When conducting commercial property transactions in Florida, there are certain key environmental factors you need to keep in mind.
The surface water, groundwater, or the soil may be contaminated with pesticides, solvents, petroleum products, arsenic, etc. Or worse, there may be buried tanks or drums full of pollutants that are hard to pronounce – and harder to get rid of!
This may seem like a rare occurrence to you, but as one of the oldest environmental companies in Florida, we have seen all sorts of things. There’s a possibility that your potential property has a retention pond on the premises that was part of an industrial wastewater treatment system which is now pumping toxins into the aquifer, endangering the nearby residents.
Anyone of these scenarios can create an environmental liability for you that will squeeze you dry, financially speaking. Once you finalize the purchase and sign the papers, you will be potentially liable for any cleanup costs in the future.
We are talking about a “joint and several liability” that could affect the market value of the property at best and bankrupt you at worst.
What is Phase 1 ESA?
But this is where the Phase 1 ESA (Environmental Site Assessment) comes to the rescue. The federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) have made sure that the property buyer’s interests are protected.
However, to qualify, the buyer must do their due diligence in determining the state of the property. And this is done by conducting a Phase 1 ESA before purchasing the property.
The purpose of an Environmental Site Assessment is to discover the presence of contaminants and toxins on/beneath the property (if any). The assessment evaluates both past and current operations that may have compromised the quality and safety of the property and its surrounding area.
These assessments are conducted in phases by the environmental companies in Florida. A Phase 1 ESA includes:
- The inspection of the site as well as the surrounding area
- Interviews of the seller, buyer, property manager, and regulatory staff
- A meticulous review of environmental regulatory data, records, permits, and complaints
- A review of environmental title search back to 1940
- A review of past and current aerial photographs of the site and its surroundings
- A review of surface water sources, nearby landfills, and topographical maps (by US Geological Survey)
If the environmental companies in Florida (that you are working with) conclude that there is no contamination on the site, you can happily move on and buy the property.
However, if the Phase 1 ESA indicates that the site is or could be polluted, the environmental company will need to conduct a Phase 2 ESA to test the groundwater, surface water, and soil.
Why A Phase 1 ESA is Crucial While Buying Commercial Properties in Florida
Most buyers of commercial properties hire experienced environmental companies in Florida to complete the ESA. It goes without saying that extreme caution must be used while selecting the company. This is not a situation where you want to save some bucks. A few hundred dollars saved can cost you millions of dollars later.
Choose a company that has qualifications, credentials, and experience to properly complete the ESA. Make sure the environmental consultants are not afraid to get down and dirty to actually complete the ESA.
Want a Thorough and Hassle-Free Phase 1 ESA? Call EPAC Inc. in Florida
At EPAC Inc., our environmental team includes professional geologists, certified environmental site assessors, and professional engineers. We can help you avoid buying contaminated properties.