Sample Environmental Requirements

Often businesses complain about ridiculously tedious environmental regulation and paperwork, and they don't seem to get much sympathy.  The usual opposing response is just to say "oh, you guys just are mad that you can't dump dioxin in the river any more."

But I am here to tell you -- many of the requirements are really, really detailed, time-consuming, and of questionable value.  To demonstrate this, I am going to let you into my life for a minute.  Among the many recreation facilities we operate (my business described here), we run a small pair of marinas on Blue Mesa Lake in Colorado.  At these marinas we rent boats, have a fuel dock, and do some light boat maintenance for customers.  We are renting the facility from the government (specifically the National Park Service), and as our landlord they provided all the facilities.

When we inherited the facilities from the previous tenant, they were in awful condition.  We have had to spend a lot of money brining the government's facilities up to standard, removing years of hazardous waste, etc.  Our reward was to get audited by the EPA and the NPS.  For those of you who are interested in what environmental regulation looks like to a small business, you may view a pdf of our audit results.  You can't possibly read everything, but skim through the findings to get the general idea.  And as you are reading, note that this is a GOOD audit -- we were actually commended in Washington for the work we had done cleaning up the place.  And still this work list remains.  Remember also while reading this that I don't run a chemical plant or a steel mill, this is a small marina on a lake.

For those who don't want to scoll through all 52 items, here is one, chosen at random:

Audit Finding:
Each container of hazardous chemicals in the workplace was not labeled, tagged, or marked with the following information:
- Identity of the hazardous chemical(s) contained therein; and
- Appropriate hazard warnings.

For example:

  • A white plastic bucket was observed with no label in the flammable cabinet at the maintenance yard;
  • Three unlabeled 55-gallon drums were observed at the maintenance yard, one of which had a sign of leakage;
  • An unlabeled plastic white bottle was observed on one of the blue drums at the maintenance yard;
  • A red flammable container was observed next to the flammable cabinet at the maintenance yard. The cap was not on. It was noted that the container was partially full with water;
  • Two red and one blue unlabeled drums were stored at the back of the maintenance yard. The blue drum had signs of leakage;
  • The carbon dioxide cylinder in use at Pappy's Restaurant had a worn label;
  • Two unlabeled spray bottles were observed in Pappy's Restaurant washing room;
  • An unlabeled bucket was observed in Pappy's Restaurant washing room under a shelf on which detergents are stored;
  • Unlabeled partially full buckets were observed in Pappy's Restaurant washing room;
  • An unlabeled spray bottle was observed in the maintenance room for the showers at Elk Creek; and
  • An spray bottle that contained purple liquid was observed in the shower maintenance room at Lake Fork.  The bottle had a worn label.

Update:  From the looks of this fish, maybe we are putting something odd in the lake!

Update:  Here is another good one:

Audit Finding:
Concessioner staff had not submitted an ozone-depleting substance (ODS)-containing equipment registration form and fee with the State of Colorado.

Good old Colorado.  Colorado is one of the states I have to have a special license to sell eggs

Here is a quick contest -- I will send a free  copy of my book (my global warming book or my novel BMOC) to the first reader who can email me with a link to the correct Colorado web page with information and/or forms for the ODS-containing equipment registration.  I can't find it.

Update 2:  I can be a man and admit when another man has bested me.  So I must admit that though it is my environmental audit, TJIC has a much better post on it than I have.  Maybe because he seems to have read more of it than I have.

  • TCO

    I just got a new brother-in law who owns a rafting company in Colorado. Not sure how germane that is, but seemed vaguely related to what you do.

  • David
  • David

    I'm thinking you can get my email address from my post. If not and I won the prize and you need more info from me the email address is:

    vbjunkie@aol.com

  • mtlp

    Seems like a good time to take some pictures of auditor's houses (public not private) imperfections...similar to the "temp. gauges," of GW crew.

  • L Nettles
  • Bill

    I'm really glad I don't have to deal with these any more. Note that the Auditor and Audit team leader are contractors, part of the parasitic ecosystem that has built up around our incredibly mind-numbing regulatory apparatus.

