VIEWS: 4 PAGES: 20 POSTED ON: 8/1/2012
PROTECTING YOUR BUSINESS & PRESERVING THE ENVIRONMENT Fact: More than 150 million Americans live in areas where air pollution levels violate federal health standards. Fact: 350 billion pounds of chemicals are produced each year in the United States, or more than 1,000 pounds for every person. Fact: The U.S. produces almost a quarter of the world's carbon dioxide -- the principal "greenhouse gas" that traps the earth's heat like a blanket and threatens to raise ocean levels, change weather patterns and alter habitats. Fact: Children born today in a typical middle-class American home will throw away 110,250 pounds of trash in their lifetime. As Lester Brown, president of the Worldwatch Institute, noted before the Earth Summit convened in Rio de Janeiro in mid-1992: "Saving the planet is not a spectator sport." And, in fact, tens of thousands of organizations currently exist worldwide devoted to the environment. Both corporations and consumers are becoming more conscious of how they can actively help preserve an optimal quality of life, from reducing pollution to purchasing "green" products. Hand in hand with this more enlightened consciousness are increasingly strict government regulations designed to monitor and reduce pollution at all levels. And small business must, voluntarily or involuntarily, play a role in these efforts. The following article focuses on four key environmental areas -- air, water, hazardous waste and site contamination -- clarifying who is regulated and where to go for help. But responsibility never simply ends with compliance. The government cannot regulate every drop of water, monitor every manufacturing substance, or control every air emission. That would be an impossible and dangerous responsibility. The true goal for business and society should be to take care of pollution before it becomes a problem, thereby contributing to a healthful environment. Small steps that each company takes towards reducing pollution and waste, ideally even going beyond what is required, will reduce the need for regulation and help preserve our endangered planet. DEVELOPING AN ENVIRONMENTAL STRATEGY Many Ways To Be Green For Deja, Inc., in Tigard, Oregon (near Portland), the environment is not only one of the concerns in doing business, it is the basis of the business. The company produces a line of footwear that puts renewed "sole" into recycling in that the shoes come from the dump. "Well not literally from the dump," qualifies Julie Lewis at Deja, "but they are made predominantly from recycled materials." What goes into them? Foam cups, tire rubber and chair stuffing remnants are only a few examples. The "shoes of trash" idea came from a desire to encourage recycling. Explains Lewis, "If we make more products from recycled materials -- and shoes use a wide variety of them -- then a larger market will exist to encourage recycling." While the company first produced only 5,000 pairs of one kind of shoe, Deja now has an entire line of footwear and a plan for spring 1994 that also includes sandals and clogs. Not every business can literally thrive on recycled materials the way Deja is. Companies can, however, use increasing environmental awareness to help sell products or services that may be more expensive as a result of environmental regulation. Grease Monkey International, headquartered in Denver, Colorado, is no stranger to such regulation. Proper disposal of used oil is just one of numerous environmental requirements for the firm's automotive preventive maintenance franchises. Yet Grease Monkey has intercepted the used oil regulation and is running with it for a marketing touchdown. Recent advertisements encourage do-it-yourselfers to bring their cars to Grease Monkey where the used oil will be properly disposed of with an EPA-approved oil recycler, rather than dumped into someone's back yard. Darcy Erickson of Grease Monkey says, "The jury is still out on the dollar success of these advertisements, but we like consumers to have peace of mind knowing that we are keeping this oil from polluting the nation's waters." Proactive Approach Companies without an environmental strategy run the risk of operating in ignorance of environmental laws and facing the eventual consequences of government-imposed fines. Certainly no environmental plan comes for free. A strong program needs a commitment of time and money from top levels of management. However, in today's climate of increasing regulation and harsher penalties for noncompliance, not to mention consumer concern for a healthy environment, a proactive approach makes better business sense than a reactive one. The Harder You Work, The Bigger The Reward A good environmental plan has four levels: preventing regulatory action, anticipating future regulation, saving money, and making money. The essential level is prevention, a step above the reactive approach. It comprises the necessary minimum for avoiding civil or criminal penalties because of environmental violations. Keep abreast of current regulations that affect your business and make sure all operations are in compliance. The next level is anticipation. Keep an eye on upcoming legislation and regulatory trends. Good sources of information include trade associations, environmental attorneys and consulting firms. Planning in advance for the effects of future regulation can give you a head start over competitors in, for example, buying equipment or modifying processes. Saving money should also be a component of any environmental plan. Sometimes savings can come from simply complying with the law, for instance in reducing waste that cuts disposal costs. More mundane savings are easily accessible in "green" design and operation on the business premises. Making money is the final level. Design a greener product and inform your clients about the improvement. Create an environmentally sound image for your company by taking steps to reduce waste and pollution before they come under regulatory scrutiny. Getting The Green To Make The Green Although your company may wish to put an environmental plan in place, improvements do cost money. Even if the proposed change or changes saves you money in the long run, the initial outlay is likely to reduce your cash flow. One solution is borrowing, as there are many loans and financing programs available for environmental improvement. