Site Assessments

by James D. Gustin, Principal Engineer Geologist and Asst. Vice President; Law Environmental Inc., Kennesaw, GA,
Larry A. Neal, Principal Envir. Engineer and Vice President; Law Environmental, Kennesaw, GA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1990, Vol. 60, Issue 8, Pg. 53-55

Document Type: Feature article

Abstract: The 1986 Superfund Amendment and Reauthorization Act (SARA) established an innocent purchaser defense applicable if a new owner conducts appropriate inspection and appropriate inquiry into the previous ownership and uses of the property. Engineering firms now offer services called environmental site assessments (audits) and soil and ground-water contamination assessments (assessments) to evaluate environmental risks for prospective buyers, sellers and lenders of property. In doing so they may incur professional liability. The best way to avoid this liability is to minimize errors and omissions; this requires environmental professionals with a high degree of loss-prevention sensitivity and of technical and regulatory knowledge. Conflicts of interest may occur when the engineering firm fails to recognize that it is working for a buyer or seller when the other party to the sale is also a client. Proposals are commonly omitted, leaving the scope of work, schedule and fee open to misinterpretation. Another common omission is failure to request pertinent site information such as a plat plan, title searches, site land-use history, etc. Audits, assessments and final reports also may contain errors resulting from many unfounded assumptions.

Subject Headings: Environmental issues | Audits | Site evaluation | Pollution | Professional services | Liability |

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