Property Risk Management
Traditionally, when property was to be purchased, the buyer, through their lawyer, reviewed the legal ownership of the property, the existence of liens, mortgages or other financial restrictions and the legal survey boundaries of the property. The requirement for this “due diligence” review is particularly critical if the property is to be purchased using a mortgage or other financial loan. In this way, the financial institution fully understood any limitations regarding the property and the associated mortgage.
However, during the early 1990’s, many banks found they had foreclosed on property with serious environmental issues, including leaking underground fuel tanks, poor ventilation and indoor air quality or hazardous building materials (e.g., asbestos). Viewed by government regulatory agencies as having “deep pockets”, the banks were forced to address very expensive remedial activities – activities, which often cost many multiples of the original mortgage value. In response, most financial lenders has expanded the “due diligence review” to include an assessment of environmental conditions, liabilities and risks associated with a property.
Known as an Environmental Site Assessment (ESA), the assessment and review is divided into six phases (see CCME. March 1991. National Guidelines for Decommissioning Industrial Sites. CCME-TS/WM-TRE-013E at www.ccme.ca):
While the ESA reports address commonly accepted aspects of environmental contamination, such as petroleum-contaminated groundwater or pesticide-contaminated soils, aspects such as view planes, indoor air quality, traffic and site vegetation controls have to also be evaluated. Further, the ESA of a property and/or building must address environmental liabilities and risks due to adjacent or neighbouring properties; e.g., leaking underground fuel storage tank at a neighbouring service station.
More recently, many property owners have also had ESA’s conducted to provide a more complete description of the property holdings and to enable them to better address environmental issues, within the process of good management practices.
OCL Services Ltd./OCL Group has offered consulting services in all facets of Environmental Site Assessment to private and government clients since 1982. We also provide a “peer review” system for financial companies to ensure ESA’s completed by other consultants meet the mortgage holder’s needs. We conduct several hundred Phase I ESA’s each year. Some of these reports conclude with a requirement for additional site investigations, which we conduct as either Phase II or Phase III ESA’s. Using this information, we then work with a Client and regulatory agencies to develop a Remedial Action Plan, implement the Plan (with appropriate monitoring) and provide appropriate documentation at the conclusion of the remediation (e.g., Closure Report, Record of Site Condition, Certificate of Compliance, etc.). Our staff include Professional Geoscientists, Certified Environmental Site Assessors and Certified Domestic Fuel Oil Spill Site Professionals. OCL Services Ltd. is registered with many of the Canadian and Atlantic regional financial institutions.
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