Assessing Environments: How scientists statewide protect Alaska's lands.

Author:Joyal, Brad

No two environmental site assessments are the same. Organizations and individuals request assessments because of specific needs unique to the circumstances of their particular project. Environmental site assessments are most commonly used to determine the risks of contaminants on a property, and some projects require a more thorough assessment to be completed due to the history of the site.

Environmental site assessments are generally requested during the early stages of a transaction process, as the involved parties typically view the assessment as a part of the "due diligence" period before the transaction is complete, so the majority of Phase I site assessments occur before a property changes ownership. If contamination risks are identified and need remediation, the site would require a Phase II site assessment to clean up the contaminants.

Conducting Assessments

Site assessments are generally requested by organizations or individuals planning to purchase or sell a property, and the bulk of environmental site assessments are completed by environmental consulting firms that specialize in the field. Many of the consulting firms in Alaska work in collaboration with financial institutions that suggest site assessments take place when a client is preparing to refinance a property.

"Environmental site assessments are a due diligence tool that potential buyers and sellers of properties can use to assess environmental risk that can impact the value of a property," says Matt Hemry, vice president for Shannon & Wilson, a geotechnical and environmental consulting firm with offices in Anchorage and Fairbanks. "There're a couple different scenarios. A potential buyer or seller of a property sometimes likes to know this information for their own education of what's there. But a lot of times it's driven by a financial institution requiring a test as a part of their financial project. The bank, financial institution, or investor is going to be on the hook if there is an environmental contamination found at a later date and they haven't done their due diligence."

Phase I Site Assessments

The first step is a Phase 1 site assessment to evaluate what, if any, environmental risks exist on the property. One of the first measures in that process is to learn about the history of a site and what the property was used for in the past. The Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) databases, which include data on contaminated sites, spill sites, and...

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