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National Biosolids Partnership Certified Biosolids Environmental Management System (EMS): How It Has Improved Our Operations

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The Butler County Department of Environmental Services (BCDES), a water and wastewater utility servicing southeastern Butler County, Ohio, implemented an Environmental Management System (EMS) for biosolids. The BCDES received NBP Certification in March of 2005. The purpose of the Biosolids EMS is to improve the quality of its biosolids management program and to encourage greater public acceptance of biosolids use and disposal practices. The EMS, developed according to the requirements of the National Biosolids Partnership (NBP), is based closely on ISO 14001 principles and is guided by the Deming model of continual improvement.

With assistance from the NBP and its member agencies – Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA), Water Environment Federation (WEF), and United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) – BCDES built a Biosolids EMS around five (5) principle components: policy, planning, implementation, measurement/corrective action, and management review. Understanding these components has helped BCDES not only meet regulatory requirements, but also address issues throughout the entire biosolids value chain and identify unit processes that can be optimized to improve overall product quality.

Through the development and implementation of the EMS, BCDES is realizing significant achievements in most aspects of biosolids management. In addition to the four (4) desired outcomes as specified by the Partnership – environmental performance, regulatory compliance, public participation, and quality biosolids practices – other noteworthy accomplishments of EMS implementation that BCDES has benefited from include:

Development of annual program goals and objectives, and a procedure to update and develop new goals annually.

Development of a tracking system for program goals and objectives.

Identification of critical control points throughout the biosolids value chain and implementation of operational controls to regulate them.

Standardization, review, update and dissemination of all standard operating procedures (SOPs) relevant to biosolids management.

Development of an electronic document management system for easy storage and retrieval of documents and procedures related to biosolids management.

Development of a “nonconformance” identification procedure and associated corrective action plan procedure.

Increased public involvement in planning issues.

Improved public outreach through the development and publication of informational materials, including a website devoted to biosolids management.

Preservation of institutional knowledge through increased training/SOP development and review.

Checks and balances of program reduce the need for direct management.

Direct savings to the department by increasing land application in 2005.

Overall, the immediate and long-term benefits of the Department's Biosolids EMS include improved “forward-looking” planning, improved operational effectiveness, improved public image, enhanced external and internal communication, greater employee stewardship, the preservation of institutional knowledge, and an emphasis on environmentally sound biosolids management solutions. Based on the results of the Biosolids EMS and the lasting benefits of the system, BCDES is investigating the feasibility of developing a Department-wide EMS to manage all areas of operation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-01-01

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