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Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Department

U.S. EPA's Project XL, which stands for "eXcellence and Leadership," is a national pilot program that allows state and local governments, businesses, and federal facilities to work with EPA to develop innovative strategies to test better and more cost-effective ways of achieving environmental and public health protection. Through Project XL, EPA has invited cities and states to streamline and include pollution prevention (P2) in pretreatment programs. A priority of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority is the integration of pollution prevention into all its activities. So, in 2000 in response to EPA's invitation, the City of Albuquerque, the Silver Users Association, and U.S. EPA signed an XL agreement implementing a modified, less regulatory program to reduce pollutants from industries and commercial businesses through the integration of P2 into their existing mandated Industrial Pretreatment Program. This project was financed by shifting funds within the Department's existing budget.

Major partners of this project were: the New Mexico Environment Department (especially the stormwater section); the Green Zia Environmental Excellence Program; the Waste-management Education and Research Center (WERC) at the New Mexico State University; U.S. EPA Headquarters and the Region 6 Office in Dallas, Texas; Region 6 P2 Coordinators, Pretreatment Program Officers, Project XL Program Officers; and other P2 programs nationwide. The most helpful resources that provided technical assistance and outreach to their communities were: the City of Albuquerque newsletter for Neighborhood Associations; the New Mexico Dental Association and the Albuquerque District Dental Society; various professional newsletters; other municipalities; and the local public cable access (Channel 14) for public service announcements and bulletin lists.

Positive Results

In order to track success, the program managers measured outreach, response rates to email and phone calls, and the number of businesses participating in the city's recognition program. As an example of the measurement of environmental improvements, the Southside Water Reclamation Plant reduced pollutants in its influent from 1999 - 2001, including: aluminum (41% reduction), cadmium (11%), chromium (12%), copper (82%), fluoride (9%), lead (26%), nickel (9%), silver (54%), and zinc (32%). Results by participating businesses are listed individually in the narrative sections of the Annual Status Reports, which are posted on the City of Albuquerque website Exit EPA Disclaimer.

Key Elements, Suggestions, and Challenges

Updating the City of Albuquerque's website to include information about this program generated a great deal of interest in the program. The internet enabled the Water Utility Authority to reach sources that never would have been considered and has enabled the program to become more visible to the public, as well as to award programs (like the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable). The two most important regulatory incentives to promote success are enforcement discretion and reduced inspections. In addition to fostering a strong, collaborative relationship between industry and the regulators, non-regulatory incentives, such as annual awards and public recognition are inexpensive, high-impact rewards that effectively increase industry participation. Within the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Department, the inclusion of pollution prevention in the job descriptions of the pretreatment program staff is important to ensure success. Pretreatment staff have so many required responsibilities, that voluntary programs, if considered to be above and beyond the job description and performance evaluation, will be left out.

Pretreatment staff learned that it takes time, planning, and additional work to incorporate meaningful pollution prevention measures within on-going operations. Further, while the cost savings and reduced regulatory burden of implementing P2 activities compared to the costs of hazardous waste management can result in a high return on investment, it is important to offer incentives to businesses to justify implementing new P2 approaches with positive trade-offs. City employees also learned that it was helpful to examine their own internal pollution prevention practices before offering outreach to private organizations to give them a clear understanding of what the private sector faces regarding source reduction, waste management, personnel, and financial restrictions. This also ensures that the audience trusts their experience in addition to their expertise.

Other than the poor economy and city budget cuts, there were no major non-regulatory barriers to success. P2 practitioners understand that in a state of economic crisis, creating efficiencies is a great way to save money. This does not negate the fact that there are often up-front investments that must be made, whether they be consulting, training, equipment, or taking the extra time to learn about something new, such as pollution prevention techniques. While these barriers were not complete roadblocks, it was necessary for the project team to acknowledge them and remain sensitive to them.

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City of Albuquerque Pollution Prevention Exit EPA Disclaimer

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