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The Commercial Property Development Processes Begins

  • In the United States, a phase 1 environmental site assessment is an official report prepared for an environmental holding that describes potential or existing environmental pollution liabilities. The report, usually called an ESA, usually only addresses physical issues with the property and the underlying soil. However, it may also include information on pollution sources, identify contaminants in the air and soil, or describe the effectiveness of current air quality and water quality controls.

    It is important to understand the meaning of each term within this phase 1 environmental site assessment phase. A primary term is defined as "recognized environmental conditions." These conditions must be recognized before construction and development can continue.

    An "include" is described as "a minimum of one year from the date of release of this report." The term "excluded" indicates that there must be an additional one-year period of review, based on the date of the final EA approval, for major modifications to the project. An "endorsed condition" is described as one or more of the major conditions listed in the identified environmental problems. The "condition referred to" refers to a condition that has been specifically modified by the EA. Any potential exception to an excluded condition is identified in the report.

    The "environmental consultant services" referred to in the phase 1 process is a portion of the total cost of preparing and submitting the EA. In most cases, an environmental consultant is used when no other alternatives have been identified. Some environmental consultants are used only in the final analysis and reporting of the EA. The cost of environmental consultants is one factor considered in the overall cost of the development project.

    An "impact analysis" is a subset of the environmental assessment. It describes the scope of the project including the direct and indirect effects on surrounding properties. The extent of the harm to the surrounding properties can be determined by analyzing soil, subsurface drainage, vegetation and architectural features. An "impacts analysis" is not required in most states, but is considered reasonable under the circumstances. An "impact analysis" provides a reasonable basis for determining whether the mitigation strategy is justified within the context of the current site-specific conditions.

    The next phase of the commercial property development process called the groundwater test is conducted. This analysis is typically performed in conjunction with the soil test. Perfume and airborne gases can be detected in underground water supplies. Air sampling can detect pollution in the air. A groundwater test will determine the concentration of hazardous substances in the ground that contribute to contamination of surface and groundwater.