We’re amazed at how rapidly Phase I environmental site assessments are produced these days. The environmental data acquired is almost a Phase I ESA in and of itself. With everything transportable into a template, all you need to add is a quick site inspection and a few perfunctory phone calls that will not likely be returned in time, and the report’s out the door. Now that’s how you make money in this business! However, the client is relying on the Phase I consultant to cross the “T’s” and dot the “I’s” because he’s the one taking title. What ends up happening, because there is little to no deep analysis of all the facts of the case, the consultant resorts to tried and true standardized “recognized environmental conditions.” For example, see a soil stain? Must collect a soil sample. Septic tank drainfield? Test it. Who knows what manner of evil has been dumped into it? But you’ll not know, because the questions aren’t asked and the risk is not assessed. The Phase I ESA goes out in less than two weeks, but the client is saddled with complicated problems to resolve, and most likely must stare down a list of “recommendations” in the report, rather than “opinions.” What’s worse, if the report is shared with a bank, a “Phase II” ESA is absolutely guaranteed. This is all good as a business model, but perhaps not so good if you want to ply your profession for the good of everyone involved. We have found that a little more time pouring over available information may eliminate unnecessary testing, and perhaps point to where targeted testing is essential. All will win out in the end. For example, you can pretty much tell if a drainfield is receiving only domestic wastes. Yes, some egregious promiscuous discharge could occur by a past nefarious owner or tenant, but what are the chances? We’ve tested drainfields for 25 years and have never really detected material contamination. Maybe this is just the luck of the draw, but this practical experience should be factored in. If, however, heavy manufacturing is going on, there are floor drains everywhere, and the shop sinks are black as night, test it. So, a little discernment on the part of the environmental consultant would be nice. Another assessment we recently completed had a regulatory data report indicating several landfills some 2,300 feet south of the subject site. Normally this would be a safe distance away. Only after a deep review of regulatory file information did we discover that 10,000 tons of contaminated soil from a battery dump were removed from an area immediately abutting our site. What led us down that road? The grandson of a previous owner we contacted told us he could see battery casings in a wetland from his vantage point on-site. A case of putting two and two together. It’s about time environmental professionals in this field stop trying to be more efficient and more profitable and start doing what they’re called to do. You might find you have plenty to do, and you might gain a few more “clients for life.”