Site Mitigation & Restoration Program

We protect and maintain California’s land and places
by setting strict standards for land restoration and cleanup

Preliminary Endangerment Assessment (PEA) Process Quick Reference Guide

PEA Background Research

The purpose of the background research is to collect pertinent information about the following:

  1. Location, including legal description;
  2. Regulatory status;
  3. Physical/environmental characteristics;
  4. Zoning, including any potential zoning or general plan changes;
  5. Current and past property uses;
  6. Facility operations;
  7. Recorded environmental cleanup liens;
  8. Chain of title documents;
  9. Current and past cleanup actions;
  10. Engineering controls;
  11. Institutional controls;
  12. Current and past uses of hazardous substances/materials;
  13. Land use in the immediate area; and
  14. Environmental permits

The PEA Guidance Manual recommends the following to complete the Background Research:

  1. Records review –Regulatory agency files, county and local offices, fire department, public health records, owner/operator records, historical maps and photographs, etc. 
  2. Site Inspection – Visual inspection of property and surroundings 
  3. Interviews – Communication with current and former property owners, operators, employees, and neighbors



For detailed information, refer to the

2015 PEA Guidance Manual

The PEA is defined in California Health and Safety Code Division 20, Chapter 6.8, Section 25319.5 (HSC §25319.5)

For more information, contact:

The Preliminary Endangerment Assessment (PEA) process determines if there has been a release of a hazardous substance that presents a risk to human health or the environment. The PEA provides basic information, includes a Work Plan that describes the work to be done and a Report of the results, and makes conclusions about the PEA data. The PEA Report may serve as a Phase I Environmental Assessment and may meet the “All Appropriate Inquiries” requirement to allow for liability protections under federal regulations. If the PEA work does not define the full nature and extent of contamination, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) may determine that a Supplemental Site Investigation or Remedial Investigation is necessary. A PEA may also conclude that a Land Use Covenant is required, in which case, a public notification process is implemented.

The PEA includes:

  1. Introduction, Site Background, and Description: The PEA includes a rigorous background evaluation. Refer to inset at left.
  2. Conceptual Site Model (CSM): Information about property conditions and potential impacts to receptors, commonly in a graphic format. The CSM should include contaminant transport mechanisms and exposure pathways from air, soil, sediments, water, soil vapor, groundwater, and surface water.
  3. Data Quality Objectives (DQOs) and Rationale for Sampling Strategy: An approach to collect data to support decision-making. The DQOs include the reason for choosing the locations, depths, types of sample matrices, number of samples (including quality assurance/quality control samples), and analytical parameters such as target analytes, detection limits, and field screening methods.
  4. Sampling & Analysis: Description of sample collection, storage, record keeping and analytical methods. Identification of chemicals of potential concern.
  5. Human Health Screening Risk Evaluation: Description of complete exposure pathways. Source of risk-based screening levels. Calculation of exposure point concentrations. Summary of cumulative screening risk and hazard.
  6. Ecological Screening Evaluation: Site and biological characterization. Pathway assessment and qualitative summary.
  7. Conclusions and Recommendations.

DTSC’s Voluntary Agreements – Assessment and Cleanup Process: 1) Agreement: a) Standard Voluntary Agreement b) California Land Reuse and Revitalization Act Agreement c) Reimbursement Agreement d) Prospective Purchaser Agreement e) Local Agency Oversight Agreement 2) Scoping Meetings a) During negotiation or shortly after agreement execution b) Establishes strong working relationship between DTSC, the Proponent, and the environmental consultant c) Also may be held prior to submitting any documents to DTSC for review 3) Evaluation a) Preliminary Endangerment Assessment (PEA) b) Supplemental Site Investigation c) Remedial Investigation d) Report of Findings Possible End Point 4) Remedy Selection a) Feasibility Study b) Removal Action Work Plan c) Remedial Action Plan d) Response Plan 5) Implementation a) Removal Action Implementation b) Remedial Design c) Remedial Action Implementation d) Response Plan Implementation 6) Certification & Stewardship a) No Further Action b) Certificate of Completion c) Land Use Restriction d) Operation and Maintenance e) Five-Year Review Possible End Point During Remedy Selection, there is a Public Comment Period and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). During this entire process, Public Participation Activities and Tribal Consulation is included, as needed. Possible End Points: 1) Based on site evaluation, projects may conclude without need for any further action; 2) Based on site evaluation, projects may conclude with the need for a Land Use Covenant, in which case a public notice process will be implemented through a Preliminary Endangerment Assessment, Report of Findings, or equivalent documents; and 3) Cleanups may either be conducted to unrestricted land use levels, or may require long term stewardships.

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This document is intended to be guidance only and it does not supersede or implement laws or regulations. The information in this advisory is intended solely as guidance and as educational reference material and should not be considered enforceable or regulatory in nature.