We live in a world where one Phase I ESA doesn’t fit all

Published on 27 March 2020

Property documents & Phase 1 ESA planning

The requirements of a Phase I ESA that meets both federal and provincial guidelines have continuously increased. Phase I ESAs are usually completed in 3 weeks if the property is located in a major city where municipal searches are automated. A comprehensive Phase I where all the agencies respond and all information is obtained, analyzed and interpreted often take over 30 days. This is not always a reasonable time frame for real estate transactions. Now more than ever it is important to come up with solutions that support our uncertain economy.

Additionally, with libraries, museums and universities closed due to the pandemic, a major source of information is unavailable. At EDI our internal database and library built over 25 years of conducting assessments in Alberta allow us to remain available to serve our clients.

Phase I ESAs are basically screening tools that determine what the risk of contamination on a property is. EDI’s approach has always been to asses the property in stages, and we inform our clients as soon as we believe Phase II is needed. Sometimes this is obvious from the beginning, but sometimes evens us, as professionals; need to go through the entire process to determine whether further work will be required.

We want to offer this staged approach to you and we have developed some additional products to help meet your needs through these uncertain times and beyond. We now have three screening assessments to choose from:

Comprehensive Phase I ESA

A Comprehensive Phase I ESA will comply with Federal and Provincial standards and is very similar to the Phase I report we are completing now. These reports are completed with the intention of satisfying the regulator, as well as for clients that want the most thorough investigations. A comprehensive Phase I will have all information requests returned and this means that they can take six weeks, and in extreme circumstances, longer.

We recommend you complete a comprehensive Phase I ESA if the work is required because of approval conditions, decommissioning conditions, or at the request of the regulator. Additionally, it is possible that the Phase I will recommend a Phase II and if the Phase II identifies contamination and therefore triggers a duty to report under EPEA; the Phase 1 will become part of the required record. When Phase I informs on the site conditions in the context of a Phase II that is submitted to the government, a comprehensive Phase 1 is recommended.

Real Estate Phase 1 ESA

Real estate transactions rarely provide enough time for a comprehensive Phase I ESA. We have cases where reports are delayed by over a week over a single search that is not changing the conclusions or recommendations, but our clients cannot finalize the sale until the report is finalized. A Phase I ESA for real estate transactions will be finalized in 2 weeks and will be compliant with the provincial standards; with any deviations from the standards noted. Our goal is to maintain consistency in light of different requirements while providing the best information for lenders and clients in a reasonable timeframe.

A note on Phase I ESA Updates:
***Phase I Updates are not compliant with Federal or Provincial standards. They are accepted in the industry and Alberta Environment acknowledges that the scope of the Phase I can be modified as per the needs of the client or the lending institution. However, the government is looking to have any gaps or missing information updated accordingly to ensure it is reflective of the current conditions.

We recommend completing Real Estate Phase I assessments in lieu of Phase I Updates. The advantages are numerous: closer compliance with the government standards, same price, consistent outcome, no need to obtain authorization for updating existing reports, etc. Slowly moving from Phase I Updates towards Real Estate Phase Is will allow closer compliance to the provincial standards.

Environmental Fact Sheet

These are designed for a fast 48 hour turn around and cover the most crucial historical information to allow for a quick, easy, and reliable guide. These fact sheets are a great tool for residential purchases and offer helpful information to potential buyers/sellers without the cost and time required for a Phase I ESA. They can be used as a quick determination of whether further work will be required and provide an option for residential real estate, where there has not been one before.

It is increasingly hard to complete a comprehensive Phase I within the time frame allowed during a real estate transaction. The closures of libraries, museums, and universities will only slow the completion of assessments in the near future. We live in a world where one Phase I ESA doesn’t fit all. It is therefore important that you discuss your priorities and end goals with your environmental consultant.