The term “Environmental REC” is shorthand for Recognized Environmental Condition. It’s frequently misunderstood by clients that have little experience with them as “an environmental wreck”. It means that an environmental professional has identified the presence or likely presence of hazardous substances or petroleum products in, on, or at a property being assessed due to 1) a release to the environment, 2) under conditions indicative of a release to the environment, or 3) under conditions that pose a material threat of a future release to the environment.
RECs are typically identified in a report called a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) (or Phase 1 ESA). They are easily identified in the executive summary of the report.
Most people don’t google search the term REC without actually having one.
So we should probably talk about that.
You have a Environmental REC on your property, what happens next?
The same report that identified a REC should also offer recommendations on whether or not further investigation is warranted. Further investigation typically means, a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment (or Phase 2 ESA). The Phase 2 ESA is designed to address or investigate whether or not the identified REC is actually causing an environmental condition.
Finding yourself in need of a Phase 2 ESA is not great news but you do have options. The first option is you’re not stuck with the environmental consultant that did the Phase I ESA. You can email the Phase 1 ESA report to several environmental consultants to bid on and drive the cost down with competition. You may find, and you should specifically ask if the other environmental consultants agree that a Phase 2 ESA is needed.
Phase 2 ESA Scope of Work
The consultant that performed the Phase I ESA should provide a scope of work (SOW). This document might come as part of a cost estimate for a Phase 2 ESA. The SOW is an important document because it telegraphs the consultant’s view of what needs to be done to get the client solutions to clear the REC.
However, scopes of work vary as much as any person’s opinion and may not match the goals of the client. As the client, you need to figure out what your goals are to save yourself time and money in the midterm.
Thus, an accurate, yet cost-effective, scope of work should be developed. A well-developed scope of work will identify several key details including; the location of the REC, the substance or product associated with the REC, and the best method to investigate the REC.
Once you get the original consultant’s SOW, you should ask, “What is the minimum scope of work we can do on this project”. You should receive an answer and think about how it fits your goals. Then, you should ask, “What’s the maximum scope of work so when I’m done, I’m done.” This SOW will be more in depth and take into consideration regulatory agency criteria for a full remediation of the problem.
These questions and answers will make you a better educated buyer and move you from the passenger seat in this process, to the driver. Remember, a scope of work is a strategy to meet future goals but only you know your future goals. Your goal might be to minimize cost, minimize risk or minimize time spent messing around with an environmental issue, all of which can be mutually exclusive.
I have my Scope of Work, now what?
Keep your original consultant honest by giving the scope of work to two more environmental consultants and get pricing. Ask these other consultants if they agree or disagree with the scope of work and why. Make them justify their positions.
Avoid consultants pitching scopes of work designed to minimize prices, not limit risk.
This consultant knows that buyers are cost sensitive and in order to win the work they narrow the scope of work, drill to the wrong depth and put the wells in the wrong spots. Surprise! They don’t find any contamination and they were the lowest cost so everybody wins right?
Not so fast.
You called them to evaluate an Environmental REC and the risk it poses. They deliberately avoided answering that question. The risk is still out there and you may have to go through this process again and pay twice to find it. As a buyer, you may have inherited all the environmental liability of whatever contamination is underground. So for the cost of the lowest bidder and deliberately narrow scope in the wrong location on the subject property you could be looking at five or six digits of financial risk.
If you have an Environmental REC on your property or one you are interested in purchasing, give A3 Environmental Consultants a call. We’ll work to get your Environmental REC removed with the utmost in confidentiality, we’ll meet or exceed ASTM Standard E1527-13 on any sort of commercial or industrial property. Our reports meet the requirements of all lenders and government agencies such as the Small Business Administration (SBA), Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). A3 Environmental Consultants can be reached at (888) 405-1742 or by email at Info@A3E.com.