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Erosion Control and the Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment

Erosion Control is a big issue for lenders taking back construction sites and vacant parcels that were intended for construction. When lots are graded, all of the natural vegetation that protects a site from surface leaving, allows the soil to becomes exposed to rain and wind. When a site erodes the result can be damage to the completed earthwork on the site as well as silting of streams and storm sewers. Cities and states around the country are fining land owners across the country for not controlling their erosion.

The Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment can easily address erosion control issues at the same time. To do this, the client should work with a firm that has expertise in both erosion control and environmental site assessment.

Erosion control measures include: silt fences, straw bales or sandbags around the perimeter, engineered catch basins, and seeding of exposed soils.

Partner Engineering and Sciences, offers a full range of erosion control products ranging from site inspection to design of mitigation measures.

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Lead Scavengers

Lead scavengers, such as Ethylene dibromide (EDB) and 1,2-dichloroethane (1,2-DCA), were additives to leaded gasoline until the late 1980s. Recent study has shown that these compounds may persist in the environment and affect drinking water supplies. The regulations for lead scavengers may be evolving and environmental professionals performing Phase I and II Environmental Site Assessments should beware.

Lead scavengers have had uses other than gasoline. For examples, the common lead scavenger, EDB, was used as a soil fumigant. EDB was widely used as an agricultural fumigant and was banned in 1983 and 1,2-DCA is still used as an industrial solvent. Both of these lead scavengers have federal Maximum Concentration Limits (MCLs) in drinking water; for EDB the MCL is 0.05 parts per billion (ppb), and for 1,2-DCA it is 5.0 ppb.

Leaded fuel with lead scavengers is still used in some fuels—auto racing fuel and aviation fuel. The EPA is currently working with states to determine the size of the lead scavengers problem.

Phase 2 Environmental Reports and soil and groundwater testing at fuel storage or underground storage tank sites should include testing for lead scavengers.
After lead scavengers were phased out of leaded gasoline, the hope was that that lead scavengers present in the ground and groundwater as a result of leaking underground storage tanks would degrade and dissipate or degrade. Recent data indicates that lead scavengers may persist for long periods of time in the groundwater.

Posted in Environmental Due Diligence, Environmental Soil Testing, Phase I Environmental Site Assessments.

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Phase II Environmental Report

A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Report researches a site’s history and if the previous uses of the site represent a Recognized Environmental Condition, the Environmental Professional typically recommends a Phase II Environmental Report. The Phase II Environmental Report typically consists of subsurface soil borings from which soil, groundwater, and/or soil vapor samples are collected.

Phase IIs are commonly recommended for historical use of a site by environmentally sensitive uses such as: a gas station, a dry cleaners, industrial uses, and auto repair. The Phase II will test the soil in areas of concern as determined during the Phase I ESA and the samples collected from these borings will be sampled for the chemicals of concern. A good Phase I ESA is critical in adequately scoping a Phase II Environmental Report.

The Phase II Environmental Report will evaluate if the historical use of hazardous chemicals on the subject site are a threat to human health, groundwater, or the general environment.

For a quote or advice on a Phase II Environmental Report call Partner Engineering and Science at 800-419-4923.

Posted in Commercial Building Inspection, Environmental Due Diligence, Environmental Soil Testing.

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Phase I Environmental Reviews

As an Environmental Professional, I am routinely asked to review a competitor’s Phase I Environmental Site Assessment and in these instances I think how we approach these reviews is an important manifestation of our professionalism. When reviewing another consultant’s Phase I ESA and/or Phase II Subsurface Testing Report, we need to focus on our client’s needs as opposed to trying to show why we are somehow better than the report author.

When reviewing an environmental report, important questions to ask are: 1) did the scope of work materially meet the requirements of ASTM 1527-2007 and those of the EPA’s All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI) Standard; 2) does the report contain enough information and data to support the decision at hand; and 3) did the author interpret the environmental risks in a way that fits into your client’s paradigm.

The bottom line is that while we should take firm positions on the facts and risk interpretation, we should always give the other professional the benefit of the doubt.

Posted in Environmental Due Diligence, Environmental Soil Testing, Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, Real Estate Due Diligence.

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HUD Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is required for to finance all MAP projects (purchase, refinance, new construction or substantial rehabilitation) and the Phase I ESA must meet both the requirements of the American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) Standards E1527 and the requirements of HUD “Environmental Assessment Guide for Housing Projects” and the HUD Handbook 1390.4 “Guide to HUD Environmental Criteria and Standards contained in 24 CFR 51”.

The consultant must complete HUD’s environmental form HUD-4128 “Environmental Assessment and Compliance Finding for the Related Laws.” HUD Form 4128 requires the consultant to address issue beyond the traditional ASTM Phase I ESA. For example, the consultant must opine on the site’s exposure to noise and must address asbestos and lead based paint.

