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ASTM E1903-97(2002)

Standard Guide for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase II Environmental Site Assessment Process

1.1 This guide covers a framework for employing good commercial and customary practices in conducting a Phase II environmental site assessment (ESA) of a parcel of commercial property with respect to the potential presence of a range of contaminants which are within the scope of CERCLA as well as petroleum products.

1.1.1 This guide is intended to provide practical procedural guidance for the continuation of an assessment conducted in accordance with the most recent edition of Practice E 1527 or E 1528, or both. Practice E 1527 is the practice for conducting Phase I ESAs for a parcel of commercial property and Practice E 1528 is the transaction screen practice. Both practices define a process that is intended to constitute "all appropriate inquiry into the previous ownership and uses of a property" to determine whether hazardous substances or petroleum products have been disposed or released there in order to satisfy one element of the innocent purchaser defense to CERCLA liability.

1.1.2 Because this guide for conducting Phase II ESAs describes a process for further evaluating a parcel of commercial property with recognized environmental conditions, as defined in Practices E 1527 and E 1528, users of this guide should understand the requirements and limitations of those practices. It is strongly recommended that the user refer to and apply the guide in concert with Practices E 1527 and E 1528.

1.1.3 This guide has multiple purposes. It is intended to provide assistance to users in satisfying the appropriate inquiry element of CERCLA's innocent purchaser defense, as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 9601(35)(B), where a previous assessment satisfying that element identified recognized environmental conditions. This guide also is intended to assist a user in gathering reliable information about a property's environmental conditions to guide the user's business decisions. However, this guide does not purport to include the level of specificity required of technical standards that govern full characterization of a site's environmental conditions.

1.2 Objectives—The primary objectives of conducting a Phase II ESA are to evaluate the recognized environmental conditions identified in the Phase I ESA or transaction screen process for the purpose of providing sufficient information regarding the nature and extent of contamination to assist in making informed business decisions about the property; and where applicable, providing the level of knowledge necessary to satisfy the innocent purchaser defense under CERCLA.

1.2.1 To achieve these objectives, it may be appropriate to perform more than a single iteration of assessment. The guide fosters an iterative approach to Phase II assessments and allows the user to terminate the Phase II ESA at the point where sufficient data have been generated to meet the user's objectives.

1.2.2 At the completion of a Phase II ESA, the environmental professional should be able to conclude, at a minimum, that either (a) the ESA has provided sufficient information to render a professional opinion that there is no reasonable basis to suspect the presence of hazardous substances or petroleum products at the property associated with the recognized environmental conditions under assessment, or (b) the ESA has confirmed the presence of hazardous substances or petroleum products at the property under conditions that indicate disposal or release. If the information developed in the ESA is insufficient for the environmental professional to reach either of these conclusions, the environmental professional may recommend additional iterations of assessment if warranted to meet the objectives of the user. If the environmental professional reasonably suspects that unconfirmed hazardous substance or petroleum releases remain but concludes that further reasonable assessment is not expected to provide additional information of significant value, he may recommend that further assessment is not warranted. In such circumstances, the recommendation for no further assessment should be accompanied by an explanation why a reasonable suspicion of releases remains and why further reasonable assessment is not warranted. Depending upon the work scope, the environmental professional may also be able to provide guidance on the nature and extent of contamination in order to assist the user in making business decisions regarding the property.

1.2.3 This guide is intended to provide guidance for assessing recognized environmental conditions and developing technically sound data. It is not intended to satisfy the level of inquiry that may be necessary to support remedial solutions for a site. For further discussion of the use of this guide, refer to Section on Significance and Use.

1.3 Needs of the User—Establishing the innocent purchaser defense may not be a realistic objective in some instances. Accordingly, the extent of assessment is based on the business objectives of the user as well as the degree of uncertainty acceptable to the user. In either case, the primary purpose of a Phase II ESA conducted in accordance with this guide is to assess and evaluate the recognized environmental conditions identified in the Phase I ESA or Transaction Screen Process.

1.3.1 The mere confirmation of contamination or the preliminary indication of the extent and magnitude of contamination may be sufficient for the purposes of many users. If a user desires a more complete characterization of the environmental condition of the property, further assessment may be undertaken. However, this guide should not be construed to require multiple iterations of assessments in all cases, either to establish the innocent purchaser defense or to meet other objectives. Many Phase II ESAs may in fact be restricted to only a single round of assessment, whatever the extent of contamination, if any, that might be revealed.

1.4 Limitations—The use of this guide is related to the scope as set forth in Section 1. For information purposes, Section 12 of this guide contains a non-exhaustive list of certain environmental conditions that are beyond the scope of this guide but that may warrant consideration by parties to a commercial property transaction. This guide provides an approach that may be employed to assess the environmental conditions listed in Section 12. Reference also should be made to 4.1.

1.5 Organization of This Guide—This guide has twelve sections and one appendix. Section 1 is the Scope section. Section 2 is Referenced Documents. Section 3, Termninology, contains definitions of terms and acronyms used in this guide. Section 4 is Significance and Use of this guide. Section 5 is Contracting Considerations. Sections 6-11 constitute the main body of the Phase II Environmental Site Assessment guide and include objectives (see Section 6), developing the scope of work (see Section 7), assessment activities (see Section 8), evaluation of data (see Section 9), interpretation of results (see Section 10) and recommended report preparation (see Section 11). Section 12 provides additional information regarding non-scope considerations. provides a sample table of contents and report format for a written Phase II Environmental Site Assessment Report.


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ASTM International [ASTM]


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