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Contact information
For information about the Small Business Environmental Assistance Program, contact:
Small Business Hotline
Toll free: 855-889-3021
DNRSmallBusiness@wisconsin.gov

Due diligence on environmental permits and requirements during property transfers

When property changes hands, steps should be taken to evaluate the property’s environmental condition as well as the status of environmental permits issued to the owner for any activities. This will help the purchaser understand what is being purchased and will help the seller better market the property. It is very important that all parties involved understand their environmental responsibilities, from finding contamination on a property, to transferring environmental permits, or even transitioning compliance demonstration so there are no gaps that result in deviations or violations of environmental standards. This page will discuss the different permit requirements that may affect a property, but for a summary description of the types of programs that may affect any property and should be evaluated, go to the Purchasing Property page.

For more information on managing contamination, see the Environmental Liability page. Additional important details may be found in the Environmental Contamination & Your Real Estate (RR-973) [PDF] guide.

Conducting an Environmental Site Assessment may also be a good idea to make sure you have not missed any sources of past contamination. See the Environmental Site Assessment tab for more information.

Environmental obligations

Are there environmental permits or compliance obligations for the property?

DNR issues permits for a wide range of operations that may take place on a property. Some of the following pages offer a list or searchable database of permits issued by the department. Otherwise the links connect to a page with information on the types of permits that may be needed and staff contacts to ask about your property:

Some programs issue general permits to categories of sources, and individual businesses covered by a general permit may not be identified in all program databases listed above. Contact the DNR if you are not sure about whether a general permit may apply under one of these programs. You can search for a program contact on DNR's Staff Directory page and typing keywords in the subject description box.

There are no permits issued for businesses that generate hazardous waste, but there are multiple requirements that may apply depending on the quantity of wastes generated. Be sure to review information about current waste disposal practices at the business. More information on hazardous waste management can be found on the Hazardous Waste page.

Small businesses or other locations with a public drinking water supply, including sites such as schools, day cares, motels, taverns or churches with a well, do not receive a permit from DNR but they are regulated by DNR. DNR staff will inspect them on a periodic basis, and review monitoring data to see if there are water quality problems. For more information on public drinking water requirements, and whether they apply to your business, go to the DNR's Public Drinking Water page.

If you are uncertain about what permits have been issued to the company you are considering purchasing, please contact the Business Support section to arrange a meeting with DNR to discuss implications of the purchase.

Permits to transfer

What needs to be done when selling or closing a business that has environmental permits or requirements?

If you own an industrial or commercial facility that will be closing or has recently shut down, the DNR’s Wisconsin Plant Recovery Initiative may be able to help you identify key environmental issues and permits that need to be addressed prior to shutting down. Staff can help the facility owner understand any environmental obligations and identify financial, liability and technical resources of which they may be able to take advantage. The company will have the option to meet with DNR staff that can answer questions and provide information. As a result, environmental issues can be proactively addressed, liability assurance letters or exemptions can be provided and potential financial tools can be discussed, such as Wisconsin Assessment Monies (WAM) which provides site assessment services from a DNR assigned environmental consultant free of charge.

If conducting any demolition prior to the sale of the property, be sure to follow proper procedures for waste disposal.

If you are selling a business that was issued permits by DNR, then the programs issuing those permits should be notified regarding the new ownership or they may have a process to follow to transfer the permit. For more information on transferring permits, review the following pages:

Environmental Site Assessments

What is an Environmental Site Assessment?

Conducting an Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) is not a legal requirement but is often conducted prior to commercial or industrial property transactions in order to evaluate the risk for contamination. A Phase I Environmental Assessment involves research to determine how the property has been used in the past and if the uses may have caused contamination. During Phase II, samples are taken on the property if the Phase I assessment uncovered cause for concern. An environmental consultant will need to be hired to conduct these assessments.

If contamination is found, the responsible party must immediately report the findings to DNR. DNR may require a more thorough site investigation to determine the nature, degree, extent and source of the contamination and to determine what actions may be necessary to remediate the site. There is more information on the Brownfields Program ESA page.

Last revised: Tuesday May 24 2016