35 by liwenting



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.


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
    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
    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

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
* 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


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
   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


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
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
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.


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

* 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
    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.


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

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."


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
   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
   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."


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
   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
* 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

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
    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.


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.


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.


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
    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
   The National Stormwater Hotline number is (703) 821-4823.


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


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


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
    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.

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.

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