Clients should order their own Phase I reports instead of improperly relying on the findings and recommendations of a Phase I done years prior for a different entity and for a different purpose. Problem solved.
The fact that the conclusions and recommendations stay with the report when it changes hands is a good thing for consultants, not a bad thing. I've yet to hear a single real world example where not separating the recommendations from the report caused a problem. I know the Ashley case is widely cited as an example, but if you get into the details of that case, there's nothing to suggest that a phase I with a recommendation had anything whatsoever to do with it.
As for the pesticides/herbicides, in most cases, this should not be identified as a REC unless there was evidence of a release beyond normal application of such materials. However, I would probably call it a BER for school sites and single-family home developments. Sampling could probably be justified on that basis, REC or not.
It seems that if everyone charged an added premium for some of these demanded ridiculous turnarounds, we all might make a little money. If we don't, one week will become standard. And that is absurd.
A quick on the web and Wikipedia [not always a good source] shows a company consolidated from several others including one making "cast iron enameled sanitary ware" which "In 1929 Standard Manufacturing Company consolidated with the American Radiator Company to form the American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Corporation."
If this is true [the web nevers lies :>) ] then maybe this 1931 reference to the Standard Sanitary Corporation correlates with the 1929 company referenced in Wikipedia. The radiator portion might tie in well with the tubing company next door.
You should confirm the presence of these USTs, or at least the gas stations, visually during the site visit, at which time you would observe adjacent properties from the periphery.
In this case, I would be less (but not un) concerned that the database reports omitted these sites and more concerned that people in your company did not have direction in response to this question. Kudos that you are searching additional sources of information in addition to the database report.
The problem with recommendations is that, unlike findings, they are client/project specific and can change with time. The same findings could result in 2 different recommendations for 2 different clients. Or, with the same client at 2 different times.
After re-reading your initial post, I realize this doesn't really come into play here anyway. Since you say "LEED requirements for schools essentially want a yes/no answer for contamination of any sort, and don't distinguish between RECs, de minimis, exempt pesticide residues, etc." then the outcome would not have been any different with or without the recommendation.
I disagree, 1) since my experience has been that clients usually want to know what to do next, 2) because IMHO including recommendations protects the consultant in the event that something should have been done (client can't claim you didn't tell them what to do) and 3) because in litigation I don't see any difference between the discoverability of a Phase I with recommendations and the combination of a Phase I with no recommendations plus a side letter with recommendations. If part of the issue is consultants padding their reports with heaps of feebly-justified recommendations, that sounds like bad consulting and bad customer service to me rather than a problem created simply by the practice of including recommendations.
Not really an option anyways-- all Phase Is to our state school building authority must include recommendations and a truckload of other documentation.
This is exactly why recommendations don't belong in a Phase I report!
I agree with JG that the omitted sites need to be added to your commentary. The fact the database company missed them doesn't mean they're not there, obviously.
A database company should not fail to locate adjoining sites, absent some really obscure error in the original list addresses. Database companies need to hire staff who are able to accommodate and correct peculiarities in the original listing addresses. Unfortunately, too often they don't.
Then yes, they need to be included once verified. All sources need to be considered when doing your assessment. Since you have a discrepancy then you should verify your information. In this case it's easy - are/were there gas stations next door or not?
If there are/were then contact your EDR rep with the info and ask why they didn't show up. They could just be orphan sites or mapped wrong. Happens all the time.
Sorry, I should have been more clear. Both of these gas stations are adjacent to the project boundaries. Neither have a recorded release.
The search radius for USTs is Site and abutters. Tanks 1/2 mile away generally don't need to be listed in your report unless you have a specific reason to do so.
I have said this before, you can not expect to make a big profit doing Phase Is, unless you are charging $3000. Sometimes you are going to lose money on Phase Is.....BUT, if there is a Phase II you can always recoup the cost.
