Environmental Audits & Site Assessments
EM Strategies is an environmental consulting company skilled in evaluating properties for contamination by hazardous or toxic substances. We base our findings on direct observations, sampling and analysis programs, or secondary information obtained during any given environmental investigation.
Existing federal and state environmental laws have placed substantial liability on buyers and sellers of properties contaminated by hazardous or toxic substances.
Similarly, lending institutions (or other entities with a potential interest in secured or unsecured properties who may foreclose on or otherwise assume operational control of contaminated properties) could be made financially liable for the clean-up of said properties, whether or not they contributed to the contamination or not.
Prior to the calculation of property or estate taxes, trustees and managers of estates also have a vested interest in obtaining an accurate assessment of an estate potentially contaminated with hazardous or toxic substances.
EM Strategies has the experience and technical expertise to help our clients minimize the costs and risks associated with contamination.
Phases of Property Evaluation: Phase I
Properties are typically evaluated in phases, beginning with a Transaction Screening Investigation for visual or agency listed evidence of potential contamination on the property.
If the Transaction Screening Investigation identifies an issue of concern, or if sufficient information is not available to eliminate a potential issue of concern, then a Preliminary (Phase I) Property Site Assessment for visual or historic indications of potential contamination would be conducted.
If a Phase I Property Site Assessment does not identify existing or historic evidence of contamination, the site assessment is usually concluded without further investigation.
Phases of Property Evaluation: Phase II
However, if evidence of potential contamination exists, then additional investigation may be recommended, including second-phase sampling and analysis programs or more rigorous historic and agency record investigations (Phase II Property Site Assessments).
Phases of Property Evaluation: Phase III
If Phase II investigations confirm the presence of hazardous substance contamination, then further assessment and site remediation (Phase III) are typically recommended either to be completed prior to closing the property transfer transaction, or to be adequately provided for in the evaluation of the property.
EM Strategies also provides environmental consulting services to facilitate timely and cost-effective assessment of properties. Among these services are technical reviews of third-party consultant reports (Environmental Record Reviews) and comprehensive reviews of client facilities and operations for compliance with environmental regulations and permits (Environmental Audits).
We recognize the importance of adapting our services to meet the unique requirements of our clients.
Environmental auditing has emerged as an important and integral part of environmental management systems.
Audits serve as a management tool to help measure a facility or company’s environmental performance against environmental regulations, as well as internal company policies and operational procedures.
In addition, environmental audits can provide a level of assurance to senior management that the activities at their facility or organization do not pose an unreasonable risk to the company or the environment.
The process can assist a corporation and its officers in limiting liability by identifying potential problems and recommending corrective actions.
The auditing process is designed to:
- Verify compliance with corporate environmental requirements;
- Evaluate the effectiveness of existing environmental management systems; and
- Assess risks from regulated and unregulated materials and practices.
Environmental audits are also typically performed prior to acquisition of an operating business.
As part of an environmental audit, EM Strategies can evaluate a facility’s regulatory compliance status and advise corrective actions. The regulatory compliance aspect of the environmental audit includes:
- A detailed walk-through inspection of the facility;
- Review of all environmental records made available from the client;
- Review of applicable management practices, federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations, and standards; and
- Interviews with persons responsible for implementing the environmental programs on site.
Specific components of a typical EM Strategies Environmental Audit, which are based upon these elements, include:
- Summaries of the items reviewed;
- Discussion of environmental issues and audit results including historic and potential problems and noncompliance areas; and
- Recommendations for actions which would bring the facility into regulatory compliance and resolution of environmental problems.
After the initial environmental audit, EM Strategies can perform periodic audit updates to assist in keeping the facility in regulatory compliance, or undertake supplemental activities necessary to bring the facility into regulatory compliance.
Environmental Record Review (ERR)
Third-party environmental documents are frequently submitted to our clients. These documents may present complex findings, incomplete documentation, or conclusions for further investigation or site remediation.
EM Strategies can interpret the technical findings and evaluate adequacy of the documents with respect to the concerns or interests of our clients.
One frequently requested peer review service provided by EM Strategies is an Environmental Record Review (ERR). An ERR includes a review and written summary of third-party environmental reports to provide our clients with an independent opinion of technical adequacy and findings of the reports.
We give particular attention to evaluating evidence of hazardous or toxic substance contamination.
The ERR typically includes a chronology of significant findings, a summary of identified issues or potential problems, recommendations for further investigation or causes of action, and a statement defining the limitations and assumptions of the analysis.
Transaction Screening Investigation
A Transaction Screening Investigation is usually undertaken to provide a scoping level of environmental assessment for virtually all property transfer transactions.
