Environmental Due Diligence Boot Camp
Lesson 9:  Environmental Assessment - How Long Is This Going To Take ? 



Second to the price, the most frequent question we get asked is, “how long will it take to complete this environmental assessment ?”


The first thing I need to make clear is that we have no control over the time it takes to complete some elements of the assessment process.


For Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments (ESA), we place an order for things like historical aerial photographs and local records research, and then wait however long it takes for those materials and information to be transmitted to us.  We also have no control over how long it takes to obtain authorization to access and inspect the subject property, or to set up an interview with the property owner(s).


For Phase 2 ESAs, we are dependent upon the drilling company to tell us when they can schedule equipment and personnel for our project.  Once environmental samples are obtained, the timeframe for obtaining analytical results is entirely in the hands of the project laboratory.




Completion Timeframes - Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments:


Our “record” time for completing a Phase 1 ESA:  13.5 days.  And that was for a property with no surprises or complications that was located next door to another site that we had just recently assessed.



It takes time to assemble all the information that is needed to complete an assessment:  Typically around 1.5 - 2 weeks just to get the historical aerial photographs and have local records researched.  Then it takes time to digest and carefully review and evaluate all the acquired information in order to render a final opinion and prepare the final assessment report. 


The fact is, the time spent analyzing the data is probably the most critical part of the entire assessment process.  The difference between an accurate, high-quality Phase 1 ESA report, and a slap-dash product that is likely to later be proven to be deficient and flawed, is the amount of time that was devoted to data analysis.


I’ve been doing environmental assessments for a long time.  So you can believe me when I say, from experience, that it’s when clients demand unreasonable completion timeframes that unnecessary, unacceptable, and just plain stupid mistakes start showing up in the final assessment work-product.



For a standard commercial property, you should plan on a full 4 weeks from the date of project authorization until a final Phase 1 ESA report is issued. 


There are firms that claim they can provide you with a Phase 1 ESA in 5 - 10 days.  Take my word for it… what you get from them will almost always be garbage.  Be very cautious about retaining any consulting firm that offers to provide "Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments" in less than three (3) weeks, or who markets their Phase 1 ESA services as "fast turnaround".


Case Study


One of our clients regularly used a firm that guaranteed completed assessments in 5 days. The client repeatedly asked me why we couldn’t match that timeframe.  The answer became clear when we were asked to update one of these “5-day wonder” assessments for a re-financing.  There was nothing, and I mean nothing, in the original assessment report that could be relied upon and used in the update.  They got the site history wrong; they missed the abandoned next-door gasoline station; they didn’t even cite the correct version of the ASTM assessment standard they were supposed to be using.  We ended up completely re-doing the assessment so that the client and the lender had accurate due diligence information for the property to rely upon.



Completion Timeframes - Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessments: 


There are a lot of elements that go into a successful Phase 2 ESA.  Planning and coordinating the project, completing underground utility locating, and scheduling a driller all takes about 1 - 2 weeks.  When everything is ready to go, the on-site work activities typically require 1 - 3 days.  And then you wait 8 - 16 days for the laboratory analysis results.  Once the results are in, figure on at least 7 - 10 days for the data to be analyzed and a final assessment report prepared.


For a standard commercial property, you should plan on an average of 4 - 6 weeks from the date of project authorization until a final Phase 2 ESA report is issued. 




There’s an old saying in the printing business:  “I can do your job cheap, and I can do your job fast.  But I can’t do your job cheap or fast, and give you a quality printing job”.  The same thing pretty much holds true for environmental assessments.



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POSTED:  14 January 2011