A second flag bearing a lone star now flies at the Transit Mix Concrete & Materials Co. Seven Points plant outside Dallas, flanking Old Glory and Texas' own red, white and blue. The new flag signals the first operation certified under National Ready Mixed Concrete Association's Green-Star Program, recognizing a facility's Environmental Management System and continuous improvement of pollution control, waste reduction, and water conservation measures.
As master of last month's Green-Star flag-raising ceremony, 2008 NRMCA Chairman Frank Craddock (Cemex USA) welcomed fellow association members and guests that included Texas State Senator Robert Nichols and Gail Green, a representative for Senator John Cornyn. Craddock noted little surprise in Transit Mix logging the first Green-Star certified plant, as the company has won more NRMCA Environmental Excellence Awards than any other producer. I challenge the ready mixed concrete industry to follow the example set by Transit Mix here, he said, assuring peers that Cemex would soon join the ranks of Green-Star plant operators.
[The certification] is an outstanding achievement that reflects on the business culture and its commitment to growth, but not at the expense of the environment, added Mark Potts, associate director of compliance assurance and enforcement from the Environmental Protection Agency's Region 6 (Dallas). It shows that environmental considerations are integrated into day-to-day plant operations and business decision-making, and the Green-Star program brings those principles home.
In accepting the Green-Star certification and flag, Transit Mix President Carl Campbell affirmed, This shows the commitment and dedication of the Transit Mix team members. This plant is a model of what can be, what concrete professionals can be, and where we are going.
Seven Points business neighbors and local officials, along with plant personnel, could appreciate his observations more than most guests on hand for the flag raising. Leading up to the Green-Star undertaking, Transit Mix effected an extreme makeover of the property after a 2006 acquisition of a mom & pop, Bow Enterprises. Following a corporate plant template and input from local operations colleagues, construction and environmental staff mapped out a material storage and handling, truck-traffic, and water-management plan for a poorly graded site that had minimal paving and dilapidated iron.
Transit Mix ordered an R&S Apache mobile plant with twin silos, placing it just off the center of a rectangular, six-acre site Û behind the footprint of the rusty structure it replaced. Dallas-based corporate and Seven Points local staff detailed a storm- and process-water management plan around carefully sloped and mostly new concrete pavement; four-step, process-water settling structure; tall diversion curb; and, storm water retention pond.
New equipment, refurbished maintenance shop, and remodeled office and driver break room provided an environment from which Transit Mix could pursue Green-Star certification. The Environmental Management System (EMS) anchoring the Seven Points Green-Star certification challenges plant staff to monitor usage of municipal and recycled process water; reduce returned-concrete volume; and, curtail net vehicle emissions by limiting truck engines idling in the yard. Overseeing the certification is Transit Mix Environmental Coordinator Michael Porch, one of two company representatives NRMCA has registered as Accredited Green-Star Auditor (note box).
Seven Points is among 100-plus Lone Star State plants under Transit Mix, which has been at the forefront of NRMCA's Commitment to Environmental Excellence Awards since the program's 1995 inception. Green-Star builds on the awards by promoting and recognizing producers' use of EMS, a tool widely used across industry and recognized by government agencies.
The certification program was developed by the Environmental Task Group of the association's Operations, Environmental and Safety Committee. While the NRMCA-OES program offers no formal EMS guidelines, it outlines key components that serve as minimum criteria for certification. EMS implementation thereby is fostered as a tool for environmental benchmarking and continual improvement, as recognition is provided for operations that adhere to essential principles of the sustainability movement.
The Green-Star Certification Program constitutes an industry-specific initiative focusing on ready mixed producers' unique operational characteristics. While not designed to take the place of other EMS-based certifications (e.g., U.S. EPA Performance Track, ISO 14001), it can serve to fill the gap between industry efforts and more generic programs, becoming an effective alternative due to enhanced accessibility. The two-year Green-Star Certification covers a company's existing EMS based on the ÎPlan-Do-Check-ActÌ model of continual improvement. Certifications are made on a plant-by-plant basis, i.e., concrete facilities are Green-Star certified Û not concrete companies, company divisions, or corporate personnel.
Green-Star certification requires implementation by an applicant facility of measures satisfying the program's EMS criteria. To qualify, systems must have operated for a minimum of one complete cycle of at least three months' duration following determination of an initial environmental baseline (Gap Analysis); however, longer durations of at least six months are strongly recommended. First among essential EMS components, an environmental policy statement developed and implemented by the plant should demonstrate a commitment to continual improvement, pollution prevention, and compliance with federal, state and local regulations, as well as routine review.
