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What does the EPA expect from an environmental risk assessment?

Part of the due diligence involved in a real estate purchase involves assessing whether any environmental hazards are associated with the property and whether they pose a risk to the ecological systems or humans in the area. Gathering this information requires obtaining an environmental risk assessment.

This document will answer numerous questions about the environmental impact of the property, including those posed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Depending on the results, you may want to make sure your purchase contract includes a contingency to back out of the deal if you feel that complying with EPA regulations would prove too costly.

What does the EPA look for?

When obtaining an environmental risk assessment, it should answer the following concerns of the EPA:

  • If there is a potentially hazardous chemical present, how much of it is in the soil, water or air, which the EPA refers to as environmental mediums?
  • What is the toxicity level of the chemical discovered?
  • How serious is the risk of exposure to the contaminated environmental medium by an ecological receptor or human?

The answers to these questions will determine the next steps.

Factors that could indicate an environmental issue

When searching for a property, some of the questions you may ask that could provide you with an indication that an environmental issue could exist include the following:

  • Is the seller aware of any hazardous materials or waste associated with the property?
  • Did anyone ever use the property as a dumpsite?
  • Is a landfill in the area?
  • Did anything on the property affect a water source at any time?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then there is one more question: who is going to pay for the cleanup?

The right support could save your deal

If you want to purchase property that requires you to obtain an environmental risk assessment, you may also want to work with an attorney familiar with commercial real estate transactions such as yours. It can be invaluable to have someone who can provide you with the right assistance in handling any issues that may arise as a result of the assessment. Remaining in compliance with the EPA is a priority to avoid any possible future entanglements with the agency.

Understanding your rights and responsibilities as it pertains to environmental law is not always an easy task to undertake on your own. Fortunately, you don't have to. Having the right support from the beginning of your property search could help you navigate all of the processes facing you before you can take possession of the property.

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