Sustainable development of wastewater infrastructure, GT Daigger, D Burack, V Rubino
Wastewater management and sustainability, GT Daigger, D Burack, V Rubino
Pollution prevention applies to wastewater treatment, KN Irvine, TR Hersey Jr, MC Rossi, J Caruso, JE Jordan
Educating for sustainability, A Ahmadi
Energize with state-of-the-art technologies, BR Klett, RJ Wilson
Sustainability for New York's drinking water, TA Endreny
The greening of the building industry, MA Stallone
Water conservation in a water-intensive industry, G. Wainwright
Sustainable design at NYCDEP, P Zimmerman, J Tyler, VJ DeSantis,N Ramanan
Wastewater management and sustainability
by Glen T. Daigger, Dave Burack, and Vincent Rubino
Environmental management with ISO 14000
Sustainability indicators for the wastewater sector
Criteria and examples of indicators for sustainability
An environmental management system can assist an organization toward sustainability in its day-to-day operations. Environmental management is considered here using ISO 14000. For facilities design, the use of green building principles and a rating system can promote sustainability.
Environmental management is a set of practices
traditionally associated with industries that use
hazardous materials, generate hazardous waste, or
discharge pollutants to the air or water. Initially,
environmental management was implemented to provide
safe working environments and to support compliance
with permits and other regulatory requirements. Other
goals for environmental management now are avoidance
of fines, cost-savings from waste reduction,
environmental stewardship, and good public relations.
One approach to environmental management is the
international set of standards referred to as
ISO is an international nongovernmental organization that promotes the development and implementation of voluntary international standards. In the U.S. the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) represents ISO.
ISO 14000 standards are voluntary and were
established to create a common worldwide approach to
management systems leading to the protection of the
environment while spurring international trade and
commerce. When implemented, the standards promote
consistency in environmental management practice,
harmonize national environmental standards in an
international framework, and offer guidelines for
environmental management excellence. Even though the
standards do not prescribe performance levels,
performance improvements are typically achieved by an
organization committed to environmental care. In
implementing the standard, employees are trained and
made aware of the policies in place to protect the
ISO 14001 contains the benchmarks an organization must attain to receive ISO certification. The ISO 14001 system is cyclic, beginning with setting an environmental policy and followed by planning, implementation, and feedback. Progress is continually checked with corrective action taken when necessary. The organization's top management reviews the program's efficacy and continued relevance of the policy and plan. At the end of each cycle, policies and programs are reviewed and revised as necessary. Implementation includes structure and responsibility, training, awareness, competency, communication, environmental management system documentation, document control, operational control, and emergency preparedness and response.
Establishing a strategic plan first strengthens the sustainability attributes of an ISO 14001 program. Mitsubishi Electric America used The Natural Step (see preceding article) in combination with ISO 14001.(1) ISO 14001 was used to define what the plan would address, but The Natural Step defined why the aspects would be addressed. This approach substantially changed Mitsubishi's perspective of what aspects to include and its assessment of its effect on the environment.
A backcasting exercise determined which aspects were significant. Mitsubishi then used the framework for backcasting to set objectives and targets both at the corporate and at the plant level. The objectives and targets provided a structure for balancing and integrating business and ecological concerns. The plant-level targets include 25% energy reduction, 30% waste disposal reduction, and 75% to 90% reduction in use of virgin paper.
The Mitsubishi example is instrumental for wastewater treatment operations. Many plants operating in the U.S. are the product of a Federal grant program that partially funded their construction. One objective of the program was to control capital costs. This approach seemed valid even if a present-worth analysis indicated a lower overall cost for an alternative with a higher capital cost. In retrospect, this approach may have led to operational inefficiencies in some cases. Combined with current-day technology advancements and improved knowledge of design, construction, and operations, there may be significant potential for process optimization with resultant environmental and economic benefits.
Although numerous industrial facilities and organizations have certified their operations under ISO 14001, only a handful of wastewater treatment facilities or organizations are certified to-date. Currently, the USEPA is funding pilot projects to assess the applicability of ISO 14001 to local governments.(2) Through this program, municipalities may find an opportunities to improve operational efficiencies.
The O&M Division of the San Diego Metropolitan Wastewater Department became, in 1999, the first such organization to be certified. With its environmental policy in place, the MWWD sets and periodically reviews the Division's environmental objectives and targets for each of its facilities, including a water reclamation plant, wastewater treatment plant, biosolids center, and pumping stations.
MWWD O&M first determined to seek ISO 14001 certification in response to competition from private firms. It used the central business planning cycle format of the environmental management system to create a more competitive organization. Using an environmental management system made sense for an environmental business organization. Certification meant defining environmental aspects of the Division's operations that could affect the environmental, from both inputs and outputs. The planning and implementation took about 1 year; it received certification in May 1999.
The certification process allowed the Division to define and improve programs, even programs that it believed were already performing well such as the recycling program. For example, officials discovered that the white paper collected in the recycling program was usually contaminated by beverage cans or garbage. The recycling contractor refused to pay for the loads. The MWWD O&M employee who collected and transported the paper eventually learned to take all of the paper to the landfill for disposal. When this situation was revealed through the gap analysis, the recycling contractor was replaced. (Gap analysis, part of the ISO process, identifies disparities between where a corporation is and where it wishes to be.)
