APWA announces new initiative to promote efficient environmental management

Megan Zadecky
Communications Manager, EMS Project
APWA Washington Office

APWA is pleased to announce the award of a cooperative agreement from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Wastewater Management. Through this agreement, APWA will work in partnership with EPA and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) to develop and conduct an education and outreach campaign on Environmental Management Systems (EMS).

"APWA is delighted to be partnering with ICMA and EPA to promote sound environmental efficiency through EMS," said Peter King, APWA Executive Director. "Unlike other approaches to environmental protection, an EMS has long-lasting, sustainable impacts for a broad range of interested parties including public agencies, local governments, as well as taxpayers."

An EMS is a proactive approach to environmental management that focuses on analyzing, controlling and reducing the environmental impact of an organization's products and services, while enhancing their operational efficiency. Any public agency can implement an EMS regardless of its size or structure. Many public agencies currently have environmental management systems in place. These agencies are enjoying the many benefits that EMS has to offer, some of which include a reduction in operations costs, increased efficiency in operations, reduced risk of noncompliance, and improved relationships with regulators.

The Global Environment & Technology Foundation (GETF) reports a municipal manager with an EMS as saying the following: "... [A]n EMS is a voluntary system, but it provides us greater incentive and stronger management tools to meet our regulatory and compliance responsibilities. The EMS tools give us a better understanding of what we are required to do and the means to do it consistently, completely, and efficiently." GETF conducted an EMS Implementation Initiative, which was made possible through a cooperative agreement from EPA.

Public agencies can improve their operations while maintaining their environmental consciousness using EMS as a tool since it integrates compliance and environmental awareness into everyday business practices. This new way of thinking about environmental management creates a line of communication about environmental issues between public agencies and the communities that they serve. EMS is a unique opportunity for public works agencies to conduct community outreach and engender a more positive public image.

Another EMS project manager said, "Because of our EMS, we have increased our contact with our citizens and involved them more in determining our environmental priorities...More frequent communication has helped us understand their environmental issues, concerns and priorities. And we have factored these into our environmental objectives and targets."

As part of this new project, APWA is creating educational opportunities and other products to inform APWA members about EMS and the benefits of its implementation. There will be a series of technical workshops held across the country and a national web cast scheduled for this spring. Stay tuned to future editions of the APWA Reporter for case studies and other EMS-related material.

Megan Zadecky can be reached at (202) 408-9541 or at mzadecky@apwa.net.