• Choosing an Environmental Consultant

  • Should you find yourself in need of a consultant for environmental assessment or remediation, there are several things you should consider. The first step is to determine why you require an environmental consultant. A common reason is to conduct an Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) for purchase and/or financing of commercial and industrial properties; but it can also be required for regulatory compliance, or to address known or suspected contamination. The work required can become complex and expensive and it is imperative to confirm all regulatory, legal, financial and due diligence requirements. Costly remediation and loss of value at contaminated sites can turn your investment ‘nest-egg’ into a liability. It still amazes me the number of people that will invest millions of dollars in real estate, but refuse to spend the time and fees necessary to evaluate and understand their environmental risks.  

    It is important to retain qualified and experienced professionals to complete your assessment. Various provincial associations license professional engineers and geoscientists who can investigate and rectify environmental concerns. In addition to education and professional designations, organizations such as AESAC provide industry-recognized training and certification. Other experienced professionals and technical specialists are fully competent to complete environmental assessments, however the potential need for regulatory sign-off by a qualified professional; or consultant pre-qualification by financial institutions may affect your selection criteria. Local knowledge, availability and timing are also important considerations.

    As with any service, prices can vary greatly, and it’s important to distinguish price versus value. A wise man (my dad) told me - always buy the best tools and equipment you can afford. Evaluating consultants should be no different. Who is going to provide the best quality work, in the most cost-effective manner to meet your specific needs? There are often several ways of accomplishing your objectives, and varying levels of expertise may be necessary, so more than just cost needs to be evaluated. The scope of work (and costs) can vary with professional judgement, so make sure you compare ‘apples to apples’ and don’t be afraid to ask a prospective consultant why their ‘apples’ are different or better than their competitor’s ‘oranges’.

    Assuming qualifications, and pricing, are comparable (which is not always true) the most important factor is trust. Ask your self - do you feel comfortable with the consultant? Are they telling you what they plan to do and why? Are they answering all questions to your satisfaction? Are they objective and looking out for you – not the lender, agent, or insurer? Some firms may do lots of work for one bank, but only one project for you. As a paying client your specific interests should always be the consultant’s primary concern. As a consultant, I have always encouraged potential new clients to educate themselves about the work needed, and to obtain competitive quotes from other qualified professionals. I like to think they will retain my services; but regardless of who they hire, I hope they get someone who not only meets their goals, but treats them honestly, fairly, and with respect.


    Bill Leedham, P. Geo., CESA

  • About the Author

    Bill Leedham, P.Geo., QP, 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. Mr. Leedham has over twenty nine years of consulting experience in the areas of environmental site assessments, site remediation, geology, contaminant hydrogeology, geotechnical investigations and building sciences; and has conducted, managed, or peer-reviewed hundreds of ESA, remediation and risk assessment projects across Canada.