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Environmental Due Diligence Can Stop Surprises Beneath the Surface

The old saying "what I don't know won't hurt me" doesn't work when it comes to subsurface contamination. Environmental due diligence today could prevent decades of difficulties.

Feb/Mar 08
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Rethinking the Process
People tend to think of environmental investigations and remediations in a step-wise fashion: a Phase I ESA followed by a Phase II ESA, and so on. However, thinking of environmental investigations and remediations as a holistic process rather than a series of steps can help save time and money in the long run. When an area of concern is identified in the course of a Phase I ESA, the next thought should be the means to address the concern. Is the area accessible to a drill rig? Are there obstructions to collecting samples at the required depth? It's better to ask these questions before you've spent the per diem on the drilling contractor and geologist.

When collecting the soil and groundwater samples, one should also consider collecting data that will be needed for the eventual remediation of the contaminated area. If an in situ remediation method will be employed, then chemical, biological, and geologic data that will be needed to design the remedial system should be collected at this point. But most consultants don't focus on remediation issues until the completion of the Phase II ESA. Then once the Phase II ESA is completed, they remobilize to the site to collect soil and groundwater samples in the same areas, and run those samples for analyses needed for the remedial design, when all of the analyses could have been run on the original set of samples. It's very wasteful.

The more the environmental consultant knows about the ultimate goals of the project, the more likely the consultant is to satisfy those goals. While not true for every project, a little bit of extra work at the beginning of the due diligence process could result pay for itself many times over by the time the project is completed. And everybody goes home happy.

Benjamin Alter is associate principal/vice president at GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc., a full-service environmental consulting company. He can be reached at the company's Wayne, New Jersey, office at 973-256-7800;; visit the company's website at

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