California Department of Transportation

Project Development Workflow Tasks (PDWT)

Part 3 - Identify Project Need and Project Initiation Document

II. Project Initiation Document

B. Develop Initial Alternatives (150.10) - Develop Concept Alternatives (WBS 150.10.15)

P58. Request Hazardous Materials Initial Site Assessment

All projects require an Initial Site Assessment (ISA) for the presence of hazardous materials. The purpose of the ISA is to find out as much as possible about the hazardous waste condition of a site without performing actual sampling. Before launching into an intrusive site investigation, it is important to gain knowledge about land usage and the types of chemicals and operations typically associated with that business or industry. The ISA findings may assist the project engineer to avoid potentially contaminated locations, and will enable appropriate cost estimates for site testing during the PA&ED phase, and for remediation (cleanup). This effort is the essential first step to evaluating property for purchase or development.

A screening process is used to identify projects that are potentially exempt from requirements for conducting an Initial Site Assessment (ISA) for hazardous waste. Projects not requiring new right of way, significant excavation, structure demolition or modification, or utility relocation generally have a low risk for hazardous waste involvement, and normally do not require an ISA.

Projects not cleared by the screening process will require an Initial Site Assessment (ISA) to determine if there is any known or potential hazardous waste within the proposed project limits. Generally, every project that includes new right of way acquisition, excavation, or structure demolition or modification will require at least an Initial Site Assessment.

The Environmental Study Limits must be delineated before an ISA can be requested. Depending on the District, the request may be included in the request for a Preliminary Environmental Assessment Report or may be submitted directly to the Environmental Engineering Hazardous Materials unit. The Hazardous Materials Unit will prepare the ISA and the finding should be documented in the PID and the PEAR.

If testing is outside of the State right of way, the appropriate permits to enter will be needed. Coordination with Environmental and Right of Way is required to obtain the permit and to determine permit requirements. The availability of funds required for permits-to-enter or any testing must be confirmed since they are not typically available during the PID phase.

Some of the most commonly encountered site problems include:

  • Contaminated groundwater from leaky underground gasoline tanks that can migrate underground into State right of way.
  • Surface contamination from oil drippings that may also migrate via storm water into the State’s right of way.
  • Concentrations of aerially deposited lead usually in the soil found along high-volume routes.
  • Naturally occurring asbestos in the soil, which can become airborne during roadway excavations.
  • Removal of painted striping containing lead based paint (striping paint)
  • Asphalt concrete previously buried within embankments
  • Asphalt concrete grindings as shoulder backing material within environmentally sensitive areas (particularly near streams and waterways).
  • Asbestos shims between concrete barriers and pipe rails on old bridges.

The ISA will examine the potential for encountering these and many additional hazardous materials. The project engineer should make every effort to avoid areas of potential concern, and should not propose the acquisition of right of way that is contaminated or has a high risk of being contaminated.


PDPM, (Chapter 18, “Hazardous Waste”)

Hazardous Waste Handbook


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This page last updated October 20, 2010