Phase II Assessments: Developing a Common-Sense Scope of Work

Phase II Assessments:  Developing a Common-Sense Scope of Work

Your Phase I Environmental Site Assessment report comes back and your environmental consultant has recommended a Phase II assessment.  Unlike the Phase I, there is not a set scope of work for performing a Phase II.  Phase II assessments typically involve the sampling and analysis of soil, groundwater, and/or soil vapors.  But how do you know if your environmental professional is recommending a sampling strategy that meets your particular needs?

The most thorough Phase II would likely include extensive property-wide sampling of all subsurface media and sending samples to the lab for costly analyses of a wide range of chemicals.  Generally, it is not economically practical or necessary to collect large numbers of samples, and it is nearly always wasteful to analyze for all possible contaminants.  So, receiving common-sense advice from your environmental professional is vital.

Phase II work scopes vary from property to property depending upon four primary factors: the site history, the type of known or suspected contaminant, the media (soil, groundwater, vapor) being evaluated, and the client's tolerance for risk.  Each factor is briefly explained below.

Site History - The operation history of a site detailed in the Phase I report will indicate where contaminants are most likely located, as well as the chemical makeup of the suspected contaminants.  For example, a Phase II assessment at a metals fabrication plant with petroleum tanks, old transformers, and a paint shop may have a wide range of potential concerns.  However, at a residential property where an underground heating oil tank is the only concern, the Phase II services should be very limited.  The time period of on-site usage can also provide clues of the possible contaminant present.  For example, a business that was labeled as "cleaners" on a map from the 1920s would not be expected to have impact from chlorinated solvents because those chemicals were not generally in use until the late 1930s.

Known or Suspected Contaminant - If the only suspected source of contamination on a site is a recent gasoline spill, there is certainly no need to analyze for metals, certain solvents, or pesticides because those are not contained in gasoline.  While we cannot deny the remote possibility of unsuspected contaminants at a site, clients typically would be well-advised to analyze only for chemicals that are suspected to be present.

Media (soil, groundwater, soil vapor) - The most critical discussion that should take place between a client and an environmental professional is what subsurface media should be analyzed.  The primary regulatory and financial liability related to environmental contamination is associated with groundwater.  In some cases, only collection of soil may be needed to evaluate for environmental concerns, while in other situations, perhaps the primary concern is vapors within sub-slab soils.  The decision of which media(s) to access can be complex and depends upon regulatory concerns as well as the other three factors discussed in this article.  A conversation with an environmental profession that can clearly explain his/her reasoning and recommendations is vital.

Client's Tolerance for Risk - In the discussion of the three factors above, environmental consultants generally recommend evaluating only for the contaminants at locations where they likely exist.  Just as there are some purchasers that may still buy former gas stations, dry cleaners, or textile mills without any environmental inspections (NOT RECOMMENDED), other purchasers are at the opposite end of the spectrum and choose to collect large numbers of samples and analyze for a large array of contaminants well beyond those that are likely to exist.  The dollar amount of the investment, financial institution requirements, or personal adversity to any measurable risk may be reasons for an expanded scope of a Phase II beyond what typically seems necessary.

EnviroSouth's common-sense and cost-effective approach to environmental consulting is based on 30+ years of regulatory and private-sector experience by its staff of geologists, engineers, and scientists.  We welcome the opportunity to provide you with our guidance through the property acquisition and remediation process on all types and sizes of properties.

Visit our website at for more information.


You may contact Tom directly at 864-236-9010 or

Coming Next:

Environmental Regulations: Overkill or Not?

Copyright © , All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is: