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Manufacturing in a fishbowl.

"Several years ago I thought that the train carrying all of the environmental regulations had passed by, but now its on its way back loaded with another cargo of much more stringent regulations." This is how Dick Caister of Intermet Foundries described the spate of environmental legislation currently confronting industry during a recent meeting of the Casting Industry Suppliers Assn. May be without fully realizing it, Caister may have voiced the thoughts of hundreds of others who lived through the safety push of the '60s and the health and environmental movement of the '70s. And just as we're getting back on our feet from the depression of the '80s, here they come again ! But it's somehow different this time around. It's more confusing now. Whereas the passage of a new environmental bill or health legislation in past was met with death-defying resistance, I don't sense that same don't back off bravado that characterized industry's position on these issues during the past 20 years or more. It's no longer a few goofy environmentalists pushing a single-minded agenda.

Today, the environment is the issue. Public awareness and scrutiny has risen to such an extent that we are literally operating in a fishbowl. Even beyond this, many industries and industry leaders have become increasingly sensitized to environmental issues. For many it's a matter of economic survival. For others it's image. For many it's simply a dose of reality setting in.

While more and more of manufacturing is responding to the issues, it's not an easy time. Caister again underlined the dilemma that many face, when he said, "I don't have the background to argue one way or another on these issues. But where there seem to be two opposing sides on environmental issues, it becomes difficult to know how to react." Options are rapidly disappearing. Today, we're not only be told what to do, but how to do it as well.

The stringency of the new regulations is summed by AFS director of Environmental Affairs, Gary Mosher. Offering the example of SARA Title III, Section 313, often reffered to as Community Right-ToKnow, he explains: "EPA has become the IRS of chemicals. Manufacturers are required to report annually on their use and emissions for about 400 chemicals. This information is then put into a national computer network maintained by EPA. Anyone with a phone modem can tap into this data base.

"Failure to report or falsifying the information can result in criminal prosecution and large fines, as much as $25,000 a day. In addition, the report must be signed by a corporate officer attesting to their accuracy. This is the first person the EPA goes after. Since the data is available to anyone who wants to see it, environmental activist groups are making sure that the data is being reported accurately. Not many companies want the negative publicity of being labeled in their local newspaper as the number one polluter in the state.

"Essentially if you bring certain chemicals onto your plant site you better be able to account for every pound. If you used 100 lb of material X, for example, how much went into the final product and where is the rest? imagine IRS asking you how you spent every penny of your salary last year. Apply this to many of the materials you used in your plant. You best be prepared to answer some tough questions about any unaccounted materials. If you can't, the worsed will be assumed."

What it all boils down to is this: whether we like it or not, environmental regulations are with us to stay. There's just no turning back. Some have even dared call the current environmental frenzy as the "Greening of Industry."

It's scary, but real. There's little any of us can do to turn the tide. Manufacturers must become more sensitive than ever to public perception of environmental threats--real or imagined--and deal with them in a responsible way. The fishbowl" has become our way of life.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Kanicki, David P.
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:editorial
Date:May 1, 1990
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