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MassHighway's approach to environmental management.

The environmental management of highway maintenance facilities was the focus of a recent state DOT forum sponsored by the Massachusetts Highway Department (MassHighway). Representatives from seven state transportation agencies in the Northeast shared their strategies to achieve and maintain compliance, in the face of shrinking maintenance budgets and increasing regulatory and public pressure. With global environmental performance standards such as ISO 14001 on the rise, transportation agencies nationwide are integrating sound environmental management practices into their mission to build and maintain roads. How is this accomplished? MassHighway can provide some insight.

In 1993, under the administration of former Governor William Weld and then-Lieutenant Governor Paul Cellucci, Massachusetts set forth the Clean State Initiative requiring all state-owned facilities to get into environmental compliance by the year 2000. This regulatory deadline, coupled with a Consent Order, challenged MassHighway to comprehensively address environmental compliance issues at 136 maintenance facilities.


MassHighway is now implementing a $50-million environmental management program to achieve compliance by the year 2000. With the departure of Governor Weld in 1997, there has been continued support on the part of Governor Paul Cellucci for the goals of this environmental program. "The commitment of Governor Cellucci's administration," explains Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Patrick Moynihan, "is the key to making environmental compliance a reality for Massachusetts transportation agencies."

At MassHighway, the principal component of the environmental management program is taking shape: an Environmental Management System (EMS). With the help of environmental management consultant Rizzo Associates, Inc., MassHighway's EMS is addressing environmental issues including hazardous materials, hazardous waste, water quality, solid waste, underground storage tanks, and wetlands. Modeled after the ISO 14001 standard, MassHighway's EMS is a combination of ongoing organizational, structural, and systems improvements that do not hinder roadway maintenance and construction schedules.


MassHighway's highest organizational priorities are identifying environmental roles and responsibilities, establishing standard operating procedures (SOPs), and training maintenance workers, middle management, and executive level staff. Because MassHighway, like most DOTs, is organized along a refined military model, the success of these organizational changes depends upon a top-down commitment. MassHighway's leadership has designated a senior official as the Environmental Health and Safety Director and hired new hazardous material coordinators in each of the five district offices to expedite compliance initiatives throughout the state. The department has also created an Environmental Improvement Team, which is responsible for prioritizing environmental initiatives and identifying immediate funding for high priority improvements.

Critical to the success of these organizational improvements is the development of SOPs and the ongoing environmental training of MassHighway personnel. The SOPs provide top-down commitment and establish responsibility for implementation while the training provides information about environmental regulations, compliance procedures, and best management practices. Recent environmental awareness training for 500 maintenance workers focused on three keys to facility compliance: how to keep facilities neat and orderly, how to label containers correctly, and how to inspect storage areas on a regular basis.

"Our training is a success because the message is clear," asserts MassHighway's Chief Engineer Thomas Broderick. "Everyone has a role to play in improving our department's environmental performance."


The fundamental change in attitude toward environmental compliance at MassHighway is mirrored by a series of structural improvements. MassHighway is making significant headway in six compliance areas:

* Water Quality: Garage floor drains are being re-routed to discharge to public sewer systems or holding tanks, instead of discharging to septic systems or dry wells. This improvement will enable daily operations, such as vehicle washing, to be performed without impacting the environment.

* Underground Storage Tanks: An underground storage tank (UST) removal and upgrade program is being conducted to bring all tanks into compliance by December 1998. The tanks are being equipped with state-of-the-art corrosion protection, leak detection, and spill and overfill prevention controls.

* Hazardous Waste: Accumulation areas are being set up at each facility. In addition, hazardous waste sheds have been installed at centralized locations in each district to ensure proper storage.

* Hazardous Materials: Spill prevention equipment has been installed at each facility including containment units, spill pallets, emergency spill kits, and cabinets to store flammables.

* Wetlands: Due to land use impacts, wetlands restoration projects will be conducted at several facilities to restore the wetlands to their natural condition.

