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Navigating the ASTM E1527 Standards: What should you be doing today?

Posted by Brett Dehler August 2, 2022

Recently, Envirosite hosted a webinar at which Julie Kilgore presented on navigating the ASTM E1527 Phase I Environmental Site Assessments Standard Practice. The focus was on what environmental professionals should be doing today, as well as reviewing the key changes with the new ASTM E1527-21 Standard. 

A renowned expert in the field, Julie is the President of Wasatch Environmental, ASTM E1527 Task Group Chair, and served as a member of the EPA Federal Advisory Committee established to develop the proposed “All Appropriate Inquiry” (AAI) regulation.
With over 300 registrants, the webinar was full of valuable information, participant polls, and 29 questions from the audience that Julie answered live. While we encourage anyone who missed the session to watch it on demand here, these are some of the highlights and takeaways (though not all encompassing).


E1527-21 Revision Drivers

The ASTM E1527 Standard needs to be reviewed no later than once every eight years in order to reflect current customary practice. The process for revising the ASTM E1527-13 Standard involved 250 ASTM Task Group members comprised of producers and users of Phase I site assessments as well as lawyers, 75 meetings (in person and virtual) and extensive industry outreach. The main goal of the revisions was to update inconsistencies in process and quality of Phase Is that signaled the areas where the standard needed to be improved. As such, existing language was clarified and improved to result in “strengthening the deliverable” as an industry.

Fundamental Federal Drivers: CERCLA and the All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI) rule require that assessments be conducted “consistent with good commercial and customary practice.”


What is a REC? 

The definition of a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) was restructured and split into 3 sections to add what is “likely” and should be updated in Phase I report templates. 

  1. Presence of Hazardous Substance or Petroleum Product due to a release to the environment
  2. Likely presence of Hazardous Substance or Petroleum Product due to a release or likely release to the environment, or
  3. Presence of Hazardous Substance or Petroleum Product under conditions that pose a material threat of a future release to the environment

•    New note added to the REC Definition as to what “Likely” means for increased consistency
•    HREC and CREC are defined as past release affecting the subject property
•    A new tool has been added to E1527-21: A REC Appendix and a simplified REC Logic Diagram.


Historical Research

During the standard review process, both users and producers of Phase Is agreed that additional, consistent rigor is needed in historical review, as properties (and often their sizes) change over time.

The objective of historical research has always been to identify property uses back to 1940 or first developed use. The main four sources remain the same: aerials, fire insurance, maps, topographic maps, and city directories. If these four are not reviewed, the environmental professional should state why not in the report.

Additional resources shall be reviewed, as needed, to satisfy the objective. Standard historical sources mostly remain the same: Aerial photos, fire insurance maps, street directories, topographic maps, building department records, interviews, property tax files, and zoning/land use records.

Changes: Chain of Title was deemed as one of the weaker sources and has been moved to “other options” and Interviews were moved up for being the most critical source of information outside of urban settings, which is a significant percentage of Phase Is. 

A clearer emphasis on property identification: The subject property is defined by its current boundaries, as properties may be a different configuration or have a different address than in the past. 

Clarified Type of Use: More specific information is more helpful than general information. If the general type of use is retail, industrial or manufacturing, then additional standard resources shall be reviewed if they are likely to identify a more specific use and are reasonably ascertainable. Retail needs to be researched to find out if dry cleaners are present as tenant operations. The EPA shared that dry cleaners are the number one source of new Superfund Sites. 88% of current, active dry cleaners have actionable levels of releases. We must find the dry cleaners!


Adjoining Properties

What is good commercial and customary practice for adjoining properties? It was revealed that environmental professionals have been interpreting the standard differently. A new historical section in ASTM E1527-21 has been added for clarification: During research of the subject property, past uses of the adjoining properties that are obvious shall be identified to evaluate if those uses may have led to RECs.

While the main four historical sources should be used to review adjoining properties, the biggest debate was over city directories.  If city directories (or any of the big four historical resources) are reviewed to subject property and not adjoining, the Phase I report should state why not.


Additional changes in ASTM E 1527-21

  • New definition: Property Use Limitation – “property use restrictions” has been replaced with “property use limitations”
  • New definition: 3.2.84 significant data gap - a data gap that affects the ability of the environmental professional to identify a recognized environmental condition
  • Report conclusions must now identify RECs, CRECs and significant data gaps
  •  “Emerging contaminants” have been added to the list of non-scope considerations in Section 13. PFAS/PFOS are coming eventually, but are not part of CERCLA today
  • Consistent use of the term “Subject Property”
  • The report should include photos and a site map


When will E1527-21 Affect Me?

The ASTM E1527-21 was published in November of 2021 and is available from  A formal request has been submitted to EPA to reference ASTM E1527-21 as compliant with All Appropriate Inquires, and that is expected to go into effect by the end of 2022. EPA received comments and is the process of responding to those. 

On 7/28/2022, we asked participants what they are doing today. 

  • 43% are using ASTM E1527-13
  • 28% have adopted ASTM E1527-21
  • 29% Depends on client requirements

So, what should you be doing today? ASTM E1527-13 is now a “historical standard,” but nothing prevents its continued use. Right now, ASTM E1527-13 is recognized by EPA as conforming with AAI. Environmental Professionals have several options:

  1. Continue to use and cite E1527-13 until EPA references E1527-21
  2. Transition to E1527-21
  3. Use and cite E1527-13 (the standard in the AAI Rule) and note that the assessment also satisfies the requirements in E1527-21


Poll: In using ASTM E1527-21, do you anticipate increased turnaround times?

  • 19% Increasing
  • 73% Remaining the same
  • 8% Not sure

Poll: Do you plan to increase your pricing when adopting ASTM E1527-21?

  • 45% Increase
  • 43% Remain the same
  • 11% Not sure yet

These latest changes to the ASTM Standard came from members nationwide – from users and producers of Phase I Site Assessments – representing good commercial and customary practice and are expected to result in consistent, quality deliverables. 

While this is a quick overview of the webinar, you are encouraged to review the new standard from ASTM, watch the full webinar recording, and consider joining the ASTM E50.02 Committee.



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