• All I Want for Christmas is a ‘Clean’ ESA

  • For your holiday enjoyment, here is a make believe interview for a Phase One Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) for a remote industrial property somewhere near the North Pole…

    Assessor: Can you tell me the purpose of this Phase One ESA?
    Client: Everyone is saying we will be getting a “Green Christmas”, so we want to evaluate our activities, assess our current practices and determine the environmental condition of the property.

    Assessor: Who occupies the Site, and what buildings are present?
    Client: My wife and I live year round in the house. My tiny workers live in their tiny quarters, we have a workshop for toy manufacturing, and there is a stable for the sleigh and team of eight reindeer.

    Assessor: Can you describe your on-site activities?
    Client: We manufacture millions of toys and gifts year round and make annual deliveries worldwide.

    Assessor: How long have you been conducting manufacturing at this site, and do you have any in-house documentation available for review?
    Client: We have been working here a long time; I believe the first developed use was documented in a poem dating from 1823.

    Assessor: Do you use or store any potentially hazardous materials?
    Client: We use a lot of paint, glue, and lacquers for the toy manufacturing. There is also a large pile of coal that is packaged and delivered to my ‘naughty’ customers.

    Assessor: Can you tell me what happens to your waste products?
    Client: I leave that to my ‘elves’ – they make all the waste magically disappear.

    Assessor: Can you tell me how the site buildings are heated?
    Client: We keep warm with good cheer and the magic of Christmas.

    Assessor: As a follow up – so there is no fuel use or storage on site?
    Client: No, its strictly magic and good cheer, but we supplement our heating with coal on really cold nights.

    Assessor: Have you ever had any dry-cleaning activities on Site?
    Client: No my wife cleans all my suits by hand.

    Assessor: Based on the lengthy site history for industrial manufacturing dating back to at least 1823; the presence of bulk quantities of paints, glues and lacquers; the bulk storage of coal; and the possibility of illegal dumping of waste materials - I am going to have to recommend completion of a Phase Two ESA including soil and groundwater sampling and chemical analyses. Based on the apparent age of the buildings, there is also the possibility that asbestos, lead paint or other potentially hazardous substances may be present in building materials. As a housekeeping item, you may also need to consider better management of reindeer manure generated from the stables.
    Client: Oh dear. I’m afraid you’ve been very, very naughty; and I won’t be bringing you a gift this year.

    Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everybody - Cheers!

    Bill Leedham, P. Geo., CESA
    Bill is the Head Instructor and Course Developer for the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada (
    www.aesac.ca); and the founder and President of Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc. You can contact Bill at info@down2earthenvironmental.ca