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Phase I Environmental Site Assessments

July 6th, 2016

Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Spotlight: HREC

One of the major changes to the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment ASTM standard (E1527-13) is the enhanced definition of a REC (Recognized Environmental Condition).  ASTM added the term CREC (Controlled REC), in addition to the previously defined REC and HREC (Historical REC).

An HREC property is one that was previously deemed to have potential or actual contamination, but has since undergone remediation that meets current standards of cleanup.  An HREC site is not subject to any land use restrictions.

Case Study

Gabriel was conducting a Phase I in Chicago of a former machine IEPA-logoshop. The site was identified on the regulatory database search as an SRP (Site Remediation Program) site.  SRP is a voluntary cleanup program run by the Illinois EPA.  The IEPA is authorized to issue No Further Remediation (NFR) letters to the Remedial Applicants who have successfully demonstrated, through proper investigation and possible remedial action, that environmental conditions at their remediation site do not present a significant risk to human health or the environment.

This site received an NFR letter with no use restrictions or engineered barriers required.  Since the site clean-up, the property has been unoccupied and no longer has any hazardous substances on the premises.  Therefore, the previous contamination caused by past operations of the occupant represent an HREC for the site.

If you have questions about how Gabriel determines if an environmental condition is an HREC, contact Natalie Neuman, Group Leader Assessment Services, at 773-486-2123 or nneuman{at}gabenv.com.

June 2nd, 2016

EPA Awards Chicago $400,000 Brownfields Grant

EPA announced the City of Chicago has been awarded $400,000 toepa_logo2 assess contamination from hazardous substances and petroleum products on brownfield sites in the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods.  This grant will be used to inventory sites, conduct six Phase I Environmental Site Assessments and Phase II Environmental Site Investigations, and prepare three cleanup plans.

A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

More information about the Brownfields Grant program can be found on the EPA’s website.  Specific information about the Chicago grant is available from the City of Chicago (312-744-3639).

May 4th, 2016

EPA launches new Superfund database

EPA has launched the ‘Superfund Enterprise Management Systemepa_logo2 (SEMS) as a replacement database for the retired ‘Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Information System’ (CERCLIS) database.

SEMS contains sites that are either proposed to be, or are on, the National Priorities List (NPL) as well as sites that are in the screening and assessment phase for possible inclusion on the NPL. EPA’s Superfund program is responsible for cleaning up some of the nation’s most contaminated land and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters.

Gabriel reviews nearby Superfund and NPL sites when conducting Phase I Environmental Site Assessments.  Our regulatory database search provider has updated their databases to include SEMS information.  Gabriel’s Phase I reports will now include SEMS data instead of CERCLIS data.

If you have questions about how Gabriel uses SEMS information in our Phase Is, contact Natalie Neuman at 773-486-2123 or nneuman[at]gabenv.com.

March 2nd, 2016

Join Gabriel at the upcoming Commercial Deal Makers Forum

Gabriel’s Executive Vice President Steve Sawyer will be a featured MORe-logopanelist at the upcoming Commercial Deal Maker’s Forum sponsored by Mainstreet Organization of Realtors.

Join Gabriel for an informative commercial networking and interactive round table event.  Topics include:

  • Environmental Concerns – Steve Sawyer, CHMM – Gabriel Environmental Services
  • Property Management – John LeTourneau, Coldwell Banker
  • Branding Yourself on Social Media – Brian Palm, Palm Real Estate Ventures
  • Due Diligence – Thomas Jaros, Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC
  • SBA for Commercial Lending – Wells Fargo
  • Legislative Environmental of Illinois – Erik Breila, Illinois Department of Commerce

 

Monday, March 21, 2016

5:30 pm – 7:30 pm

Harry Caray’s Lombard

70 Yorktown Shopping Center, Lombard, IL

$35, includes cocktails and heavy appetizers

 

Additional information and registration available at the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors event page.

January 27th, 2016

Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Spotlight: File Review

One of the major changes to the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment ASTM standard during the recent revision (E1527-13) is the enhanced requirement to conduct file reviews of government records. This requirement can uncover environmental concerns documented by old building permits, wrecking permits, tank permits, and fire records.

Because this file review can add extra time – and expenses – to a Phase I, not all consultants include this research as part of their standard assessment.  Skipping this part of the due diligence process may result in missing important information, as illustrated by the case study below.

Sometimes municipalities have digitized these older records and can make them available via PDFs.  Other times, we are required to review records in person either on paper files or on microfiche.

Key records we’re looking for include:

  • Fuel or heating oil tank installation/removal
  • Previous uses of the building (eg: rug cleaner; tool & die shop)
  • Fire inspection records regarding storage and usage of hazardous materials
  • Violations caused by environmental concerns (eg: hazardous waste disposal or storage)
  • Permits to upgrade HVAC system which may indicate past use of heating oil

Case Study

Gabriel was conducting a Phase I in a Chicago suburb. This municipality made some of its old permit records available via PDF,

building permit - fuel tank2

“Fuel Tank” highlighted in red on this building permit application from 1957

including old building permits.  On the building permit to the right, we discovered “Fuel Tank” listed on this original application from 1957.  No indication of size or location was provided.

Gabriel then conducted an in-person review of the remaining records the village stored only on microfiche.  On many Fire Department inspection records from 1959-1970s, the heating system is identified as oil-forced air.  There is no documentation found for when the building switched to the current natural gas fueled unit heaters.

Due to the file review of these government records, Gabriel concluded that fuel oil had been used as the heating source at the site for many years, and that an underground fuel oil tank may still exist on site.