Recently, HUD has began requiring a Tier 1 vapor intrusion (VI) screen as defined by ASTM E 2600 with the Phase I environmental site assessments. Per Tier I guidelines, the environmental professional must perform an initial vapor intrusion screen to determine if there is a potential for toxic vapors to exist onsite as a result of an onsite or offsite release.

HUD also wants to ensure that the environmental professionals working on their projects are experienced with HUD projects. The engineers and architects that run my firm’s HUD Group are MAP Certified and LEAN Certified, and these are important qualifications in the universe of HUD due diligence.

Posted in Building Engineering, Commercial Building Inspection, Environmental Due Diligence, Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, Real Estate Due Diligence.

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HUD Phase I ESAs: Navigating HUDs Multifamily Accelerated Processing (MAP) program

Once considered the last option for financing multifamily property, HUD’s MAP program is an appealing alternative to developers, owners, and brokers in today’s lending environment. The program, Section 207/223(f), insures mortgage loans to facilitate the purchase or refinancing of existing multifamily rental housing. These projects may have been financed originally with traditional or FHA insured mortgages, which have recently provided limited liquidity. However, with the recent (July 27, 2009) grant waiver of the Three-Year Rule for Section 223(f) applications, HUD has given borrowers more financing latitude to secure long-term loans of recently constructed or substantially rehabilitated, self-sustaining properties.

All MAP projects (purchase, refinance, new construction or substantial rehabilitation) require a by HUD, is also required as part of the environmental assessment. Partner Engineering and Science (Partner), understands the need for a strong screening process and has extensive experience in performing HUD Phase I ESAs for various clients including cities, lenders, private equity clients, developers and brokers. In addition to understanding the NEPA process, Partner understands the importance of informing our clients of potential issues that could delay or even break a deal. As the leader in Due Diligence, Partner consistently provides HUD staff with comprehensive reports that meet all compliance findings described in HUD -4218. This creates a smoother screening process and allows the lender to focus on other deals.

Given the current state of the economy and the Obama administration’s commitment to revitalize government backed loans, HUD Phase Is may become a more accessible option.

Posted in Building Engineering, Commercial Building Inspection, Environmental Due Diligence, Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, Real Estate, Real Estate Due Diligence.

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Phytoremediation: applying green technology to toxic waste sites

Technology is creating new risks and opportunities in commercial real estate.   One space where it is adding value is in Phytoremediation. Phytoremediation refers to the natural ability of certain plants called hyperaccumulators to bioaccumulate, degrade or render harmless contaminants in soils, water or air. Contaminants such as metals, pesticides, solvents, explosives, crude oil and its derivatives, have been mitigated in phytoremediation projects worldwide. Many plants such as mustard plants, alpine pennycress and pigweed have proven to be successful at hyperaccumulating contaminants at toxic waste sites.

Phytoremediation is considered a clean, cost-effective and non-environmentally disruptive technology, as opposed to mechanical cleanup methods such as soil excavation or pumping polluted groundwater. Over the past 20 years, this technology has become increasingly popular and has been employed at sites with soils contaminated with lead, uranium, and arsenic. However, one major disadvantage of phytoremediation is that it requires a long-term commitment as the process is dependent on plant growth, tolerance to toxicity and bioaccumulation capacity.

My company, Partner Engineering and Science (Partner), employs various remediation technologies to mitigate contaminated sites. In addition to applying traditional remediation methods, Partner is committed to applying the most efficient and economical methods, including phytoremediation. With the limitations associated with phytoremediation, this technology has not been widely applied. However, the recent introduction of modified transgenic plants may drive phytoremediation to become the preferred technology in the near future.

Posted in Phytoremediation, Soil Remediation.

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Phase I Environmental Audit

Phase I Environmental Audits are increasingly being done in a foreclosure environment. While the Phase I Environmental Audits is still done to the ASTM Standard E1527-2005, the practice of Phase I ESA during a foreclosure environment has a few nuances.

For starters, most clients want the Phase I Environmental Audit to be 100% compliant with the EPA’s All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI) rule. Often when doing a Phase I Environmental Audit in support of a new loan, my company, limitations.

Setting up the site visits can be a real challenge during a foreclosure. I highly recommend using a firm with a local environmental site inspector, as the site contact may shine the inspector. If the inspector had to fly to the site, then the consulting firm may try to pass extra costs on to their clients. For example, if you need to hire a Phase I Environmetnal Site Assessment in Texas, clearly you are wise to hire a firm with a significant presence in Texas. My firm, Partner published the locations of our offices and inspectors on our coverage map.

Lenders often want to know the physical condition of the asset before for closing and order a Property Condition Assessment Report. The Property Condition Assessment Report is also a valuable tool to the lender when selling the property.

Posted in Environmental Due Diligence, Environmental Law, Environmental Soil Testing, Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, Real Estate, Real Estate Due Diligence.

