CEC provides professional environmental consulting services for a wide range of industries and commercial businesses, including power plants, mining facilities, waste processing facilities, oil & gas development and processing sites, industrial manufacturing sites, law firms, and commercial and industrial real estate sales and development companies.
With a focus on the proposed end land use for each project and a practical evaluation of likely exposure pathways, CEC conducts Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments on various types of properties to identify potential environmental liabilities and determine if past or adjoining land uses have resulted in adverse environmental impacts. Assessments are designed to meet industry standards and regulations, such as the ASTM-E1527-21 Standard Practice for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, USEPA All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI), as well as client-specific expectations and state-mandated standards.
We sat down with some of our environmental practice experts — Britney Barnes, a Project Manager II in CEC’s Greenville, SC, office; David Umbach, a Principal in CEC’s Philadelphia, PA, office; and David Bachman, a Project Manager I, also in Philadelphia — to take a closer look at how CEC can ask the right questions to facilitate forward momentum on our projects, and move them smoothly through a due diligence phase or regulatory program in concert with our clients.
Tell us how the history of a property ties into the process of advancing toward the end objective for that property.
Britney Barnes: Every property has a unique history to share, whether it was formerly undeveloped or part of a rural area primarily agricultural in use; whether it was part of a growing industrial area or in an urban community with a mix of residential and commercial development; or anywhere in between. Uncovering and understanding the history of a property (and the surrounding properties) pre-purchase can have a significant impact on its intended end use. An essential part of a successful project includes performing a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) early in the due-diligence process, because it includes researching the historical and existing uses of the property and surrounding area, and more importantly, establishes a baseline to evaluate potential risk and liability associated with owning and developing the property. Another essential part of a successful project includes truly understanding the client’s intended end use of the property, both short term and long term, because the risk and liability of property ownership and development may need to have a different focus if the intended use of the property changes over time. The historical uses of a property are essential chapters in the story of its development, as they can sometimes define the way in which the end goal is reached.
David Umbach and David Bachman: It is important to understand that conducting pre-purchase due diligence is far more important than just checking off a box on a lender’s list for loan qualification. It should be viewed as essential for establishing a baseline for future liability with regard to existing site conditions, the potential for historic site use to limit either what site use is acceptable, or what must be done to meet the intended objectives, and the potential for historic use to affect adjacent properties. Completing a detailed site investigation in advance of purchase can establish who will be responsible for any potential future issues associated with the site.
Knowing the end objective for a subject property in advance of conducting the due diligence is critically important to the ultimate success of the project. By approaching an investigation from the perspective of “how will the use history of this site effect the intended objective, and what will likely have to be dealt with/budgeted for in the process?” — time and money will be saved. This applies to potential environmental, regulatory, and structural considerations. The Phase I and Phase II process should be viewed as an integral part of the initial site plan/redevelopment design to form a more complete understanding of the subsurface site conditions, constraints, and how to prevent “surprises” and “unforeseen conditions” from causing construction delays and needless cost increases.
With the implementation of the new ASTM International (ASTM) E1527-21 Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments, national Phase I ESA standard, now executed, will it impact projects in your region?
BB: There are many commercial real estate industry professionals who are not aware that the ASTM Phase I ESA Standard was updated in 2021 and is now being executed. For the most part, it should appear a seamless transition from the prior standard, with some nuances introduced to help reduce the variability in reports received by lenders and potential owners, making it easier to interpret, compare, and understand. It is part of CEC’s culture to educate our clients, especially when new regulations are issued on a federal, state, or local level that may impact their business. While an update to the federal ASTM Phase I ESA standard may appear irrelevant on the surface, a minor change has the potential to have a major impact on the opinions and conclusions of the report. Not only has the ASTM Phase I ESA standard been updated, but there are also updates/additions to federal regulatory databases to include new items, such as PFAS-ECHO. Because the new ASTM Phase I ESA standard is now being executed, Phase I ESA practitioners should be intentional in applying the nuances of the new standard to avoid roadblocks from lending institutions or other stakeholders. It is also critically important to understand that for commercial and industrial properties, especially with regard to developers and lenders with national footprints, the subtleties in regional environmental regulations may require more than the ASTM standard ESA for compliance and asset protection.