A Transaction Screening Investigation may also be initiated when a client has made a preliminary determination that the value of the property or other circumstances contraindicate initiating a full Phase I Property Site Assessment unless sufficient cause for further investigation can be demonstrated.
Findings of the Transaction Screening Investigation report may dictate that a Phase I Property Site Assessment is required or may provide sufficient information that a lender may decide to discontinue further environmental assessment activities.
In some circumstances, Transaction Screening Investigation reports may be appropriate for updating earlier Phase I Property Site Assessments to confirm that conditions have not substantively changed on a given property.
The scope of services for a typical Transaction Screening Investigation includes a site inspection; review of historical information from site records; and preparation of a written technical report with findings of the investigation, as well as conclusions and recommendations for further investigation – if necessary.
Although requirements for individual site studies vary, and supplemental assessment activities may be prescribed by individual clients, minimum standards have been established by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for a Transaction Screening Investigation (E 1528-96, Transaction Screen Process).
The Transaction Screening Investigation specifically would not include:
- Review of historic property ownership records;
- Review of historical aerial photographs and city directories;
- Communications with agencies for available records of past spills, discharges or disposal of hazardous materials;
- Communication with utility companies; or
- Review of geohydrologic data or other supplemental activities typically conducted during a full Phase I Property Site Assessment.
If the Transaction Screening Investigation were to reveal evidence of contamination, potential contamination, or conclude that insufficient information was acquired during the Transaction Screening Investigation to adequately address an environmental issue of potential concern, recommendations for a Phase I Property Site Assessment would be provided in the Transaction Screening Investigation report.
Preliminary (Phase I) Property Site Assessment
A Preliminary (Phase I) Property Site Assessment is an investigation undertaken to evaluate properties for the existence, reasonable potential existence, or future potential for hazardous or toxic substance contamination.
The scope of services for a typical Phase I Property Site Assessment includes
- A site inspection;
- Review of historical information from site records and regulatory agencies;
- Preparation of a written technical report with findings of the investigation; and
- Conclusions and recommendations for further investigation, if necessary.
Although requirements for specific sites vary and individual clients may require supplemental assessment activities, minimum requirements have been established by practicing professionals and have been institutionalized in pending legislation.
Minimum standards have also been established by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard practices for a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (E 1527-97, Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process).
Phase I Property Site Assessments do not typically include soil, ground water sampling or analysis activities unless specifically requested prior to the investigation, – or mutually agreed upon during the course of the investigation.
If the Phase I Property Site Assessment were to reveal evidence of potential hazardous substance contamination, recommendations for further investigation (Phase II Property Site Assessment), mitigation, and/or remedial actions would be recommended in the Phase I report.
Phase II Property Site Assessment
Previous investigations or activities, including Phase I Property Site Assessments or accidental discovery of suspected contamination, may require a sampling and analysis program (Phase II Property Site Assessment) to confirm or characterize the suspected areas of contamination.
Phase II programs usually include subsurface investigations for the purpose of collecting soil and/or ground water samples to be analyzed for suspected contaminants; however, Phase II investigations may also include sampling of surface waters, interior or exterior emission sources, soil gases, or multiple other focused assessment activities.
EM Strategies Phase II field investigations are designed and directed by geologists and professional staff with expertise in environmental site characterizations of all kinds, both above and beneath the ground water table.
Our professional staff adheres to rigid quality assurance and control guidelines set by industry. EM Strategies field investigations are conducted in compliance with federal, state, and local regulations, including notification of appropriate regulatory agencies, acquisition of all necessary permits, and preparation of a field safety program.
Representative soil and ground water samples are obtained following strict sampling protocol. The samples are transferred by standard chain-of-custody, to certified laboratories for analyses.
Coordination with the client is maintained throughout the entire investigation to assure that any difficulties or unsuspected findings are resolved as soon as possible.
After completion of field and laboratory data analysis, a final report is prepared to summarize the investigation and to make recommendations and conclusions based upon the findings.
If the Phase II investigation were to confirm the presence of a significant contamination on the property, then recommendations are typically provided for further investigation.To help delineate the vertical and lateral extent of contamination and to implement site remediation alternatives for cleanup of the contamination in conformance with the requirements of responsible agencies, EM Strategies strives to provide excellent service and alternatives to site problems and permit requirements.
If site remediation is indicated from the Phase II investigation, EM Strategies can assist clients with site characterization and management of remediation activities.
Site remediation may include any of the standard or innovative techniques such as:
- Carbon adsorption,
- Oil-water separation and free product recovery,
- Solidification and stabilization,
- Vapor extraction,
- On-site chemical treatment,
- Waste reduction/filtration techniques, or
- Excavation and treatment.
The feasibility of any particular site remediation technique depends upon site specific conditions such as the nature of contaminants, regulatory requirements, cost, potential future consequences, pending regulations, and community concerns.