In the United States, a site assessment is an official report prepared for a commercial real estate holding that outlines potential or existing environmental harm that would likely be presented if the real estate was constructed. The report, usually called an EA, usually covers both the physical property and underlying geology of the property. It can be used to determine the quantity and severity of the adverse effects, which will then affect the amount of compensation to be paid. Site assessments are typically used before major projects such as power plants and mines and are required in many instances where a public resource is affected. These types of assessments are the first step that a company must take when deciding whether or not to build their facilities on or near a potentially contaminated site.
An environmental site assessment does not always require the full-time attention of a full-time project manager. If a company is only looking to evaluate the geology and the compliance for local drinking water regulations in a given area, a geologist can perform the research in conjunction with a licensed attorney. In some instances, companies that are pursuing major construction projects on contaminated lands may find that hiring an engineer with a background in environmental law is better suited to the task. Regardless, of who performs the phase 1 environmental site assessment, once it is completed the team will need to make an impartial determination of the health and the safety of the people who will be living or working around the new building or facility.
First, the team will perform a site investigation to gather soil samples and collect air quality data. For each location that will be examined, the investigator performs the same type of sampling and documenting techniques to determine the presence of contaminants at the surface and subsurface. This data is then compiled and reviewed by the EPA to establish the severity of the potential for contamination at each proposed location.
The EPA uses two types of analytical methodologies in the phase 1 environmental reports. One method uses laboratory test results to detect both existing and future environmental liabilities. Other methodologies use a database to track pollution over a period of decades to establish how much pollution a property is exposed to on a daily basis. Both of these databases are maintained by the EPA in order to support any legal actions that may be taken against a company or property located in the United States.
After the team completes the first phase 1 environmental site assessment, the agency will prepare the next in the series, the EAIS. The EAIS is the second stage that is reviewed and will determine whether there are any environmental issues at the proposed site. The EPA uses the information gathered from the first stage to determine what steps need to be taken next. If problems are found during the EAIS, the EPA will determine what actions will be required next to correct the issues or to prevent them from happening in the future.
Phase 2 of the EPA EASA process identifies identified adverse environmental conditions, determines the extent of those problems and determines reasonable solutions to mitigate the risks. In order for a business to be considered as safe for human beings and the environment, the EPA must evaluate the impact of the activities conducted by the company in accordance with recognized scientific standards and reasonable assumptions about those risks. A commercial property is considered to have reasonable human-related and environmental risks when a company operates according to principles of ecological planning, when the site meets the criteria of the International Standard for Energy Policy (ISEP), when the operation has been consistently monitored for compliance since creation, or when the site has significant public visibility.