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Why is a Phase I different in Cincinnati, Ohio?

There are a few reasons why a Phase I ESA is different in Cincinnati, Ohio.

History of Industrial Activity: Cincinnati has a long history of industrial activity, which has resulted in the presence of hazardous substances on some properties. As a result, Phase I ESAs in Cincinnati are more likely to identify potential environmental hazards than in other areas.

Regulatory Requirements: The City of Cincinnati has adopted stricter environmental regulations than some other jurisdictions. As a result, Phase I ESAs in Cincinnati must comply with these additional requirements.

Local Knowledge: Environmental professionals in Cincinnati are familiar with the local geology, hydrology, and industrial history. This knowledge can be helpful in identifying potential environmental hazards and determining the appropriate scope of work for a Phase I ESA.

Here are some of the specific differences between Phase I ESAs in Cincinnati and other areas:

  • The scope of work may be more extensive. In Cincinnati, Phase I ESAs may include additional steps, such as:
    • Reviewing historical aerial photographs
    • Conducting interviews with neighbors and local government officials
    • Sampling soil and groundwater
  • The report may be more detailed. The report from a Phase I ESA in Cincinnati may include more detailed information about the potential environmental hazards identified on the property. This information can be helpful to buyers, sellers, and lenders in making informed decisions about the property.

Local experts share their take on why Cincinnati’s Phase I ESAs are unique:

  1. The Cincinnati Phase I ESA area covers at least eight states (Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania). Adaptations must be made for each state/county/township/municipality/village for Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIAs). Some agencies do not have online information and sometimes, that can require an in-person visit to that agency.
    • The Ohio EPA has an online portal for records searches, and the district office records liaisons are helpful, responsive, and timely, usually within two weeks.
    • The Ohio Bureau of Underground Storage Tank (UST) Regulations (BUSTR) is also helpful and fast; often getting documentation the same day.
    • For Cincinnati, there are online building records, the assessor website is easy to navigate, oil and gas maps are online from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), zoning maps are online.
    • Historically, Cincinnati’s health department has been unresponsive to requests, and often, requests must be made multiple times to get an answer.
  2. Cincinnati, and other large cities like Columbus, Louisville, etc., may have multiple parcels and a LONG development history. It’s possible to get Fire Insurance Maps all the way back to the 1860s in Cincinnati, and there may have been 10 or more historic addresses to do city directory research and FOIAs.
  3. Some interesting historical developments in the City of Cincinnati include abandoned subway tunnels, former lager tunnels for beer storage and brewing, and lots of historic fill near the Ohio River. Cincinnati has a variety of properties, from large industrial from 185 years of Proctor & Gamble manufacturing, pork processing, to automotive manufacturing, to 200-year-old+ apartment buildings, to vacant lots, to cornfields, and wooded lots just outside the city limits.

If you are considering buying or selling a property in Cincinnati, it is important to have a Phase I ESA conducted by a qualified environmental professional. This will help you to identify any potential environmental hazards and make an informed decision about the property.

Hiring an experienced professional for your commercial real estate due diligence is important.