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Environmental Site Assessments

Are you purchasing, or redeveloping a commercial, industrial, or multi-residential property?  Financial institutions require an Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) prior to lending.

Rubidium Environmental’s expert team of environmental consultants are well versed with the preparation of Environmental Site Assessments in Ontario. Our Environmental Due Diligence practice has evolved to assist property buyers, and property developers to make informed decisions about a site’s environmental risk. Understanding the history of a property, its prior uses, and potential presence of contamination are vital pieces of knowledge every buyer should have. In Ontario, when you buy a property, you also assume liability for any soil or ground water contamination that exists on site – an expensive mistake that you might be left with to clean up!

Environmental Site Assessment is an assessment of the environmental condition of a property in order to determine the presence, location, and concentration of one or more contaminants that may be present on the Subject Site. In Ontario, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change regulates Environmental Site Assessments under O. Reg 153/04: Records of Site Condition.  Depending on the lender, some institutions may require Ontario Environmental Site Assessments to be performed under CSA Z768-01 approval. The development of guidelines and standards applied during an ESA has been influenced by Clients’ needs to make informed decisions concerning potentially contaminated sites.

Ownership of a property requires a continually evolving plan with regards to maintenance, repairs, and long-term capital planning. Rubidium Environmental has extensive experience with the evaluation of residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional properties and are continuously prepared and qualified to provide clients with comprehensive environmental evaluations. Rubidium Environmental understands how real property condition impacts the business of our clients.

Rubidium Environmental offers the following services that are commonly conducted for purposes such as a sale of a property between parties, to obtain financing or a mortgage, and to obtain approval from a municipality for a land use change or building permit.

  • Phase I Environmental Site Assessment
  • Phase II Environmental Site Assessment
  • Phase III Environmental Site Assessment (Site Remediation & Site Redevelopment)
  • Underground Storage Tank Removal

Phase I Environmental Site Assessments

The objective of a Phase I ESA is to establish whether there is evidence of actual and/or potential sources of environmental contamination on the subject site, including a review of properties located within a 250 metre radius of the subject site. Phase I ESAs include a historical records review, site reconnaissance, interviews with knowledgeable persons and regulatory officials, an evaluation of collected information, and preparation and submission of a written report to the client or lender. A Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment does not include building materials, ground water, or soil sampling and testing. If there is evidence of expected, or potential contamination on-site then a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment might be necessary.

Typical properties that require a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment in Ontario include:

  • Multi-residential buildings with more than four dwellings
  • Apartment buildings
  • Commercial buildings (strip malls, office buildings, retail plazas, gas stations, etc)
  • Industrial buildings or industrial land
  • Brownfields (contaminated properties to be cleaned up and redeveloped)
  • Former institutional properties (schools, churches, places of worship, hospitals, etc)
  • Development land (vacant parcel)
  • Agricultural land

The national standard for conducting Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments is issued by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) group and is referred to as the CSA Z768-01 (Reaffirmed 2012) standard.  This standard is typically applied to Phase 1 ESAs conducted in Ontario, unless the Proponent is seeking a Record of Site Condition (RSC) pursuant to Ontario Regulation 153/04 (O. Reg. 153/04).  As part of the Phase 1 ESA, historical records, including aerial photos are often reviewed to identify previous Site uses.

Phase I Environmental Site Assessments are commonly required for due diligence, pre-acquisition, and financing purposes.  Phase I Environmental Site Assessments assist buyers by helping them understand the potential environmental risks of a property. As the cost to remediate contaminated land can be substantial, it is important for the buyer to be aware of potential environmental liabilities.

Should a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment identify areas of potential environmental concern associated with potentially contaminating activities, then a Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment is recommended in order to verify and/or refute the presence of the potential contaminants of concern identified in the Phase I ESA. Proximity to gas stations, automotive repair garages, dry cleaners, and other land uses that are commonly associated with subsurface contamination are often indicators that further assessments should be undertaken.  Our environmental consultants have vast experience dealing with numerous lenders, municipalities, and government regulators. We understand that financial transactions happen on a tight timeline, and our engineers and scientists are able to provide expert environmental consulting services in a fraction of the time of our competitors. Having knowledge about potential environmental liabilities early in the acquisition and/or financing process allows you to focus your attention on whether to move forward with a project, or whether further ESA inspection is required to determine the extent of contamination, and how best to remediate the property, if necessary.

Phase II Environmental Site Assessments

If potential or actual sources of contamination are identified during the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment, conduction of a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment would be recommended.

The objective of a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment in Ontario is to quantify potential contaminants of concern found on the subject site subsequent to the Phase I ESA. Phase II ESAs include underground utility clearances, mobilizing and drilling of boreholes, installation of ground water monitoring wells, collection of samples and submission for chemical analysis at an accredited laboratory, interpreting and evaluating the collected information and laboratory analytical results, and preparation and submission of a written report to the Client. The sampling of media is conducted during a drilled borehole and/or test pit program, which can vary in size depending on the extent of the investigation required.

The list of contaminants analyzed can vary based on the expected type of contamination, and location of the property, but generally includes:

  • Petroleum Hydrocarbons (PHCs)
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) / Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Heavy Metals
  • Inorganics
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Pesticides

As part of the characterization of the subsurface conditions, boreholes are drilled on the property using a specialized drilling rig to target specific depths. The depth of the boreholes is determined based on the characteristics of the soil in the area, ground water depth, and/or the nature of the expected contamination.  Samples are often collected at various depths typically starting from ground level. Rubidium’s Environmental Due Diligence team will assist in determining the number and location of boreholes necessary to investigate for potential soil or ground water contamination. For the collection of in-situ groundwater samples, monitoring wells are installed in selected boreholes that are drilled across the site.  Depending on the contaminants to be analyzed and site conditions, various techniques are used to collect the ground water samples. Depending on the urgency of the project, samples can be analyzed under rush or normal turnaround time from the laboratory. Rubidium has excellent relationships with the major analytical laboratories in Ontario.

Most lenders in Canada request that Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessments are performed in accordance with CSA standards. Specifically, the standard referred to as CSA Z769-00 (Reaffirmed 2013) standard. This standard is typically applied to Phase II ESAs conducted in Ontario, unless the Proponent is seeking to redevelop land to a more sensitive use, or is required by the municipality to obtain a Record of Site Condition (RSC) pursuant to O. Reg. 153/04. In this case, the Phase II ESA methodology must be consistent with O. Reg. 153/04, as outlined in the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s technical guidance document for completing Phase II ESAs.

Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessments are commonly required for financing purposes and is an investment worth the cost incurred, as it could reveal soil, groundwater, and/or sediment impacts which could affect the market price of the property, or the ability to redevelop the property to other sensitive land uses such as a residential subdivision or condominium buildings.  In the case of a Phase II ESA being conducted for due diligence or pre-acquisition purposes, a Phase II ESA can indicate the extent of environmental liability a property owner can obtain, should extensive contamination in soil and/or groundwater be found, which can result in an expensive clean-up and site remediation.

Phase III Environmental Site Assessments (Site Remediation & Redevelopment)

If subsurface contamination was identified during the Phase I or II Environmental Site Assessment, then a Phase III Environmental Site Assessment will commence which involves developing an effective remediation strategy for the redevelopment of the site. Often there are multiple ways to remediate a property, but where Rubidium provides value, is helping you determine the most cost effective plan which incorporates the realities of your timeline. Let us help by determining the probable extents of the soil and groundwater impacts, and select and implement a cost effective remedial response that allows the impacted area to return in compliance with the applicable Site Condition Standards. Part of this process is ensuring that sufficient knowledge about the extents of the contamination is known, which may include drilling further boreholes through a delineation program, and installing additional ground water monitoring wells on the property.

