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Collaborate with Industry
Organizations have been working to reduce the use of toxics and the generation of toxic byproducts in Massachusetts long before the Toxics Use Reduction Act was passed. The case study below illustrates how community groups and companies can work together to reduce toxics use.
 
 
Collaboration: A Case Study
In the early 1979's, a citizen organization known as ACES (Acton Citizens for Environmental Safety) was created in Acton, MA as a reaction to the Superfund site thrust on our town by an environmental catastrophe. In addition to our work following the Superfund activity, our group decided in the early 1990's that pro-active efforts were needed to anticipate other potential environmental problems. In our search for helpful information, ACES learned of Massachusett's Toxics Use Reduction Act. We reviewed the available data on facilities reporting in a four town area around Acton and found six facilities reporting under TURA.
 
ACES created a report for each facility. It described:

  • the amounts and types of toxic chemicals used,
     
  • a description of the processes in which the chemicals were used,
     
  • the end products of the process,
     
  • the distribution of chemicals into: what was shipped in the end product, the chemical waste distribution.
Knowing that numbers alone were meaningless, ACES used another EPA database of information so that each chemical used was related to potential adverse health risks. This public health and safety information was the primary concern facing local citizens.
 
To provide a more complete understanding of our results, a copy of each facility's report was sent to their management with a request for a meeting. ACES hoped this might be the beginning of a collaborative process by which industry and the community members would better understand potential risks. Four of the six facilities agreed to meet with us; each meeting was worthwhile. ACES was satisfied that no major environmental problems loomed on the horizon; the facilities knew that we were there looking over their shoulders
 
A meeting with one facility in particular, Haartz Co., proved the collaborative process could be a successful enterprise for all involved. ACES learned about their manufacturing process in some detail, and of their internal health and safety programs to minimize the potential public health and safety risks. Haartz Co. learned that ACES mission was a sincere concern for public health and safety in our community; we could only learn about this in the face to face meeting they provided for us.
 
This was only the beginning of a long term relationship ACES has had with Haartz, to this day! In reviewing subsequent years of TURA data, it revealed that Haartz over time had made significant reductions in the use of a major chemical, Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK). In questioning them about this, Haartz shared information on their unique integral recycling methods and arranged for a plant visit to show us the equipment. Their system recycled upwards of 60% of the MEK used; this meant they shipped less MEK into Acton, and lowered the public health and safety risk to the community.
 
This was not the end of our collaborative effort; in 1999 Haartz agreed to share this information with OTA to see if potential benefits could accrue to other MEK users in MA. A meeting was arranged to review the recycling technique; the result, OTA felt such a potential study/project should include other solvents beyond just MEK. Planning for this study/project is underway. Another encouraging fact arose using EPA's Envirofacts database; we learned that only 20% of all MA facilities using MEK in MA were recycling!
 
The sharing of data on toxic chemical use, together with collaborative efforts, can lead to unexpected positive results.
 


 
 
 
« Where and why are toxics used in communities? | Resources for collaboration »
 


 




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