The Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment: What You Need To Know

by Lilly on June 20, 2013

An environmental site assessment is important when it comes to constructing any building, whether it’s for business or residential purposes, and this assessment can vary greatly, depending on the city or country. Construction on a new building close to the Berlin Central Train Station was delayed in early 2013 after an unexploded WW2 bomb was found when digging the buildings foundations. Thousands of travelers were inconvenienced as trains were delayed or cancelled while the bomb was removed, and even flights in and out of the nearby airport were cancelled or diverted, since an explosion would have sent vast plumes of smoke into the air, affecting aircraft visibility. This is such a common occurrence across Germany and much of Europe that specialized teams exist whose purpose is to defuse WW2 era bombs, since thousands of them were dropped across the continent, with many of them not detonating on impact. In most of the world, the environmental site assessment isn’t such a dangerous affair, but it still one that’s absolutely essential. So what does it involve?

The Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment: What You Need To Know

What’s It For?

The phase 1 environmental site assessment is the most common of these checks, and it exists to reduce, and preferably remove liabilities for site owners, construction companies and other stake-holders when it comes to potential or already existing environmental contamination issues.

Why Is It Needed?

A phase 1 assessment is most commonplace when it comes to constructing or altering property, and, as it’s showed by radius maps, that sits on a site previously used for the manufacture, storage or transport of hazardous waste products, and whether these waste products are still in evidence (even in trace amounts), and whether these waste products pose an environmental risk for the proposed construction and its surrounding areas.

What Does It Involve?

A comprehensive investigation is all that is usually required during a phase 1 assessment, and this involves a historical review of the sites previous usage, including, but not limited to, an on site visit, a review of property records to determine all usage of the facility since its inception, and a geological review to determine drainage patterns of any waste products that might have escaped into the surrounding environment.

What’s The Next Step?

If a number of qualifiers are met, and it’s determined that a risk exists, a phase 2 environmental site assessment is triggered, and this involves testing of soil, water and sometimes air samples.

What’s The Potential Liability?

It’s important to remember that a phase 1 environmental site assessment is only necessary on large scale constructions or alterations, and a phase 1 assessment is no indicator that the process will move to a stage 2 assessment. The assessment is very important, as it allows you to adhere to the “due diligence enquiry checklist,” which essentially means that you’ve undertaken exhaustive checks to ensure that you haven’t commenced a construction or alteration that can cause environmental damage, whether through your actions or the previous owners.

While you’re unlikely to find a bomb when constructing your dream building, a thorough (and legally binding) assessment of the site will allow you to know you’ve done everything you can, for the good of your business, and the community too.



I'm Lilly Sheperd, an occasional guest-blogger and a full time freelance communication consultant. When not blogging, I like to travel and read a lot, especially about education and law.

Previous post:

Next post: