Revised ASTM Phase I ESA Standard to be Issued this Year
An ASTM task group has sent proposed revisions of the ASTM standard E1527-05 Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) to EPA for approval. The current ASTM standard was most recently revised in 2005, when it incorporated EPA’s All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI) rule located at 40 CFR Part 312. An AAI must be conducted to receive liability protection under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), and it is typically required by lenders and investors in commercial transactions involving real estate. According to published reports, the most significant proposed revisions are as follows:
- Adds the concept of “controlled recognized environment condition” or CREC. This term will apply to known past releases of hazardous substances that have not been remediated to unrestricted residential criteria, but which are subject to controls such as activity or use restrictions, restrictive covenants, and institutional controls. The application of the CREC label to an issue does not require a judgment by the environmental professional (EP) as to whether the controls are actually effective.
- Requires the EP to consider the risk that vapors may migrate from other sites onto the subject property. This does not include an evaluation of the risk of vapor intrusion into buildings.
- Exempts certain applications of fertilizers from the meaning of “release”.
- States that the EP should review agency files in determining the presence of a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC). If such a review is not performed, the EP must so state and explain why.
- Adds a new “business environmental risk” (BER) appendix that describes commonly-encountered BERs at commercial properties and discusses when a person may want to add an evaluation of BERs to the Phase I ESA scope of work.
- Makes the table of contents requirement less prescriptive so that the EP can decide the presentation order and eases other current “verbatim” requirements.
The revisions include many technical changes designed to make the standard easier to understand and more consistent with the language and requirements of CERCLA and the AAI rule. The revisions appear likely to increase the cost of, and amount of time needed for, Phase I ESAs, particularly where agency file reviews and where consideration of vapor migration risks may be required. If EPA approves the changes, the new standard, to be known as ASTM E1527-13, will become the equivalent of complying with the AAI rule. The Environmental Letter will continue to track developments related to the revised ASTM Phase I ESA Standard.
To view a complete PDF of the March/April 2013 issue of the Environmental Letter, click HERE.