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ERA's Environmental Compliance Management Blog

How Rockstar Environmental Data Management Can Cut Fines by 2/3rds

Posted by Alex Chamberlain

Alex Chamberlain is a writer for ERA Environmental Management Solutions.

Environmental data management reduces the overall cost of noncompliancekenteegardinLet's face it - sound environmental data management is the foundation of any successful EH&S department. It has countless benefits, including making reporting easier and keeping your facility in compliance with all your permits and regulations. It’s been proven time and time again: the facilities with the best environmental data management are the least likely to be out of compliance. Don't believe us? Read on...

The "secret sauce" of innovative specialists

Now, as far as good data management will go to keeping you out of trouble, it's not the whole picture. No matter how close an eye you keep on your facility, a worker could accidentally spill something, or a piece of control technology could suddenly break down

These are situations that are simply out of your control. You can take steps to minimize these events, but accidents happen.

But rockstar environmental data management can come to the rescue during those sticky situations when a facility accidentally falls out of compliance. Even if you weren’t able to prevent the incident, the way that you manage your data makes a huge difference in how costly or effective your recovery will be.

Here’s an extraordinary example from ERA’s own case files...

42 permits!?!

One client’s facility was feeling intense pressure under 42 permits. To make things worse, a lot of them required constant or near-constant monitoring.

The facility’s environmental team had to take measurements for water flow every four hours (at a minimum) during operations. This meant that the facility needed 3 full-time specialists just to keep up with this bare minimum compliance requirement.

The solution was to implement a fully-integrated and automated environmental data management system. A CEM (Continuous Emissions Monitoring) system was brought in to automate data collection. It also let the team receive email notifications about their facility’s performance for every minute of operations.

Data automation to the rescue

These records are crucial in times of emergency and non-compliance,  because it allows a team to be proactive if the threat of noncompliance rears its ugly head. When you have a minute by minute account of your operations, you know exactly how long you were out of compliance, instead of having to take the worst case scenario.

Getting an hourly report also helped to avoid equipment shut-downs, saving hours of frustrating labour for restarts and reporting.

Unfortunately, even the best-maintained equipment can fail unexpectedly. One day the facility’s hydrochloric scrubber experienced a pressure drop outside of the acceptable range (as detailed in one of the facility’s permits).

This meant for every minute the facility was in operation during that time, the company would be out of compliance and hit with escalating noncompliance fines.

With the help of the automated alert system, the EH&S team was able to get the facility back into compliance as quickly as possible.

Scrubbing up your data management practices

Even more importantly, they were able to go back through their data and track minute by minute how long the scrubber was out of compliance. This in-depth environmental data management allowed them to prove the noncompliance period was less than 24 hours.

They knew exactly how many minutes the scrubber wasn’t operating properly and by how much it exceeded the permit’s limits. When it came time to report the noncompliance to the regulators, they could confidently demonstrate the incident’s time frame.

In the past, the EH&S manager at that facility would estimate the non-compliance period.

And in this case, the team’s best estimate was 3 days.

That means they were about to report a full 72 hours of violation and pay inflated noncompliance fines.

Being able to report and pay for less than a day saved the company fines that were far more what they were actually liable to pay - 2/3rds more!

For this facility, sound environmental data management practices aren’t just a way of staying in compliance: they’re also one of the teams’ best tools for recovering from incidents and minimizing profit-loss.

Learn more about how this the facility’s EH&S manager dealt with the situation as part of our webinar on EHS data automation.

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Topics: Environmental Compliance & Data Management