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has two environmental loan programs which it offers to small businesses through banks and other commercial lenders. These loans are either to help engineer (including R&D), manufacture, market, install or service energy conservation measures or to permit the planning, design and installation of a pollution control facility. These loans originate with a commercial lender who can choose to have them guaranteed by the government in order to reduce risk. The SBA guarantee does not diminish the borrower's obligation to repay, nor does it assure approval for the applicant. Approval by SBA is always contingent on a demonstrated repayment ability. Lease-to-own programs are another financing option. Some companies that offer scrubbers or other pollution control equipment allow businesses to try out the equipment first to see if it meets their needs. If so, the lease costs can be applied to the purchase price. Having a strong environmental plan will actually help secure financing because it shows the company is not at high risk for large fines, lawsuits and loan defaults. The environmental consideration is especially important for real estate secured loans. As Evan Henry, a real estate specialist at Bank of America, comments, "A business with a good environmental plan and track record is more likely to get the loan." The reason: lenders do not want to be left with a defaulted loan on polluted property, which necessitates an unwanted cleanup project. An Environmental Hotline If you're uncertain as to which environmental regulations affect your business, or have any other environmental questions, the Environmental Protection Agency can provide the answers through its EPA Asbestos and Small Business Ombudsman Hotline. The goal of this office is to help small companies comply with all types of federal environmental regulation, including that pertaining to air, water and waste. The hotline provides free, confidential help in explaining regulatory requirements, finding appropriate documents, and troubleshooting individual problems and grievances. The office even has contacts for state and local laws. Karen Brown, the ombudsman, has a staff of experts to assist in fielding companies' questions. "The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes the extra impact that environmental legislation has had on small businesses," Brown notes. "We work to give entrepreneurs easy access to all the rules and regulations that apply to them." Contact the EPA hotline from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Eastern time) at (800) 368-5888. Utility Programs Put Green Into Your Operation Being green does not just mean keeping an eye on environmental regulations. Utility companies are now offering energy-saving programs that help customers save money as well. For example, through the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in California, area residences and businesses can get a heat-breaking, energy-saving shade tree of their choice, absolutely free. The reason is simple. When the goal of 500,000 mature shade trees is reached, SMUD estimates the savings at 70 to 80 megawatts per year. Richard Sequest, the shade tree program manager, explains, "The benefit-to-cost ratio of planting a tree now is about two to one -- two dollars in savings for every dollar invested. And as we gain experience, costs continue to fall. The savings from a mature tree average about 30 percent off of a single-home energy bill during the summer months." Other energy-saving programs that local utilities such as SMUD are offering to small businesses include: * Solar hot water: provides for installation of solar water heating systems. * Solar buildings: offers incentives to builders for incorporating solar and other energy-saving systems. * Energy auditing: assesses a company's energy efficiency and makes recommendations for improvements; also provides rebates and financing for projects. * Peak load reduction: gives electric discounts to businesses that participate in a remote air conditioner cycling program. Check with your local utility to find out what similar programs are available. They provide a good way to be green and economize at the same time. POSITIVE ABOUT PEANUTS When most people think about peanuts, circus elephants and baseball games are common associations. Hardly a threat to the environment beyond a few discarded shells. Yet those little polystyrene pieces called "peanuts," known more properly as loose fill, are a different story. Long an industry standard for packing fragile items, peanuts are shock absorbent, cheap and extremely light. Unfortunately, they also end up in landfills, where their bulk and durability are a definite disadvantage. With environmental consciousness on the rise, consumers are beginning to react against the use of peanuts. Yet they remain an attractive packaging material. What is a company to do? Here are two different answers. Crate & Barrel, a retail housewares chain based in Chicago, began searching for alternatives more than a year ago. Says spokeswoman Adrienne Litwin, "Customers who were aware of the foam peanut disposal problem wanted a better material." The company received dozens of suggestions, ranging from newspaper to popcorn. The goal was a light, economical packaging that would break down quickly and safely. After some research, Crate & Barrel found American Excelsior, a company that makes peanuts out of cornstarch. "It is an ideal material," Litwin explains. "They are light, and can be dispensed by the same equipment that dispenses foam peanuts. Moreover, cornstarch peanuts are extremely bio-degradable and non-toxic." The peanuts dissolve in water, which means they can go into a household compost pile, be used on the lawn as fertilizer, or washed down the sink in small amounts. They are even reusable. Although the cost for cornstarch peanuts is about 25 percent more than foam, Crate & Barrel considers the expense offset by improved customer relations and a better environment. When Jonathan Appel began investigating the foam peanuts issue, he saw that the disposal problem did not need to exist. Appel, who owns Pak Mail Centers of America in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, says, "These foam peanuts are a cheap, convenient, durable product. Instead of throwing them out, why not capitalize on that durability in a reuse program?" Appel notified area