Second, a program for continual improvement Û beginning and ending with one EMS cycle, at which point it begins again Û must identify key environmental aspects, i.e., activities or processes cited as the cause, and resultant environmental impacts, i.e., the effects, encompassing, but not limited to, 1) water quality management, affecting process and storm water discharge, plus water conservation, reuse and recycling; 2) air quality management targeting airborne process, fugitive, and vehicular emissions; 3) hazardous materials management, tracking petroleum and chemical use, spill/leak prevention, and fuel consumption; 4) solid material management, i.e., handling of returned concrete, fines, stone and sand; 5) community issues, e.g., noise and aesthetic conditions; and, 6) sustainability, i.e., energy conservation, recycling, and pervious concrete production.
Achieving continual improvement entails quantitative documentation (where appropriate) of the facility's environmental aspects at the start of an EMS cycle and setting measurable goals that reflect improved performance at cycle's end. Accordingly, a description is required of specific practices and activities that will be implemented to meet stated goals; and, means must be identified to quantitatively measure and document performance levels at the end of an EMS cycle. Also necessary are processes to determine whether goals have been met and, if not, to provide an explanation for missed performance benchmarks.
A third EMS component stipulated for Green-Star Certification is a self-evaluation program to gauge regulatory compliance and environmental operational status. Used either by the facility or a third-party auditor, any self-evaluation or audit procedure or protocol, deemed satisfactory by the accredited auditor, is acceptable, provided it is a) comprehensive, i.e., covers all areas of environmental compliance pertinent and specific to the ready mixed concrete industry; b) objective, i.e., performed by someone lacking a direct, subjective interest in the audit results; c) regular, i.e., occurring at least once per EMS cycle; and, d) documented.
Another indispensable EMS component is a comprehensive environmental training program for key personnel, emphasizing appropriate NRMCA training courses or their equivalent for appropriate employees. Necessary instruction would cover at a minimum material provided in the NRMCA Environmental Certification Course; NRMCA Plant Manager's Certification Course; Certified Driver Professional Course; and, company- and facility-specific environmental trainings, conducted on a regular basis. Also required are measures, such as written or oral testing and/or performance evaluations, to gauge understanding and comprehension.
Following implementation of a training program, an applicant facility must demonstrate staffing and management commitment sufficient for EMS setup and support. To this end, key personnel directly involved with the plant's EMS program must be identified, including their specific duties and responsibilities; and, a statement (citing personnel and funding as appropriate) must confirm corporate management's commitment to EMS implementation and maintenance. Finally, a public outreach program, potentially involving newsletters, websites and community day events, is required to enable the plant to interact with the community on issues of environmental relevance to a degree appropriate to the facility in question.
Benefits of the certification cited by NRMCA include: a) favored status, as customers prefer doing business with companies known to be environmentally responsible; b) savings accrued via pollution-prevention and waste-reduction measures; c) improved efficiency for greater profits, due to sound, consistent environmental-management methods; d) community goodwill arising from a company's progressive stance on environmental policy and action; and, e) reduced liability and risk by virtue of a pro-active EMS program documenting results and targeting continual improvement.
Transit Mix's Mike Porch and Bobby Bailey, environmental coordinators responsible for ready mixed and sister Trinity Materials aggregate operations' environmental compliance, are Accredited Green-Star Auditors. Beyond Seven Points, they have secured Green-Star certification for three other Texas concrete plants (Bastrop, Mt. Pleasant, Huntsville). The auditors have noted six- to seven-month windows for Green-Star certification, entailing initial inspection; gap analysis to identify measures between a plant's status quo and full target compliance; and, site and equipment improvements. Transit Mix is eyeing at least one Green-Star plant in each of its nine regions.
Porch and Bailey are among 20 producer-employed Green-Star Certification Auditors NRMCA has registered in the program roll-out. Registrations are valid for three years. Criteria for auditor applicants include: completion of the NRMCA Environmental Course, or equivalent training considered case by case; college degree in engineering, construction management or appropriate field of scientific study; and, three years' documented environmental management work experience in the ready mixed concrete industry. Candidates can substitute a college degree with at least two years of environmental management experience Û on top of the baseline three-year requirement.
Applicants are required to participate in an NRMCA Green-Star Auditor Training Session. The next session will be presented Sept. 2, as a webinar, conducted from http://www.nrmca.org/Webinars/index.asp#Auditing#Auditing.