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Growing Greener
In Pursuit of Environmental Excellence: PENNDOT District 10's Quest for a Greener Tomorrow
By James B. Struzzi II
PENNDOT Engineering District 10 Community Relations Coordinator

In 1998, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge issued the Governor's Green Plan, an executive order that called for state agencies to improve their environmental performance. Following the lead of Transportation Secretary Brad Mallory, Engineering District 10 has taken this initiative to heart by aggressively implementing PENNDOT's Strategic Environmental Management Program (SEMP) in pursuit of ISO 14001 certification by December 2002.

Nestled in the heart of rolling farmland and blue mountain trout streams is the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's five-county Engineering District 10. Visitors travel many miles to enjoy what the many State parks, waterways and outdoor settings in District 10 have to offer-a quality lifestyle set in an untouched natural environment that still includes the occasional cry of an eagle or the majestic image of a trophy buck.

District 10 intends to keep it that way. Encompassing Armstrong, Butler, Clarion, Indiana and Jefferson counties in Western Pennsylvania, a region known for its natural beauty and scenic ambiance, District 10 has a unique responsibility that requires maintaining a precarious balance between serving its customers and preserving and protecting the environment.

The New Horizon
"We choose to live in these areas because we appreciate the quality of life Western Pennsylvania provides," said Richard H. Hogg, District Engineer. "Most of our employees grew up hunting, fishing and hiking these same hills and valleys. This country is what we value, and together we are learning how to protect and preserve our homeland."

For many years, our society thought the Earth's supply of natural resources was inexhaustible. We consumed and consumed with little or no thought to conservation or protection until we realized that what we value most in this nation, our quality of life, would soon disappear if we continued our current course. Recognizing an opportunity to become better environmental stewards and preserve those qualities that the Keystone State represents, Pennsylvania decided to take a stand.

District 10 has followed Secretary Mallory's lead by taking this initiative to heart and aggressively implementing PENNDOT's Strategic Environmental Management Program (SEMP). Although the District has been growing more environmentally conscious for the past several years, SEMP provides a comprehensive guide to implementing a green policy that the District, at all employee levels, can adhere to. Through implementation, the program sets the direction of the District's environmental efforts and demonstrates the commitment of PENNDOT's senior management in achieving this goal. It also demonstrates PENNDOT's commitment to the people of Pennsylvania.

"By implementing a Strategic Environmental Management Program, we are listening to the voice of our customers," Hogg said. "Quality of life-environmental quality-is something we must strive diligently to preserve."

The implementation and use of SEMP is more than a mere outline for environmental controls; it is a systematic elevation of District 10's environmental consciousness. All employees, through education and training, will become stewards of the environment.

This means the District, through compliance with Federal and State environmental laws and regulations, will manage hazardous waste and materials, protect wetlands and sensitive streams and assess the environmental impacts of construction projects. It also involves conserving resources (fuel, deicing materials, stone, paper and electricity), recycling and reducing wastes and reducing the amount of pollutants released in the air, water, groundwater and soil.

SEMP identifies six Green Plan policy principles that the District must follow.

  • Protect the environment and use resources efficiently.
  • Continually identify ways to improve our performance.
  • Set performance objectives and measure progress.
  • Make sure employees understand these principles and furnish the means to fulfill them.
  • Comply with environmental requirements.
  • Use environmental performance improvement to meet customer needs.

By strict adherence to these principles, District 10 will transform its internal processes to better meet and serve the needs of the environment and Pennsylvania residents.

Where Does SEMP Guide District 10?
Led by Assistant District Administrator for Maintenance James E. Slaugenhoup, District 10 has pledged to become the first PENNDOT Engineering District to obtain International Organization for Standards (ISO) 14001 registration in three maintenance areas-winter maintenance, stockpile management, and erosion and sedimentation control-by December 2002. ISO is a non-governmental, international organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, with more than 100 member bodies, or countries.

PENNDOT's maintenance forces are the front line workers who work directly on the roadways. Their efforts directly impact the environment. Through SEMP, District 10 is making that impact a positive interaction.

"We are committed to this goal throughout all five county maintenance organizations and the District Office," Slaugenhoup said. "It is our responsibility to PENNDOT's customers in District 10 to obtain ISO registration. We have learned to value our natural resources and achieving this goal will demonstrate our commitment to preserving them."

ISO registration means the District has demonstrated, through management initiatives and the deployment of best practices, systematic targets and goals for its environmental performance. It signifies the District's steadfast commitment to environmental excellence.

Slaugenhoup's goals for District 10's maintenance unit include the formation of SEMP implementation teams in each county. These groups are charged with mapping processes, training, communication and measurement to ensure each organization is on target for environmental performance success. The process to obtain ISO registration began last year.

The Future for Greener PENNDOT
"The bottom line for District 10 can be summarized in one phrase, 'Be a good neighbor,'" Hogg said. "We are a large part of the communities we serve. By becoming leaders in environmental stewardship, we are enhancing and protecting the world we live in. What could be more important than that?"

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