residents that he was forming a collection center for all shapes of peanuts. "Pak Mail," he told them, "assumes responsibility for making sure that this material is reused and not sent to the garbage dump." With only a small amount of initial publicity, peanuts began piling in. Pak Mail reuses the donated peanuts for its own packaging needs. If supply far exceeds demand, large quantities are taken to a loose-fill converter for recycling. Appel acknowledges this is far from a get-rich-quick scheme. "Any money we save on not having to buy peanuts is already spent on the collection program. But a long-term business outlook must include social considerations. This is a real problem and we are glad to be part of the solution." LOAN GUARANTEE PROGRAMS Program: U.S. SBA Environmental Loan Guarantee Program Where Available: United States Amount of Guaranteed Funds: From small amounts up to $1 million Who to Call for More Information: Contact your local SBA office or the national office at (202) 205-6493 Program: U.S.D.A. Farmers Home Administration Business and Industrial Loan Guarantees Where Available: Rural U.S. Amount of Guaranteed Funds: Up to $10 million Who to Call for More Information: Contact the county Farmers Home Association or the national RDA administration office at (202) 690-1553. Program: Air Quality Management District: Small Business Assistance Office Where Available: California Amount of Guaranteed Funds: From $15,000 to $250,000 Who to Call for More Information: Contact the Small Business Assistance Office at (909) 396-3113. COMPLYING WITH AIR QUALITY REGULATIONS Fighting for Breath Surprising as it may sound, since 1970 the amount of air pollution created per capita in the United States has actually decreased. Why, then, does air pollution seem more prevalent and problematic than ever? Simply because the number of people producing pollution has skyrocketed. The number of cars on America's roads roughly doubled from 1970 to 1990 and is expected to double again by the year 2000. There are also more minor polluters -- such as manufacturers, dry cleaners, gasoline stations and incinerators -- than ever before. Serious air regulation on a national level commenced with the Clean Air Act of 1970, which imposed strong controls on large polluters such as chemical manufacturers, oil companies and automobile manufacturers. Major amendments followed in 1977 and 1990 which strengthened the Act, including 1990 amendments that put stricter controls not only on traditional polluters, but also on numerous small businesses never before impacted. Finding The Answers Since regulations now cover even some of the smallest companies, it is important to know if your business is affected. Neither the number of employees nor size of the operation has any bearing on whether or not you need a permit. Everything depends upon the amount and type of your current air emissions. If air quality regulations apply to your business, or if you think they might, you will need to obtain definitive answers to some of these questions: * What current and upcoming regulations are applicable to your business? * What are the deadlines for upcoming regulations? * Where can you find technical information -- for example, advice on smog-control equipment to bring your firm into compliance? * Who can help you evaluate existing work practices, monitoring procedures and recordkeeping to make sure your company is in compliance? Fortunately, the EPA recognizes that finding these answers can be difficult. To ease the pressure, a small business assistance office has been set up in every state. The role of these offices is to help small companies cut red tape and comply with applicable regulations. EPA's Asbestos and Small Business Ombudsman can provide the phone number of the assistance office in your state. National Problem, Local Control Contact with local officials is critical. Although the Clean Air Act is a national law, it is administered at the state level. Forms and requirements vary from state to state. In addition, there are differences at regional levels. The Act stipulates stronger pollution controls in more polluted areas, which include many major urban areas. For example, a manufacturer in Houston might produce 30 tons a year of smog-causing pollutants and need a permit. In rural Texas, a manufacturer might produce 90 tons and still not need one. Moreover, the Clean Air Act is not the final word in air regulation. State and regional laws often impose much harsher standards. In California, for example, some of the strictest air emission controls in the world come from the Air Quality Management District (AQMD) and the California EPA, a state regulator independent of the national EPA. Far-Reaching Implications Location is not the only factor to consider. Recently enacted programs now cover many businesses that have not previously seen regulation, an example being the new regulations on fleet vehicles. In heavily polluted areas, regulatory pressure is increasing on taxis, delivery businesses and service trucks. The 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act require some companies with as few as 10 vehicles to buy alternative fuel or "clean" cars in the coming decade. Businesses which stay current on technological and regulatory developments such as these will be a step ahead of competitors in the years to come, while also saving money in the long run. A GREEN ENVIRONMENT MEANS GREEN IN THE POCKET FOR KACHINA TESTING LABORATORIES Conference Sparks Ideas When Mike Howcroft of Kachina Testing Labs in Phoenix went to a Motorola sponsored "clean air" conference, he was skeptical about some of the claims that were made. "They kept emphasizing "training" as a means of reducing emissions," says Howcroft. "And they were talking about fantastic, unbelievable gains with just a small investment in training. Sometimes 60, 70, and even 80 percent reduction in emissions with what seemed to be just a few tweaks in the process. It sounded a little too idealistic." Excited by the conference and supported by management, however, he decided to pursue some of the ideas that had been discussed. Easy Steps Mean Big Emission Reductions Kachina uses what is known as a TCA Vapor Degreaser to clean metal parts. Since TCA can escape and harm the ozone layer, the Clean Air Act drastically reduced allowable TCA emissions. After the conference, Howcroft began talking to industry