In 2013, the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) changed the guidelines for the way Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) should be conducted by publishing E1527-13. E1527-13 replaces the previous standards that were passed in 2005. There are several important changes to note in the new regulations, including new and revised definitions, a stronger emphasis on regulatory file reviews, and the inclusion of vapor intrusion.
The 2013 guidelines simplify, clarify, and provide greater detail than the 2005 standards. One example of this change can be found in reviewing the new and revised definitions E1527-13 provides:
- Recognized Environmental Condition (REC): the existence or likely existence of any hazardous substances or petroleum products found at a property because of an actual, indicated, or potential release into the environment.
- Historical Recognized Environmental Condition (HREC): a past release of any hazardous substances or petroleum products on the property that was addressed according to regulations without limiting the use of the property. To classify a HREC, an environmental professional must determine whether the release in the past was a REC when the Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment was conducted.
- Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition (CREC): a recognized environmental condition that is connected with a previous release of hazardous substances or petroleum products that was addressed according to regulations, but limits the use and activity allowed on the property.
- De Minimis Condition: if a condition does not pose a threat to human or environmental health and would not be subjected to the enforcement action of a governmental agency, it is “De Minimis”. De Minimis Conditions cannot be classified as RECs or CRECs.
- Release: the discharge, emission, or disposal of any hazardous substances into the environment, including any containers that contain any toxic substances, pollutants, or contaminants.
- Migration: the movement of hazardous substances or petroleum products of any form, including vaporous forms.
Regulatory File Reviews
While E1527-13 does not require environmental professionals to review pertinent regulatory files, the standard poses a strong emphasis on doing so. If an environmental professional chooses not to perform a regulatory file review, they must justify their reasons for not doing so.
E1527-13 requires that the intrusion of vapor be considered when conducting Phase I ESAs. Simply put, vapor intrusion refers to chemicals in the form of a gas moving from below the surface into buildings and enclosed areas of a property. Previously, vapor intrusion was primarily considered an issue with indoor air quality and was not treated in the same way as soil and groundwater impacts.
The Effects of E1527-13 on Phase I ESAs
The new standards can pose potential cost increases of Phase I ESAs. For example, if vapor impacts are present, the cost will increase because additional investigations will likely be necessary to meet regulations. Additionally, if an environmental professional determines that a regulatory file review is necessary, the process can take longer and be more costly. However, the new standards also allow environmental professionals to more easily classify and discuss their findings when conducting Phase 1 ESAs.