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SBA Energy Loans

The SBA’s Energy Loan Program allows SBA lenders to make loans to business owners and entrepreneurs with twice the SBA guarantee provided they put in place a plan to reduce their energy consumption by 10%. SBA loans offer businesses great leverage with 90% financing– Certified Development Company (CDCs) secure an SBA 504 loan for up to 40% of the deal with the SBA lender providing the remaining 50% of the project funding. By putting in place a plan to improve energy efficiency of the project, the CDC can double the amount of the SBA guaranteed loan; therefore allowing SBA lenders to double the size of the deals that can be done through the SBA program.

Partner Energy is in the business of providing energy audits to borrowers and outlining the a plan to improve their energy efficiency. Normally, the saving opportunities are inexpensive and are often great investments independent of the financing event. A few examples of energy efficiency investments that often have payback periods that are less than 3 years are: lighting retrofits, better HVAC controls, and variable speed drives.

In some instances the borrower achieves the savings by moving from a less efficient building to a more efficient building and there is not investment necessary at all. In these instances Partner Energy’s mission is to model old and new buildings correctly so that this argument will fly through the SBA’s underwriting process.

In conclusion, SBA Energy Loans offer great financing and only requires borrowers to make inexpensive common sense investments that create significant savings.

Posted in Building Engineering, Environmental Due Diligence, SBA Lending.

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Vapor Intrusion Migration

Vapor intrusion is a relatively new concern among environmental groups. Little is currently established regarding the topic; however, as human health is affected, public awareness of the topic is growing quickly and, as a result, new standards pertaining to vapor intrusion are constantly emerging.

Vapor intrusion is the vapor phase migration of subsurface volatile chemicals into the overlying structures. These chemicals may be a result of wastes buried beneath a property or as a result of local groundwater contamination. Several factors are considered in evaluating the risk of vapor intrusion, including chemical properties and toxicity values, soil parameters, building parameters, and exposure time. Vapors may accumulate to levels that may cause health and safety hazards and risks.

In recent years, several documents have been prepared to address and evaluate the issue. In 1998, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) compiled a series of models for estimating the health risks associated with vapor intrusion and indoor air quality. Most noted of these models is the Johnson & Ettinger (J&E) model, which was first developed in 1991 and has since been modified to account for different assumptions. The model takes into account soil characteristics, exposure time, exposure frequency, air exchange, chemical toxicity and properties, building parameters, and physical settings. Under this model, one should be able to determine if the indoor air concentration are at a level that may potentially pose an unacceptable inhalation risk by comparison to cancer risk and non-cancer hazard indices.

In 2002, the USEPA issued the OSWER Draft Guidance for Evaluating the Vapor Intrusion to Indoor Air Pathway from Groundwaters and Soils (Subsurface Vapor Intrusion). The purpose of the 2002 USEPA Subsurface Vapor Intrusion Guide is merely to provide a tool to evaluate the risk of vapor intrusion and is not intended to act as a regulation. The document recommends a tiered approach to evaluating the risk of vapor intrusion in residential settings; however, the guide may be adjusted for commercial/industrial or recreational uses. The guide provides both generic and more site-specific screening levels for soil gas and groundwater. While several states currently utilize this guide as a means to evaluate vapor intrusion risks, many states have opted to implement their own vapor intrusion guide.

For the state of California, two guidance documents have been published: the Guidance for the Evaluation and Mitigation of Subsurface Vapor Intrusion to Indoor Air (DTSC/CalEPA, 2004) and the Use of California Human Health Screening Levels (CHHSLs) in Evaluation of Contaminated Properties (CalEPA, 2005). It should be noted that these documents do not present regulatory cleanup standards. The regulatory agencies have final ruling over a contaminated site.

The latest attempt to provide a standard for assessing the risk of vapor intrusion to indoor air is the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard practice document ASTM E 2600-08 (ASTM International, 2008), which was published in 2008. The practice is not required under ASTM E1527 for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, but may be used as a voluntary supplement to the practice. This practice seeks to determine whether a vapor intrusion condition (VIC) exists on a property the a process consisting of four tiers so that low-risk properties can be screened out quickly (Tiers 1 & 2), and once a potential VIC has been determined for a property, confirmation (Tier 3) and mitigation (Tier 4) is to follow. A VIC is defined as “the presence or likely presence of any chemicals of concern (COC) in the indoor air environment of existing or planned structures on a property caused by the release of vapor from contaminated soil and groundwater either on a property or within close proximity to the property, at a concentration that presents an unacceptable health risk to occupants.”

As this is a relatively new concern, there is much progress to be made. The emergence of these guidelines and standards demonstrate that we are taking a step in the right direction. Public awareness is a great driving force for establishing standards as the regulatory agencies are met with immense political pressure to do so. In time, we can expect vapor intrusion standards to be much more omnipresent.

For more information call me at 310-615-4500 or email me at

Posted in Environmental Due Diligence, Environmental Law, Environmental Soil Testing, Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, Real Estate Due Diligence.

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