specialists about how they might accomplish that reduction. What resulted was a short training program for those employees working on the TCA Degreaser. Explains Howcroft: "The idea was simple. When we clean a metal part in the degreaser, the cold metal goes inside the apparatus, which is filled with vaporized TCA. The TCA condenses on the metal and then drips off, leaving the part clean. The first step of our training program was that instead of yanking the metal part from the degreaser immediately, we let it "drip dry" for a short period. This allows most of the TCA to be recycled back into the system. Next we instructed employees to tip bowl-shaped parts over before removal so they are not taking a bowl full of TCA out of the degreaser." Training Pays For Itself In About Two Weeks The basic training program cost approximately $1,000: $700 for planning and $300 in lost labor costs. Some scheduling changes and minor equipment modification were also required, but the benefits have been remarkable. "In our study period from August to December of 1992," says Howcroft, "we reduced waste shipments of TCA by 70 percent over 1991 levels and our total usage was reduced more than 50 percent. This translated into savings on both waste shipments and purchase of TCA. We have reduced costs by more than $2,300 a month." More Involvement For Survival And A Better Environment Mike Howcroft now serves on the Commission on the Arizona Environment. "On this Commission we have the chance to bring the mid-size business viewpoint to environmental regulation," he comments. "Also, I know exactly what is in the pipeline of environmental laws." Howcroft cites management support as one reason for Kachina's success on this environmental issue. "When I needed time for attending environmental conferences or studying regulations, they were always behind me. You cannot deny that environmental laws are a burden for business. What the winning companies realize, however, is that a little time and money spent now on the issue could save headaches -- and even the business itself -- in the future." CLOSING THE COMMUNICATION GAP: A LESSON ON WORKING WITH REGULATORS Does it ever seem as if regulators "just don't get it," or are simply too distant to understand the problems businesses face? Then follow the example of Lasco, an Orange County, California fiber glass manufacturer, and bring your viewpoint directly into the regulatory process. "We work extensively with a substance called gel-coat that the AQMD regulates," Syd Pe of Lasco says in explaining how the company got involved. "For the last few years gel-coat has been on an exemption list because the AQMD was not sure how to regulate it. By July 1994, however, the AQMD wants to remove the substance from the exemption list. We decided to become involved because the originally proposed restrictions would have been impossible for us to meet." Pe minces no words about the consequences of this regulation. "If we had not become involved in the rule-making process, we would have been forced to close up shop and move out of here in 1994." Lasco and the gel-coat issue gained the AQMD's interest, and the company received increasing attention for its willingness to talk bluntly about industry problems. In July 1993, Lasco attended a meeting between the gel-coat industry and the AQMD. The basic gel-coat issue was outlined and industry was asked to comment. Lasco and other gel-coat businesses stated unequivocally that this regulation could shut down their operations. Recalls Pe, "That raised eyebrows. Suddenly we were not a faceless industry that would be "affected" by regulation, they were putting us out of business." This meeting and other contacts marked the beginning of a continuing dialogue between Lasco and high-level AQMD officials. The dialogue has proved fruitful. "We are starting to communicate," says Pe. "We used to think that with regulators "you just can't win." Now there is progress." On August 18, 1993, AQMD officials toured the Lasco operations. It was an eye-opening visit. Officials offered to help find a viable solution for Lasco's long-planned expansion at its Anaheim plant, an expansion that had thus far been impossible under strict AQMD rules for new operations. The AQMD is now using Lasco as a model company to train inspectors, and Lasco does not mind the extra attention. "We are intent on complying with regulation," emphasizes Pe. "We just want that regulation to be workable." Although the decision on gel-coat is still forthcoming, Pe is confident it will be favorable. "We have a very good relationship with the AQMD. Our involvement helps them understand our needs and concerns. Together we will come up with a workable solution and clean the air at the same time." DEALING WITH HAZARDOUS WASTES What Is Hazardous Waste? People often mistakenly associate hazardous waste with those rusting canisters from 1960s horror films, oozing green sludge in an unappealing surrounding of old tires and junked car parts. A modern society, however, produces many things that can be hazardous to human health. Printing fluids, dry-cleaning wastes, used oil, and even rinse water from some operations are just a few examples of what can qualify. "Hazardous" is an admittedly confusing term. RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) defines it in two ways. "Listed" substances are specific materials that EPA has determined are hazardous. Any industry that produces or works with them must follow proper handling and disposal procedures. The other kind of hazardous waste is "characteristic." That is, substances which are not listed but which fail one of the five EPA safety tests. In non-technical terms these tests are: * Corrosivity: Is the substance extremely basic or acidic (with a pH below two or above 12)? * Toxicity: Is it made with compounds that EPA considers toxic? * Bio-assay: Generally called the "fish-kill" test. Does the substance kill certain life forms? * Flammability: Does it have a low flash point? Does it burn readily? * Explosivity: Is the substance unstable? Does it explode easily? The Solution To Pollution Is Not Dilution If a substance is listed as hazardous or exhibits hazardous characteristics, companies must comply with all applicable hazardous waste laws. But what if a business mixes a hazardous substance such as a flammable liquid with so much water that it is no longer flammable. Would the