University of Virginia soon to be first school statewide to have multiple divisions with environmental management systems in place
May 23, 2006 — The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality certified the University of Virginia's Parking and Transportation department as an “environmental enterprise,” or “e2,” making it the first U.Va. division to receive that distinction, and only the second e2 unit at any university in the state.
The e2 certification is earned when the DEQ approves an organization’s environmental management system (EMS), an action plan based on “investigating the source and preventing pollution before it occurs rather than abatement after pollution occurs,” explained Larry Simmons, the deputy regional director for the DEQ, during the ceremony.
P&T’s initiatives “going beyond compliance” include having converted its bus fleet to b20 biodiesel fuel; purchasing several hybrid or biodiesel vehicles; reducing water used in cleaning of parking garages; implementing several “best practices” to reduce stormwater runoff, such as separation of wash water and stormwater; and installing island canopies and berms to contain pollutant spills, Simmons said.
Accepting the award, P&T director Rebecca White said, “When you use 125,000 gallons of fuel, and 25,000 gallons are now a renewable, biodegradable, soy-based product, you just can’t argue with that kind of success.”
Simmons noted that the Virginia Environmental Excellence Program, which gives the e2 recognition, has “endorsement at the highest level of government,” from Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine to Secretary of Natural Resources Preston Bryant to DEQ Director David Paylor – “all are dedicated to implementing outcome-based programs that reward innovation and voluntary leadership.”
Environmental regulations are “very important” and responsible for “lots and lots of environmental improvements,” Simmons said, but noted that “regulations can only go so far,” and “we see [the EMS approach] as the future of environmental management.”
EMS requirements are based on an internationally approved standard (ISO 14001), which applies the principle that an organization must strive continually to reduce its environmental impact, and document how it is doing so. In practice, it means the organization must evaluate its various environmental impacts, identify the most significant impacts, act to reduce those impacts and then begin the cycle again, to achieve continual improvement.
Preventing pollution before it occurs “might cost more and require a few more steps,” Simmons said. But “in the long run, going beyond is the most logical way, it seems, to preserve our environment,” he said. EMS’s “create a framework for achieving continuous improvements in environmental performance and moving towards the lofty goal of ‘zero discharge.’”
While congratulating the P&T team, Yoke San Reynolds, U.Va. vice president and chief financial officer, said “the University is really committed to environmental quality and sustainability” and has already made environmental commitments in new construction, in utilities and in the recycling program.
The University purchased a $20,000 Isosoft software system to track the large numbers of activities and documents generated by the EMS, noted Jeffrey Sitler, a hydrogeologist and U.Va.’s environmental compliance manager who worked with White to create P&T’s EMS.
For example, the bus fueling tanks need to be inspected for leaks once a month, Sitler said. The Isosoft system generates an electronic reminder and then logs and reports the inspection. If the designated employee fails to log a scheduled inspection, the software automatically creates multiple reminders and then sends a notice to superiors that the task has not been completed on schedule.
That software will streamline the creation of EMS’s for other University units, he said. Elaborating on Reynolds’ statement that “this is just the beginning,” Sitler said he plans to have EMS’s approved in the next six months for three more departments — dining services, printing and copying services, and housing (in that order). When the next unit becomes e2 certified, U.Va. will become the only university in the state with an EMS initiative spanning multiple divisions.
“The hard work that you’ve done on this facility will pay off when you move forward to the other facilities” within U.Va., said Tom Griffin, outreach coordinator for the state’s Office of Pollution Prevention. “The great thing is that all the other colleges and universities will see what [U.Va. is] doing, and they’ll get on board and follow suit.”