ASTM and the development of environmental standards

ASTM International, previously known as American Society for Testing and Materials, is an organization charged with facilitating the development of voluntary consensus standards. Although “American” is at the root of the organization’s name, over 12,000 standards have been created and implemented around the world. The organization consists of over 30,000 members in more than 150 countries. ASTM is regarded as one of the world’s foremost authorities for developing testing methods, guides, and good practices that governments and industries use around the globe.

What is the mission of ASTM?

“To be recognized globally as the premier developer and provider of voluntary consensus standards, related technical information, and services that:

  • promote public health and safety, support the protection and sustainability of the environment, and the overall quality of life;
  • contribute to the reliability of materials, products, systems and services; and
  • facilitate international, regional, and national commerce.”

What are “standards” and how are they developed?

A standard is a document that outlines specific guidelines and procedures to follow for various practices and can relate to many different industries. In order for a document to become an official standard, it must meet the requirements of ASTM regulations and procedures and be developed and approved by ASTM members. In addition, it is important to understand who is responsible for creating new standards. When standards are developed, there are technical committees that jointly participate in drafting proposed language and concepts. This cooperative approach allows all parties who have an interest in the standard’s creation or implementation to discuss their thoughts and share their opinions. Anyone interested in assisting with the development or refinement of standards is eligible to become a member.

Personally, when conceptualizing the process of developing a new standard, I like to think of how the United States Constitution was originally drafted. A group of knowledgeable and respected people assembled and exchanged ideas on how to craft a document that would provide an effective framework for governing the country.

ASTM standards and the manner in which they develop over time are analogous to the various sections and amendments to the Constitution. ASTM standards can be reviewed and modified as the organization’s members see fit – and each member has an equal vote. “ASTM’s process ensures that interested individuals and organizations representing academia, industry, product users and governments alike all have an equal vote in determining a standard’s content. Participants are welcome from anywhere on the globe.”

Environmental Compliance and ASTM E1527-05

E1527: ASTM E1527-05Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process

To me, when I see ‘1527’ I do not think of a number at all- I think of environmental compliance. I think of due diligence and identifying potential harm to humans, the environment, and the ecosystems that connect them. The E1527 standard applies in so many different settings, and I see it everywhere I go. It could represent an old warehouse getting overhauled into a new carwash, or the creation of a new highway, or the installation of a fiber optics cable line, or a new Formula 1 racetrack coming to town!

Many of these commonplace activities require Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) to be conducted, and the ASTM E1527 standard is at the heart of all ESAs. The E1527 standard guides environmental professionals (EPs) through the entire site assessment process, from outlining what qualifications an individual must have to be considered an EP to recommendations on how to prepare the final Phase I ESA report. For an EP, the 1527 serves as the blueprint of standard practices for identifying environmental risks. Environmental site assessments play a critical role in real estate transactions, and findings from an ESA can be used as a powerful decision making tool. In addition, performing a site assessment under the provisions of E1527 can aid in qualifying for CERCLA Landowner Liability Protections (LLPs).

Specifically, the purpose of the ASTM E1527-05 standards is “to define good commercial and customary practice in the United States of America for conducting an environmental site assessment of a parcel of commercial real estate with respect to the range of contaminants within the scope of Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) (42 U.S.C. 9601) and petroleum products.”

The E1527 standard is reviewed and revised every eight years by a task group which is made up of users and industry professionals. The E1527 standard is due to be revised in 2013. When the E1527 task group formed in 2010, it was determined that the overall objective for the 2013 review is to “clarify the process and strengthen the deliverable.” Once the task group reaches consensus on which changes to implement, the EPA is brought in for the final steps of updating the standard.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in official discussions related to revision of section 8.1.7 of the E1527 standard as well as provide recommendations on various aspects of environmental database updates and proposed language revisions. Having participated alongside other environmental data professionals in analyzing the standard and exchanging ideas about potential areas of improvement, I can tell you it is a privilege to be part of a process that is truly democratic. Stay tuned for more news on upcoming changes to E1527.

Other ASTM standards relevant to environmental professionals and real estate transactions:

E1528: ASTM E1528-06Standard Practice for Limited Environmental Due Diligence: Transaction Screen Process

E2247: ASTM E2247-08Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process for Forestland or Rural Property

E2600: ASTM E2600-10Standard Guide for Vapor Encroachment Screening on Property Involved in Real Estate Transactions

E1903: ASTM E1903-11Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase II Environmental Site Assessment Process

Learn more about ASTM International and their standards here.

Stay with us,

Jordan Schmidt environmental professional

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