- Environmental Compliance
- Environmental Management
- Water Use
- Water Preservation
- Paper Consumption
Grassroots Project Sustainability Program Goes Viral
Where It All Began: Fayetteville
Nature lovers and bird watchers do not usually flock to wastewater treatment plants, but they do in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Invasive vegetation surrounding the Paul R. Noland Wastewater Treatment Plant had choked out native flora and reduced biodiversity. CH2M employees who manage operations at the plant helped to revitalize the 13.3-acre plot into a wildlife habitat and create a 1-acre xeriscape garden, which uses treated effluent and minimizes the need for mowing.
While operating and maintaining Fayetteville’s two wastewater facilities, we are advancing the City’s dream of becoming a national sustainability leader. Before sustainability was the thing to do, the CH2M team recognized the need to think beyond the contract to help our client break new ground in the industry. Since 2007, we’ve worked with the City to implement sustainability improvements that decrease emissions, reduce fossil fuel use, diminish waste, and cut annual operating costs. Staff transport materials by bicycles or electrical golf carts; use load-shedding generators to ease electrical grid stress during heightened demand; implemented a more efficient dissolved oxygen system; and designed an innovative biosolids drying program that uses solar energy and natural gas to produce biosolids fertilizer, giving the City a cost recovery revenue stream.
“[CH2M’s] passion for services and quality of work is second to none. They are such an integral part of our team. I couldn’t imagine not having their talent and expertise working on behalf of our city and our citizens. We look forward to this relationship continuing for many more years into the future.”
— Don Marr, Chief of Staff, Fayetteville, Arkansas
We helped Fayetteville reclaim land around the plant by removing invasive species and preparing the grounds; planting native wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees; zoning around the creek to allow room for wildlife to prosper; and adding a community parking area, kiosk, and bluebird trail. This innovative public-private partnership project was the first City-owned property to be certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Community Wildlife Habitat in Arkansas. In 2008, the project was a finalist for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality’s Environmental Stewardship Award.
Capturing the Passion of Our Employees
In 2010, CH2M’s Operations Management (OM) Services business, which maintains, operates, and manages facilities on behalf of clients, named its first sustainability director, Lindsay Ritter. Building on the grassroots sustainability partnership between Fayetteville and CH2M staff, Lindsay drew on the expertise and passion of OM employees like Fayetteville project manager Duyen Tran, and support from two people who saw sustainability as key to our success: OM President Elisa Speranza and Marketing & Communications Manager Susan Mays. Lindsay developed a sustainability pilot program with a five-step process to engage employees and implement the program at 45 municipal water and wastewater treatment facilities we manage.
Now in its sixth year, our sustainability program has:
- Saved US$9.9 million
- Reduced or avoided electrical use by 59 million kilowatt-hours
- Reused 55 billion gallons of beneficial effluent
- Diverted 31,000 tons of waste, including biosolids reuse and recycling materials
- Saved 111,000 gallons of fuel
- Contributed more than 13,400 community volunteer hours
The pilot program captured the passion and ingenuity of our people to implement sustainability improvements through repeatable, recordable processes. Offering flexibility to achieve meaningful, site-specific sustainability progress, the program helps our clients achieve their goals. In that first year, we saved US$1.2 million, reduced electrical use by 1.4 million kilowatt-hours, reused 2.1 billion gallons of effluent, diverted 5,600 tons of waste, saved 12,000 gallons of chemicals, and won the 2011 National Association of Water Companies Management Innovation Award.
After those outstanding results, we implemented the program in nearly 200 facilities across North America by engaging passionate CH2M sustainability champions and teams at each facility. Focusing on continuous improvement, each project sets two sustainability goals each year to promote sustainable best management practices.
Champions Translate Sustainability Strategy into Results
“Don’t call it sustainability,” he says, “call it a challenge.” Sustainability champion Mark Copley believes challenges are opportunities to learn and, the more he learns, the more of an opportunity he has to teach. Mark says, “I feel fortunate to be in a role that immerses personal values into work…At the core of what we do is to protect the river. I identify with that, and it motivates me to excel in my role.”
Project sustainability champions receive training in applying triple-bottom-line principles, using our EMS, working with clients to set and implement goals, and measuring impacts. This volunteer position enables employees who have a passion in sustainability to participate, resulting in a diverse group of champions with varying backgrounds and disciplines. This employee-driven, project-specific program brings positive economic, environmental, and social outcomes to our clients and the communities we serve. While the total impact of our sustainability program is substantial, the impact our efforts make on each project tells a greater story.
Preserving Water in Rio Rancho
Water is a precious resource, particularly in arid New Mexico. Half the state’s population is centered around Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, placing immediate demands on the supply where CH2M operates and maintains Rio Rancho’s water and wastewater treatment plants.
CH2M’s entire New Mexico sustainability team, representing six projects in the state, is working to build a healthy future for their communities by protecting the state’s water supplies. One way they do this is by volunteering their time and expertise each year at the Rio Rancho Children’s Water Festival. The festival provides fun, hands-on water education to students and teachers. It also helps teachers integrate water education into their curriculum. Since the festival began, more than 5,000 students and teachers have received water education. After attending, children educate their families about how to conserve water, which has resulted in the City’s residential water use decreasing by 32 percent. As a reward for their efforts to meet their clients’ sustainability goals, the CH2M team won the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association Award for sustainability in 2014.
Creating and Nurturing Sustainability Leaders
The Fayetteville project and OM sustainability program have produced great sustainability leaders like Duyen Tran, who is now our award-winning director of OM sustainable operations. Lindsay Ritter is now global practice lead for asset and operations management; Elisa Speranza is senior vice president of innovation and corporate citizenship; and Susan Mays is global brand manager. We’re thankful for their leadership in promoting sustainability before it became popular, saving millions for our clients and preserving our most important resources.