substance still be hazardous? The answer is yes, according to EPA's "mixing" rule. When a hazardous material is combined with any other substance, the mixture is automatically considered hazardous, thereby eliminating any hazardous waste handling shortcuts. Although the concept of the rule seems simple, it has many implications for those who work with hazardous materials. At McLaren Hart, an environmental consulting firm in Irvine, California, Jeff Dagdigian has seen the mixing rule at work. "In underground storage tank cleanup," he says, "it can make a new problem out of every solution." Underground Storage Tank Dilemma There are many problems connected with underground storage tanks, often because they contain hazardous materials such as petroleum or pesticides. While this in itself does not pose a problem, the slightest mishap can lead to entanglement with the mixing rule. As Dagdigian explains, "Assume there is oil in the tank. The slightest leak in the tank, or a spill in pumping the oil, makes all the soil around the tank hazardous, according to the mixing rule." Since many older tanks were built with little or no corrosion protection, the presence of leaking tanks is disturbingly widespread. The problems compound in cleanup. "Not only is all the dirt around the tank hazardous, but the tank itself is classified as hazardous unless it is clean," Dagdigian observes. "Since it is usually too dangerous to send a person inside the tank, it must be cleaned by spraying it out with water. And then that water is considered hazardous as well!" Face The Issue Because it can be difficult to work legally and efficiently with hazardous materials, there may be a temptation, especially in small businesses, to treat the possibility of having hazardous waste like the possibility of having cancer -- "if I don't think about it, it's not there." Such an approach makes as much sense with hazardous waste as it does with cancer. None. With fines as high as $25,000 per day of violation, added to the prospect of jail time for conscious violations, ignorance of the law can easily pull a business under. Perhaps even more important, improper handling can cause injury to employees or others who come into contact with hazardous waste. Hazardous waste is not a stigma, nor does it pose a hazard to your business if you handle it properly. Dagdigian suggests that businesses start with three basic rules. * Learn which regulations affect you. * Obtain the proper permits. * Work courteously with the local regulatory agency. Hazardous Waste Producers To determine whether or not your business produces hazardous waste, answer the following questions. Does your business: * Use petroleum products? * Use dyes, paints, printing inks, thinners, solvents or cleaning fluids? * Use pesticides or other related chemicals? * Use materials that dissolve metals, wood, paper or clothing (acids and caustics)? * Use flammable materials? * Use materials that burn or itch upon contact with skin? * Use materials that bubble or fume upon contact with water? * Receive delivery of products accompanied by a shipping paper or label indicating that the product is hazardous? If any of the above are true, then you probably produce hazardous waste, and will need to determine the proper storage and transportation procedures. Storage & Disposal Tips For Hazardous Waste If you have a small quantity permit and will be storing hazardous waste on your premises, first designate a hazardous waste storage site. You can store up to 13,200 pounds of waste at this site for up to 180 days without an extra permit. EPA allows up to 270 days if waste must be shipped more than 200 miles. If you have more than one place where hazardous waste is produced, you can store up to 55 gallons of waste near each production point before moving it to your hazardous waste storage site. When shipping hazardous waste, be sure that your carrier has an EPA identification number. Shipped away does not mean forgotten, however. The law always holds the producer responsible for waste. Follow up to see that the hazardous waste goes to a reliable, EPA-certified treatment or disposal site. To find facilities and transporters of hazardous waste, contact the National Solid Waste Management Association (202) 659-4613; the Government Refuse Collection and Disposal Association (301) 585-2898; or your state's hazardous waste management agency (telephone number can be obtained through the RCRA/Superfund Hotline). A Helpful Hotline For help on hazardous waste issues, EPA has established a national toll-free number -- the RCRA/Superfund Hotline -- that is particularly useful to small businesses. At the beginning of the process, the hotline can help a company figure out whether it produces hazardous waste. For hazardous waste producers, the EPA number advises on storage and transportation procedures and provides local contacts. The hotline also has helpful information sheets about numerous industries that describe which processes usually produce hazardous waste, the technical name of that waste, its EPA classification, and its identification number. That information is useful when talking to regulators about your operation, as well as when shipping the actual waste. Additional help is also available locally. A hazardous waste management agency exists in every state. The RCRA/Superfund Hotline can provide the official name for the agency in your state and a contact telephone number. These local agencies answer inquiries about state laws, and can put you in touch with authorized hazardous waste facilities and transporters in your area. The RCRA/Superfund Hotline number is (800) 424-9346 or (800) 553-7672 for the hearing impaired. HOT AIR REGULATIONS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES The 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act have resulted in tighter regulation for many businesses. The first place to call in terms of understanding and complying with these regulations is the EPA Asbestos and Small Business Ombudsman. Experts at this toll-free hotline (800) 368-5888 will direct you to the appropriate state and local regulators for your particular business and environmental issues. ENVIRONMENTALLY AND ECONOMICALLY CORRECT Recycling is far better than creating waste. Creating hazardous waste is even worse. The ideal solution, then, is to take the hazard out of your product and recycle it. Desert X-Ray