Know More About the Phase 1 ESA in Canada


Laws of municipal, state/provincial, or federal origins, including the EPA or Environment Protection Act, govern the operations that can exert an impact on the environment. Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) and the consultant firms can identify the different contamination risks in a situation and facility, which may occur due to a wide range of substances, including herbicides, petroleum, organic compounds, and heavy metals. ESA and reports generated through it also help businesses, individuals, and others identify whether the laws have been abided by or not. Those in real estate can hence identify the existing and potential contamination liabilities that they may carry, as ESA involves an examination of land as well as the physical aspects of the property. Phase 1 ESA is the first step of ESA and may include checking records and documents, checking on visual evidence of contamination, and others. During phase 2 environmental site assessment, samples from air, water, building materials, and groundwater are collected, and extensive testing is carried out.

Phase 1 of ESA

An accredited environmental consultant carries out the Phase 1 examination, inspection, and assessment, and the process and efforts are for the identification of potential contamination. During Phase 1, the background documents of the property can be checked, and data may be collected and analyzed for the neighboring sites and properties as well. While properties with 250 meters are focused upon, surveyors may also go beyond that scope and specified length. Hence the properties located far beyond the boundary of the property may also be considered for evaluation when they are causing contamination. They will also be included in Phase 1 ESA when such a need arises.

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Visual evidence, for the real or potential contamination, is also looked upon. Aerial imagery may also be obtained, and a search for the title is conducted. Government officials, site supervisors, and any other relevant party and the third party may also be interviewed for purposes related to obtaining information. These interviews may verify and/or supplement the data collected during the review of the records. Interviews can be used for other purposes, including a site survey or corroborating the information obtained through the process.

However, in phase 1 environmental site assessment, samples are not gathered, and no laboratory testing is carried out. Other investigative processes, like physical analysis and intrusive investigation, are also excluded. Hence the Phase 1 ESA may pave the way for ESA Phase 2. The first phase may reduce the risk of contamination but does not necessarily eliminate it. Therefore, if the evidence supports further testing, Phase 2 is carried out to obtain protection for the liabilities related to contamination and for other purposes. In most cases, Phase 1 of ESA is initiated because of reasons including:

  • Property insurance renewal.
  • To convince the buyer for the real estate deals and due diligence.
  • For financing.
  • To assist the vendor so that sales can be expedited.
  • For establishing the baseline when a lease is commenced upon.
  • To know whether there has been any contamination during the period, the property was leased, after it has terminated.

The CSA or Canadian Standards Association protocol for the environment may guide Phase 1 of ESA. In other cases, like renewing the mortgage loan insurance, the CMHC or Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation investigation procedures may be adopted.

ESA can be conducted under the supervision of a qualified person. As per the regulation, the investigator or accessor should be holding a license following the PEA or Professional Engineers Act. The concerned person or agency may also be certified under the Professional Geoscientists Act.

Hiring a reputed environmental consultancy for ESA Phase 1 and 2 is necessary as a multidisciplinary approach may be required for either of the investigations. Skills in areas including physics, chemistry, microbiology, and botany, among other subject areas may be needed for obtaining insights, and essential resources and capabilities are also required. The best firms have the right set of resources and experiences to provide accurate reports and guidance. They also have the necessary licenses and certifications and employ the certified and qualified surveyors and investigators to ensure that the processes remain complaint-free, and the reports are genuine.

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