1994 Pollution Prevention Report - Technical Assistance

1994 Pollution Prevention Report: Introduction to Prevention, Information Clearinghouse, Information Transfer, University Outreach, and Technical Assistance

V. Technical Assistance

In addition to the various informational materials produced by OPP, the Office also provides facility-based technical assistance services, primarily in the form of pollution prevention opportunity assessments. In the past, these services either have been performed by OPP staff or by contractors, including both private and university-based, as secured by the Office. Although the number of assessments is limited by staff size and available contractual resources, the assessments result in case studies that are circulated to a wide audience, thus increasing the impact of the individual assessments significantly.

A. Pollution Prevention Opportunity Assessments

One of the most important services provided by OPP, pollution prevention opportunity assessments offer information and advice to companies that lack pollution prevention expertise. When requested, OPP provides customized on-site technical and research assistance. This service includes evaluating and interpreting the information that firms need to reduce waste, wastewater and air emissions, including the identification of alternative technical solutions. For example, OPP staff introduced a new finishing process to a Virginia manufacturer of brass parts that eliminates the need for using strong acids. The company then worked with its vendor to adapt the new finishing procedure to its manufacturing requirements. It recently began using the new finishing technique, which will reduce the amount of hazardous waste being generated and also will eliminate a source of toxic emissions.

Approximately 30 facilities are visited annually by OPP technical staff. The purposes of the on-site meetings range from reviewing a company's existing pollution prevention plan to conducting a comprehensive facility pollution prevention opportunity assessment. The assessment includes the identification and quantification of all waste streams; recommendations are prepared regarding methods that could be implemented by the facility to prevent or reduce waste generation at its source. Examples of the types of facilities visited in recent years include chemical, wood furniture, electronics, textile, and metal components manufacturers. As part of this technical assistance, OPP staff also seeks to improve coordination between the vendor community and industry.

On occasion, OPP visits several facilities within an industrial sector to introduce and to discuss new technologies that could improve operating efficiencies, and thereby reduce environmental discharges. For example, OPP technical staff visited some of the largest furniture manufacturers in Virginia earlier this year to familiarize them with new developments in spray gun efficiency that could reduce the emissions and wastes associated with their finishing operations. OPP encouraged these furniture facilities to contact vendors and to evaluate the applicability and economics of converting to the new technology.

The Department's permitting staff encourages companies that face new and tighter permit discharge requirements to contact OPP. In these circumstances, OPP researches potential pollution prevention options, which could help in meeting regulatory requirements by reducing or eliminating the toxic constituents of concern at their sources. For instance, an engineer in one of the Department's regional offices became aware that the textile industry in Virginia is faced with tighter discharge limits on its wastewater, limits that may prove to be prohibitively expensive. The engineer contacted pollution prevention staff, and OPP provided grant funding in late 1993 to wastewater specialists from VPI's College of Engineering to perform a pollution prevention opportunity assessment. The study concluded that about 40% of the dyes used could be recycled instead of discharged as a wastewater, and overall water use at the plant could be reduced by half (or 100,000 gallons per day). As noted in Section IV, this study has been expanded to include up to five textile manufacturers in 1994.

Several companies have requested assistance in implementing pollution prevention projects that have been required as part of Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs), which are used to mitigate civil charges in an enforcement order (see Section VI-C for more information on SEPs). For instance, OPP staff has worked with a steel fabricator and its paint suppliers to convert the facility's entire painting operation to high solids paint, as an SEP that reduced the plant's volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 20%. A pollution prevention opportunity assessment conducted at the facility revealed that VOC emissions could be reduced further by 50% if changes in the painting process were implemented.

Because of limited resources available for on-site technical assistance (one full-time employee and one part-time employee), federal funds have been used to hire private contractors to conduct pollution prevention opportunity assessments. In late 1993, OPP contracted with the Waste Minimization Assessment Center of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville to conduct pollution prevention opportunity assessments for three manufacturers in the Bristol area. The comprehensive assessments, which were provided to the companies free of charge, resulted in confidential reports that outlined pollution prevention recommendations, including cost savings, implementation costs and expected pay-back time. "Sanitized" case studies based on these assessments were provided to OPP for use by other manufacturers.

