First Environment assisted the Westchester County Department of Environmental Facilities (DEF) with the design and implementation of its award winning DEF-wide ISO 14001 Environmental Management System (EMS). It supports the needs of the entire organization—from top management to operations—and allows flexibility to meet the needs of a diverse set of operations. To achieve this, the EMS translates management performance requirements into operational outcomes, eliminates redundancy, and ensures efficiency so as to meet key performance measures and ensure regulatory compliance. Notably, First Environment acted as integrated staff with the DEF’s EMS team, working directly on their computer system and maintenance software.
DEF is comprised of water, wastewater treatment, and solid waste divisions. The water agency is responsible for providing safe drinking water and preserving the County’s drinking water supply. The wastewater treatment division of DEF is responsible for providing adequate wastewater treatment to 13 sanitary sewer districts. As such, DEF is responsible for the operation of seven wastewater treatment plants, 42 pump stations, 20 combined sewer overflow regulators, two overflow retention facilities, and approximately 194 miles of County-owned trunk sewers. The solid waste division of DEF is responsible for three transfer stations, a waste-to-energy plant, a recyclable materials recovery facility (MRF), an ashfill, a fleet of tractors, transfer trailers, recyclable containers, and various equipment for organic yard waste processing and transport.
Given the large variety of DEF operations that have direct interactions with the environment as well as the significant public awareness issues surrounding the Hudson River and Long Island Sound (Westchester County’s two major receiving waters), the County Executive committed to an ISO 14001 EMS for all of DEF operations. First Environment and DEF initially defined the overall structure of the EMS and defined the interaction of each component at all appropriate management levels, departments, and relevant contractors. We particularly focused on integrating the EMS with DEF’s existing systems and processes. For example, the DEF’s environmental management objectives and targets were fitted within the existing county planning and approval processes. As another example, the county has long been a leader in sustainability initiatives; we therefore structured the EMS to ensure elements such as the county’s green purchasing initiative and climate action plan requirements could be integrated with and managed through the EMS.
The EMS was implemented over time, starting with the county’s largest (120 mg/d) and most visible wastewater treatment plant, the Yonkers Joint facility. For efficiency purposes, it was decided to integrate the facility EMS components into the facilities’ electronic operations and maintenance (O&M) manuals. The O&M manual for each facility served as a repository of information regarding plant design, operation, and maintenance, but had gradually fallen out of date due to plant upgrades and operational changes. The use of the electronic O&M manual represented a significant opportunity to fully integrate the EMS into operations.
First Environment redeveloped the web-based O&M manuals for each wastewater treatment plant, allowing direct access to EMS documents, including aspects and impacts, and high-level EMS procedures. We also revised existing work instructions as well as monitoring and measurement checklists to incorporate EMS requirements such as compliance requirements without adding additional procedures and checklists. The redeveloped manuals have an added benefit of allowing standardization between facilities, therefore easing employee transitions from one facility to another.
In support of the EMS design and implementation, First Environment’s scope of services has included:
- drafting high level procedures and specific work instructions
- identifying aspects and impacts and determining significance criteria
- identifying compliance requirements and developing tools to assist in managing information and communication
- developing awareness training for DEF employees, other involved county employees, contractors, and vendors
- developing highly visible and easy to understand posters for each activity of the plant
Notably, the Yonkers wastewater treatment plant was certified to ISO 14001 in the summer of 2006. County plants in Peekskill, Ossining, Port Chester, City of Rye, Mamaroneck, and New Rochelle were certified to ISO 14001 in November 2008.
In addition, we have conducted several multimedia environmental compliance and systems audits of wastewater treatment plants, pump stations, and other DEF operations. The objectives of the audits have been to evaluate the environmental compliance status of representative operations with respect to applicable federal, state, and local environmental laws, regulations, associated permit requirements, and Executive Orders. For these audits First Environment conducted kickoff meetings, records review, site visits, and report preparation. We entered findings into the facilities’ nonconformance databases to ensure they were tracked appropriately towards resolution.