The new contractor collects the paper for free and recycles it, despite incidental contamination of the loads. The benefits from this change are the actual recycling that is occurring and a cost-savings of about $50,000/yr from eliminating almost one full staff position plus the disposal fee for the paper. If this were the only improvement resulting from the environmental management system, it would pay for the initial program within 3 years.
MWWD O&M has realized several other benefits,
including improved emergency preparedness and greater
proof of responsibility toward the customers through
improved recordkeeping and transparency of procedures.
Other benefits are the mechanisms for identifying
nonconformance and constructive change, avoided cost
through risk reduction, Plant process optimization and
reductions in energy use and miscellaneous chemicals
were other areas targeted for improvement as a result
of the analysis conducted for ISO 14001 certification.
Perhaps the greatest benefit was the marked change in the organizational culture. The ISO 14001 requirements for continual improvement and internal education has resulted in improved operations and the competitive edge that was the initial driver for the program. MWWD O&M considers the program to be a sound business management program and an excellent path for public agencies.(3)
To evaluate progress toward the goal of sustainable development, quantitative indicators, sometimes called metrics, are popularly used to define and track the values and production elements that are important to an organization. Indicators are an essential component in a management system and complement the other components such as monitoring, reporting, and feedback. Indicators can be a powerful tool for change and improvement. As with indicator species in natural systems, these metrics are evidence of existing or changing conditions.
The process of creating usable indicators begins by defining an organization's influence on its world. Three categories could be posited: the environment, the economy, and societywith sustainability desired in each area. From these categories, subelements, criteria, subcriteria, and indicators can be derived through a process of refinement to specify precisely which aspects of sustainability will be addressed by the organization.
The refinement places general objectives in the context of wastewater infrastructure management. This process is presented in tables below. Some of the indicators reflect the fundamental role of wastewater systems (for example, to safeguard public health). Others display change to allow for a more diverse system architecture or institutional structure.
The policy guide on planning sustainability developed by the American Planning Association addresses providing for human needs fairly and efficiently through cleaning, conserving, and reusing wastewater at the site, neighborhood or community level, thereby reducing the need for large expensive collection systems and regional processing facilities.(5) This policy appears to be a response to future scenarios that suggest a very different role needed for wastewater service providers, one of centralized management of decentralized systems spread through a service area. For arid regions and others where water shortages are a concern, this may offer a solution to diminishing supplies because wastewater recycled onsite reduces demand for fresh water supplies and redistributes the cost of the recycling.(6)
Sustainable development is an avenue for creating new thinking processes and solutions to wastewater treatment services without conflicting with environmental health, human well-being, and the economic bottom line. But much depends on the management framework of the service's organization. Sustainable development integrates the natural environment into management theory, a component typically absent but now essential.
Several models and tools are available to blueprint the integration including policy statements, planning guides, environmental management systems such a ISO 14001, green building guides, rating systems, and the use of indicators. By bringing sustainability into organizational thinking and culture, the wastewater sector can participate better in the stewardship of society and the environment, accommodate change from population growth, affluence, and technology, and continuously refine the system architecture.
Source: Barbara R. Bradley and Glen T. Daigger, 1999. Decision-making for Sustainable Development of Water Infrastructure. Presented at the USEPA 6th National Drinking Water and Wastewater Treatment Technology
Transfer Workshop, Kansas City, MO. August 2-4 1999.
Social sustainability, Subelement: public health
Social sustainability, Subelement: socio-cultural aspects
Social sustainability, Subelement: equity
Economic sustainability, subelement, economic development
Economic sustainability, Subelement: cost-efficiency
Environmental sustainability, Subelement: ecosystem integrity and biodiversity
Environmental sustainability, Subelement: global environmental issues
Glen T. Daigger, Dave Burack, and Vincent Rubino (corresponding author) are with CH2M Hill.
1. Brian Natrassan and Mary Altomare, 1999. The Natural Step for Business: Wealth, Ecology, and the Evolutionary Corporation. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: The New Society Publishers, 1999.
2. ANSI, 2000.
3. Personal communication with Linda Jones, MWWD O&M environmental management representative. June 9, 2000.
4. Personal communication with Chris Toth, Operations manger for MWWD O&M. June 14, 2000.
5. American Planning Association. APA Policy Guide on Planning for Sustainability. Jan. 8, 1998, revised Jan. 10, 2000.
6. Bradley, Barbara R., 2000. Sustainable Water and Wastewater for the Mexico-United States Border. Presented at Border Institute II, Southwest Center for Environmental Research and Policy, Rio Rico, Arizona. April 17-19, 2000.
7. Bradley, Barbara R. and Glen T. Daigger, 1999. Decision-making for Sustainable Development of Water Infrastructure. Presented at the USEPA 6th National Drinking Water and Wastewater Treatment Technology Transfer Workshop, Kansas City, MO. August 2-4 1999.
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