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Facility Maintenance Decisions

Green grows, but other priorities evolve





By Dan Hounsell   Green

It’s easy to get swept up in the sustainability movement making its way through facilities. Trade shows, conferences, webinars and magazines all carry information on products and technology that are aimed at helping facilities that are going green, making green work, and greening up ... well, everything.

As managers try to incorporate green products and technology into facilities’ operations, they also might want to continue keeping a close watch on the materials already in their facilities, and who’s doing what with them.

Why? The federal government is taking an increasing interest in such matters — specifically, judging by recent news, in the way municipalities dispose of hazardous materials and wastes and the precautions some facilities take in storing and protecting certain types of chemicals.

Managers no doubt can help organizations make green products and technology succeed, but they can be just as big an asset ensuring organizations comply as such regulatory trends play out.

Expanding Enforcement
For five years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been expanding its enforcement efforts related to potentially hazardous chemicals and waste in institutional and commercial facilities. It started by targeting colleges and universities, mostly in the Northeast, and grew to include health care facilities.

Now, the EPA’s interest in municipalities is expanding. Its Region 2 office last month announced that Onondaga (N.Y.) County has agreed to perform a self-audit of its facilities used in maintaining fleets, including pick-up trucks, snowplows, and construction equipment. The audit will include underground storage tanks, solid and hazardous wastes, hazardous substances and chemicals, and emergency planning.

Given the EPA’s track record, it’s likely not the last time it expands its interest in facilities operations.

More information is available at www.epa.gov/region02/compliance/fleet/.

Chemical Sensitivity
Then there is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which recently issued its new Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standard, which is designed to improve security at facilities that store or handle hazardous materials by mandating that facilities submit reports about the amount of targeted chemicals and the organization’s security provisions.

The standard is aimed at manufacturing facilities but does not specifically exclude hospitals, for example, which are likely to have some of the chemicals on the list. Many health care organizations are watching to see how the issue plays out. More information is available at www.dhs.gov/xprevprot/programs/gc_1169501486179.shtm.

EPA and DHS obviously are far from the only government agencies — or state or local agencies, for that matter — that will be taking a closer look at the intersection of facilities and compliance with environmental regulations. So as managers watch the advance of green products, they also might want to pay equally close attention to the intersection of facilities operations and evolving regulatory priorities. Keeping top management in the loop is likely to be an increasingly important priority.
posted on 2/1/2008

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