Upcoming Modifications to the Phase I ESA Process

September 4, 2013

A recent EPA ruling (78 FR 19764) indicates that 40 CFR Part 312 (All Appropriate Inquiries [AAI]) will be amended to reference ASTM International’s E1527-13 Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments:  Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) Process.  The AAI amendment is tentatively set to take effect on November 13, 2013.

Although not published by ASTM yet, the proposed 2013 revisions to ASTM E1527 are expected to be as follows:


The definition of a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) will be streamlined.  The pending revision of the term states a REC means 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.

In addition, the “Historical Recognized Environmental Condition (HREC)” will be clarified to specifically apply to sites where a past release of hazardous substances or petroleum products 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 such as property use restrictions, activity and use limitations (AULs), or  engineering or institutional controls.

A new term you will be seeing in Phase I ESAs is “Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition (CREC).”  A CREC is a REC resulting from a past release of hazardous substances or petroleum products that has been addressed to the satisfaction of the applicable regulatory authority with hazardous substances or petroleum products allowed to remain in place subject to the implementation of required controls.  The required controls (i.e., property use restrictions, AULs, engineering or institutional controls, etc.) likely pose ongoing and/or future obligations for the property owner.  This terminology will be especially important to Users who intend to redevelop a property because contamination remains in place.

The Vapor Pathway

ASTM E1527-13 will also clarify that the definition of “migration” includes contamination in the vapor phase.  Although a tool for assessing vapor migration risk, ASTM E1527-13 does not require that an ASTM E2600 Vapor Encroachment Screening be performed in conjunction with a Phase I ESA.

File Reviews

The 2013 revision of ASTM E1527 will also include language regarding regulatory file reviews for the subject property and adjoining properties.  Although the Environmental Professional (EP) is not required to conduct such file reviews, ASTM E1527-13 will state that pertinent regulatory files and/or records associated with the subject property or any adjoining properties identified in the government database search should be reviewed.  Therefore, the EP must cite rationale why such file reviews are not necessary if not performed in conjunction with the Phase I ESA.  Agency file reviews can be an inconvenience when it comes to the cost and timing to obtain the files.  Acceptable alternatives will include review of onsite records, User-provided records, local government records, and/or interviews with regulatory officials or individuals knowledgeable about the environmental condition that resulted in the database listing.

Although the environmental lien/AUL search will still be identified as the responsibility of the User in ASTM E1527-13, wording related to the search for environmental liens and AULs that are filed or recorded against the subject property will be revised to include the need to search judicial records in jurisdictions where environmental liens and AULs are only recorded or filed in judicial records.


Once ASTM E1527-13 is published, you can expect to see the use of some new and revised terminology, a new emphasis on vapor migration, and the EP’s judgment regarding the applicability of file reviews to specific projects.

If you have any questions about E 1527-13 and how it may impact an upcoming project or Phase I ESAs in general, please contact Jennifer A. Ewing, P.G., (jewing@cecinc.com) at 800-365-2324.

About the Author

Jennifer A. Ewing, P.G.

Jennifer A. Ewing, P.G., is a Senior Project Manager in CEC's Environmental Engineering and Sciences Practice at our Pittsburgh headquarters office. She is a certified Asbestos Inspector.

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