System helps identify property risks
The environmental condition of a property is of concern for cities, counties and the private sector as well. Whether the parties in a property transaction undertake a full-blown environmental site assessment or use a less expensive American Society for Testing of Materials (ASTM) Standard (E-1428), the search of public records is an essential part of the environmental due diligence process.
State, county and city government environmental specialists can now save days, weeks or even months of work currently required to locate information on reported environmental hazards.
Instead of rummaging through reams of paper files, researchers can use a PC-based, on-line information system called GIS Environmental Measurement Service (GEMS). The service alerts researchers to the proximity and nature of potentially hazardous materials reported on or near a piece of property.
The user can access information that includes over 500 independent sources that meet the report requirements of ASTM, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. These sources include local databases dealing with leaking registered storage tanks, solid waste facilities, registered storage tanks and hazardous waste sites, as well as national databases such as the National Priorities List, the RCRA List databases and the CERCLA Information System.
The researcher enters the address of a property and immediately obtains a detailed report of specific potential environmental risks. Available at any time, the on-line product ensures researchers that all available information from local, state and federal governments has been updated in the system. The computerized search also ensures that all available information has been scanned and nothing has been missed. In addition to a detailed report, a GIS-based map of the area depicting the location of each reported potential risk can be viewed.
State, county and city organizations with large portfolios of properties often have difficulty in assigning priorities as to which properties may require a Phase I environmental investigation.
To address this need, the system generates a relative environmental risk score based on the type and number of potential risks identified and their distances from the properties in question. Researchers can then establish priorities as to which properties may require immediate attention, which ones are of lesser concern and which ones do not pose any problems.
For example, in New Jersey, the environmental risk score for a property can range from zero to more than 6,000. Over 70 percent of the population of New Jersey live in areas where properties have an environmental risk score of less than 100. However, more than 250,000 inhabitants of the state, or 3.5 percent, live in areas where some of the properties have scores exceeding 500.
Because several state and local environmental organizations deal with streets, roads and highways, the system will soon include the ability to identify potential environmental risks along these travel corridors. Users can receive a graph depicting the relative environmental risk scores at quarter-, half- or one-mile increments. Where the graph identifies geographic areas of potential concern, researchers can then obtain additional detailed information on each reported potential environmental hazard in that area.
The on-line search of both current and historic prior-use information on registered federal and state hazardous sites saves tedious and frustrating research.
The service pinpoints the location of these sites, on a digitized map, in proximity to the property.