Most people have learned by now, about the train derailment in Palestine, Ohio. The train was hauling a highly flammable and carcinogenic liquid which was released into the environment from the damaged tank cars. Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claims the air quality is good, it is obvious that the groundwater has been affected as evidenced by all the dead fish and the rainbow sheen on water bodies (streams, ponds, etc.) The responsible party, Norfolk Southern, will be required to clean the soil and groundwater. Laboratory analysis of the current soil and groundwater quality is not available at this time. But it appears that cleanup may take several years to complete.
The information age we are in will likely preserve the history of this spill for a long time.
But what about incidents that occurred long ago? The infamous fire on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio in 1969 was the impetus to create the EPA in 1970. What is not as well-known, is there were at least a dozen fires on the river before 1969. And, although the EPA was created in 1970, it wasn’t until 1988 that regulations requiring the owners of Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) to prevent leaks, detect leaks quickly, and cleanup leaks quickly and safely. During construction of the Cleveland Guardians (formerly Cleveland Indians) baseball stadium, which was completed in 1994, a significant number of abandoned USTs were discovered. The EPA helped to cover the cost of removing the USTs and contaminated soil and groundwater through a program the EPA established in 1986. At the same time this fund was created, the EPA also began requiring owners and buyers of commercial properties to perform their “due diligence.”
A due diligence study is a comprehensive appraisal of the property, intended to establish the property’s assets and liabilities and evaluate its commercial potential. A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) focuses on the liability portion by evaluating the potential a property has been environmentally compromised. It is important to note that the assessment is not a yes or no conclusion, only probability.
Performing the ESA requires a comprehensive search of historical documents, government files,
interviews, current property use, and a site inspection. If the ESA concludes that no further assessment
is required, the ESA satisfies the environmental portion of due diligence.
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