Program helps protect endangered species
August 25, 2009
BAUMHOLDER, Germany -- A number of endangered or protected species such as the swallowtail butterfly, sand lizard, yellow iris flower and the exotic Zygaena carniolica moth are thriving on Baumholder's military training area.
Baumholder's Directorate of Public Works Environmental Office has developed and implemented an Environmental Management System that helps protect the environment that serves as a habitat for these endangered species.
Baumholder's Environmental Management System is mission focused and compliant with international standards as outlined in ISO 14001, "which is an organized, formal approach to managing an organization's environmental risks. It is based on a proven business model for continual improvement consisting of four parts: plan, do, check and act," said Dominic Mutinda, environmental branch chief. The standard aims to reduce the environmental footprint of an organization and to decrease the pollution and waste it produces.
"We now need to sustain our EMS and continue to improve our environmental programs," said Mutinda.
The EMS is not a new program. "It's a program that is used in industry. The main purpose of it is to try to eliminate or minimize environmental risks," said Mutinda.
Having an EMS that conforms to international standards is not the end of the story.
"Now that we have a compliant EMS, we need to maintain it," said Mutinda. Control mechanisms have been built into the system to help keep Baumholder's EMS on track.
"One of them is that on a quarterly basis we report through the environmental quality report program how we are doing in our EMS program.
"Also, every year we have an internal EMS audit that we conduct to control ourselves and see if we are doing what we said we would be doing," said Mutinda.
So why does Baumholder need an Environmental Management System'
"Number one, we consider aspects, aspects of things we do here that have a potential to impact the environment, positively or negatively. Then we prioritize them and set up objectives and targets to try to minimize the risks that are associated to the things that we do here," said Mutinda.
"Currently we have four significant aspects that we want to consider. One is solid waste management. We have chosen this because with the closure of our landfill we pay a lot of money to dispose of solid waste. So if we start conducting an aggressive recycling program we will be able to eliminate some of the recyclables that would normally go into the solid waste containers. The end of it is we'll be paying less if we do a good recycling program," he said.
"The other aspect is hazardous waste and hazardous material management programs. The environmental office selected these programs because the majority of negative findings during an external audit appear in this area. Most of them are violations to the host nation environmental laws, so we want to minimize those risks because otherwise we will run into the danger of getting notices of violations, which is a bad thing to get," said Mutinda.
"The last one is managing medical waste. Medical waste has been a program where the disposal of regulated medical waste has not been tracked. Our plan is to implement this program and manage it so that any time medical waste is removed from garrison we can document it, and we can trace where it was taken," said Mutinda.
Having an environmental management program is only half the battle. "Our concern is to get the people within the garrison to understand the importance of EMS. We're doing this by outreach programs, awareness, training, training that reaches the Soldiers and the civilians who work at the garrison," said Mutinda.
"This is not only for garrison personnel. It also includes contractors who do work on behalf of the garrison. The main thing is to make them aware that anything we do on a daily basis has some impact on the environment either negatively or positively.
"The idea is to have a continual improvement of our environmental programs so that we can sustain our natural resources and meet our needs today and allow future generations to enjoy the natural resources that are given.
"I think it is important for all of us to be aware of the environmental management systems. The key thing to remember is the natural resources that we have can be exhausted if we misuse them," said Mutinda.