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The drinking water industry instituted in 1995 the Partnership for Safe Water (PfSW) to voluntarily adopt operational and administrative practices to improve plant performance. This is a joint venture of five organizations representing the publicly and privately owned drinking water systems, such as the American Water Works Association and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, and the US EPA. Utility membership currently comprises 225 utilities, serving a combined population of 90 million persons. The PfSW consists of four phases: 1) enrollment and commitment to the program goals; 2) collection, review and analysis of historical turbidity data; 3) self-assessment and plan for correcting “performance limiting factors; and 4) third-party assessment of completion of the correction plan. Over the past 5 years, participants have improved plant performance 30 percent following the self-assessment phase.

The PfSW has close parallels to the National Biosolids Partnership (NBP) and its Environmental Management System for Biosolids. Both are voluntary programs, and both strive to encourage performance to standards higher than regulatory requirements. Both require in-depth self-assessment of procedures and performance. And, both call for third-party assessment of performance as a final stage.

The experience of the PfSW provides insight into ways in which the NBP might support its Environmental Management System for Biosolids. The NBP needs to receive increased support from WEF and other organizations in the pollution control industry. The NBP needs to acknowledge that the industry is seeking improved performance from its participants, and that its performance is going to be reviewed by the public, peers and auditors. Standards and procedures of third-party auditing program may remain controversial, but the controversy must not be allowed to interfere with progress on other elements of the NPB program. Ways of using state environmental agencies, WEF member associations and regional biosolids associations to enroll participants, support training, and carrying out assessments should be formulated. Finally, the NBP needs to acknowledge that the EMS program will cost money--participants will incur an expense to carry out the EMS program, they will likely incur increased operation costs, and they will need to contribute to the NBP program expenses.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-01-01

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