What is a Phase 2 Site Assessment?
Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessments is the second step in the process after a Phase 1 assessment identifies any Recognized Environmental Conditions (RECs) and/or recommends further investigation. Unlike the Phase 1 ESA which has specific rules to be compliant, a Phase 2 (ASTM E1903-11) is the framework standard for how to perform the Phase 2 assessment. Different aspects of the assessment may be governed by local Portland & Oregon guidelines. For example, underground storage tanks must follow the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Underground Storage Tank Rules.
The standard of the Phase 2 ESA is typically defined by the scope proposed by the environmental professional, which is then accepted by the client. This way, the Phase 2 assessment can be customized for each specific situation. Normally, a Phase 2 ESA is actually a screening to determine if potential contamination and/or hazardous materials are present. The Phase 2 may or may not not fully characterize contamination present nor is it designed to be a complete feasibility study. However, these items can be included as part of the Phase 2 ESA scope or may be part of the screening recommendations.
Alpha Environmental has significant experience in both Phase 1 and Phase 2 assessments in Portland and surrounding areas in Oregon. In the event Alpha discovers a potential issue with your property during a Phase 2 ESA, we will discuss all possible options with you for performing additional investigations. If a different consulting firm has performed the Phase 1, it does not mean the same company must perform the Phase 2. Alpha is a company known for its integrity and communication, and this is why many clients come to us after being dissatisfied with their previous consultant.
Geophysical surveys are often recommended and included to help locate subsurface objects such as buried tanks or drums. The surveys are also used to identify underground utilities, and suitable locations for soil borings and groundwater monitoring wells.
“The quality of work and professionalism of the staff exceeded our expectations on virtually every phase of the work, from the initial conceptual planning to the final quality control checks.” – Michael Niemet P.E. CH2M Hill
When is a Phase 2 ESA needed?
This is a typical question and there is not always a simple answer. The ASTM standard describes an REC as “the presence or likely presence of any hazardous substances or petroleum products on a property under conditions that indicate an existing release, a past release, or a material threat of a release of any hazardous substances or petroleum products into structures on the property or into the ground, ground water, or surface water of the property”. The term includes hazardous substances or petroleum products even under conditions in compliance with laws.
In general, previous site uses that normally create the need for a Phase 2 ESA may include: service stations, dry cleaners, automotive and machine shops, manufacturing, hazardous waste storage, etc. Further analysis into the specific site details during the Phase 1 ESA help determine, if any of these previous uses have created a significant potential for a release or if a known release has occurred. Expertise in soil and groundwater contamination is required in order to make good judgments in regards to these matters and Alpha always utilizes our staff of experienced Professional Geologists or Environmental Scientists with specific experience in this field.
Many lenders will automatically require a Phase 2 ESA for a property that has had any of these environmentally-sensitive uses. These studies can range from Limited Phase 2 ESA to full Phase 2 Environmental Studies that may include the installation of groundwater monitoring wells with extensive testing. As part of the due diligence process for real estate transactions, a more limited study should be conducted as a screen initially to determine if there is a significant problem. If this is the case, further site characterization may be required or this can help the buyer decide if he wants to go forward with the transaction.
How much does Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment Cost?
The cost for a Phase 2 ESA ranges greatly, depending on the site specific details. The site specifics include: type of lab analyses required, drilling method needed, access to the subsurface, overhead constraints, groundwater testing required, etc.
Typical due diligence type Phase 2 ESA studies are in the $4,000 to $15,000 range. In order for us to provide an accurate price quote, we will look at the specific site and develop a strategy to minimize costs and maximize information in order to make accurate conclusions regarding the presence of a significant problem.
What Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment Services Does Alpha Environmental Offer?
SOIL SAMPLING AND SITE CHARACTERIZATION
Alpha’s Professional Geologists have successfully completed soil sampling and characterizations for hundreds of sites. To reduce cost and ensure accuracy, Alpha typically endeavors to utilize direct-push sampling technology, when available, to obtain core samples of soil. Once the sample results are received, Alpha scientists are able to determine if the sample results collected from the site represent human health and/or ecological risks that require further action.
SOIL TESTING, PROFILING AND DISPOSAL
Alpha’s geologists and environmental scientists have extensive experience in soil testing & profiling of soil for disposal and/or reuse in accordance with regulatory requirements. To reduce the cost of disposal, Alpha’s soil sampling enables the soil to be reused or segregated and disposed of in the most cost effective manner.
GROUNDWATER REMEDIATION, SAMPLING AND PLUME MIGRATION
Groundwater remediation & characterization is performed by obtaining grab groundwater samples. If contamination is present, our geologic experts evaluate the nature, extent, and concentration of the contaminant plume. Following assembly of the data, computer modeling techniques enable Alpha’s scientists to determine the contaminant plume and migration.
WELL INSTALLATION AND MONITORING
Groundwater monitoring wells are often required by regulatory agencies to obtain accurate groundwater quality data, groundwater flow direction and gradient. To reduce costs, Alpha’s scientists obtain competitive bids from drilling contractors and help you make cost-effective decisions. Alpha currently samples several wells on a quarterly basis as required by regulatory agencies for site closure.
REMEDIATION DESIGN AND MANAGEMENT
If contaminants are found that require removal, Alpha can handle all aspects of the project including; development of plans and specifications, furnishing excavation equipment, obtaining agency permits, and managing the remediation from start to finish.
REGULATORY AGENCY INTERACTION AND SITE CLOSURE
Despite efforts to streamline the process to obtain regulatory closure, site closure requirements are as complex as ever and vary from county to county. Alpha has 25 years of experience interacting with local lead regulatory agencies and work on our client’s behalf to determine the most cost effective approach for each investigation and remediation project.
