Environmental Improvement: Ga. county industry, govt. join for unique EMS plan

Leaders of local government agencies in Bartow County, key local industries and the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce have launched a unique unified effort aimed at reducing the countywide environmental impact of both government and industry operations...

CARTERSVILLE, GA, March 2, 2005 (Georgia Tech) -- Leaders of local government agencies in Bartow County, key local industries and the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce have launched a unique unified effort aimed at reducing the countywide environmental impact of both government and industry operations.

Representatives of the organizations recently signed a mission and vision statement that will be the basis for the development and implementation of a comprehensive countywide environmental management system (EMS). The Bartow County Environmental Management System could become the first in the nation to be developed jointly by the public and private sectors.

Goals of the EMS include improving the county's quality of life and business climate by reducing air emissions, minimizing the production of solid waste and hazardous waste, and improving the management of solid waste and water resources. Beyond the environmental considerations, the EMS is expected to bring cost reductions and efficiency improvements to both industry and government.

Bartow County is located approximately 40 miles northwest of metropolitan Atlanta.

"The Bartow County Environmental Management System (EMS) Program is unique and represents a model for the nation," said Jimmy Palmer, regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region IV office in Atlanta. "In collaboration with state and federal agencies, the Chamber of Commerce and local government have united the community, industry and business to maximize environmental progress in the first countywide EMS."

The EMS development process is being led by the Economic Development Institute (EDI) at the Georgia Institute of Technology, with assistance from the EPA, Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), the Pollution Prevention Assistance Division (P2AD) of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education (DTAE).

Bartow County companies involved in the process include the Georgia Power Company, Anheuser-Busch, Shaw Carpet, Thompson Honda, Cartersville Medical Center, Sod Atlanta and the Aubrey Corporation. Local government organizations, including city and county governments, city and county school districts, law enforcement agencies and the Chamber of Commerce also have agreed to participate.

"I support fully the Environmental Management System program," said Clarence Brown, Bartow County's sole commissioner. "The program is good for the environment and for Bartow County. It's the right thing to do."

Deann Desai leads the project for Georgia Tech, and she's enthusiastic about what success in this project could mean not only for Bartow County, but also for other growing communities that face energy and environmental challenges. By working together, she said, community leaders will be able to explore all options and produce a comprehensive solution that fits Bartow County's specific needs.

"Nationally, there have been a lot of pilot projects in which the public entities have made improvements, and there have been other projects for private industry," she said. "This is the first joint initiative in which a county government and city government have come together with private industry to benefit the community through energy reductions and environmental improvements."

For the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce, the EMS offers a unique opportunity to affect the county's future quality of life and business climate.

"By getting everybody focused on the same key community issues, the quality of life will improve in the community and the quality of business will improve because there will be fewer regulatory issues to deal with," explained Tracey Lewis, chairman of the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce. "Environmental restrictions can put a real damper on the ability of existing industry to expand and new businesses to come into our area. By working together to find the best solutions to our environmental issues, we can ensure a positive business climate in our community."

The Environmental Management System provides a structure and system for dealing with energy and environmental issues -- though it does not replace federal or state regulations. During the anticipated two-year process, Desai and other Georgia Tech staff will provide training, lead meetings, assist in problem-solving, contribute technical information and otherwise help the community through the planning, implementation and evaluation steps of the EMS.

"We will take a look at what industry is located where, zoning, site locations, tax structure, land-use planning, actual environmental and energy practices, potential efficiency gains, possibilities for chemical and raw materials substitution and other factors as a complete package," said Desai, an EDI project manager. "These things now tend to be done in isolation and do provide improvements. But when they are done together toward a particular goal, they can provide really dramatic improvements."

Implementation of the EMS could have bottom-line impacts for both industry and government by reducing costs through cutting energy consumption, producing less solid waste, reducing water usage and improving maintenance of transportation systems.

"This will help the environment and help the organizations involved with efficiency and cost," Desai noted. "It's a win-win for everybody involved."

Examples of specific efforts to be considered through the EMS process include:
-- Improved maintenance for government-owned vehicles, which could reduce energy usage and air emissions;
-- More efficient use of electricity and water, reducing utility and wastewater treatment costs;
-- Restrictions on idling of both governmental and commercial vehicles, which would reduce air emissions, and
-- Consideration of alternative fuel vehicles that produce fewer air emissions.

Bartow is a county of 76,000 residents located approximately 40 miles northwest of Atlanta. One of the fastest-growing counties in Georgia, Bartow has six cities and two school systems. It also includes the largest electric power generation facility in the Southeast, has 81,016 registered vehicles and its residents face an average commute time of nearly 30 minutes.

Georgia Tech's Economic Development Institute (www.edi.gatech.edu) offers an array of services with a common objective: to grow Georgia's economy by providing technology-driven solutions to the challenges facing the state's businesses and communities. Whether the goal is attracting new companies to Georgia, expanding existing enterprises, providing technical expertise to help Georgia business and industry become more competitive, or helping communities plan for growth, EDI helps keep the state's economy moving forward.

Photos courtesy of John Toon, Georgia Tech

For related articles from Georgia Tech, see:
-- "Protecting Public Spaces from Terror: Systems engineering approach offers new paradigm that stresses prevention"
-- "Fate of Nano Waste: Researchers study how to make nanomaterial industry environmentally sustainable"

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