Phase I Environmental Site Assessments Can Save You

There are certain extremely important environmental considerations in commercial property transactions. The soil, groundwater, or surface water, may be contaminated with pollutants such as solvents, PCBs, dry cleaning fluids, petroleum products, pesticides, arsenic, etcetera. There may be buried drums or tanks of pollutants. Or a retention pond may be part of an industrial wastewater treatment system and may be leaking pollutants into the aquifer affecting nearby residents.environmental site assessment

The conditions above may create an economically significant, environmental liability for you as the buyer. Once you enter into the chain of ownership, you are potentially liable for cleanup costs in the future. That is called joint and several liability in legalese and it could bankrupt a business, cause a default on the loan, and affect the market value of the property.

However, the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, aka Superfund, www.epa.gov/superfund) offers protection to the “innocent purchaser”. To qualify, a purchaser must exercise “due diligence” in determining whether a site is or could be contaminated. This is done by completing an Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) prior to the property transaction. The ESA is designed to determine if the property is or could be contaminated from past or current operations both on the site itself or on properties in the vicinity.

phase 1 assessment Environmental Site Assessments are conducted in phases. A Phase I ESA includes an inspection of the site and properties in the vicinity; review of environmental regulatory records, data, permits, and complaints; interviews of the buyer, seller, managers, and regulatory personnel; review of current and historical aerial photographs of the site and vicinity; review of environmental title search back to 1940; and review of nearby landfills, surface waters, and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographical maps.

If the Phase I concludes that the site does not appear to be contaminated, you are done and can move on with the transaction. However, if it indicates that the site is or could be contaminated, then a Phase II ESA will be needed to test the soil, surface water, and groundwater to conclude the due diligence. But that is the topic of another paper.

The key to the ESA is exercising due diligence. Most purchasers of commercial properties retain environmental consulting firms to complete the ESA. Extreme care must be exercised in selecting the firm. It is not a situation where a penny saved is a penny earned. It can be more like a few hundred dollars saved can be thousands to millions of dollars lost.

As a consumer, you must make sure that the consulting firm has the experience, credentials, and qualifications to properly complete the ESA. This applies to the firm itself and to the actual staff members completing the ESA. Highly qualified principal consultants in offices miles away and not actually completing the ESA are of limited to no use.

Desired qualifications may include Professional Engineers, certified Environmental Site Assessors, and Professional Geologists. Of course, appropriate insurance coverage is a must. Check for inclusion of commercial general liability, professional liability, pollutant liability, workers compensation, and automobiles.

There is no requirement to have the ESA Reports submitted and approved by environmental regulatory agencies. However, some lenders and other entities use other environmental consulting firms or attorneys to conduct peer reviews of the Reports.

There are two ways that Environmental Site Assessments can help you. First, they can help you avoid acquiring contaminated properties. Second, if the ESA is completed properly and due diligence is exercised, Superfund is supposed to fund the cleanup if contamination is found later that could not be detected during the ESA. Ultimately, due diligence would be determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, www.epa.gov) or the courts.

Environmental Safety Consultants (www.escflorida.com) can make sure due diligence is exercised in completing your ESA. We have the credentials and experience to properly complete your Environmental Site Assessments. We are a Florida-licensed Engineering business with certified Environmental Site Assessors, a Professional Engineer (P.E.), environmental scientists, and 30 years of experience completing ESAs. We are just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away (escinc@verizon.net). Be diligent and contact us today!

Surface Water Environmental Monitoring

One type of environmental monitoring is surface water testing.  This sounds simple enough, but exactly what is surface water testing?  Well, let’s break apart the term.Surface Water Environmental Monitoring

First, a surface water is a body of water on the surface of the earth, as opposed to groundwater which is beneath the surface of the earth.  Surface waters include ditches, streams, creeks, rivers, springs, bays, ponds, lakes, rivers, gulfs, and oceans.

Second, testing takes many forms.  It can be done with the unaided eye, depth measurement tools, Secchi disks, electronic meters, or samples analyzed in a laboratory.  Testing done in the water body itself or next to it is called in situ testing.

Samples can be collected manually or with automated samplers.  Manually collected samples can be collected directly into laboratory sample bottles or into mechanical collection bottles such as Kemmerer bottles which can collect samples at various depths.  The contents are then emptied into laboratory sample bottles.

