By Mike Gray, PG

My colleague and environmental scientist Breanne Carr wrote an article about some ways to know if your commercial property needs a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment. She highlighted some key considerations that might determine whether an environmental assessment is necessary before purchasing commercial property.

In addition to being very informative, her piece got me thinking about environmental issues associated with residential or non-commercial properties. What if you’re not buying a business but buying a house or vacant property? Should you be concerned about whether the property might have environmental issues, as you might be on a commercial property? Should you hire a professional to look at the property? The answer is usually…maybe.

Hazardous Materials Can Be Anywhere

The overall risk of a property having environmental issues that could affect its value or result in expensive cleanup activities is greater on a commercial property than on a non-commercial property like a residence. That is simply because past land use in a commercial setting is much more likely to have resulted in environmental impacts from activities on the property itself or adjacent commercial properties.

Commercial operations often use and store things that are potentially harmful to the environment, and sometimes those things spill (or get dumped), resulting in environmental impairment. Banks and mortgage companies recognize this reality, which is why they often require an environmental assessment prior to approving a loan on a commercial property.

But even though the risk of environmental impairment on non-commercial property may be lower than on commercial property (relatively speaking) that does not mean there is no risk. People can store, use, and spill hazardous materials anywhere.

Does My Property Have Environmental Issues?

So how do you know if a non-commercial property will likely have environmental issues? Are you going to hire an environmental professional to conduct a full-blown Environmental Site Assessment if your bank does not require it? For most, the answer is probably no. That’s one more expenditure at a time when you’re already maxed out on spending for the required things.