From the desk of Jim FerraiuoloEnvironmental Scientist

November 13, 2020

A technician, also an Environmental Scientist named Jim Ferraiuolo, wearing a high-visibility jacket and cap operating equipment inside a utility vehicle.


What is Environmental Science?  Well, the best way to truly grasp the meaning of Environmental Science is to break it down into its components.  Environmental- relating to your surroundings.  Science- the process of how we come to observe, interpret, and explain the unknown.  Therefore, Environmental Science- the observation, interpretation, and explanation of the unknown elements of our surroundings.

A common misconception is that Environmental Science is the study of the natural world.  Yes, it can be, but it may also be the study of the human environment which is simply an area occupied by humans.  For example, I have conducted many Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (Phase I ESA) for commercial/industrial properties.  The purpose of a Phase I ESA is to research the environmental status of a property prior to its purchase. Most often, banks require a Phase I ESA before they provide a potential buyer with a loan.  Ultimately, a Phase I ESA is a critical component of any industrial/commercial real estate exchange because it assists in protecting the potential buyer from any environmental hazards that they may become liable for once they have purchased the property.  While a Phase I ESA may provide legal protection from liability, it also provides physical protection from environmental hazards that may cause harm to prospective occupants of a property.  In essence, a Phase I ESA is a study of a human environment.

Wondering what exactly goes into a Phase I ESA?  There are three major investigative components; a site inspection; interviews with present and past owners, operators, and occupants of the property; and a search/review of records pertaining to the property of interest.  Generally, the objective of these investigative components is to identify recognized environmental concerns (RECs) and historical recognized environmental conditions (HRECs).  As defined by ASTM International, the organization that writes the standards relevant to Phase I ESA’s, a REC is essentially “the presence or likely presence of any hazardous substances or petroleum products in, on, or at a property: (1) due to 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, ASTM International defines an HREC as “a past release of any 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 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).”  RECs may require further investigation as part of a Phase II ESA, but that’s a story for another blog post.  The fourth and final component of a Phase I ESA is a written report detailing the findings of the investigative portion.  In this report, all identified RECs and HRECs are discussed in a detailed, yet easily interpretable manner.  Additionally, the report also describes recommended actions based on the findings of the investigation.  These recommendations may call for a Phase II ESA, based on identified RECs, but like I said before, that will be covered in a future blog post.  In closing, I hope this post helped you understand the basics of Phase I ESAs.  If you have any questions, including pricing and applicability, please don’t hesitate to contact us by phone at 631-234-2220, or by e-mail at [email protected].

Jim Ferraiuolo
Environmental Scientist
J.R. Holzmacher P.E., LLC