Automated samplers can be programmed to collect samples at select time intervals over an extended period of time.  Separate samples can be collected at each time interval or sample aliquots can be collected at each time interval and then be added to a large sample container to produce a composite sample.

Whether the samples are collected manually or automatically, they are ultimately analyzed in a laboratory.  They can be analyzed for biological, chemical, or physical parameters.  In Florida, the laboratory should or must be accredited by the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program, NELAP (www.nelac-institute.org) and be certified by the Florida Department of Health (www.floridahealth.gov).  The data will not be accepted by regulatory agencies unless it is generated from one of these laboratories.

Why would you want to test the surface water?  There are lots of reasons.  One is that you want to be proactive because you truly care or for public relations.  For example, you may want to produce water quality data that shows your facility is not polluting the receiving surface water.  Another reason may be for an NPDES industrial wastewater permit application, or to meet monitoring requirements under a permit.  Additionally, you may have had a spill or discharge and you are being required or you are volunteering to test the surface water quality.  In that case, you may need to determine if you have impacted the receiving water or if you have cleaned it up.  Finally, you may be planning to introduce a new operation and need to establish current water quality conditions so that the operation’s impact can be projected.  After the operation is up and running, more testing can be done to determine if your projections were accurate.

If you do end up testing the surface water, you will want to make sure that it is done properly and that the data are valid and court defensible.  Otherwise, you may end up with credibility problems.  Adverse publicity and scrutiny from the media and environmental watchdog groups are not worth it.  Even if you truly have no impact on the quality of the receiving water, it may be perceived that you do because of faulty data.

This is where Environmental Safety Consultants (www.escflorida.com) can help.  We have the credentials and experience to properly complete your surface water environmental monitoring.  We are a Florida-licensed Engineering business with environmental scientists, a Professional Engineer (P.E.), and years of experience testing surface water quality.  We are just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away (escinc@verizon.net).  Contact us today!

 

Environmental Monitoring

Environmental monitoring covers a large field of testing.  The media include soil, groundwater, surface water, air, sediments, stormwater, and industrial wastewater.  The reasons for environmental monitoring are even more numerous.  From the regulatory side, it can be done for a permit application or exemption, a sanitary sewer pre-treatment ordinance, specific conditions of a permit, government regulated cleanups, investigation of spills or discharges, complaints from neighbors or employees, or regulatory citations.  In the non-regulatory area, it can be done to exercise due diligence as a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment, to prevent pollution, or to be proactive and demonstrate the company’s status as a good citizen who is concerned about the environment and the community.

environmental monitoring

There are two basic types of environmental monitoring.  The first type is done in situ (i.e., measured in the field directly on the sample media) most commonly with electronic meters, while the second type involves samples which are collected in the field and typically analyzed in a laboratory.  There are other types of readings taken in the field such as Secchi disks to determine transparency of surface water and visible evaluation of emissions from smoke stacks to determine the opacity of the smoke in comparison to allowable limits in air permits.

Samples can be discrete or grab samples or they can be composite samples collected over specified time internals or collected in proportion to the flow of a source.  Samples can be collected manually directly into the sample bottle or first into a sample collection device such as a bailer or vertical sampler which is then transferred into the sample bottle.  There are also automated samplers such as composite samplers and electric sampling devices such as peristaltic pumps, bladder pumps, and centrifugal pumps.  There are also samplers for specific tasks such as dredge samplers and corers for sediments and stack probes for air emissions.

Analysis of samples includes biological, physical, and chemical parameters.  Examples of biological analyses are benthic invertebrate identification, bioassays, zooplankton, and algal assays.  Physical analyses include particulate matter in air, turbidity (i.e., particulates in water), and temperature.  Chemical analyses include nutrients, pH, dissolved oxygen (typically done in the field, not laboratory), radioactivity, solvents, petroleum hydrocarbons, pesticides, inorganic chemicals, and organic chemicals.  Regulatory standards for these analytes can be found in various sections of Chapter 62 in the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C., http://dos.myflorida.com/offices/administrative-code-and-register/) enforced by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.  Specific air testing methods are found in various Parts in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR,  https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/ECFR?page=browse.) enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In designing environmental monitoring, first, the objective must be identified.  It may be to meet regulatory requirements, to complete due diligence, or to determine if there has been a release of pollutants.  After that, the scope of work must be developed to meet the objective.  That will involve identifying the frequency of monitoring, types of samples, methods, analytes, interpretation of results, and report of results.  Standard Operating Procedures should be followed to insure the accuracy and precision of the data.  Equipment calibrations, Chain-of-Custody forms, and Field Book records need to be part of the monitoring.  Analysis of the samples should be done by a laboratory certified by the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and accredited by the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP).  If the monitoring is not done in this manner, the results may be suspect, inaccurate, and inadmissable.

