In an effort to become better environmental stewards and to become a more efficient and effective organization, the City of Gastonia's Wastewater Treatment Division (WWTD) voluntarily chose to develop and implement an ISO 14001 certified environmental management system (EMS). The
Division, with aid from the North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance, began development of the WWTD's EMS in February 1999 and obtained certification on June 15, 2001. The WWTD has obtained many benefits from the implementation of this certified EMS.
It has helped the Division improve communication and compliance while increasing organization and training of staff and has helped develop a more environmentally proactive culture. The collective benefits of the EMS and certification provide defense against privatization and third party lawsuits. Communication
within the Division has been improved through several elements of the ISO 14001 standard. The WWTD now has an avenue for comments and recommendations from every level of the staff to be formally reviewed and answered. All external communication that relates to significant aspects, along with
the City's responses, must be logged in central logbooks and reviewed by Management quarterly. With the introduction of documented procedures, the communication of job requirements and revisions to these requirements has significantly been improved by the EMS. Improved compliance has
been achieved with the implementation of the EMS. Increased environmental awareness, review and tracking of legal requirements and the implementation of an internal compliance auditing system helps to ensure that all areas of environmental compliance are addressed, not just those which require
reporting to regulatory agencies. The EMS has increased organization of documentation and legal requirements. The EMS requires a complete listing of legal and other requirements of the WWTD. Other organizational improvements include a formal process for tracking compliance, cost, and environmental
impacts, which has increased awareness among staff of environmental compliance and cost trends. Organizational benefits from the document control process include increased staff and supervisor confidence in the documented procedures they are using to perform their job requirements and in locating
records for reference internally or during external audits. An added benefit to the EMS is a better-trained and more environmentally aware staff. Training requirements, dates of occurrence and training evaluation are tracked on a training matrix. The process ensures that not only are staff
members trained on the procedures but they are also trained on why it is important to the environment that they perform their jobs correctly. The framework of the EMS requires the division to take a proactive approach to problems. The corrective and preventative action program and internal
audit programs identify areas for improvement and require follow through. Improved tracking of environmental issues allows for trends to be more readily identified. Having an ISO 14001 certified EMS helps improve public image and protect against privatization efforts and third party lawsuits.
As mentioned above the EMS program requires an organization to be on top its management. Certification helps show this to outside groups and deter them from challenging the operation. In summary, Gastonia has already seen substantial benefits from the implementation of its ISO 14001 certified
environmental management system. It has encouraged and required better organization, operation and management, which have resulted in a more effective, proactive, and defensible organization.
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