ATLANTA - Equifax National Decision Systems and Vista Environmental Information Inc. have formed an alliance to provide bankers with environmental risk information.

Much in the same way they obtain credit reports, bankers can call a toll-free hotline set up by Atlanta-based Equifax and order information needed to perform environmental hazard due diligence for any geographic site in the United States.

San Diego-based Vista has developed a data base comprising public-domain information from more than 700 specialized federal and state sources.

Products Endorsed by ABA

The data base meets all the guidelines set forth by the American Society for Testing and Materials. Vista's products have been endorsed by the American Bankers Association.

Information like this was previously next-to-impossible to collect," said Leonard Speakman, vice president and director of risk management at Princeton, N.J.-based UJB Financial Corp., a user of Vista's data base.

"Imagine having to go to municipal offices to look up records. If they didn't have the information you needed, then you'd have to go to the state environment protection departments as well as the federal agencies."

Has Contract with RTC

In addition, Vista has an exclusive contract with the Resolution Trust Corp. to provide environmental information as part of the agency's due diligence on all properties in its portfolio.

Within 24 hours, Vista can provide customers with what amounts to an "environmental report card" on specific sites.

This report card documents any environmental risks relating to the property, such as records of existing or potential contamination, the presence of hazardous materials, or records of non-compliance with environmental permits.

In addition, Vista offers a map of the defined location and area, as well as a list and summary of the hazardous and solid waste systems, underground storage tanks, and other facilities that might pose a problem to the property.

Helps Assess Potential Impact

Mr. Speakman from UJB Financial Corp. said mapping information like this was critical in assessing the "potential" impact an environmental problem might have.

"It's important to look beyond current issues to potential problems. Cleanup costs could negatively impact a bank customer's cash flow," he said.

"Vista gives you a single source of information and helps you properly evaluate risk."

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