Site Assessment and Remediation
Environmental Site Assessments
Environmental Site Assessments (ESA) involve the evaluation of the status
of land with respect to environmental contamination - in particular,
chemical contamination of soil and groundwater. The scope of an ESA
may also extend to the assessment of the potential impact of contaminant
migration from the investigated area to adjacent areas, surface water
and groundwater resources.
is an ESA required?
ESAs are often commissioned:
as pre-acquisition or pre-sale assessments,
on behalf of either purchaser or vendor, when a property
is being sold; such assessments can be considered analogous
to the Title and Planning searches normally carried out
as part of the conveyancing process;
as pre-development assessments, when a property
is to be redeveloped or is to have its usage changed - for
example, from a factory to a residential subdivision;
as pre-development assessments of greenfield
sites, to establish baseline conditions and assess environmental,
geological and hydrological constraints to development;
an example would be an assessment of waste disposal constraints
on rural subdivisions;
as audits of the environmental effects of
an ongoing operation, to ensure sound environmental practice
and regulatory compliance.
may require an ESA?
The potential liabilities associated with the purchase of
land which may be contaminated are such that many aware organisations,
including lending institutions, banks and finance houses (particularly
those who have previously been exposed to environmental liability),
are themselves commissioning or requiring loan clients to commission,
environmental assessments for all major land purchases. In other
cases, environmental assessments are required by planning authorities
(generally local councils) prior to consideration of applications
for rezoning or redevelopment of land to a more sensitive land
use: an example of such a situation could be a developer intending
to convert former industrial land into residential properties.
In fact, the financial risks associated with the
purchase of contaminated land are such that no one should undertake
any land purchase without considering the possibility that the
site may be contaminated. As vendors may be liable for misleading
statements made to potential purchasers, and owners or lenders
may be liable for the activities of occupiers, anyone associated
with land transactions should consider the benefits of an Environmental
Site Assessment carried out by a specialist. Although the financial
risks associated with land contamination cannot be eliminated,
they can be managed, and one of the best management tools available
is the Environmental Site Assessment.
What is involved in an ESA?
We prefer to undertake ESAs as staged studies, comprising
up to three stages.
Stage 1 typically involves a desk review
of site conditions, including -
of available topographical and geological mapping, current
and historical aerial photographs;
review of relevant published geological, geotechnical
and hydrogeological information;
compilation of the sites ownership history,
and the nature of activities undertaken on the site by its
interviewing the current and, where possible,
previous owners and occupiers of the site, to assess environmental
management practices, and the location of particular activities
on the site;
review of the sites development and regulatory
history, with particular attention to development applications,
discharge licences, compliance notices and orders imposed
under the Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals, Unhealthy Building
Land and Contaminated Land Management Acts;
assessment of the status of adjacent land,
and its potential impact on the site.
a site reconnaissance comprising a walk-over
and visual observations by an experienced assessor, supplemented
with photography and on-site instrumental measurements.
2 investigations are only carried out if warranted by the
results of Stage 1. These investigations involve sampling and
analysis of materials from the site in order to establish levels
of contamination. The number of samples, their location, depths
and recommended analytical suites will be strongly influenced
by the results of the previous Stage 1 investigations.
The final stage of the assessment process involves the
preparation of a full remedial action plan for site clean-up.
That plan must then be implemented under appropriate supervision,
and validation sampling carried to to demonstrate that remediation
has been effective.
CMJA believes that this staged approach to environmental site
assessments enables us to do a better job by keeping
our clients informed at each stage of the ESA, and by providing
them with an assessment completed to high technical standards.
We also believe it offers our clients a service that is better
value for money.
Who should undertake your ESA?
Your ESA should be undertaken by a consultant who is both
skilled and experienced in this very specialised area, who understands
the risks involved, and who is able to clearly communicate his
results to you.