Sales, Inc. in Phoenix, Arizona, developed a process to do just that. Desert X-Ray produces a chemical wash called a "fixer" that is essential in the x-ray development process. After use, the fixer contains silver bromide picked up from the x-ray itself. When Arizona introduced hazardous waste legislation five years ago, it contained severe new limits on silver bromide. The state limit of 0.5 ppm (parts per million) is 10 times less than the national EPA limit. "This legislation dropped down on the x-ray industry like a bomb," recalls Wes Norton of Desert X-Ray. "In testing it was difficult to reduce silver bromide content to the five ppm level demanded by EPA, let alone reduce it 10 times further." Pushing against a deadline, Desert X-Ray quickly went to work on the problem. And the solution they came up with even exceeded their initial expectations. Previous processes for removing the silver bromide not only were inadequate, but rendered the fixer useless and it had to be thrown out. Desert X-Ray's new process reduces the silver bromide content to a negligible amount, while also leaving the fixer intact. Like a perfect chemistry experiment, the silver bromide falls out of the liquid, leaving the fixer ready for another use. One dilemma remained, however, and that was what to do with the leftover silver sludge. As a liquid, it is hazardous waste. As a solid, it is considered safe. If Desert X-Ray could dry the liquid, the problem would be solved. But drying promised to be a whole new challenge. "Regular kiln drying was out of the question," emphasizes Norton. It opened a Pandora's box of air pollution issues." Instead of viewing this situation as a problem, however, Desert X-Ray considered it simply another opportunity for innovation. The firm developed a process that uses the Arizona desert's abundant sun to dry the sludge, which is then sent to a refinery that purifies it for further use. FIGHTING WATER POLLUTION Cleaning Up The Nation's Waters In Cleveland, Ohio, water quality became a hot issue during the summer of 1969. Literally. On June 22, the Cuyahoga River, which runs through the city and empties into Lake Erie, caught on fire. Flames up to 50 feet high headed through downtown, engulfing two railroad bridges. The fire then ignited a grass roots movement to clean up the mess. The Cuyahoga had long been environmentally dead. By the end of the 1960s, only a few bottom fish scavenged the depths of its rancid waters. The stench was unceasing and, on particularly hot days, unbearable. In essence, Cleveland had an open sewer running through it. Things have changed dramatically since the summer of 1969. Now, nearly 25 years after the Clean Water Act of 1972 forced clean up of the Cuyahoga, the once unsightly riverfront area is a site for classy condos and a burgeoning nightlife. Fishing is lively during the day and the foul odor is gone. Although problems still exist, more than 25 species of fish have returned. Success stories such as the Cuyahoga River serve as a reminder of what the Clean Water Act of 1972 was intended to accomplish. Nor is the Cuyahoga a lone triumph. The Potomac, the Hudson, and Chesapeake Bay have all seen massive cleanup efforts in the past two decades. The Act has come a long way towards attaining its goal of making all the waters of the United States "fishable and swimmable." In fact, some EPA studies show that as much as 75 percent of the nation's waters have been cleaned up since passage of this critical legislation. Problems Still Plague However, the job is far from finished. Remaining pollution is more difficult to control and eradicate than before, and officials continue to discover new sources. Just one example is in Southern California's San Gabriel Valley, east of Los Angeles, where a Superfund cleanup project is targeting polluted underground water. The damage occurred decades ago when it was thought that drainage through 20 feet of soil could clean industrial wastewater. As this hypothesis later proved incorrect, the site has become notorious for the expense and difficulty in cleaning it up. Operation U.S. Storm The latest weapon in the war against water pollution is the EPA's stormwater regulation. Pollution from stormwater made headlines in the summer of 1993 when floods inundated the Midwest. Quickly it became clear that the problem was not just water, but rather what the water contained. Hazardous chemicals washed out of flooded storage areas, pesticides carried from farms, and biological contamination from human and animal wastes all presented dire health risks to those living downstream. Although the summer's flooding was an extreme situation, the stormwater pollution principle remains: Hazardous substances washed away from landfills, construction sites, rail yards, or other sources contribute significantly to U.S. water pollution. Engulfing Regulation Controlling this type of pollution is not easy. The criteria for water regulation are broad and stormwater regulations are no exception. When the stormwater regulations were first released, the EPA estimated that they would affect about 100,000 facilities. Subsequent SBA figures estimate the number at more than 700,000. The Clean Water Act regulates any pollutant from a point source that flows into the waters of the United States. Under stormwater regulations a point source can include run-off from a company's property into drainage ditches or arroyos. At present, many companies can obtain at least a temporary permit by filing a "notice of intent" (known in EPA jargon as a NOI) to obtain a general permit. No final determination has yet been made on what the requirements for the general permit will be. More Regulation, More Help One way to stay updated is through the National Stormwater Hotline, which offers complete information on filling out the NOI and new developments on the general permit. The hotline is also an easy reference point for other stormwater information such as: * industry-specific stormwater workshops; * water sampling guidance; * common stormwater discharges by industry; * pollution prevention tips for specific industries; and * recent decisions and rulings on storm-water details. Water law encompasses more than stormwater regulation. There are also general discharge regulations and laws to protect underground and drinking water supplies. Virtually all water discharges are regulated and there are sometimes unexpected