Do you have questions about Phase I Environmental Site Assessments? You’re not alone. Omni Environmental Group gets a lot of questions about Phase I’s from property owners, property buyers and sellers, as well as from lenders whose primary job is not necessarily environmental due diligence. Below are the most frequent of the Frequently Asked Questions we receive about Phase I Environmental Site Assessments.

What is a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment? A Phase I is a standardized method to evaluate the potential for contamination at a property resulting from a release of petroleum or hazardous materials. Phase I Environmental Site Assessments are usually performed in accordance with the Phase I standard developed and published by ASTM International. The goal of a Phase I is to identify whether “Recognized Environmental Conditions,” as defined in the ASTM standard, are present at a property.

What is a 21E? In Massachusetts, the expression “21E” is used to mean a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment. It’s a reference to Chapter 21E which is the Massachusetts law governing the assessment and remediation of contaminated property.

Why do I want a Phase I? For property buyers and lenders, the Phase I helps to evaluate potential environmental problems and manage risk during the purchase or financing of real estate. This is important because a property owner can be responsible for contamination on their property, regardless of when the contamination happened or whether the contamination was their fault. For property sellers, a Phase I can help reduce a potential buyer’s risk, making a property more marketable.

What is included in a Phase I? A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment generally includes the following elements:

  • reviewing state and federal environmental databases, municipal records, historic maps, street directories and aerial photos;
  • visiting the property to observe the nature of current activities;
  • interviewing parties associated with the property; and
  • preparing a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Report.

What factors affect the cost of a Phase I? The most common factors include the location, size, and complexity of the property, and whether there are environmental reports for the property or abutting properties which need to be reviewed and incorporated into the Phase I report.

What factors affect the turnaround time of a Phase I? The most common factors include the size and complexity of the property, and the availability of government and historic records.

What are the possible outcomes of a Phase I? There are two outcomes of a Phase I:

  1. If no Recognized Environmental Conditions are identified during the Phase I, additional work to further evaluate potential contamination is generally not necessary.
  2. If one or more Recognized Environmental Conditions are identified during the Phase I, then additional work is recommended to further evaluate the potential for contamination. The scope of the additional work will depend on the specific characteristics of the Recognized Environmental Condition and may include things like reviewing additional records or collecting and analyzing soil or water samples.

What are the limitations of a Phase I? The Phase I evaluates the potential for contamination solely based on visual evidence, interviews, and available records. The Phase I does not include soil or water testing. The findings of the Phase I should not be considered scientific certainties, but rather probabilities based on the professional judgment of the environmental professional preparing the Phase I.

We’ve kept the answers to these FAQs brief, only touching on the primary points. If you would like more information, or if you have other Phase I Environmental Site Assessment questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Omni Environmental Group at 978-256-6766 or