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Water: Wastewater Programs

Implementing ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems at the Municipal Level


Six municipalities, one county, and one state organization are currently participating in an ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems (EMS) Initiative. Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Wastewater Management and Office of Compliance, this two-year project represents a unique opportunity for small and medium sized government organizations to implement an ISO 14001 EMS at a facility/organization of their choice. A variety of organizations, both single facilities and multiple operations, were chosen for this project. The following matrix summarizes the participants and their "fenceline" facilities/organizations.

Participant

Fenceline

 Town of Londonderry, New Hampshire  Public Works
 City of Lowell, Massachusetts  Wastewater Treatment Facility
 Wayne County, Michigan  Wastewater Treatment Facility
 City of Indianapolis, Indiana  Public Works
 Massachusetts Department of Corrections                    Wastewater Treatment Facility, Power Plant, Industries
 City of Gaithersburg, Maryland  Public Works
 Lansing Board of Water & Light, Michigan  Power Plant
 City of Scottsdale, Arizona  Municipal Government
 New York City, New York  Transit Authority


At the end of the two-year project EPA expects that each of the participants will have all of the elements of an ISO 14001 EMS in place in their fenceline organizations. Additional project goals include:

  • Evaluating the effect of the ISO 14001 EMS on the management of these environmental issues;
  • Tracking costs, staff commitment, benefits, hurdles, environmental performance, interested stakeholder involvement, and pollution prevention activities; and
  • Communicating results and lessons learned across the public and private sector.

"The use of voluntary environmental management systems (EMS) by organizations is rapidly increasing around the world. These systems provide a framework for organizations and communities to more effectively manage their environmental obligations, including those required to comply with applicable statutes and regulations. In addition, these systems can be useful for moving beyond compliance, improving overall environmental performance, and making greater use of pollution prevention approaches."

Jim Horne, EPA Office of Wastewater Management

"Hopefully this pilot project will demonstrate that the EMS approach for managing environmental activities is not only applicable and useful to private sector entities but also for local government operations."

John Dombrowski, EPA Office of Compliance

EPA selected the Global Environment & Technology Foundation (GETF) to lead the Municipalities Initiative and to provide on-going training, technical assistance, and EMS coaching to each of the nine municipal organizations throughout the two year project. Participants are using globeNet (http://www.iso14000.net), GETF's premier ISO 14000 website, and GETF's Implementation Toolkit of print and electronic training materials to accomplish the milestones in each phase of the project.

The municipalities have participated in three intensive implementation workshops and are now working through the Planning phase of the ISO 14001 standard (section 4.3). Some of the activities in this phase include: developing procedures for identifying aspects and impacts associated with the organizations activities, products, and services; developing a procedure for setting objectives and targets; providing training and awareness at each relevant level and function; implementing the EMS procedures; and developing environmental management programs.

Participants keep connected between workshops via frequent e-mail, Internet and Intranet, and conference calls. Additionally, GETF provides on-site technical assistance and coaching. Monthly progress reports track process decisions, benefits and hurdles, costs, and staff commitment. See globeNetTM for the latest news on the project.

Municipal Project Managers are seeing numerous benefits in the Planning phase of the project.

"Developing an EMS helps significantly in reducing, if not eliminating our risk of violation with regard to compliance issues before they even arise."

"Organizational benefits that have been realized include better interdepartmental communication, allocation of resources, and time to accomplish defined tasks."

"The facility process block diagrams we have created have a great potential for training and operational problem solving. One is already in use for a regulatory permit issue."

"The facility has seen many benefits so far:

Identifying responsibility for compliance issues

Identifying areas of concern with regard to environmental issues

Better communication between divisions

Documentation of procedures and work instructions provides consistent and reliable methods of dealing with environmental aspects

Identification of goals to lessen the environmental impact of the towns activities."

"There has definitely been an increase the knowledge base of environmental, regulatory, and legal policies and procedures that impact the facility."

"Each division of Public Works is more aware of what is going on within the whole Department, which also improves communication."

"The greatest benefit has been defining roles and responsibilities with regard to legal requirements."

"The Training Division has become more aware of additional training needs within operations."

"There is a wider organizational understanding of legal and regulatory requirements."

"While each division of Public Works is aware of what the current regulations are, there is now a consolidated list of those regulations and a designated person responsible for maintaining records and ensuring the Town meets its legal requirements."

For more information on the Municipalities Initiative, please contact Faith Leavitt (faith.leavitt@getf.org) or Kelly Lacher (kelly.lacher@getf.org) at (703) 750-6401, for regular status reports on the project. 

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