No USTs were registered at the site and no visual indications of a UST were found during the site inspection.  Therefore, without this file review, this Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) may have been missed.

If you have questions about how Gabriel uses file reviews in our Phase I research, contact Natalie Neuman, Group Leader Assessment Services, at 773-486-2123 or nneuman[at]gabenv.com.

June 11th, 2015

Decoding old Chicago street names during Phase I Environmental Site Assessment research

Map Showing the New House Numbering System in the City of Chicago, 1910 (courtesy of chicagology.com)

Map Showing the New House Numbering System in the City of Chicago, 1910 (courtesy of Chicago Public Library via chicagology.com)

When conducting Phase I Environmental Site Assessment research, Gabriel reviews old building permits, Sanborn fire insurance maps, and other historical sources. Sometimes reviewing this information can get confusing when the streets in question no longer have the same names.

Chicago’s city street addresses didn’t become standardized until 1908.  Even after that time, many streets were renamed to honor individuals or end lingering confusion stemming from pre-1908 street names (generally to eliminate duplicate street names).

For example, a building permit from the 1930s on “Garfield Avenue” would be pertinent to Phase I research for a property located on today’s “Dickens Street.”  We’d have to review maps listing “Robey Street” when researching sites located along “Damen Avenue.”

Information about streets with the same name require additional scrutiny by our researchers:  Lincoln Street and Lincoln Avenue;  Clybourn Place and Clybourn Avenue; Washington Street, Washington Avenue, and Washington Boulevard; and Park Avenue and South Park Avenue,  just to name a few.More information on these Chicago street name changes can be found on a Chicago Now blog and Chicagology.com.

May 15th, 2015

Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Spotlight: Aerial Photographs

During the course of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment, Gabriel reviews aerial photographs showing the site and surrounding area.  Depending on its location, aerial photographs can be available as far back as ~1930, with updates every 5-15 years.

These aerial photos can help us determine when the property was first developed, as well as any changes in the property use, building size, and surrounding area development.  Key items that can be seen on aerial photographs include:

  • Historical gas station
  • Aboveground storage tanks
  • Past use as farmland
  • Building additions
  • Illegal dumping
  • Presence of wetlands
  • Drum storage
  • Location of roads or railroad tracks/spurs
  • Quarries
  • Vegetation

Case Study

Gabriel was conducting a Phase I at a suburban location in the Chicagoland area.  While reviewing the aerial photos, we found that the site was undeveloped in 1949; by 1970 had been developed into a gas station; and by 1990 had been redeveloped into its current use as a strip mall.  This 1970 aerial photo was the key historical documentation which showed there may be petroleum products still present at this site, especially since no other documentation existed of UST removal or soil sampling.

1949 Aerial Photo - shows vacant land

1949 Aerial Photo – shows vacant land

aerial photo 1970 - cropped

1970 Aerial Photo – shows site developed as a gas station

aerial photo 1990 - cropped

1990 Aerial Photo – shows site redeveloped as a strip mall

If you have questions about how Gabriel uses aerial photos in our Phase I research, contact Natalie Neuman, Group Leader Assessment Services, at 773-486-2123 or nneuman[at]gabenv.com.

May 4th, 2015

Gabriel is considering launching a webinar series. We need your feedback.

webinar clipartDue to the popularity of our ongoing seminar series, Gabriel is considering launching a webinar series on various environmental issues.  We understand that not everyone can easily join us in person at our Chicago headquarters.

Would you be interested in attending free webinars hosted by Gabriel?  We welcome your opinions in the quick 7 question survey below:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/H2BJ3TJ

Thank you for your feedback. We will keep you posted on topics and dates for upcoming webinars, depending on results of the survey.

Survey will close May 8th, 2015.

April 9th, 2015

President Obama knows the value of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep  about the Iran nuclear deal, President Obama showed that he understands the importance of conducting a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment prior to purchasing a property, to make sure there are no “environmental disasters” on the land.

 

“The analogy I used is it’s sort of like you’ve signed a contract to purchase a home, but you’ve still got the, you know, the appraisal, the inspector, you’ve got to make sure that there isn’t some kind of environmental disaster on the land. And until you actually sign, you know, that mortgage and that document, the deal is not closed.”

 

Full interview: www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_T8rSmgMWQ

Transcript:  www.npr.org/2015/04/07/397933577/transcript-president-obamas-full-npr-interview-on-iran-nuclear-deal

April 1st, 2015

Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Spotlight: Government Records Review

During the course of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment, Gabriel reviews government records from a variety of federal, state, local, and tribal agencies.  We will review all pertinent records available, including, but not limited to: underground storage tanks (USTs); hazardous materials stored, used or disposed; environmental violations; building permits; occupancy permits; fire inspection records; construction permits; demolition permits; and closure projects.

These records help us determine if hazardous substances or petroleum products are currently or were previously located on the site.

Case Study

Recently, Gabriel was conducting a Phase I ESA at an auto repair facility in Chicago.  The current owner/occupant did not have any knowledge of USTs on the property.  osfm

However, during a search of Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) and Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) records, it was discovered that three tanks were installed at the property between 1972 and 1979, prior to the current owner purchasing the property.  The previous owner had operated the property as a gas station in addition to the repair shop, so a diesel tank, gasoline tank and used oil tank had been installed.

None of these tanks had any record of removal, which means there is a strong likelihood that the tanks are still on site and possibly leaking due to their age and material.

If you have questions about how Gabriel uses government records reviews in our Phase I research, contact Natalie Neuman, Group Leader Assessment Services, at 773-486-2123 or nneuman[at]gabenv.com.