Digital data allows new perspective on ESA investigations

When conducting a Phase I Site Assessment, environmental professionals (EPs) are required to conduct a review of historical sources to determine the past-use history of a property and surrounding areas. These historical sources can aid in determining if there are any recognized environmental conditions (RECs) associated with the target property and are also beneficial when applying for CERCLA Landowner Liability Protections (LLPs).

One requirement of the ASTM E1527-05 standard is a review of state and federal environmental databases to check for records indicating the presence (or potential presence) of hazardous substances or petroleum products. Since environmental databases can uncover historical activities and land uses that may no longer be present or visible to the naked eye, obtaining high-quality environmental reports is critical for EPs who strive to make well-informed, risk-based decisions.

Nowadays, in addition to traditional (PDF format) environmental database reports, it is common for users to request ASTM/AAI environmental data in a digital format that can be integrated into a mapping program, such as ArcGIS, AutoCAD, or Google Earth. This integration facilitates spatial analysis and allows users to understand elements discovered in the environmental radius report in a way that may not be possible when viewing a standard, static map. Digital data can be delivered in multiple different formats, depending on how users want to receive and analyze the information.

Common applications of digital mapping data:

  • Custom map development
  • Spatial analysis of mapped sites in context
  • Interpret individual sites in areas of high record counts
  • Precise calculations and determinations
  • Combine mapped sites data with additional data layers
  • Customize data to include in Phase I ESA documentation

In addition to these uses, environmental professionals can combine digital data with their own internal datasets to facilitate a greater understanding of the target environment.

For example, assume you have already created a watershed analysis in your GIS. You then receive an ASTM Database Report that reveals leaking petroleum storage tanks near your target property. It may be difficult to determine within which watershed(s) the leaking tanks are located without the ability to input the tank data into your GIS. Rendering leaking tank data in a digital format allows you to determine precisely where the record falls – and therefore make accurate and informed decisions.

Analyzing environmental data in a spatial context, along with traditional PDF reports, allows users to interpret information in a precise and personalized way that has not always been possible. Integrating digital data can also enhance your Phase I investigations.

Jordan Schmidt environmental professional

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