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Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Spotlight: Aerial Photographs

May 15th, 2015

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.

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