When shopping around for a Phase I provider to assist them, the Client often uses the cost of the Phase I services as the primary factor. This can be a terrible mistake. Given that the Client is using the Phase I results to make (usually) a multi-million dollar decision, and the difference between a thorough and a ‘minimum’ Phase I study is often just a few thousand dollars, it only makes sense to find a qualified Phase I provider who will do the job right the first time.
In order to get the minimum benefit (and protection) offered by a Phase I, a consultant must adhere to the minimum requirements outlined in American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) Standard E1527-05. Lots of Phase I providers provide low-cost investigations by using relatively inexperienced employees to do most of the work. In an effort to meet the minimum standards required under ASTM E1527-05 and stay under budget, these providers often do a poor job, do not fully understand issues they do find, or simply do not spend enough effort identifying all the issues at a site. This often results in either conditions going undiscovered or potential conditions being exaggerated. Either of these mistakes will likely result in someone (Buyer or Seller … or Both) getting stuck with a problem costing tens of thousand of dollars.
In contrast, a thorough Phase I typically goes beyond meeting the minimum requirements of a Phase I and, instead, attempts to truly identify Recognized Environmental Conditions which are defined 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 release of any hazardous substances or petroleum products into structures on the property or into the ground, groundwater, or surface water of the property.”
A qualified and experienced Phase I investigator knows what to look for, where to look and (importantly) knows when the “minimum just isn’t enough”. When standard sources of information don’t provide information for a given site, the qualified provider knows what other resources may provide missing documentation. When no information is obtainable, the qualified investigator understands that this is important and what it means relative to completing the Phase I or proceeding with a Phase II assessment. Finally, a qualified Phase I provider understands the results and can fashion an appropriate Phase II investigation to properly address the Recognized Environmental Conditions and/or data gaps identified during the Phase I process.