DU & DB: For the most part, the new standards will help to reduce the variability in reports received by lenders and potential owners, making it easier to interpret, compare, and understand reports from different vendors. It is critically important to understand that for commercial and industrial properties, especially with regard to developers and lenders with national footprints, the subtleties in regional environmental regulations may require more than an ASTM standard ESA for compliance and asset protection. Many vendors with national footprints produce “standardized” reports that may not actually provide the information or protection a client needs locally. For example, within New Jersey, an ASTM-compliant ESA does not provide any innocent purchaser protection under the New Jersey Spill Act. Banks still require Phase Is in most cases, but that leaves both the lender and the borrower open for liability if an unidentified or unforeseen condition is identified after the purchase. Our expertise in understanding local regulations and educating our clients on how to protect their investments is a great asset to our customers.
CEC has seasoned experts on performing Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments across our national footprint and in 30+ offices, how does that breadth of experience benefit our clients?
BB: CEC has a very diverse knowledge base across many different practice areas, and while we cover a large footprint, the company is very intentional about connecting the like practices on a regular basis to provide an avenue for communication across offices and the ability to draw on experts that may not physically be sitting down the hall. This allows us to collaborate on projects and expand the types of projects and expertise we can offer our clients. CEC’s depth and breadth of experience is also incredibly beneficial when the environmental needs for a project extend beyond a Phase I or Phase II ESA. Maybe they expand into a brownfields program, or the project is an industrial development that will also need environmental compliance support or other services such as survey or civil. CEC can easily be a part of our client’s core team and position their projects for success no matter what location across the United States.
DU & DB: A well-educated client is more likely to be highly successful. CEC’s national footprint provides for the highest standard of quality in producing a consistent product overall, but the regional offices staffed with expert senior professionals is the key to providing complete understanding of local regulations that directly affect project success. Our internal communication and team approach provides the combined experience of over 100 senior professionals available to review and advise from the simple to most complex projects, which ensures our clients understand the issues and options for their sites.
CEC’s experts are here to guide clients through the intricacies of Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments.
MEET OUR EXPERTS
Britney Barnes has over 25 years of experience in the environmental consulting industry ranging from fast-paced due diligence driven Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments to multi phased site investigations and feasibility studies, programmatic groundwater sampling, and implementation of remedial measures for multiple Superfund and RCRA projects.
She has managed, led, and performed numerous types of environmental projects across several states including South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio, and Massachusetts. She is well versed in managing internal and external client expectations, leading teams of individuals with diverse skillsets to complement project teams and provide added value to clients, and interfacing with technical experts, regulatory professionals and environmental attorneys to develop investigative and closure strategies. Britney has experience navigating the Brownfield Programs in both South Carolina and North Carolina and her professional relationships with agency project managers and her technical knowledge allow efficient and continued forward momentum on her projects. She also has extensive experience in UST system closures and associated site assessments and corrective action in multiple states, including South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.
David Umbach is a Professional Geologist and NJDEP Licensed Site Remediation Professional with 40 years’ experience in environmental consulting, regulatory management and remedial action design and oversight, technical direction and project management for subsurface investigation and remediation projects. His responsibilities include remedial action design and oversight, technical direction and project management for subsurface investigation and remediation projects completed across the United States.
He has performed and designed Phase I, II, and III Environmental Site Assessments, including RCRA and CERCLA, SPCC Plan preparation and Hazardous material management, as well as managed environmental remediation and construction projects including landfill closure; marina, lagoon and pond dredging; Brownfields, UST/AST closure and installation; municipal water and wastewater plant maintenance and modifications; soil and groundwater remediation; wetlands restoration and stream bank stabilization.
David Bachman is a Senior Environmental Scientist with over 33 years of experience performing at least 3,000 Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs), Environmental Transaction Screens, Phase II and III Subsurface Investigations in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, West Virginia, and Maryland for real estate developers and individual property owners, national and local financial institutions, and nationwide insurance companies. David has also conducted several hundred asbestos surveys, lead-based paint surveys, radon studies, mold assessments, and lead-in-water sampling and analyses.