Recently did a Phase I for $2800. only to find out that the previous Phase I had cost the owner $6000 and that previous Phase I did not provide the owner with a complete picture of his concerns onsite. My client is the buyer and struggling with the owner to pay for the Phase II. The owner understands the issues but wants to do the deal as an "as is" transaction.
Now for the shameless plug: We do have a Phase I special for $1500 that exceeds AAI and ASTM standards. If doing Phase Is for $1500 does not worth your time, send them over to us. We are fully insured and stand by our reports.
Thank you for a very good reply.
I tend to agree with your "B"
As client I would probably also want these same services. But it is funny to me, because I know that I am better at identifying area regulated sites than any of the current or recently-sold-out vendors. So the average user is unaware that the average consultant is probably taking the easy route by ordering a database report and not supplementing it with added research as only an experienced, local EP can do.
That's the funny thing about ASTM. An out-of-town EP can do a compliant Phase I ESA, and his lack of "actual knowledge" dosn't matter. There could be an EP who has lived next door to the Subject Property for 55 years, and he will have some "actual knowledge" that far exceeds the first guy. So we have a floating standard based on how familiar the EP is with the area.
If you have not yet experienced this, the day will come when one of your clients calls you up and tells you that his own search of The EPA Envirofacts website or review of a state site mapper identified a site that your big database company missed.
I guess I have seen enough regional groundwater maps, area geological data, and conducted enough interviews with the Tax Assessor, Planning Commission Chair, etc. and seen enough homeesque black squares on old topos, that I question what added value a Phase I has if completed as the OP discusses. I just don't see how the extras are worth another $2000. But it doesn't matter what I think or what she thinks; it matters what the client thinks.
The OP holds out a difference between a $1500 ESA that meets the standard and a Phase I ESA for $3500 that exceeds the standard in some way as to justify another $2,000. Yet the added value by her own comparison table comes down to review of a handful of added resources and inteviews with people whose job it isn't to be aware of environmental issues. In nearly 20 years of completing Phase I ESAs, I have seen many regional groundwater reports and reviewed more than enough geological maps. I just don't see $2,000 in added value there.
As i look back over this discussion, I find some clarity. Most consultants strive to not only meet the ASTM standard but also charge a little more so they can go a little beyond the standard so they have some footing if ever sued. This is the problem....we have consultants completing Phase I ESAs to a "this is less likely to get me sued" standard, rather than a "this meets the ASTM Phase I ESA" standard.
I guess I have always been willing to stand by my work as ASTM-compliant and willing to tolerate a lawsuit if needed. When we structure our work product around lawsuit fear instead of complying with a standard, everyone loses (money) - except the consultant.
I make less money when I provide a work product I'm willing to defend. Anyone can recommend the moon and stars to insulate them from a lawsuit. But this is never how I have seen my role.
The firms that are charging $3,000+ for ESAs are usually doing so because their accounting system simply doesn't work for jobs under $5,000. They bill their jr. staff out at $80+ per hour, which adds up quick on an ESA and there's not enough Phase II recommendations these days to make up for losing money on the Phase I. Most of these firms have simply given up and don't do ESAs any more. When the do, it's often as a favor to the client and they take a loss.
You are correct, in that It all comes down to how "nominal" would be interpreted either A) By a client or B) in a courtroom. I'm not sure the simple fact that a company earns a profit automatically deems the fee to be excessive.
You are also correct, that if you can find Sanborns in a local collection, you can often review them for free if you don't copy them.
I'm not saying you must pay EDR for Sanborns or that you must use EDR for database to meet ASTM. What I'm saying is
A) If you choose not to use EDR for Sanborns or you choose not to use a database vendor, and you miss something because of that decision, it will be difficult to justify your reasoning for doing the research on your own.
B) If I was a client, I would insist that the EDR sanborn collection be searched and that a database vendor be used. Not because it is required by ASTM, but because I want a report that is consistent with the way 99% of the industry does things.