pollutants to watch for such as heat and silt. If your business uses water in its operations, you would be wise to seek expert advice. The National Stormwater Hotline number is (703) 821-4823. WHAT DOES EPA CALL YOU? As shown below, your classification depends on how much hazardous waste and acutely hazardous waste you produce. (Acutely hazardous waste is a special EPA classificatino of wastes fatal to humans in low doses.) Hazardous Waste Produced: Less than 220 pounds of hazardous waste and less than 2.2 pounds of acutely hazardous waste in a month. Obligations: No Permit required Official EPA Classification: Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator BEWARE: In states that do not recognize this category of producer, these exemptions would not apply. * Does not have time limits for on-site storage of hazardous waste. However, there is an on-site limit of 2,200 pounds. * Does not need a permit or an EPA generator ID number. * Does not have to ship waste to a hazardous waste facility, but must ship to a landfull that is authorized to accept it. * Does not need a hazardous waste manifest when shipping. Hazardous Waste Produced: Between 220 and 2,200 pounds of hazardous waste but less than 2.2 pounds of acutely hazardous waste in a month. Obligations: Small Quantity Permit Official EPA Classification: Small Quantity Generator * Must follow time and location limites for on-site storage or obtain a permit for longer storage. * Must have an EPA ID number for each site producing hazardous waste. * Must dispose of waste properly either by treatment and/or disposal on site (which may require a permit) or by shipment to a state and federal authorized hazardous waste disposal site. * Must fill out an EPA document called a Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest when shipping hazardous waste. Hazardous Waste Produced: More than 2,200 pounds of hazardous waste or more than 2.2 pounds of acutely hazardous waste in a month. Obligations: Large Quantity Permit Official EPA Classification: Large Quantity Generator * Must follow more extensive regulations. Call RCRA/Superfund Hotline for details. SPRAY IT AGAIN, SAM Humans drink only a small percentage of the fresh water they use, while most of it goes for irrigation, cleaning, and other purposes. Watering crops or washing floors with drinkable water makes little economic sense, and with a good plan, water can be reused several times. An excellent example is demonstrated by the Irvine Company, which created a model reuse plan for the desert of Southern California. In developing new communities for the area, Irvine constructed two sets of pipes -- one for fresh and one for reclaimed (reused) water. The reclaimed water travels to sprinkler heads and is also used for irrigation, while the fresh water runs into sinks and bathtubs. If any initial doubts existed about the efficacy of the plan, subsequent statistics have thoroughly dispelled them. Neighborhoods planned by the Irvine Company save approximately 12,000 acre feet of fresh water annually -- equivalent to a year's supply of water for 25,000 families of four. AVOIDING CONTAMINATED PROPERTIES Imagine buying property for a new business location and discovering months or years later that you are responsible for cleaning up contamination you had never even realized existed there. No matter what field you are in, purchasing real estate could leave you vulnerable to environmental cleanup costs. Superfund (officially called CERCLA, the Comprehensive Environmental Response Cleanup and Liability Act) has a clause that brings to mind the Latin phrase: caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). Don't Buy A Sinkhole The catch is liability. Under Superfund, the owner of a piece of contaminated land is almost always responsible for cleanup, whether or not the owner made the mess. Even if someone unwittingly buys property with a leaky underground storage tank, spill contamination, or some other environmental problem, that owner generally must pay the cost. How can a new or expanding business avoid this real estate nightmare? The only established protection is to conduct a detailed site assessment of the property prior to purchase. Such assessment gives limited protection under the so-called "innocent purchaser exemption." Theoretically, it protects the buyer who was unaware of contamination on the property. However, protection only applies if the owner "did not know and had no reason to know" of the problem at the time of purchase, following an assessment of the property. Tom McHenry, an environmental lawyer at McClintock, Weston in Southern California, says the law has limited use. "Court limitations make it extremely difficult to show that you could not have known about site contamination prior to purchase." McHenry explains that the amount of research needed to show you had "no reason to know" depends on where the property is located and how it was used in the past. Seeking expert advice when buying property could help you qualify for the exemption if the land is contaminated. Avoiding A Mess Property contamination is something no one wants, even if someone else pays to clean it up, as a remediation project interferes with business and carries a stigma. It is better to avoid buying the wrong real estate in the first place. In the industry there are two common steps to ensure that property is not contaminated: a "Phase I" and a "Phase II" environmental site assessment (ESA). Doing a Phase I ESA means following the paper trail on a piece of real estate. Historical checks, including aerial photos and other documents, can show if the site has had prior manufacturing operations, storage tanks, or other potential sources of contamination. Auditors also check EPA records for spills and other problems. The Phase I ESA may not be necessary for every property purchase, but it is becoming more and more common. Claims McHenry, "Buying property without probing its history is like buying it sight unseen. You may come out unscathed or you may end up immersed in quicksand." If the Phase I ESA shows any likelihood of contamination, Phase II is called for. In this step the auditing company takes samples on the site, based on suspicions aroused in the first phase. If storage sheds or underground tanks previously existed on the site, for example, auditors test the soil near where they were once located. Assessing Your Own Operation