June 23, 2020

What is a Phase I ESA ? 

Have you been told that you need a Phase I ESA, but aren’t sure what it is or where to start? Essel is here to help. 

What is a Phase I ESA ? 

A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (Phase I ESA) is an environmental report that documents the history of a property in a real estate transaction where a change of property ownership occurs. 

A Phase I ESA can be conducted on all types of property, including residential, commercial, industrial, or agricultural properties. They can even be conducted on undeveloped lands. 

The report, conducted by an environmental firm, examines the history of the site down to its earliest available records. In a Phase I ESA, the firm conducting the examination is looking for any “high-risk uses” of the property or adjacent properties that might contribute to a REC, or recognized environmental condition, on the property in question in the past or present. 

Some common “high-risk uses” of a property include: 

  • The property, or an adjacent property, was previously used as a gas station, service station, or repair shop of any kind.
  • The property was used as a junkyard, metal shop, or automobile salvage.
  • The property used to be a dry cleaner’s for any number of years. 

The possibility of a REC on the property could warrant further testing of soil and groundwater for contamination, often referred to as a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment (Phase II ESA) or a soil vapor test. 

There are many different types of RECs that vary in levels of complexity and importance. The most common RECs are related to abandoned oil wells, leaky underground storage tanks (USTs), residual dry cleaning chemicals, or improperly disposed of or stored chemical waste. 

An important thing to note about a Phase I ESA is that no sampling is conducted on the property at this time. A Phase I ESA is a visual inspection of the property where engineers comb through records, conduct a site visit, and talk to former property owners, the owners of adjacent properties, and relevant others. As previously mentioned, a Phase I ESA determines if further testing needs to be performed on the property.

To learn more about Phase I ESAs, give us a call at 1-800-595-7616 to speak to one of our experts, or reach out to us online at