Phase I ESAs: Taking the Scenic Route Through Greene County, Ohio

Phase I ESAs: Taking the Scenic Route Through Greene County, Ohio

01.12.18 | Katherine Beach

As with most American families, my holidays are steeped in tradition.  One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is to put the turkey in the oven and then go out for a bike ride.  Yes, it’s cold, but it doesn’t take much time to get warmed up!  I typically ride for a couple of hours, enjoying the scenery and contemplating whatever comes upon me at the time.

This year’s ride brought back memories of a series of intense Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) that I participated in during 1989 - 1990.  These projects were conducted for Greene County Recreation and Parks District and were noted for their national significance under the Federal Highway Transportation Bill.  Bowser-Morner, Inc. (BMI) completed Phase I ESAs on the H-Connector and the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

These Phase I ESAs were interesting on so many levels.  First, these projects stretched over seven miles around Xenia, Ohio and ran adjacent to wide open fields, residential areas and industrial facilities.  The use of some of the adjacent properties were easy to identify: signage and interviews gave us quick, valuable information.  Other properties were a little more difficult to identify.  One of the more notable properties that abutted the project was a parcel with several plain brick buildings on it.  Our research revealed that the site had been used as first a scythe, and then a gunpowder factory around the Civil War. Our research did not identify any indications that subsurface investigations were necessary, however, this site provided keen insight into the past.  Another interesting site identified along the bike path was a former seed factory.   Methylmercury commonly was used as a seed fungicide, so additional investigation was warranted.  Subsequent soil sampling did not identify the presence of mercury. 

Next, remember that this was in 1989.  Bowser-Morner, through continual efforts to stay current with emerging trends, had been performing Phase I ESAs for a few years.  Driven by the liabilities associated with CERCLA (1980), lending institutions had begun to require a Phase I ESA prior to closing on certain properties, especially those associated with prior industrial use.  With the passage of SARA (1986), the performance of Phase I ESAs gained traction with recognition of the “Innocent purchaser" defense for those who conducted "all appropriate inquiries" into the past use of property prior to acquisition.  BMI, an active member in ASTM, was able to identify the generally accepted environmental practices and procedures to assess the environmental liability with respect to the standards of due care customary in the industry of the time.  By the time the first ASTM E 1527, Practice for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, was published in 1993, BMI’s ESA program was on-par with the standard.


Finally, it simply feels good to be a part of something bigger than oneself.    Although no one was on the bikepath with me on Thanksgiving, I’m positive that hundreds of bikers enjoy the paths leading from Xenia Station.  And I’m happy that I had a part in making those paths happen.