Environmental assessments are not only a wise idea for real estate purchases; sometimes they are needed on your own property when asking for a real estate equity loan to purchase equipment or for other reasons. Often the lender will require a Phase I ESA for loans over a set dollar amount -- $1 million, $500,000 or even less. Evan Henry, environmental manager for Bank of America, explains why. "A lender may assume that the property value is a set amount, say $1.5 million, that can be recovered in case of a default on the loan. But if the property is severely contaminated, cleanup costs could reduce its value to almost nothing." The bottom line for all real estate owners is avoiding an environmental cleanup. Even a modest expenditure on environmental consulting and legal services now can save costs that would put you in the red in the future. Of course, hiring an environmental consulting firm does involve an immediate up-front outlay of funds. The typical cost of a Phase I ESA is more than $1,000, sometimes much more depending on the size of the property and extent of the assessment. Clearly it pays to shop around when choosing an environmental firm for the job. However, don't make the mistake of simply accepting the lowest bid. As in any industry, environmental consultants are competent to varying degrees. Selecting a bad one could cost you more than not making the assessment in the first place. Investigate a company's basic credentials before hiring. Is the cost estimate realistic? Look at other estimates -- are they priced for comparable services? Has the firm done ESAs before? Is the company insured? Assessing property before you buy and asking basic questions about the assessment firm can help you avoid property contamination problems. However, buying property is not the only move that involves cleanup risk. Superfund Cleanup Superfund cleanups take place on heavily polluted sites designated by the federal government for remediation. But size is misleading. Even small businesses must sometimes get involved at a Superfund cleanup site, again because of liability from past activities. The law holds all parties "jointly and severally" liable for the cleanup. McHenry explains, "Assume Andy's Automobiles and Joe's Junkyard are named as "potentially responsible parties' (PRPOs) at a Superfund cleanup site. Andy disposed of one barrel of hazardous waste per year at the site while Joe disposed of a thousand. Under Superfund, they are both responsible for the cleanup. If Joe is dead and his business is defunct, Andy's Automobiles could be responsible for the entire cleanup bill, even though Andy was responsible for only one thousandth of the pollution." If your business becomes entangled in a cleanup project, there are certain steps you can take to reduce the cost. One of the most fundamental rules is to stay involved. Private remediation is usually cheaper than an EPA cleanup, and working to make it happen quickly can save money. One Of Many Laws Real estate liability is a consideration for any new or expanding business, as is knowledge about Superfund liability. In addition, literally dozens of complex, overlapping environmental laws face start-up companies. Fortunately, both industry and regulators are trying to find ways to guide entrepreneurs through the maze. STREAMLINING THE PROCESS IN CALIFORNIA Business must work with complex and overlapping environmental regulations from national, state, regional, and even local levels. Nowhere is this more true than in California, which has some of the strictest environmental laws in the nation. Consequently, industry and government are coming up with innovative plans for assisting entrepreneurs and cutting red tape. An Answer From Private Enterprise, ECoSA ECoSA, the Environmental Compliance Support Association of California, is a private sector group that provides information and support on almost any regulatory issue, mostly to small firms. While currently operating in Southern California, the organization eventually plans to expand statewide. Its expertise encompasses issues ranging from pollution prevention and site remediation to air toxics, water and hazardous waste. Noel Kurai of ECoSA likens the organization to that of an "auto club for environmental issues. We offer small businesses access to services that usually only large corporations have." At the basic level, ECoSA provides advice on local, regional, and national environmental laws and issues. Beyond that, it maintains a database of more than 250 consulting and law firms. When a member company comes to ECoSA with a problem too complex to be resolved in-house, it provides lists of environmental organizations with the necessary expertise to help. A Regulating Innovation: The One-Stop Shop California has been increasingly worried that complex environmental laws are keeping firms out of the state and slowing the expansion of in-state companies. To combat this trend, a new service has come into being: the Business Revitalization Center (BRC) in Los Angeles. Comprehensive help is the innovation provided. The BRC facilitates compliance with regulation at local, state and federal levels. This relieves business of the need to make multiple contacts in trying to understand specific regulations. The underlying concept is to give businesses everything they need to get started or expand -- all under one roof. For environmental laws this includes advice on what regulations will affect the business, proper forms to comply with those laws, and help in completing the actual paperwork. Jimetta Moore, marketing director of the BRC, is enthusiastic about its prospects. "We are in the business of making things happen to help businesses grow," says Moore. "The BRC guides entrepreneurs through the maze of bureaucracy that can often result in costly delays for start-up companies. The BRC is a one-stop center for business solutions. If we cannot meet the client's exact needs here, we will quickly contact the appropriate individuals, and arrange and facilitate a meeting." The business community has given the BRC good marks for eliminating red tape. It was set up as a model and Moore is confident that its success will inspire government to create more centers throughout the state. "We are having unprecedented success in serving the needs of the business community," she concludes.
Pages to are hidden for
"35"Please download to view full document