Requirements for California Environmental Site Assessments
California site assessments are required whenever a property changes hands or changes uses
Environmental site assessments are used to enable property owners to understand their own properties better. Site assessments are most often commissioned when a property is about to change hands, when a new lender is about to become involved with the property, or when the property owner wants to change the use of the property, for example from private to public use. They may also be commissioned if a concern has been raised about possible contamination or environmental damage.
The state of California has many detailed rules and regulations for environmental site assessments. Many different regulatory bodies may be involved, depending on the location and current usage of the property. In order to ensure that all of the requirements for an environmental site assessment are met, it is vital to choose a contractor that fully understands California law, and can tailor their assessment to your needs while still meeting the requirements of the law.
Registered Environmental Professionals
All Phase I environmental site assessments in the state of California must be performed by a qualified professional, known as a Registered Environmental Assessor. Of course, if you need an environmental assessment for your own personal information rather than to meet a legal obligation, you may be able to use an abbreviated form of the Phase I assessment.
Water Quality Requirements
An environmental site assessment must include analysis of water quality, in accordance with the requirements set by the Regional Water Control Board that has jurisdiction over the property. For example, in the LA area, the board requires that samples be taken from both soil and groundwater in order to assure that no unacceptable contamination levels are present. If the property contains an underground storage tank, the tank should be inspected for leaks that could affect water and soil quality. In LA, responsibility for underground storage tanks falls under the jurisdiction of the fire department.
Human Health Requirements
The California Human Health Levels (CHHLs) provides a conservative description of the acceptable levels of certain hazardous chemicals in the soil, water, or indoor air of a property. Knowing whether or not arsenic, for example, is present in the soil or building helps owners and potential lenders judge the risk associated with the property and its suitability for various uses. While any environmental assessment should include taking samples that can be tested for CHHLs, usually the actual testing will be done at additional cost by an outside lab.
In addition to identifying potential hazards, an environmental assessment must identify the presence of any environmental factors requiring protection. For example, if wetlands, endangered species, or historical resources are found on the property, further development may be subject to restriction. A good environmental site assessment contractor should also be able to perform Wetland Assessments and Environmental Impact Studies.
Don’t try to wade through the tangle of regulations associated with environmental site assessments on your own. Instead, hire a qualified contractor to perform the assessment and guide you through the process.