A Sure Bet for Cleaner Water
A shift in environmental management is underway that will help "green" the way wastewater is treated and managed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently introduced the National Environmental Performance Track, a major voluntary program that encourages and rewards private and public sector facilities that go beyond compliance with environmental regulatory requirements in order to benefit people, communities and the environment. Improved treatment of industrial wastewater can significantly reduce the waste sent to landfills.
Regulations are essential for enforcing basic environmental compliance, but environmental improvement can also be achieved by voluntary efforts that go beyond compliance. For example, many important areas of environmental performance are not even subject to regulation, such as energy use, water use, materials use and product impacts. A company making a voluntary improvement can take an out-of-the-box, alternative approach that uniquely fits the needs and abilities of its facilities.
Strong environmental performance is already recognized as an important business asset, leading to client trust and public confidence. Performance Track enables companies to further capitalize on the competitive advantage gained by effective environmental performance. The program offers members a number of direct benefits as well: national recognition, regulatory and administrative flexibility and a more collaborative relationship with environmental regulators.
Strong environmental performance is already recognized as an important business asset, leading to client trust and public confidence.
Currently, there are more than 280 member facilities in Performance Track, representing diverse economic sectors and business profiles, including chemical manufacturers, power plants, semiconductor manufacturers and livestock and food manufacturers. Municipal waste treatment plants are also welcome. Performance Track members include Fuji Hunt Photographic Chemicals, Pacific Gas and Electric, Philips Semiconductors and Anheuser-Busch Inc.
Already, member facilities have made a total of nearly 1,000 commitments to improve their environmental performance. Companies all across the United States are using creativity and ingenuity to reduce their waste generation, air emissions, materials use, water use and energy use. Because Performance Track promotes environmental innovation, the approaches that companies can take to lighten their environmental footprint are limitless.
Cash in Your Chips
The program offers a variety of incentives for participation, including public recognition, reduced inspections and monitoring and access to information.
Participants in the program are eligible for reduced record-keeping and low priority for routine inspections.
Public Recognition. Membership benefits include use of the Performance Track logo, listing on the Performance Track's Web site, mention in feature articles, case studies that profile accomplishments and promotional materials related to Performance Track.
Reduced Inspections and Monitoring. Participants in the program are eligible for reduced record-keeping and low priority for routine inspections. If any compliance issues arise, these facilities qualify for good faith credit under enforcement provisions, which can reduce penalties.
Access to Information. Another benefit includes participation in special invitation conferences, workshops and networks to share successful practices. This incentive includes the opportunity to be featured in a database on performance practices and to participate in information sessions with senior EPA officials to share lessons learned.
The agency will make additional benefits available soon, such as reduced reporting under the Clean Water Act, greater flexibility under the Clean Air Act and expedited review of new reduced-risk pesticides. Still other incentives are under consideration.
A Winner's Testimonial
United Waste Water Services Inc., the first centralized waste treatment facility registered in the United States, is also the first waste treatment facility to become a charter member of Performance Track. Located in Cincinnati, Ohio, United pretreats non-hazardous industrial wastestreams prior to disposal, including oils, water-based coolants, non-hazardous landfill leachates, heavy-metal bearing wastewaters, washwaters, inks, graphite waters, dyes and sludges. United recycles approximately 300,000 gallons of oil each month and sends approximately two million gallons of pre-treated water to the sewer for further treatment. United's classification under Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) is non-hazardous.
Because Performance track promotes environmental innovation, the approaches that companies can take to lighten their environmental footprint are limitless.
As a privately owned and operated facility with fewer than 50 employees, this small business has proven to be an environmental leader in the wastewater industry. In the fall of 1998, United achieved ISO 14001 certification, and in December 2000, became a Performance Track member.
"Joining Performance Track was a natural step for our company," says David Weber, manager of environmental health and safety at United. According to Weber, United has always had an outstanding relationship with regulators, so Performance Track was a good fit.
For the last few years, United has been working to reduce its air emissions, solid waste discharge and water usage. To these ends, United has implemented various innovative solutions. For example, United reuses a large portion of its pre-treated wastewater for washing trucks and cleaning its facility floors.
United's environmental goals under Performance Track are to reduce its use of electricity and natural gas. To achieve these goals, the company installed a new energy-efficient boiler (used to heat and separate oil/water mixtures prior to treatment) and implemented an improved waste pre-treatment and segregation program to reduce dependence on the facility's boiler. In addition to the environmental benefits, these actions produced substantial cost savings for the company as a whole.
And cost savings are not the only benefit. "Performance Track is a good move from a public relations standpoint," says Weber. "As a wastewater treatment facility in the Midwest, 90 percent of what we do is client-based relations." Given that the company has environmentally minded clients, such as Ford, General Motors and Honda, it is in United's best interest to demonstrate environmental responsibility and a forward-looking management approach. That is what "going above and beyond" is all about.
How to Join Performance Track
To join Performance Track, an organization needs to have a proven record of regulatory compliance, an operational environmental management system (EMS) and a demonstrated commitment to continued improvement and outreach to the local community and the public. In return, EPA offers national recognition, regulatory and administrative flexibility and a more collaborative relationship with regulators.
Start preparing your Performance Track application now. There are two open application periods each year - February 1 through April 30, and August 1 through October 31.
For more information on the application process, visit the program's Web site at www.epa.gov/performancetrack
www.epa.gov/performancetrack, or contact the Performance Track Information Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888.339.7875.
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2002 issue of Water & Wastewater Products, Volume 2, Number 2, page 22.
This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2002 issue of Environmental Protection.