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Environmental Due Diligence Boot Camp
Really Bad Environmental Assessments
Case Study 2



We were asked to review a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (completed in 2000 by a regional environmental consulting firm) for quality control purposes. 


The subject property was located along a road that, from 1915 - 1940, was a major state highway (the highway was re-located in 1940). 


The area of the subject property was historically located outside of city limits, and as such there are no address-indexed occupancy records or maps for properties in that area for years prior to the late 1950s.  The people completing the assessment based their historical evaluation of the property, for years prior to 1958, solely on historical aerial photographs.  These photographs showed a relatively large building, and a variety of smaller buildings, on one corner of the subject property in the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s.


It was the conclusion of the people who prepared the assessment that the large building seen on the subject property in the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s aerial photographs was a barn, and that the smaller buildings were a farmhouse and farm sheds. Unfortunately, they were not.


From our own research of the vicinity of the subject property, we knew that what was actually located on the subject property, from the mid-1920s, into the 1950s, was a “tourist camp”: Overnight lodging cabins (also known as "car camps" and "motor hotels").  This camp, as was common with this type of occupancy, had a trading post (store) and a gasoline station associated with it.  Work later conducted on the property (per our recommendations) found three highly-deteriorated underground gasoline tanks, and significant soil and groundwater contamination, adjacent to where the "barn" had been located in the former tourist camp facility.



The original Phase 1 ESA also failed to identify another gasoline service station that had been located on the opposite end of the subject property in the late 1950s and 1960s.  They confused the address of this on-site station with that of an adjacent service station, and thus failed to identify the additional on-site contamination exposure.  Additional work later conducted on the property found significant petroleum and chlorinated degreasing solvent contamination, in groundwater, associated with this former on-site gasoline service station facility. 




The lender rejected the original assessment as deficient, and the prospective buyer wisely walked away from this significantly-distressed property.  However, the story might not have had such a “happy” ending for the buyer and lender if we had not been retained to review the original assessment report.



Just because someone calls it an "environmental assessment",
doesn't mean that they've actually fulfilled due diligence. 
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Case Study 3 
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POSTED:  17 January 2011