How to Inspect Suspicious Properties for Environmental Contamination

To avoid buying a potential toxic waste dump, have suspicious properties inspected for various types of environmental contamination that could make a property uninhabitable and render it worthless. A suspicious property is a property that has been used to house businesses such as gas stations, dry cleaners, automobile repair shops, and other businesses that use petroleum products, cleaning solvents, and hazardous chemicals. Even if you do not suspect that a property has any type of environmental contamination, use the following Phase One Environmental Audit Checklist to conduct your own inspection.

Sample Phase One Environmental Audit Checklist

1. Examine the property's chain of ownership for the past 50 years.

2. Interview the current and available past owners of the property to determine if any present or past uses of the property would have an adverse effect on the environment.

3. Review available past city cross-reference street directories to determine how the property was previously used.

4. Review available topographic maps of the property.

5. Review available historical aerial photographs of the property.

6. Review available geological reports affecting the property.

7. Research local, state, and federal government files for records of environmental problems affecting the property.

8. Research local, state, and federal government files for records of environmental problems affecting adjacent properties.

9. Conduct an onsite inspection of the property for obvious signs of past or present environmental problems such as odors, soil staining, stress vegetation, or evidence of dumping or burial.

10. Determine the existence and condition of above-ground storage tanks.

11. Determine the existence and condition of underground storage tanks.

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