How Much Does a Phase II Environmental Assessment Cost?

I got a phone call from a close friend. She told me she was working on a development project for her family, and just got the results of a Phase I Environmental Assessment. The assessment pointed to a potential obstacle to the project – a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC). The project site used to be a dry cleaner that closed up shop a few years back, and the assessment noted there could have been a release of tetrachloroethylene, or perchloroethylene (PCE) into the soil and groundwater. My friend was really upset. It was already difficult enough with stakeholders, banks, city and county regulators taking chunks of her time and money – now this. She was stressed. “Can you help?” she said, “Now they want a Phase II Assessment to investigate the REC. All I want to know is how much is this going to cost?”

I paused for a moment thinking, “it depends…”, but quickly remembered the stress she was under. “How about we meet for coffee in a couple of hours and in the meantime, I will work up a cost for a Phase II Assessment for you?” That’s what she wanted to hear.

After some time, we spoke about what drives cost.

Site Related Cost Drivers, Soil and Groundwater Investigation

Factor that drives cost How/Why it Drives Cost
  • What’s in it
  • Hazardous contaminants require specialized personnel, equipment, and disposal that increase cost.
  • How much is there
  • The more contamination there is, the more likely people or environment will be exposed field work. Extra precautions may be necessary which would increase cost. Higher contaminant levels may also require specialized personnel and equipment that would increase cost. Higher contaminant levels limit disposal options, which can run up cost.
  • How far has it spread
  • The number of sample points necessary to map out an area of contamination increases with the size of the contaminated area, and cost increases with the number of sample points.
  • Type of soil and rock
  • Very hard or dense ground requires specific equipment for drilling and longer drilling time, which increase cost. In contrast, drilling in soft material like sandy soil might require special equipment to keep the drill hole open, which also increases cost.
  • how far below the ground is the water
  • Cost generally increases with depth to groundwater. Drilling takes longer, there are more soil samples collected, more materials used, and more drilling waste created. Also, the time it takes to sample groundwater increases with depth to groundwater.

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