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What is the process of a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)?

Scope of Work


A Scope of Work is an outline of exactly what a Phase 2 ESA is looking for and the method of how the scientists are going to find it. The scope includes the number of samples taken and the analytes we'll be test for. Scopes are very important in comparing costs between vendors. The best vendors listen to your plans and strategy for the property being tested before they offer solutions or pricing for your project.

Take Samples


All Phase 2 ESAs involve taking samples of soil, air or groundwater and sometimes all three. The first goal is to confirm or deny the presence of contamination. The second goal is to find out if it is above or below state mandated objectives. The third goal is to find out how far the contamination has traveled, if it's there.

Laboratory Analytical


The day the samples return from the lab is a big day for you and your project manager. At this point, we can usually tell if you have a problem and how bad the problem is. The lab usually takes 7 to 10 days to finish their work.

Phase 2 ESA Report


The Phase 2 ESA Report is the official document reporting what results are from the tests we ran. This document can be given as proof to a lender, buyer, seller or government agency. If the results come back troubling, it can be the start of a longer process to get what's known as a No Further Remediation (NFR) letter.

Frequently Asked Questions About Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessments (ESA)

What is a Phase 2 ESA?

A Phase 2 ESA is the following step in the due diligence process after the completion a Phase I ESA has revealed Recognized Environmental Concerns (RECs). A Phase II ESA is a subsurface investigation which is done to provide definitive answers to confirm or deny the RECs identified. A3 Environmental performs Phase II ESAs in compliance with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard; E1903-97.

What is a Recognized Environmental Concern (REC)?

RECs are issues affecting the "subject property" that can't be explained away based on the information discovered in the Phase I ESA. For instance; if our scientists found an underground tank either during a site visit or in the databases, aerials or fire insurance maps which does not have a corresponding record with the regulatory agencies as being properly removed, we will call it a "REC".

Scope of Work:

A Phase II ESA requires developing a "scope of work" to try to find if the soil or water has been impacted by chemicals that were used onsite or nearby. A3 Environmental scientists work with our clients to identify areas of concern in a real estate transaction, meet regulatory standards or identify possible contamination from Underground Storage Tanks (USTs). The scope of work is very important, its essentially a strategic response in which the future needs of the client are critical. A scope which is narrow or wide will greatly affect the price. If you reach the point where you need to purchase a Phase II ESA from an environmental consultant, you should ask them what the right strategy is to meet your needs. The scope of the project is very important and is dependent on what our clients ultimately want to accomplish. For example, if you know you'll need closure from the State Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) we'll tailor the investigation to that goal. If you plan to walk away from the deal if there is anything in the soil, we can save you money with a much narrower scope. It's important to communicate with our scientists so we can develop a scope that meets your needs before we start drilling. A3E will take into account your financial constraints and work within your budget.

At the end of the scope discussion we map out a drill pattern to delineate the extent of the contamination or to try to find the tank itself.

Phase II ESA: Drill Rigs

A3 Environmental Consultants works hand in hand with local drilling companies to complete the subsurface investigation while working in a safe, efficient and timely manner.

During the Phase II ESA subsurface investigation, A3E collects soil and groundwater samples in accordance with the sampling plan. Our field geologists utilize Photoionization Detectors (PIDs) to conduct preliminary scans of the soil for possible volatilization of chemical constituents from the soils. The field technician will log and collect all soil samples in accordance with the USCS standards. Groundwater elevations will be measured from wells installed and samples will be collected in accordance with method standards.

Phase II ESA: Laboratory Work

A3E will submit the samples we take of the soil and groundwater to a certified laboratory. They run tests and create the data we need to answer the question, "What's in the Soil?" in a reliable and timely fashion. Hopefully your property is clean and this was an exercise in caution. Unfortunately, we sometimes find chemicals such as petroleum products or dry cleaning fluid. If you were a potential buyer, this information may help you from making a costly mistake. Nothing escapes the chemistry that happens with the lab samples. If it's there, we'll find it.

Phase II ESA: Report - ASTM E1903-97

The final step is to deliver to the client a report that summarizes our findings in the expected format. We utilize the ASTM E1903-97 which is accepted by all banks and the Small Business Administration (SBA). We have completed hundreds of Phase II ESAs across the country. We have the resources available to provide our Clients with the services needed to complete the due diligence process or to continue the site investigation process to close the site through regulatory agencies. It usually takes seven days to compile the information from the lab and finish the report.


The cost of a Phase II ESA is dependent on several factors outlined below. For these reasons it's very difficult to answer the question of what does a Phase II ESA cost. Typically you can expect prices that range from $2500 to $12,000 for projects we typically see. Having tanks removed and submitting to get a No Further Remediation (NFR) letter increase the costs dramatically. Expect $30,000 or more if you want a NFR.

  • What chemicals are we looking for?
    • Heavy metals?
    • Hydrocarbons?
    • Dry-cleaning fluid?
  • How big is the area?
  • How difficult is access to the space?
  • How quickly does this project need to get done?
  • What is the end goal once we have the results?
    • No Further Remediation letter?
    • State Compliance?
    • Close a sale or a loan?


Timeframes to complete a Phase II ESA are dependent on several factors. Generally, we need to coordinate with the schedules of the landowner and the drillers to find an appropriate day. Sometimes the weather is a factor. Generally picking an available day on the drillers calendar can be done inside three weeks. The laboratories take seven to ten days to turn around the samples and A3 Environmental Consultants typically need seven days to prepare the report. While it is possible to pay for expedited service from the labs and drill crew, the regular turnaround time is typically thirty to forty-five days.

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Kind words from our clients.

Kay Pentzien

Real Estate Developer

The A3 Environmental Team completed both a Phase 1 and a Phase 2 for our property and Patrick and I couldn't be more pleased with the work they did!

Ross DePaul

Mergers & Acqusitions

I thoroughly enjoyed working with A3E on our Phase 1 studies. We were running up against some deadlines, and they jumped through hoops to get everything completed on time.

Daniela Fitzgerald


The A3E team did a great job on our Phase 1 report. They were quick , thorough and professional. They were able to give me all of the information that I needed.

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Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)

Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment

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Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)

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Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment

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Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)

Phase 2 ESA

  • A3E will work hard to understand your end goals which will drive how we scope your project. We'll accomplish your goals as quickly as possible for the best price.
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  • Other environmental consultants often exaggerate risks.
  • We'll do our best to negotiate the narrowest scope possible.
  • We'll offer competitive pricing to further drive down costs.

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