Similarly, in 1994, contractual services were secured for pollution prevention opportunity assessments at eight medium-sized manufacturing facilities. The assessments are being offered free of charge, and companies from around the state, including a specialty chemical manufacturer and a circuit board manufacturer, are participating. Pollution prevention opportunities that are identified at these sites will be incorporated into assessment reports, which will be distributed to other Virginia companies with similar manufacturing processes and applications.

B. Responses To Research Inquiries

From January, 1993 through the end of October, 1994, OPP received 629 requests for information, or approximately 1.5 per day (based on a 250-day work cycle per year). Requests, which come in the form of both telephone and written inquiries, fall into three general categories: requests for one or more of the informational products produced by OPP (69%); questions relating to pollution prevention in industry-specific settings (35%), which may require significant research including contacting additional sources for information; and, requests for various EPA pollution prevention publications (30%). The Office maintains a database of all requests received; groups targeted by the program for outreach, such as printers and vehicle maintenance shops, are not included in the database. As the request figures indicate, the products developed and distributed by OPP have been in high demand within the industrial and business arena, as well as by government agencies, community organizations and citizens of the Commonwealth. Response time for research requests averages five business days, while requests for other materials generally are sent within one business day.

Requests for Information Received by OPP
January 1993 - October 1994

Type of OrganizationNumber of RequestsPercent of Total
Educational Institutions437

As summarized here, more than half of all inquiries were from industry and business representatives. Approximately one-third of requests have come from local, state and federal government officials. Community and other non-profit organizations and educational institutions, such as universities and high schools, each account for less than ten percent of all requests. These figures correlate with OPP's marketing efforts: most materials are developed and distributed for industry and government because of their relative rates of waste generation. Thirty-two percent of all requests originated from manufacturing facilities and 11% from consulting firms that assist these businesses and other organizations in preventing pollution; these inquiries comprise the majority of business/industry requests received by OPP.

OPP recognizes the important role that federal, state, and local government agencies play in conserving the environment, both in improving their own operational efficiencies and cost savings and in assisting industries and businesses at the local level with their pollution prevention needs. As might be expected, most (45%) of the requests from government organizations are from state agencies; approximately half of these inquiries are from Department staff, which illustrates the high degree of interest in pollution prevention within the agency. Federal and local government agencies each account for approximately one quarter of all requests from government organizations; as noted elsewhere in this report, both of these groups have been targeted recently by OPP.

Community and non-profit groups, as well as universities and schools, also are playing an increasingly important role in promoting pollution prevention, particularly among the general public. OPP plans to increase its marketing and networking efforts to reach these groups better. For instance, as noted in Section IV, the DEQ-University Pollution Prevention Workgroup was established in 1993 to coordinate pollution prevention outreach activities. OPP staff also has made presentations for environmental educational conferences, elementary schools and community groups.

Almost 80% of the requests for information received by OPP are from within Virginia. The remainder come from other states, national and international organizations, including state and local pollution prevention technical assistance programs, educational institutions and manufacturers. OPP, like most other state pollution prevention technical assistance programs, has taken advantage of information available from other technical assistance programs. The program has benefitted immensely from the assistance of other states, particularly related to innovative and state-of-the-art pollution prevention information. The staff of the North Carolina Office of Waste Reduction has been particularly helpful over the years.

Requests for Information Received by Department Region
January 1993 - October 1994

RegionNumber of RequestsPercent of Total
1 - Abingdon306
2 - Lynchburg10221
3 - Bridgewater5912
4 - Fredericksburg7415
5 - Richmond13528
6 - Chesapeake8518

Using the Department's six regions, a geographic analysis of requests indicates that questions are received from all areas of Virginia (see Appendix D for a map of the Department's regional boundaries).

The highest percentage of requests were received from the Richmond area, which is understandable given the number of state agencies and industries present in this metropolitan region. Similarly, as might be expected, more requests for information have come from areas of the state that are industrialized more heavily in comparison to regions that are rural in character. OPP staff will continue to monitor the requests received and will work with the DEQ Pollution Prevention Implementation Workgroup and the Pollution Prevention Advisory Committee to market the program's services better throughout all of Virginia.

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Last Updated: October 11, 1995