Determining past land uses of properties in your project area is important in evaluating the potential presence or impacts of hazardous materials at your project site. In general, if the property is currently commercial or industrial, or has a commercial or industrial history, you should find out more about the land use history of the site. Many avenues exist for obtaining such historical information. Some of these avenues are listed below:
- Tax records and maps at your local tax assessor's office;
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps available at the local public library;
- Historical city cross-reference directories from the local public library;
- Local title records at the Recorder of Deeds;
- Historical topographical maps from the U.S. Geological Survey;
- County soil survey maps from the local NRCS office;
- Historical aerial photographs from the USDA County Extension Service, the local public library, or the city or county planning office;
- Local building permits from the local building department;
- Fire department records available from the local fire prevention office; or
- Previously conducted environmental surveys or investigations.
This information can be combined with direct visual observations and local histories to evaluate the potential presence of hazardous materials. Additionally, sometimes interviewing local people familiar with the history of the project site (i.e., local government personnel, project site neighbors) may provide insight that might not otherwise be available.