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Some people take a used car to a mechanic before they buy. Most people hire a building inspector to check out a house they wish to purchase. You should do the same when considering a commercial or industrial property purchase. To that end, Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) have been developed to evaluate environmental issues at any site previously used for commercial purposes. Protect yourself before purchasing commercial property and have an environmental site assessment done.

The Phase I ESA involves a review of records, a site inspection, and interviews with owners, occupants, neighbors and local government officials. Even though there are no samples taken, you should still strive to use an expert in the field. The review of government records and interviews may take a lot of time. However, you will find it worth the wait if they discover contamination on the property.

Contamination can result from activities that took place on the site or from activities at a nearby property. The records and interviews will be the best sources to provide this information. Public records are available regarding the locations of properties that have been classified as contaminated by federal or state regulations. Depending on their proximity to your site, contamination could have made its way to your site.

Phase II is conducted if evidence of possible contamination is discovered by the Phase I inspector. In this phase, laboratory testing is done on soil samples, water samples, and any other areas where contamination could be found. They will also examine groundwater, any underground wells, catch basins, tests to check for underground storage containers, and testing of those containers if they are found.

There are rigorous standards that every professional must follow when they go about an environmental site assessment. Their report will help you determine your next steps if contamination is found on the property. If you decide to purchase the property anyway, be aware that you become liable for the environmental damage if you are the owner. However, it is possible in some cases to get what is called a Baseline Environmental Assessment that can establish that you, as the new owner, would only be liable for environmental clean-up if you cause new contamination or caused existing contamination to worsen.