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United States Environmental Protection Agency
Environmental Management Systems
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Office of Water Initiatives


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Throughout the world, various types of organizations are voluntarily adopting environmental management systems (EMSs) in order to improve environmental and economic performance. An EMS is a formal set of procedures and policies that define, sometimes in great detail, how an organization will manage and hopefully reduce its impacts on the natural world and nearby citizens. First adopted by private industry, primarily through the ISO 14001 International Standard, EMSs do not necessarily replace legal and regulatory requirements, but can compliment them and allow an organization to address a broad range of impacts that are not amenable to regulation. EPA, as well as a number of state environmental agencies, are actively promoting the use of EMSs in a variety of settings. Within EPA, the Office of Water (OW) is an acknowledged leader in this field. This Web page highlights areas where OW is actively promoting more widespread adoption of EMSs.

Local Government EMS Initiatives
In addition to their value in traditional industrial settings, EMSs are powerful tools for local governments, especially municipalities, to more effectively manage their operations and reduce environmental impacts. In 1997, OW, working with the Office of Compliance, launched a program to train and assist nine local government entities that made commitment to implement EMSs using the ISO 14001 standard as a starting point. Participants included publicly owned treatment works, public works departments, transit agencies, and a state prison. These early pioneers realized a number of important benefits as a result of participating in this groundbreaking effort, including reduced costs, better understanding of legal requirements, and improved communications between departments. Final Report: The US EPA Environmental Management System Pilot Program for Local Government Entities (1997-1999) (PDF 2.0MB)

Based on the success of the first project, OW, in partnership with the Offices of Compliance, Air and Radiation, and Solid Waste, launched an even more ambitious program involving 14 public agencies. Nearly 50 organizations applied to be in the program and final participants were selected through a rigorous screening process. Government entities that participated in this second initiative included a port authority and two public universities. The project concluded in March 2002. Proceedings from the final meeting of the 2nd EMS Initiative for Government Entities (3/27/02) (PDF 272KB) which detail many of the benefits of EMS are now available. A final report will be available later this summer in addition to an EMS guidance document for local governments. More information can be found on the PEER Center Web Site .

Third EMS Initiative for Local Government Entities
As part of the Agency's continuing effort to promote EMS adoption with local governments, 12 local agencies from around the country have been selected to participate in a 3rd Local Government EMS Program, funded by EPA, through a cooperative agreement with the Global Environment and Technology Foundation (GETF) . These agencies submitted letters of application and participated in follow up interviews prior to their selection. They represent a broad cross section of local goverment activities and will now participate in a two year program designed to help them adopt EMSs, using the ISO 14001 International Standard as a baseline. The initial training workshop for these agencies will take place in Birmingham, Alabama on January 21-23, 2003. This program is also part of a larger initiative funded by EPA called the Public Entity EMS Resource Center (PEER). More information about PEER can be found on the Peer Center Web site .

For further information on this program, please view the Third EMS Initiative for Local Government Entities Interview Scoring Matrix (85KB PDF), or contact Jim Horne at 202-564-0571 or at

National EMS PEER Center
Building on the successes of the two programs described above, OW has recently launched a national PEER (Public Entity EMS Resource) Center that will provide an on-line source of information for public entities that want to learn more about and hopefully adopt EMSs for their operations. In addition to the national PEER Center, eight Local Resource Centers have been established to provide assistance and information to public entities in various parts of the county. The Regional Resource Centers will, in all likelihood, be housed with existing EMS service providers that wish to meet the growing needs of public entities. More information about this project can be found on the PEER Center Web Site .

National Biosolids Partnership (NBP) EMS Program
EPA and municipalities are looking for ways to more effectively use our limited resources devoted to biosolids management in order to increase public acceptance for effective biosolids management practices. In 1997, EPA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) formed the National Biosolids Partnership (NBP). The centerpiece of the NBP's activities is the development of an EMS program for use at the local level by both publicly-owned treatment works (POTWs) and their contractors. The NBP, with dedicated funding from Congress, has developed an EMS blueprint that includes various guidances and management practices that could be incorporated into an EMS implemented by the POTW. A program for independently auditing the operation of each facility's EMS by qualified 3rd parties has also been developed. Forty-two agencies are participating in a demonstration program to test the effectiveness of the blueprint before full-scale implementation begins. More information on this program can be found on the National Biosolids Partnership Web site .

Utility-Wide EMSs for Water and Wastewater
As public utilities focus more and more on ways to provide services more efficiently and address a full range of environmental obligations, utility-wide EMSs, that also incorporate the use of other important management tools like asset management, bench marking ,etc., need to be explored. To spur this effort, OW, again working with AMSA and WEF, are collaborating on a project to explore the feasibility of this utility-wide EMS approach over the next year. Experts and practitioners from the U.S. and selected other countries will come together to discuss and hopefully reach consensus on ways to better define this approach and determine the need for guidance to assist water and wastewater utilities move in this direction. The final report on Phase I of this project, EMS Integration Project (PDF 1MB) including the findings and conclusions of the project workgroup, is now available.

EMS Program for Egg Production Operations
OW is now beginning to explore opportunities to expand the use of EMSs in emerging sectors, like animal feeding operations, and link EMS adoption more closely to NPDES permitting. Within the AFO/CAFO sector, egg laying operations seem to be ideal candidates for this type of approach. OW has signed an agreement with the United Egg Producers under Project XL. Under this project, egg laying operations that normally would be covered under individual NPDES permits as CAFOs will be eligible for coverage under a tailored general permit if they are also able to develop and implement EMSs for each farm that ensures continuing compliance and superior environmental performance. Each EMS will also be independently audited before the facility is accepted into the program. The egg producers benefit because general permits are far less expensive and time consuming. EPA, states, and others benefit because facilities, before they can be covered under the general permit, must have effective EMSs in place that cover a full range of environmental impacts, not just water quality impacts, and must make these EMSs subject to 3rd party audits on an ongoing basis. OW is hopeful that this project will set the example for other AFO operations and allow EPA to work even more effectively to achieve improved overall performance in areas that are difficult to regulate under our traditional system. The Final Project Agreement (FPA) (PDF 1.2MB) for this XL project was signed on October 25, 2000 and a number of states are now moving forward to develop their own general permits to support the program.

National Database on Environmental Management Systems
Since 1995, EPA, through funding provided by the Office of Water, has been working with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and several states to collect and analyze a broad range of common data about EMSs from approximately 60 organizations throughout the country. Baseline data, information on the design of each organization's EMS, and information on EMS performance are available, as well as preliminary research findings from UNC through the National Database on Environmental Management Systems (NDEMS) . This research endeavor is the most comprehensive of its type in the world and a final report on the project will be submitted to EPA later this year.

NAPA Study on ISO 14001 3rd Party Auditing and Registration Practices
In May 2001, the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), through funding by EPA's Office of Water, issued a final report describing current ISO 14001 auditing and registration practices, as well as a number of important recommendations on ways to improve these practices. The report was guided and endorsed by a panel of outside experts and many of the recommendations in the report are now being addressed by the ANSI/RAB EMS Council. The final report, Third-Party Auditing of Environmental Management Systems: U.S. Registration Practices for ISO 14001 , is on the National Academy of Public Administration Web site.

For further information on these OW initiatives please contact Jim Horne (202) 564-0571


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