Environmental Site Assessments

Remediation is Expensive.
A Phase 1 ESA will give you
peace of mind.

An Environmental Site Assessment

is About Risk management

Investing in a piece of land? Savvy entrepreneurs and commercial developers will want to consider an environmental site assessment as part of their commercial real estate transaction.  Remediation is massive undertaking that can quickly drain your bank account.  Other things that will negatively impact the property value include actual or perceived contamination.  A Phase One ESA will not only protect both the buyer and seller during a commercial real estate transaction but also you can rest easy knowing that you have done your due diligence.   

What are some examples of business Activities that have a high risk of contamination?

  • Chemical processing (i.e. drycleaning)
  • Plastic manufacturing
  • Oil and petroleum extraction and processing
  • Mineral extraction
  • Animal by-products
  • Cement and Asphalt manufacturing
  • Storage of hazardous materials such as fuel

What types of contamination are we looking for?

All prior business activities will be reviewed as certain activities have a higher risk of environmental contamination.  The most common contaminate is petroleum hydrocarbon (PHC) (approximately 50-60% of contaminated sites in Canada).  Other types of contamination examples include heavy metals, human waste, nitrogen, phosphate and organics that suffocate water bodies aka “dead lakes”.  During Phase One ESA process, we are looking for historical evidence that may suggest some of these contaminants are present.

What is a Phase One Environmental
Site Assessment?

A Phase 1 ESA is an investigation of a property which is used to identify actual and potential sources of environmental contamination. It is intended to evaluate the environmental condition of a site and its structures. A Phase One ESA includes a physical site inspection, a review of aerial photos, a compilation of variety of searches for wells, petroleum tanks, waste management and fire insurance maps, historical photos, permits and interviews with owners and occupants.  The environmental site assessment report will summarize the current and past activities at the site and  neighboring sites. 

With this information, our civil engineer will make a recommendation based on the actual or potential environmental liability of the property.

What triggers a Phase One Environmental
Site Assessment?

Here are some commons reasons why a new or updated Phase 1 ESA is required:

  • A Financial Institution has requested a Phase 1 ESA be completed to minimize the risk of a property that is being financed
  • Due diligence. A buyer has requested a Phase 1 ESA be completed before a real estate purchase. 
  • A change in property usage (i.e. an office being converted to a warehouse).
  • A parcel of land is being rezoned and the local municipality requires a Phase One Environmental Site Assessment as part of the rezoning process
  • A property is being leased to tenant who has the potential to contaminate the land (i.e. building a gas station, industrial buildings, etc.)
  • Phase One ESAs don’t expire.  However most municipalities require that all land transactions (transfer of title, new development, building addition, etc.) have a relevant Phase One ESA of the property completed within the last 2 years.
  • Road closures
What is a Phase Two Environmental
Site Assessment?

On occasion a Phase 1 ESA can lead to a Phase 2 ESA. A Phase 2 ESA is a more intense study to test soil and groundwater on the property for possible contamination based on a standard set of criteria. A Phase 2 ESA is more time consuming and more expensive than a Phase 1 ESA. However as an investor you must factor in potential remediation costs which can exceed the value of the property. Part of the process includes soil, groundwater and sediment sampling which may involve drilling and test pits. The samples are then tested by certified laboratory to ensure they meet with provincial and federal standards. We also have a-la-carte options if you suspect the property is contaminated with certain contaminants. For example, the property in question may have been a former dry cleaning business. You may decide to do soil testing for specific contaminants instead of doing a full Phase Two ESA. You can also bring your own excavation equipment to save on costs.

Environmental Assessment


Bolson Engineering and Environmental Services has completed over a thousand Phase One and Phase Two Environmental Site Assessments (Phase 1 and 2 ESA’s) for commercial, industrial and residential clients across Alberta. Our turnaround time is generally quick, professional, affordable, reliable and seamless. We can also tailor the Phase 1 ESA to suite the lender’s requirements or to the investor’s requirements if no financing is required. At our client’s request, Bolson will also provide a non-reliance letter for land transactions. 

When possible, we can do upfront research before conducting a full Phase One ESA to ensure a Phase Two ESA isn’t required for the property. This way our clients are not paying money for a Phase One ESA if they are not wanting to commit to a Phase Two ESA.  We have been pre-approved as a vendor for several major Canadian banks. We have completed Phase 1 ESAs on variety of properties such as commercial properties, industrial sites, gravel pits and raw land.  Please contact us to discuss your commercial real estate purchase.