By Janet Annan
Phase I ESAs in Kansas
Being based in the Kansas City Metropolitan area, it isn’t just Kansas you need to know. You also need to have a minimum understanding of Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa, which is referred to as Region 7 by the USEPA. Each have their own nuances when it comes to permits and regulations at the State level; however, for the purposes of this article, I am only focusing on the State of Kansas itself.
I have spent my life in the Kansas City metropolitan area. I grew up here, went to school here, worked here and live here to this day. Needless to say, I know Kansas. I have watched the area west of where I grew develop from farmland into a densely developed retail strip center. I have even done the Phase I ESAs for some of those properties as they went through their own financial transactions. It was fun asking questions to the property owners and city officials about the history of the property, when I knew full-well exactly what it was prior to development and who owned it. I even knew where that person lived and when they passed away and the land was sold to the developer. I have always found a love for doing work in my own backyard, so to say. But what makes doing Phase I ESA’s different in Kansas than other states? In a few words, not much, but here are a few things I have learned so far in my nearly 20 years of conducting Phase I ESAs in the central region of the United States.
Phase I ESAs in Kansas, like every other state are required to follow the most recent ASTM E1527, which is currently in transition from E1527-13 to E1527-21. The main purpose of a Phase I ESA is to is completed to research the current and historical uses of a property as part of a commercial real estate transaction. The intent of the report is to assess if current or historical property uses have impacted the soil or groundwater beneath the property and could pose a threat to the environment and/or human health. If these issues are found, a potential liability for the owner and/or lender could be presented, and could affect the value of the property. A Phase I ESA completed prior to the closure of a real estate transaction can be used to satisfy the requirements of Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) innocent land owner defense under All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI).
ASTM E1527-21 in Kansas
When adhering to AAI under ASTM E1527-21 in Kansas, the Environmental Professional (EP) is responsible for reviewing each of the “Big 4” resources (aerials, topographic maps, fire insurance maps and city directories) for the subject property and all the adjoining properties or explain why the review was not completed. The research of additional resources, such as, building department records, property tax files, interviews, and zoning, may also be needed when the EP is unable to adequately identify the historical use of adjoining properties based on the review of the Big 4 sources alone. In areas such as Kansas City, Salina and Wichita, records are readily available and/or easily accessible. But in the more rural areas of Kansas, the EP may need to get a little creative in their research. In order to close the data gaps, one may need to visit a local museum, library or even speak with a long-time employee of the respective city. Even in the age of technology that we live in today, doesn’t mean everything is available online and speaking with a person directly is still a good way to get information, especially if you can find “George” or “Helen” at the local diner who lived in the area their whole lives and love a good conversation.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environmental (KDHE) is the regulatory authority in Kansas and have an online tool, known as the Kansas Environmental Interest Finder (KEIF). This is the State’s online database of records and matches the databases pulled by companies such as ERIS for their product deliverable to consulting companies, like Partner Engineering and Science, Inc. KEIF is a useful tool and provides a quick glance at what records the KDHE has. Some of these records are available online for download and others will need to be requested for review.
I have also found that the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) has very good maps for various well installation and abandonment records. The Water Well Database (WWC5) is a resource I like to use for well records, whether to gather information on depth to shallow and statis groundwater levels or to find our if there have been any monitoring wells installed and/or removed and their purpose. KGS also has a good map, similar to the WWC5, for oil and gas wells, which serves as a double-check for the EP either before or after site reconnaissance.
Finally, each city in Kansas has its own rules and processed for obtaining records, so as an EP, it is imperative to not wait to do this research at the end of the process, as some can take two weeks or more to obtain. Most of the time the process it stated online with the City Clerk but don’t be surprised if a phone call to speak to a person is needed.
Overall, conducting Phase I ESAs in Kansas is not much different that other states. It takes time to learn the nuances, but having a qualified consultant who knows the area and isn’t afraid to get creative and ask questions, is always a good idea no matter what State you are in.