Environmental Assessments

Environmental Assessments

At UC Davis, environmental assessments may be performed by EH&S staff for the following types of projects:

  • New building projects on campus
  • Property acquisitions (purchase or lease)
  • Space leases off-campus
  • Gifts or bequests of properties
  • Sales of campus property

Phase 1 Environmental Assessments (also known as "due diligence studies") are conducted to protect a property owner from assuming an unknown environmental risk. The assessment gathers available information regarding past or present site activities which have the potential to cause environmental contamination.

Standard components of a Due Diligence report are:

  • Identification of past and present site ownership and uses.
  • Inspection of the entire site and any structures for the presence of potentially hazardous building materials (such as asbestos, lead paint or PCBs).
  • Description of site environmental characteristics; such as the size, layout, extent of development, natural features, etc.
  • An assessment of hazardous material or waste storage, handling, or disposal practices.
  • An assessment of nearby properties whose activities may have an environmental impact on the subject property.
  • Conclusions regarding potential problems and recommendations for further action.

The environmental professional performing the assessment uses a review of available records, historical research, inspection of the site and interviews with tenants, owners or public agency officials to evaluate the potential environmental liabilities associated with a property.

Records Review 
Review of public agency records can provide significant background information on the site, including ownership history; past uses; permits or inventories for hazardous materials or wastes; reported spills, releases or known contamination; or other regulatory actions. Agencies which may be contacted include local assessor's office, planning department, utility district, fire department, health department, agricultural commissioner or air quality management district. State environmental protection agencies such as the Department of Toxic Substances Control, Regional Water Quality Control Board or Integrated Waste Management Board all maintain databases of sites which have been investigated and may also be contacted. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also maintains databases of hazardous waste generators or sites with hazardous waste contamination.

Historical Research 
In order to review past use of the property, documents such as title history, maps, building permits or aerial photographs may be reviewed. Maps, such as parcel maps, topographic maps or fire insurance maps, sometimes have detailed information about past use of a property. This information may be available from local agencies such as planning departments or county assessors. Aerial photographs can often be obtained though university or college libraries, or through private aerial survey companies.

Site Inspection 
During a site inspection, the reviewer looks for site activities or uses which pose a high potential for environmental contamination. These "red flag" items include:

  • storage tanks (underground and above ground)
  • water wells (domestic, agricultural or industrial)
  • waste water systems
  • drums or chemical storage areas
  • ponds or surface impoundments
  • maintenance or shop areas
  • sumps or storm drains
  • stained soil or pavement
  • transformers
  • piles of waste or trash
  • dead or dying vegetation
  • unusual odors

If any of these "red flags" are observed, further evaluation may be needed to determine if a problem exists.

In order to determine current and past site practices, interviews with persons familiar with the site can be extremely valuable. Property owners, site managers, former employees, neighbors or local agency officials can often provide useful information.

Following the review of records, historical research, site inspection and interviews, a report is prepared to document the findings. EH&S uses a checklist format for its reports. The report presents the findings of the assessment and presents recommendations for further action, if necessary. Generally, no samples of soil, air or water are collected as part of a Phase 1 Assessment, but sampling may be recommended to evaluate potential concerns. The EH&S staff members that perform due diligence studies are Registered Environmental Assessors in California.