government agencies required to conduct an environmental site assessment as part of a brownfields grant.
- Lenders who finance commercial property transactions have found ASTM E1527 to be a valuable tool for evaluating and managing environmental risks as part of their overall loan considerations.
“Often, the Phase I ESA identifies legacy contamination, the potential for soil or groundwater impacts from activities conducted long ago,” says Julie Kilgore, president, Wasatch Environmental, Inc., chair, E50 and a former ASTM board member. “But as we move forward in a more sophisticated environment of managing risks from past releases, we as an industry are also creating what I call legacy remedies, which really means that since it’s often not economically viable to remove all past contamination, as a society we accept and acknowledge that some contaminants can remain in place as long as they are managed correctly.” Kilgore says that Phase I ESA serves to ensure that current and future property owners are aware of such legacy remedies and the associated obligations that go with them.
“It is important for a property owner to know that, for example, a day care or assisted living facility is not an approved use of certain properties,” says Kilgore. “Or perhaps there will be some soil, groundwater, or dust control management issues if a property owner wants to redevelop or build an addition.”
According to Kilgore, there were two primary principals that guided the recent revisions to ASTM E1527: to clarify language where there was inconsistency in interpretation and strengthen the deliverable that is produced at the end of the Phase I ESA process.
“The task group looked at terms that were often interpreted quite differently, often resulting in very different end results,” says Kilgore. “We also revisited terms that were being applied in a different context than was originally intended. In many cases, the variability in application was not necessarily incorrect, but led to confusion and inconsistency in how information was presented to the end user.”
Kilgore notes that the revisions that were approved by E50 do not change the process of conducting Phase I ESAs, but do clarify the framework, the thought process and the categorization options for the outcome.
ASTM E1527-13 is now published and available for purchase on the ASTM website. EPA has informed the committee that its process to reference the revised standard as compliant with “All Appropriate Inquiries” regulation should be finalized by the end of the year.
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ASTM Committee E50 Next Meeting: April 7-10, 2014, April Committee Week, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Technical Contact: Julie Kilgore, Wasatch Environmental Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah, Phone: 801-972-8400; email@example.com
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November 6, 2013