Newly Revised Environmental Site Assessment Standard Complies with U.S. EPA Regulation

An important ASTM International environmental assessment standard has now been revised to comply with a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation.

When the U.S. Congress passed the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act in 2002, it cited ASTM International standard E 1527, Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment Process, as the interim standard for conducting All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI). The act also instructed EPA to develop standards for conducting AAI. In the course of doing this, it was found that E 1527 was appropriate and valid in today’s marketplace and could comply with EPA AAI regulation if certain issues were addressed. The newly-revised version of  E 1527 reflects the resolution of these issues. On Nov. 1, EPA issued its final rule on "Standards and Practices for Conducting All Appropriate Inquiries," which references E 1527 as being "compliant with the statutory criteria for all appropriate inquiries."

The purpose of  E 1527 is to define good commercial and customary practice in the United States for conducting an environmental site assessment of a parcel of commercial real estate with respect to petroleum products and the range of contaminants within the scope of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. The standard is under the jurisdiction of ASTM Subcommittee E50.02 on Real Estate Assessment and Management, which is part of ASTM Committee E50 on Environmental Assessment, Risk Management, and Corrective Action.

According to Julie Kilgore, principal and environmental manager, Wasatch Environmental, Inc., the recent revisions to E 1527 fall into three categories, which she labels "the structure piece," "the doing piece" and "the thinking piece." The structure piece was pretty straightforward and primarily related to expanding definitions to include new terms introduced in the 2002 act, and citing the environmental professional definition and declaration required by the EPA AAI regulation act.

The second category of revisions was also fairly straightforward. "These were specific action items required by the EPA AAI regulation," says Kilgore. "For example, an environmental professional must conduct interviews with at least one nearby property owner in the case of an abandoned property with evidence of uncontrolled access. Another example would be the specific components of a Phase I that must be conducted within 180 days prior to acquisition of a property."

The final category of revisions proved to be the most challenging. "This is really where the task group worked to provide a framework and guidance on some of those more abstract requirements in the EPA AAI regulation," states Kilgore. As an example, she notes that the EPA AAI regulation contains language about the environmental professional providing opinions regarding additional appropriate investigation, as well as data gaps affecting the environmental professional’s ability to identify concerns.

"Practice E 1527 was originally developed in the early 1990s to be a dynamic process driven in large part by the type of property being assessed, with the application of the process guided by environmental professional judgment," says Kilgore. "We had lost some of that flexibility in a marketplace that demanded flat-fee contracting and boilerplate results. The one-size-fits-all concept worked somewhat with those properties where environmental concerns truly were not anticipated." The new regulatory framework means that Phase I environmental site assessments will now be conducted on much more complex sites where environmental concerns are already suspected.

For further technical information, contact Julie Kilgore, Wasatch Environmental, Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah (phone: 801/972-8400; Committee E50 will meet Feb. 7-9, 2006, at the February Committee Week in Phoenix, Ariz. For membership or meeting details, contact Daniel Smith, ASTM International (phone: 610/832-9727;


Release #7279

December 1, 2005