* Solid Waste: The removal of stockpiled solid waste including asphalt, brick, concrete, treated timbers, and tires is underway. Accumulation areas are being constructed for the temporary storage of solid waste. These areas facilitate the segregation and removal of solid waste, such as recyclable metals, tires, and yard waste.

"Our department is not taking a band-aid approach to environmental management," says Kevin Sullivan, Commissioner of MassHighway. "We're equipping our facilities with the tools necessary to get the job done right."


MassHighway has invested in several tools to manage environmental information at 136 facilities and to enhance communication between the Headquarters OfFice and five district offices. These systems improvements are the least expensive aspect of the department's environmental management program.

* Compliance Tracking System: A database is being created to track compliance initiatives and monitoring schedules. The system will inform staff of upcoming permitting and regulatory deadlines.

* Facility Compliance Maps: MassHighway has detailed maps that will interact with the compliance tracking system. The maps display the physical features of each facility, including the locations of waste storage and wastewater structures and the boundaries of wetlands. These maps are useful self-auditing tools, particularly because they ensure the continuity of compliance initiatives in the event of staff changes.

* Self-Auditing Program: A customized auditing protocol has been developed for MassHighway. The self-auditing program enables the department to identify and correct compliance deficiencies on its own. It also prepares staff for regulatory audits.

* Environmental Handbook: A reference guide for managing facilities in compliance is being prepared for all maintenance workers. The handbook contains information on SOPs and environmental policies. In addition to these improvements, MassHighway has invested in a new computerized monitoring system for underground storage tanks. According to Chief Engineer Thomas Broderick, "The system will enable district maintenance engineers to monitor tanks from remote locations. It will be a safeguard for our fueling operations throughout the state."


MassHighway is well on its way to creating a model environmental management program that can be used by other state agencies. The department is beginning to realize the benefits of providing the education, equipment, and organizational structure necessary to conduct their mission in a manner that is protective of the environment. Rather than focusing exclusively on correcting individual violations, MassHighway is comprehensively addressing environmental issues to achieve and maintain long-term compliance.


At a recent Environmental Management Forum hosted by MassHighway, state DOT professionals with experience in environmental compliance and facility operations throughout the Northeast shared some of their most successful environmental management strategies.

* Vermont Agency of Transportation sponsors an annual Best Overall Maintenance Site Contest with cash prizes to promote safety, health, and environmental awareness in each district.

* New York Department of Transportation has created an Environmental Handbook for Transportation Maintenance that addresses air pollution requirements, fuel storage and handling, EPCRA, wetlands, and waste disposal issues.

* New Jersey Department of Transportation is working with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on an agreement for the beneficial reuse of street sweepings. The program will allow the department and industry to use the material as landfill cover and as sub-base fill material for certain roadway improvement projects.

* Maine Department of Transportation's Bureau of Maintenance and Operations is currently updating its Environmental Policies and Procedures Manual, completing Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plans, preparing an easy-to-follow environmental practices guide for maintenance personnel, and designing and implementing an environmental auditing program. Connecticut Department of Transportation is implementing environmental management plans at each maintenance facility, which include a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan, a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plan, and an Integrated Contingency Plan.

* New Hampshire Department of Transportation is working with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to bring 110 facilities into compliance with their 1996 Hazardous & Solid Waste Management Plan. Hazardous Waste Coordinators have been designated in six districts and in other Operations Bureaus.

Mr. Gregory Prendergast is the Deputy Chief Engineer responsible for the Environmental Division at the Massachusetts Highway Department. Ms. Jane V. Carpenito is a Senior Project Manager and an Associate at Rizzo Associates, Inc., Natick, Massachusetts.
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Title Annotation:Massachusetts Highway Department
Author:Prendergast, Gregory; Carpenito, Jane V.
Publication:Public Works
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jul 1, 1998
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