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Voice of the Industry.

QUESTION: Given the opportunity to draft an open letter to politicians, the general public or your potential customers, what would you say about your foundry's approach to environmental concerns?

"It has become critical for us to review our commitment to environmental issues such as air quality, storm water runoff, and waste recycling and disposal. With the ever-expanding universe of regulations that apply to our operation, it is necessary for us to frequently reflect on our core values as they relate to environmental compliance. Our foundry has a highly proactive approach to its environmental program. We are in the process of integrating environmental impact philosophies such as zero discharge (the elimination of all air, water and solid waste emissions from the facility) and Dr. John Todd's Living Machine Technology (the utilization of plants, microbes and other living things to decontaminate water) into daily operations, management and engineering practices. By doing so, we are making long strides toward becoming more sensitive to the impact the foundry has on its surroundings and more effective at reducing negative impact to the environment. By making improvements to the existing facilities along these lines, a number of critical emissions and waste minimization issues have been addressed and resolved: solid waste, by optimizing sand utilization, beneficially reusing residuals and reducing or eliminating hazardous chemicals in the process; water, by preventing contaminant run-off; and air, by reducing hazardous air pollutants through sand system optimization and by reducing fine particulates with vigilant dust collector monitoring and maintenance. Even so, much work remains to be done to approach zero discharge. Finally, to ensure its environmental objectives are met, the foundry employs me, a full-time environmental director, to oversee regulatory compliance initiatives and to implement continuous process improvement projects (the main emphasis being on striking a balance between the local ecology and casting production) under the following guiding principle: "We will support the people and programs, which are vital to the overall well being of our community...." The owner and general manager of the company also continue to be concerned with maintaining a high level of environmental awareness and compliance."

--John T. Heinen, environmental director, Richland Center Foundry Co., Richland Center, Wisconsin

"Rationalizing environmental law is a political third rail. I think it would be easier to change the Social Security system. This trepidation has resulted in an environmental system that may be well-intentioned but not very well-thought out. Large companies have responded by basically eliminating their captive foundries in this country. It has become better for them to operate a greenfield foundry in another country (such as Mexico) with little or practically no environmental control concerns. Thus, all we have done is legislate the foundry industry into a rapidly increasing off-shore status. Stringent laws and environmental policies have essentially shifted foundries from this country to countries with reduced or little control. Isn't it all the same air, water and land? Or is Third World pollution somehow not relevant? If all U.S. foundries were eliminated, would we still hit clean air targets? I think not. The Benton Foundry mission is premised on a stable, qualified, productive and continually upgraded w orkforce. These craftsmen enjoy the benefit of appropriate state-of-the-art equipment in a safe, coordinated and ecologically aware manufacturing environment. Ecological awareness is not only prudent business, but also an integral portion of employee retention. You shouldn't have any employee work in an environmental situation that you would not have the president of the company work in as well. That, to me, is environmental rationalization. If we are going to compete in a global economy, then maybe we should approach environmental regulation on a coordinated, long-term, easily measureable and quantifiable approach. This will be difficult, since the same book of regulations is enforced differently in different parts of the same state, region, nation and globe."

--Tim Brown, vice president, Benton Foundry, Inc., Benton, Pennsylvania

"Kurdziel Industries places a high priority on the environment throughout the corporation. We believe that it is critical to be proactive and go beyond basic compliance and regulatory requirements. Holistic concepts like sustainability, energy efficiency and waste minimization are incorporated into our decision-making processes. We also place a strong emphasis on education. We sponsor numerous educational activities in the local school districts around our facilities with an emphasis on science and technology versus strictly those with an environmental focus. We want the students to grasp the quantifiable 'nuts and bolts' of environmental issues, not the emotional side that often accompanies so many of these topics. One example is an annual 'Wetlands Experience' hosted at one of our facilities. To date, 400 students from a local school district have gone through the program. The kids examine soil types and record animal and plant observations. They also learn about recycling, interact with environmentally co ncerned employees, and see how industry and nature can co-exist. They see ongoing foundry operations (not normally visible from 'the front gate') adjacent to the thriving wetlands area. This puts a whole different emphasis on what manufacturing is about and gives them a perspective of manufacturing different from the "smokestack" picture in the pollution section of their textbooks. Placing a high priority on the environment also requires that thought be given to the current global marketplace. Customers, regulators and legislators must be aware that, by tightening the environmental standards and increasing the costs of American manufacturing, there is a 'clear and present danger' that manufacturing will migrate off-shore to the less developed countries aspiring to create wealth. This creates the burden of increasing global pollution for us all."

--Jill Koebbe, environmental manager, Kurdziel Industries, Inc., Muskegon, Michigan
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Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Aug 1, 2000
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