3 Lessons Learned: My Initial Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

3 Lessons Learned: My Initial Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

As an Environmental Analyst at Bell Oldow Inc. I research, assess data and write reports to identify environmental risk for our clients. Recently, I was given the opportunity to get more hands on by conducting a Site visit. This led to writing up my first Phase I Environmental Site Assessment.

The property I looked at was a childcare and education facility in Massachusetts. Our client is looking to construct a new facility on the northern portion of the Site for the same purpose.

Site Assessment

The Site assessment included an in-person walk through of the Site grounds, adjoining properties and surrounding area. The walk through included a discussion with a Site representative to collect more information about the past and current use of the Site and any known uses or releases of oil and/or hazardous materials at the Site.

During the reconnaissance I inspected the Site for oil and/or hazardous materials that may be used on the Site. Apart from small quantities of general maintenance supplies properly stored in containers of five gallons or less, the Site did not utilize, store, or dispose of hazardous materials in significant quantities.

Regulatory Research

Through regulatory research, I discovered that a north adjacent gasoline station was known to have had multiple releases of petroleum products into the soil and groundwater. The Site was given a status of RAO class A3 (Remedial work was completed and a level of “no significant risk” has been achieved in which contamination has not been reduced to background, however, an Activity and use Limitation has been implemented) restricting the use of this property to commercial/industrial purposes and preventing the property from being utilized for any residential use or purpose in which children are frequently present.

Environmental Reports

I also discovered environmental reports for this off-Site property which provided data from the last monitoring well sampling activities. The results indicated groundwater was flowing north, away from our Site.

They also revealed that the southern-most monitoring well recorded VOC concentrations six times higher than the Massachusetts Contingency Plan’s GW-2 Standards (based on the potential for volatile material to migrate into the air).  This monitoring well was located within 100 feet of the northernmost extent of the Site. This raised the concern that the contamination from this off-Site property had the potential to migrate onto the northern portion of the Site (the area of the proposed new childcare building) and may result in vapors impacting any new building constructed there.

These known and unknown conditions prompted us to recommend conducting a subsurface Phase II investigation before construction of the new facility to determine if the release has migrated to the Site and will impact the future facility.

This Phase I process gave me the opportunity to:

  1. look for signs of hazardous material use on the Site,
  2. learn more about the Massachusetts regulations set up to deal with hazardous material releases, and
  3. gain a new perspective and appreciation for the work I have been doing for the last year.