Remediation and redevelopment (Phase 3 Environmental Site Assessment) of brownfield sites is becoming more common in Ontario as urban intensification is increasing land values, and demand for residential housing. Brownfield sites are where former industrial or commercial land uses, left significant sub-surface contamination in either the soil, ground water, or surface water. As a result of the contamination, the properties have been left undeveloped, or underdeveloped. We can assist your Brownfields redevelopment project by preparing a site specific remediation plan that manages the risk association with the unique nature of contamination on the property with a goal of obtaining a Record of Site Condition, so that redevelopment can commence.

Our environmental team has extensive experience with the design, and implementation of cost effective Phase III ESA remediation programs to address soil, ground water, sediment, and surface water impacted areas. At Rubidium, we are well versed in the latest technologies for site remediation including chemical in-situ injections, excavation, vapour extraction, and soil washing. Our experience will help you transform your contaminated site into a developable property, allowing you to unlock the financial opportunity that increased urban intensification is bringing to major centres in Ontario.

Upon identification of areas of soil and/or ground water in excess of the applicable Phase III ESA Condition Standards, a detailed design for managing contaminated media and a verification sampling program is developed. A qualified and experienced environmental contractor is retained to conduct the remediation along with our support services relating to the site remediation, including ESA inspections and oversight of the cleanup, verification sampling, documentation of the activities, and preparation and submission of a written Phase 3 Ontario Environmental Site Assessment report to the client. We are able to offer turn-key project management to our clients that want one source of responsibility for the entire duration of the project.

Record of Site Condition

When changing a property’s land use to a more sensitive land use (i.e. low density housing to high density, or from formerly industrial to residential) a Record of Site Condition (RSC) is often required by the municipality as part of the rezoning and approvals process. A Record of Site Condition supports the development approval process with a municipality, which includes a zoning change, site plan control, or building permit issuance by demonstrating that a property previously found to have contamination, or suspected of having contamination, now meets the applicable Site Condition Standards.  Records of Site Condition must be filed with the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change (MOECC) by a Qualified Person (QP). Records of Site Condition are filed electronically through the Environmental Site Registry (ESR).

Depending on the property, some financial institutions/mortgage lenders will also request an RSC prior to lending. All Phase I and II ESAs conducted for filing of a Record of Site Condition must be conducted by a Qualified Person in accordance with Ontario Regulation 153/04 (O. Reg. 153/04).

Once the Subject Site complies with the applicable Site Condition Standards, upon completion of all required Site Assessments, Phase 3 Environmental Site Assessment Remediation, and a Risk Assessment (if required), an RSC is filed with the Ontario Environmental Site Registry.

Underground Storage Tank Removal

In Canada, early commercial and residential heating systems used oil or diesel fuel. Because of the size of the tanks, it was common to use underground storage tanks for the fuel. Older tanks, without secondary containment are liable to leak as a result of “rust-out”, or damage from tree roots, etc. As a result of fuel leakage from the tanks, they are a common source of subsurface contamination on properties. If contamination is expected or detected from an underground storage tank, it should be removed and remediated prior to causing further subsurface contamination. The presence, or potential presence of underground storage tanks are common sources of soil contamination in Ontario.

Underground storage tanks (USTs) used to store petroleum products are controlled by provincial regulations. In Ontario, the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) regulates USTs containing petroleum products, while the MOEC oversees any off-Site contamination (if identified).

Commonly, UST removal activities are conducted in compliance with the TSSA Protocol for Environmental Management for Fuel Handling Sites (2007), the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Environmental Code of Practice for Underground Storage Tanks Containing Petroleum Products, and the applicable Site Condition Standards.

In order to remove a UST, a qualified and experienced environmental contractor is retained to conduct the tank removal. Removal of the tank generally requires excavation of the property, and the area around the tank. Often it is most economical to combine the tank removal, and remediation services during the same process. Rubidium Environmental supports the UST removal through ESA inspections and oversight during the removal process, and by conducting the verification sampling. The TSSA requires documentation of the activities, and Rubidium has experience in preparation of the necessary reports.

Built on the core of a strong team of engineers and scientists, Rubidium Environmental can help you navigate your way through the risks associated with Ontario Environmental Site Assessments.

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