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Federal Agencies: Friend or Foe? Lessons learned from the Front Lines.

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Public utilities need to be aware of the benefits and hazards of working with governmental health agencies. Based on the experience of the Butler County Department of Environmental Services (BCDES), considerable time and money was expended dealing with employees and regulators, as well as the public relations fallout. BCDES intended to partner with The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to solve a potential employee health issue. Instead, a national campaign against land application of Class B Biosolids was further fueled as a result of NIOSH findings and report.

BCDES contends that the NIOSH report is flawed in that it correlates worker illnesses to Class B Biosolids. BCDES has never had a verified illness related to Biosolids of any class.

This paper presents the advantages and disadvantages of working with governmental health agencies to investigate and solve operational issues. This case study underscores the following key concepts, including the need to:

Clearly define the goals and objectives

Communicate with technical advisors

Identify potential agendas

Identify facts and issues

Communicate effectively with the service provider

Although the NIOSH report include an inaccurate picture of all the facts, it has given the opponents of land application a “scientific” basis to alarm public policy makers and the public about the perceived “risks” of Class B Biosolids. This paper will provide the utility manager with a number of useful strategies to maximize return on investment when working with regulators on both water quality and labor management issues.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2002-01-01

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