    And I'd just bet that their firm (or an affiliate) would be more than willing to take significant sums of money from you to produce the response plans that they whine about. That's a whole ecosystem in itself...and a huge sink for resources.

    Meanwhile, I'd bet you have a great safety record up there...you mostly just have not finished cleaning up the mess that the Park had allowed to accumulate, and wasted money on paperwork.

    Such is business in the regulatory state.

  • Dan

    You didn't inform the local fire department that gasoline may be flammable? And you're still allowed to walk the streets?

  • http://cluebyfour.livejournal.com Brian Martinez

    I think this is what you're looking for:

    http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/ap/cfc.html

    Here is a PDF with the equipment registration forms:

    http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/ap/down/sser.pdf

    Good luck!

  • http://dicentrasgarden.blogspot.com dicentra

    I once worked for a company that makes healthcare equipment. The FDA came in and examined the machine, and it passed muster. However, the internal paperwork was missing dotted I's and crossed T's. They shut us down indefinitely: no shipping ANY product until the documentation processes are up to snuff.

    That was more than a year ago, and they're still shut down, still trying to implement the Mandelbrot recommendations of the audit. If they weren't part of a supercompany, they'd have already gone under, and some vital hospital equipment would go away.

    I have no problem with the FDA inspecting healthcare products, but they really have no business evaluating a company's internal processes. If the processes are so bad that the machine is screwed up, then you shut down the business until they fix the machine, but its up to them to devise their own internal process solutions. If they can produce a good product with chaotic documentation, then more power to them.

    As it is, the increased cost of complying with the audit will cause the machine cost to rise (and it's a big 'un), thereby contributing to the cost of healthcare. I'll bet there are a million stories like that. If the FDA's scope were limited to RELEVANT stuff, how much money would we save?

  • Bill

    Ah, dicentra, remember that in this brave new world of rampant regulations, it's not the actual quality of the output that matters, but simply that all the paperwork is perfect.

    It is getting worse by leaps and bounds. It was a joke in the '60s when I worked for a small electronics outfit that no product could be shipped to the government till the accompanying paperwork exceeded the weight of the product. Now there's no limit.

    I remember a project in the mid '90s being held up for almost two months while we dealt with a regulator droid who demanded that we submit a plan to deal with the eventual decommissioning of the equipment (with a plus or minus 30 year life spam), and that that plan must consider 'all' possible modification to current rules that might take place.

    Does anyone still wonder that our competitiveness has gone down the tubes?

  • Bill

    I just looked at the Colorado registration form for the refrigerant systems...do you really have more than 300 pounds of refrigerant in use there? You can run a really large system with far less than 300 pounds. If not, as I read the form, you are not required to register.

    Would not be the first time enviro-regulators overreached.

  • http://www.cargocult.biz John

    I'd like to quibble with Bill's remark above about "parastic contractors." I do suspect some of the big players of lobbying for more regulation merely to improve their sales figures. (Here's the one I suspect the most of doing exactly that: ICC)

    I have a family member who works in the environmental compliance business and her typical function is very like what Bill does in the last post above: "No, they're wrong, unless you have X amount of Y you're exempt."

    Point is, in a free market people will come forward to assist those with problems in exchange for compensation. There is nothing dishonorable in that, it is a feature of the system, not a bug. The fact that the problems in this case are caused by an over zealous government are not necessarily the fault of those who offer to assist.

  • Eric

    Ah yes, the ODS requirements. Back in the 90s I was a military acquisitions officer buying GPS related equipment and software. Congress passed a law madating that no further contract modifications could be made, nor contracts renewed, until a clause was added directing the contractor to verify that he was not using any ODS in his work for the government.

    OK fine.

    Except that there was no exception for contracts that did not involve manufactured items. We had to put this clause in, RIGHT AWAY, for contracts that simply provided manpower, or software, or reports. I recall for a couple of the contracts we had important mods ready to go, like renewing a manpower support contract so as to not have a gap in service; instead we put that on hold and ran around in circles negotiating the ODS modification. The contractors realized what a moronic thing this was and hurried the negotiation along, but there still had to be rounds of paperwork and certifications exchanged.

    But you can rest easy that the production of GPS support software did not contribute to holes in the ozone layer. !!