Changes on the Way for Phase I ESA Standard - Articles

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Posted by: Lynn Pointer on Jan 17, 2013

By Gene M. Bailey, P.E. and Kristin Gable

Since 1993, the ASTM Standard has published minimum guidelines to be met by Environmental Professionals when completing Phase I Environmental Site Assessments.  Since that time, this Standard (ASTM Designation E-1527) has been revised several times, and is currently in the final stages of the most recent revisions by the ASTM 1527 Task Group.  As a part of the ASTM 1527 Task Group, over 150 environmental community developers, utilities, lenders, regulatory officials, and technical professionals throughout the country have been at work to update the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment standard (ASTM 1527-05).  The existing standard was published in November of 2005.  The ASTM 1527 Task Group has been meeting for many months in order to update, clarify, and strengthen this standard. PM Environmental has been active in the ASTM 1527 Task Group.  In addition to providing input and helping to garner feedback from the environmental consulting industry, we have developed the following summary of the changes to the standard.

The ASTM 1527 Task Group is currently voting on the final ballot for the E-1527 standard.  Although the Standard has yet to be reviewed and approved by EPA or subjected to formal public review, the upcoming revisions, which are projected to be published this summer, are briefly described in the following topics.  Julie Kilgore, the Chairperson of the ASTM 1527 Task Group, stated that, “all the proposed changes are important, each intended to address very specific challenges that were brought to the attention of the task group."

Some of the more significant revisions include the following:

Revised REC Definition: “the presence or likely presence of any hazardous substances or petroleum products in, on, or at a property: 1) due to any release to the environment; 2) under conditions indicative of a release to the environment; or 3) under conditions that pose a material threat of a future release to the environment.”

Additionally, the definitions of release and environment, which are the same definitions in CERCLA, have been included in the standard.

Revised HREC Definition: “A past release of hazardous substances or petroleum products that has occurred in connection with the property and has been addressed to the satisfaction of the applicable regulatory authority or meeting unrestricted residential use criteria established by a regulatory authority, without subjecting the property to any required controls (for example, property use restrictions, activity and use limitations, institutional controls, or engineering controls).”

New Controlled REC (CREC) Definition: “A recognized environmental condition resulting from a past release of hazardous substances or petroleum products that has been addressed to the satisfaction of the applicable regulatory authority (for example, as evidenced by the issuance of a no further action letter or equivalent, or meeting risk-based criteria established by regulatory authority), with hazardous substances or petroleum products allowed to remain in place subject to the implementation of required controls (for example, property use restrictions, activity and use limitations, institutional controls, or engineering controls). Before calling the past release a historical recognized environmental condition, the environmental professional must determine whether the past release is a recognized environmental condition at the time the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is conducted (for example, if there has been a change in the regulatory criteria). If the EP considers the past release to be a recognized environmental condition at the time the Phase I ESA is conducted, the condition shall be included in the conclusions section of the report as a recognized environmental condition.”

Added De Minimis Condition Definition: “A condition that generally does not present a threat to human health or the environment and that generally would not be the subject of an enforcement action is brought to the attention of appropriate governmental agencies. Conditions determined to be de minimis conditions are not recognized environmental conditions or controlled recognized environmental conditions. 

Vapor Migration: The new standard clarifies that vapor migration should be treated like groundwater contamination within a Phase I ESA. The definition for migrate/migration was added to the standard, which references vapor.

Activity and use limitations (AUL): The AUL definition has been updated to include soil vapor.

Regulatory Agency File and Records Review: A new section has been added to the standard (8.2.2), which clarifies that agency file reviews should be completed for the subject property and adjoining properties if they are listed on any of the environmental record sources (i.e. listed in Section 8.2.1).  If the Environmental Professional determines no review is warranted, the environmental professional must explain within the report the justification for not conducting the regulatory file review.  

Additional changes include clarification of Section 6 User’s Responsibilities.  A number of changes to this section are intended to clarify the parties who should be responsible for fulfilling the “User Responsibilities”.  According to the ASTM 15327 Task Group, many practitioners do not understand the origin of this requirement and the fact that it is tied directly to Federal Law.  The changes to this section should help the implementation of the standard to better meet the intended protections of the standard.

Other standard changes appear in appendices revisions, simplified table of contents, and various other revisions to improve the consistency of the standard. 

PM Environmental, Inc. is a full service consulting firm and services the State of Tennessee through our 4 offices in Memphis, Nashville, Cookeville, and Chattanooga.  PM was ranked by EDR, a major national provider of environmental database reports, as the second largest provider of Phase I ESAs in Tennessee in 2012.  If you would like a copy of the draft E1527-XX standard, please contact Gene Bailey, at gbaliey@pmenv.com.  More information about PM Environmental can be viewed at www.pmenv.com.