BROWNFIELD ASSESSMENT AND REDEVELOPMENT
Alpha’s staff of Environmental Professionals and Professional Geologists routinely works with real estate developers looking to purchase a contaminated site for re-development. Alpha performs proper site characterization and estimates remediation costs so developers can make informed decisions regarding a property.
Risk Assessment is used to determine potentially adverse environmental conditions and contaminants that may pose health and safety concerns. In order to have a clear conceptual understanding of a site, Alpha thoroughly assesses and models the key elements of the project including the Source, the Exposure Pathways and the potential Receptors.
If a source is confirmed on a site through testing and laboratory analysis, the concentrations of contaminants encountered in the soil and groundwater are compared to the Oregon DEQ Risk-Based Concentrations (RBCs). An RBC is the concentration of a hazardous substance in soil, water, air or sediment that is determined to be protective of human health and the environment under specified exposure conditions. RBCs are identified for the particular hazardous substances at a site and the specific areas or pathways, such as land or water, where humans and environmental receptors can become exposed to these substances.
Exposure Pathways are the means by which contamination may impact human health or the environment. These pathways include the air, water, and soil. If a pathway is determined to be “complete” then the potential Receptors must be considered.
The following is the list of Risk-Based Concentrations (RBCs) for Oregon:
Receptors include the current and future potentially exposed population and the environment. In order for Risk to be present at the site, a source must be present, a pathway must be complete and a receptor must be present. If any of the three key elements are missing, there is no risk.
VAPOR INTRUSION STUDIES
Vapor intrusion refers to what happens when chemical vapors migrate from the soil or groundwater into a home or other building. Many chemicals that move into buildings this way are classed as volatile organic compounds (or VOCs). The term volatile means unstable—which in turn means these chemicals are likely to exist in gas (aka vapor) form. Vapor intrusion has increasingly become more of an issue mainly due to the DEQ’s (and EPA) addition of more commonly found constituents benzene, ethylbenzene and naphthalene typically found in petroleum products.
Because they’re gaseous, VOCs can move easily through spaces between soil particles and tend to migrate from high-pressure to low-pressure areas. Since a basement is probably at lower pressure than the soil underneath, these vapors are likely to enter the basement (or other first level) through cracks in the foundation, walls, or floors. Some heating and air conditioning systems will literally pull the gases into the structure. Once they’re inside, natural air flow and ventilation allow the vapors to spread throughout the building. Vapor intrusion can cause indoor air to become polluted and unhealthy.
What are the risks of vapor intrusion?
The degree of health risk vapor intrusion poses depends on the type of chemical and concentration of the chemical in the home. The most common sources of chemicals that can cause vapor intrusion problems are gas stations and dry cleaners. For example, a nearby gas station might have a leak or spill from an underground storage tank allowing gasoline to release to the soil and possibly groundwater. Short-term exposure to gasoline-related vapors can cause respiratory irritation, nausea, or headaches, and long-term exposure can contribute to long-term effects such as cancer. Vapor intrusion clearly can cause health risks to families. In addition, vapors might pose a liability issue if they intrude into a workplace.
How do I know if I have vapor intrusion?
There are several ways to test whether toxic chemicals are entering a building: you can collect soil vapor samples in the ground nearby a structure or in the ground right under your foundation; or you may elect to collect indoor air samples.
If you learn that a nearby gas station or industry has had a toxic spill or leak, you might call the owners or government officials to request that they test your home for vapor intrusion. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a lot of information about vapor intrusion and safe chemical levels.
What should I do?
Landlords, property owners, developers, and investors should take vapor intrusion very seriously. They should include Vapor Encroachment Screenings, Vapor Intrusion Testing in their due diligence activities if warranted.
If tests indicate that chemicals are intruding into your home or commercial structure, there are several actions you could take. You might seal any cracks in your walls or foundation. Or you could have a mitigation and/or remediation system installed.
Alpha has certified environmental consultants who conduct Vapor Encroachment Studies according to the guidance of the EPA’s ASTM E2600-10 “Standard Practice for the Assessment of Vapor Encroachment Screening on Property Involved in Real Estate Transactions.” A Vapor Encroachments Study is a method for evaluating the potential for a vapor intrusion condition.
In certain cases, geophysical surveys may be the most cost effective or logistically viable method by which the subsurface features of site are evaluated. These surveys are generally conducted when attempting to determine whether subsurface structures exist, such as underground storage tanks, clarifiers, or any other features that may shed light on hazardous materials usage/storage.
A geophysical survey can determine if a subsurface feature, which is not visible at the surface, exists at the site or can identify evidence of former subsurface feature by identifying evidence such as terminated piping (i.e. product pipes, vent lines, electrical conduits, or sewer lines), as well by identifying disturbed soil lithology in the shape and depth of the subsurface feature.
These surveys are non-invasive, non-destructive and can be performed rapidly with results often available the same day. Alpha typically recommends magnetic surveys, ground penetrating radar (GPR) imaging and utility locating depending on site conditions and targeted subsurface features.
ASSESSMENT SERVICES OFFERED BY ALPHA
- Hand auger
- Hand-driven Geoprobe™ samplers
- Track mounted, limited access direct-push samplers
- Truck-mounted direct-push samplers
- Open-flight hollow-stem auger
- Test Pits
If you are in need of a Phase 2 ESA in Portland or the surrounding Oregon area, or would just like to talk to someone about your property, call Alpha Environmental today at 503-292-5346 for more information.