Beyond the “E” in an EMS

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Courtesy of Water Environment Federation (WEF)

Since 2004, the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC WASA) has seen numerous improvements to biosolids management and millions of dollars in savings. These are attributed to the facility’s biosolids management program; participation in and certification to the National Biosolids Partnership (NBP) Environmental Management System (EMS); support and resources provided by DC WASA management, staff, and contractors; and input from the public.

The EMS pursuit, launched in 2000 as part of the overall biosolids program, was instrumental as a framework for achieving biosolids program successes and cost savings. However, it became apparent after the second verification audit in 2006 that the environmental management system had matured beyond “environment” in its scope and goals.

Environmental aspects had been identified, and impacts assessed and controlled. The biosolids program now looks at processes – including business continuity, quality, risk, and public acceptance – from a total management system perspective. The challenge is to seek improvements where they weren’t evident or accessible before. This new phase of management is yielding yet more cost savings, more efficiencies, more resources, more inventiveness, more research, and more collaboration to prepare for future market conditions, and is being extended from biosolids operations to the entire plant. And is always working to educate and heed its public.

The move from a young EMS to a more mature, comprehensive management system holds lessons for others embarked on this journey. Missteps could have been avoided and task cycles could have been shortened. All the things done right, however, led to manifest success. These are lessons DC WASA gladly shares with other facilities.

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