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
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
1970 Aerial Photo – shows site developed as a gas station
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.
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.
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.
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.
During the course of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ASTM E1527-13), Gabriel reviews historical research from several sources to help determine the previous use of the subject property and neighboring properties. Some of the key historical documents we reference when conducting a Phase I are the city directory listings.
These city directories list all known occupants of each street address for a certain address range, searching back to when city directories were first produced in that particular community. By reviewing an address range that includes the subject property and adjoining properties, we can get a more complete picture of what businesses were previously located at the subject site itself and nearby sites. For corner properties, we review city directories along both roadways because historically the properties could be addressed as either street.
Some of the city directories that we review include R. L. Polk & Co., Illinois Bell Telephone, the Reuben H. Donnelley Corporation, Cole Information Services, and the Haines Company, Inc.
Recently, Gabriel was hired to conduct a Phase I on a strip mall with a known former dry cleaner. A previous Phase I, conducted by another firm, had discovered this former cleaning operation because it was listed as a Small Quantity Generator with the Illinois EPA. When reviewing the city directories, Gabriel learned that this dry cleaner had moved within the shopping center in the 1980s, which meant that there were two storefronts that could have been affected by the dry cleaning chemicals. A previous Phase II had shown contamination in the area of the known dry cleaner, so there is a good probability that the previous storefront with the dry cleaning operation also has contamination due to similar chemical usage and housekeeping practices.
If you have questions about how Gabriel uses city directories in our Phase I research, contact Natalie Neuman, Group Leader Assessment Services, at 773-486-2123 or nneuman[at]gabenv.com.
Photo courtesy of Historical Information Gatherers
For environmental consultants, fire insurance maps (FIMs) can be a goldmine of historical information that is relevant to today’s environmental conditions on a particular property. These FIMs were created for fire insurance companies to evaluate the degree of hazard for a particular building or area. FIMs were first created in London in the late 1700s, and the practice quickly spread to the U.S. The most well-known FIM company, the D. A. Sanborn National Insurance Diagram Bureau (later renamed to Sanborn Map Company) was founded in 1867 with an atlas of fire insurance maps of the Boston area. That book can be found today in the Library of Congress.
FIMs documented information that can still be important when conducting historical research during a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment. They are recognized by ASTM as one of the standard historical sources that may be used to determine if a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) exists at the subject site.
Key environmental information that can be found on a FIM includes: storage tanks (including gasoline, heating oil, etc.); historical use of the property or adjoining properties; location of petroleum products; industrial processes; heating sources; chemical storage; etc. Other useful information that may be available: if a basement is present, when a building was constructed, and general layouts.
Historical Information Gatherers (HIG) has recently released an interesting white paper about the history of fire insurance maps. The white paper includes information about land use, structures and possible environmental issues that one can discover using FIMs, as well as how FIMs were created and updated. It is available for a free download on HIG’s website. HIG is in the process of digitizing more than 500,000 color FIMs available through the Library of Congress.
More information about the history of the Sanborn Map Company is available on the Library of Congress website.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has updated its guidance documents for the Office of Housing and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to require the latest ASTM standard (E1527-13) effective May 16, 2014. This change affects several guidance documents throughout Office of Housing/FHA, including, but not limited to, the Multifamily Accelerated Processing (MAP) Guide, the Condominium Project Approval and Processing Guide, Handbook 4600.1 REV-1, Section 232 Mortgage Insurance for Residential Care Facilities, and Handbook 4615.1, Mortgage Insurance for Hospitals.
HUD specifically details the addition of the term CREC (Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition) and inclusion of vapor to the migration pathway as important reasons to require ASTM E1527-13.
“The new CREC definition will result in some environmental conditions being listed as CRECs if they have been remediated to restricted levels, as opposed to an unrestricted or de minimis level, and will be a great tool for Office of Housing/FHA staff to assess whether the site is appropriate for residential use,” stated Carol Galante, Assistant Secretary for Housing – Federal Housing Commissioner.
If you have any questions about the new Phase I standard, contact Natalie Neuman (nneuman[at]gabenv.com or 773-486-2123).