If it seems too daunting, Environmental Safety Consultants (www.escflorida.com) can help you with your environmental monitoring.  We are a Florida-licensed Engineering business with over 32 years of experience.  We are just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away (escinc@verizon.net).  Contact us today!

Industrial Wastewater Permits

Industrial Wastewater PermitsFlorida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) regulates wastewater discharges in Florida.  There are two types of wastewater, domestic and industrial.  Domestic wastewater is sanitary wastewater or sewage, while industrial wastewater is generally everything else.  Industrial wastewater can come from various sources.  These include manufacturing plants, industrial operations, construction, agricultural production and processing, commercial businesses, car washes, food processing facilities, ready mix concrete plants, boat repair yards, marinas, petroleum and solvent cleanup sites, mines, and more.

 

To be regulated, the discharges must have pollutants in them and be discharged to waters of the State (or to groundwater, which is not the focus of this article) or have a reasonable expectation to be a source of water pollution.  Waters of the state include rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, estuaries, bays, the gulf, and oceans.  Ditches that flow into these waters are included.

 

The pollutants are identified in 62-302, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.).  They include organic matter and chemicals, metals, nutrients, solvents, petroleum hydrocarbons, particulates, pesticides, radioactive materials, and more.

 

All industrial wastewater permits stem from the federal Clean Water Act enacted by the U.S. Congress in the 1970’s and implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, www.epa.gov) under its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).  In Florida, the NPDES regulations are implemented by FDEP (www.flwaterpermits.com).   Usually, the local FDEP District Office is the permitting authority.  Sometimes, it is a county environmental office and for a couple of permit types, it is the State FDEP Office in Tallahassee.

 

There are NPDES permits for point sources (e.g., discharge pipe from a manufacturing plant) and nonpoint sources (i.e., stormwater runoff).  In this article, we are focusing on point sources.  Regardless of that, FDEP issues one NPDES permit for the facility which serves as both the state and the federal permit.

 

Not every facility needs an individual industrial wastewater permit.  There are general or generic permits which cover common facilities with similar operations, pollutants, controls, and discharges.  These are available for concrete ready mix facilities, tomato wash operations, laundromats, fish farms, sand and limestone mines, fresh citrus wash water, and car wash systems.

 

The first step is to determine if you are discharging to waters of the State and if the discharge contains pollutants.  After that, you will need to calculate volumes and concentrations of pollutants in the discharge.  Testing may be required to determine the concentrations.  The testing may require a simple grab sample or may require a sample composited over 24 hours or more.  A state certified lab will be required to analyze the samples.  A Chain-of-Custody form will be required to follow the sample bottles from the laboratory shipping the empty bottles through sample collection, transportation, and submission to the laboratory.  While you may save money collecting the sample yourself, it pays great dividends to have a trained environmental scientist or engineer collect it.

 

Whatever your needs are, Environmental Safety Consultants (www.escflorida.com) can help you evaluate your operation, test your discharge, and apply for your industrial wastewater permit.  We are a Florida-licensed Engineering business with a Professional Engineer (P.E.) on staff.  We are just a telephone call (800-226-1735) or an e-mail away (escinc@verizon.net).  Contact us today!

Environmental Permits

Environmental PermitsEnvironmental permits are a big concern for many in Florida.  There are permits for wetlands, endangered species, air emissions, wastewater emissions, stormwater, sewer discharges, septic tanks, drinking water, solid wastes, hazardous waste facilities, and even more.  Developers, builders, banks, attorneys, manufacturers, industrial facilities, hospitals, crematories, municipalities, and many more have to deal with environmental permits.

The first step is to decide if your planned operation will require an environmental permit.  Second, you have to decide what part of the environment you may impact.  Next, you have to determine what the permits may be.  And, finally, you have to determine what agencies administer the permits.

There are several key agencies which typically administer the various types of environmental permits.  These include the Water Management Districts, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, counties, cities, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  All of them have web sites and are generally helpful.

Environmental Safety Consultants can help you determine your needs and apply for your environmental permits.  We are just a call or an e-mail away.  Contact us at (941) 795-2399 or (727) 538-4154 today!