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By March 30, 2014 Read More →

Environmental Issues Associated with Property Purchase

FN-KESSLER-MOUNTAIN-002_t598If you are considering purchasing property in order to further your business, it is important to be knowledgeable of the risk of environmental contamination on the property.  If any industrial activity has taken place on the site in the past, there may be a risk that the site is contaminated.

A contaminated site is when enough pollutants are present to be harmful to humans or to the environment.  Contamination is usually the result of careless practices by businesses owners where hazardous materials have been used.  Some common materials and causes of contamination are as follows:

  • Oil and petroleum extraction, processing, transport or distribution
  • Chemical manufacturing or processing
  • Plastics, polystyrene and rubber manufacturing
  • Food or animal by-product processing
  • Mineral and metal extraction and processing
  • Transportation-related industries including the manufacturing, distribution and service of automobiles, aircraft and trains
  • Wastewater treatment, contaminated soil processing and snow disposal
  • Pulp and paper manufacturing
  • Cement and asphalt manufacturing
  • Businesses requiring the storage of hazardous materials such as gas cylinders and oil

Other causes of contamination could include, but are not limited to the following: Other contaminants include oxygen-depleting organics and nutrients such as animal manure, human waste, potassium, phosphate and nitrogen, “toxic” organics such as PCBs and pesticides, metals such as zinc, cadmium, lead and mercury, radioactive materials such as uranium, heavy water and radon gas, and nuisance substances such as sulphur, iron, methane or unexploded ordnance.

Site assessment

When purchasing a property, it is first and foremost important to have the property properly assessed for environmental issues or contamination.  Requirements for this process vary by state, but it is best to hire a reputable company to assess the site by conducting an overall assessment, as well as taking soil and water samples to determine if the site is contaminated.  This will insure that the property has been thoroughly checked out and passes inspection, reassuring you that the site is clear or warning you in advance of the risks you might incur if you purchase the property.


If you decide to purchase the property that is contaminated, the next step is to decontaminate the site.  There are many ways in which this can be done, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.  One new development in decontamination is through in-situ bioremediation.  This process involves injecting biological agents into the soil to neutralize the contamination.  This process can be cost efficient and swift.  Another process of decontamination is called multiphase extraction, or bioslurping, which involves the simultaneous vacuuming of liquids and pumping of air.  These are just two ways of helping to decontaminate the site.  It is best to educate yourself on all the processes and choose the one that best suits your needs.  This could be dependent upon what type of contamination is present on the site.

Preventing future issues

Your last step is to prevent further contamination.  As a business, it is your responsibility to minimize your impact on the environment.  You should learn how to prevent the contamination from happening again, as well as other ways you can reduce harm to the environment such as how to reduce emissions and wastes.

As you can see, environmental contamination could be common on property that is used for commercial or business purposes.  The risks you could incur from purchasing a property could be costly if not assessed properly before purchased.


About the author

James Bringle has seen firsthand the risks associated with a contaminated site and highly suggests gathering more information fromEnvironmental Data Resources before purchasing property that could be potentially contaminated.



Posted in: APN Corner

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3 Comments on "Environmental Issues Associated with Property Purchase"

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  1. Enviro Equipment, Inc. says:

    Although expensive, if you’re going to have an environmental assessment of property done, make sure it’s performed by a state-licensed professional as only their assessments can legally hold up in a court of law… should it ever go that far.

  2. Gruffalo says:

    More detail is needed here to tell the reader the potential liability of not heeding the advice. Environmental due diligence is required to protect yourself from future liability under CERCLA should contamination from a prior owner or other responsible party be discovered. If you do not make all appropriate inquiry and properly conduct inspections prior to purchase, you as a current of past owner could find yourself liable for contamination along with the prior owners, even if you had nothing to do with it. That can easily bankrupt the average person, and does so regularly. Also, if there is contamination, you should pursue prior owners and responsible parties for the remediation before you pay for anything yourself. Always have a licensed environmental company conduct a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment before buying, and if more inquiry is needed they can escalate testing from there.

  3. Sue says:

    Also consider possible meth lab contamination in homes, out buildings, wooded property with vehicle access. It’s a big problem and no established standards for clean up. Oregon reports on property title. More info at this link: