Daily Wisdom

September 09, 2008

My Environmental Record

Having now posted eight "Global Warming News" articles and several others on the topic of Climate Change, it suddenly occurred to me that some random readers might consider me nothing more than a "rightwing nutjob", a global warming "denier", someone who probably has no concern whatsoever about the environment. But nothing could be further from the truth...

I graduated from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, having completed coursework which included environmental engineering. Upon graduation, it was difficult to find a position in civil engineering, so I took a job as a Project Engineer with a manufacturing firm, and I have been working for manufacturing companies ever since.

In my first position I was tasked with, among other things, the responsibility for maintaining compliance with an NPDES permit (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System). The NPDES permit program is administered by the USEPA and controls water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants directly into waters of the United States. Point sources are discrete conveyances such as pipes or catch-basins. Since its introduction in 1972, the NPDES permit program has been responsible for significant improvements to our nation's water quality.

In my second position, I was hired by a well-known aircraft manufacturer.

[Allow me to digress here for a moment. While working at this job I became a personal acquaintance of Vice Admiral Donald D. Engen who was our general manager at the time. Don Engen was a naval aviator during WWII and Korea. He was awarded the Navy Cross and 29 other decorations. He later commanded aircraft carriers. I was fortunate to accompany him on a few flights, some of which he piloted while I sat in the co-pilot's seat. He was a great guy... super friendly. He always maintained an 'open door' policy, and welcomed any employee to come in and chat. He later went on to become Director of the FAA in the Reagan administration, and then the head of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The observation tower at the Museum was named after him. He was killed in a glider accident in 1999 at the age of 75, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetary.]

In this position, I became responsible for all environmental compliance at our facility. I upgraded and expanded a domestic sewage treatment plant serving 2,000 employees. The project included obtaining permits, supervision of the equipment installation, and eventual responsibility for operation of the system. In another project, I designed and installed an industrial wastewater treatment system, which utilized an electrochemical cell to convert hexavalent chrome to the less toxic trivalent form. The converted chrome was then precipitated, de-watered and removed from the wastewater stream as a sludge. Again, upon completion of the installation I was assigned responsibility for operation of the system. I also applied for and obtained a permit to operate a hazardous waste disposal facility in connection with the industrial wastewater treatment system.

Wastewater System - My original design
(Click to enlarge).

Wastewater System - Electrochemical cell.

Wastewater System - Sludge filter.

Of course, it was necessary for us to treat and dispose of various kinds of hazardous waste offsite. So my company established a contract with a waste disposal firm in the area called City Industries, and we began to ship them drums of hazardous waste for treatment and disposal. Shortly after I resigned from that employer in 1983, I was contacted by the FBI who asked me to testify in what they hoped would be a landmark case. The FBI was working in conjunction with the USEPA to try and obtain a conviction against the owner of City Industries on the basis of willful polluting.

Apparently, the owner of City Industries was trying to cut costs, and ordered his employees to simply dump the hazardous waste onto the ground - untreated. The employees of City Industries reported the violations, and an FBI investigation ensued. The City Industries treatment facility eventually became a Superfund site on the National Priorities List (NPL). You can find information about it by going to the USEPA Region 4 website HERE.

I naturally agreed to cooperate with the FBI as I was personally outraged that: a) a good-faith relationship had been betrayed, and b) it resulted in environmental damage. I testified in federal court before a grand jury. I explained to the court what steps I took to make sure that the disposal firm in fact had the capabilities to treat our wastes properly before consigning certain shipments to them. I also told the court that I believed a statement on the hazardous waste manifest form signed by the owner of City Industries indicated that he would comply with all laws and properly treat all wastes. On cross-examination, I refused to allow the defense attorney to trivialize my testimony and rebutted him from the stand. The federal prosecutors said I did "a great job". Unfortunately, they were unable to obtain the conviction they really wanted - one based on polluting. Instead, they were forced to use the same strategy used to convict Al Capone - mail fraud. The owner of City Industries was convicted on the grounds that he advertised services using the mail, failed to perform those services, and then used the mail to invoice his customers for services not rendered, and subsequently received payment through the mail.

In my next position, I worked at a foundry that produced high-quality castings for the aerospace industry, including: turbine blades for most of the nation's jet engines, components for the SR-71 Blackbird, as well as components for the Space Shuttle. I was not so directly involved with environmental issues at this facility as I was with energy conservation. However, reducing energy usage reduces air pollution. One of my projects was to install high-temperature heat recuperators on our ovens. When operating at 2300F, we were able to achieve reductions of nearly 40% in natural gas consumption. I also converted one oven to permit the combustion of a wax by-product that formerly had to be disposed of as a waste. Thus, we were able to reduce waste going into the landfill and reduce the consumption of natural gas at the same time. I installed some large cooling towers which permitted the elimination of once-through non-contact cooling water. This not only reduced water consumption, but eliminated thermal pollution to the discharge waters. I also operated a load-shedding computer that monitored electrical demand and turned off various non-critical devices when demand got too high.

Hi-Temperature Recuperators.

My career then took a sudden turn away from the aerospace industry into flavors and fragrances. It was a career move based solely on the need for increased remuneration. I have always missed the aerospace industry and have occasionally tried, but have never been able to return to it.

The flavor and fragrance industry is noted for occasionally being "odorous", so one of my first projects was to perform pilot-plant tests on a new odor treatment technology gaining popularity in Europe at the time - biofiltration. The pilot plant tests proved to be successful, so I installed the first large-scale biofilter system in the state of New Jersey. For those of you who might not know, a biofilter is essentially a packed bed of biomass which contains naturally-occuring micro-organisms. Exhaust air containing pollutants is then passed through the bed. The pollutants are deposited into the bed, and the micro-organisms then consume them. Biofiltration is much more energy efficient than incineration, and does not involve the combustion of fossil fuels. My project received several awards and commendations, including a LEX award (Leaders in Environmental eXcellence) and an award from the NJ Environmental Exposition.

Biofilter - My Preliminary Design
(Click to enlarge).

Biofilter and instrument monitoring shed.

Biofilter entry access.

Hawkeye prouldy displays a biofilter award.

I am now considered something of an expert in the field of biofiltration, and was asked to make a presentation to the NJ Water Environment Association's (NJWEA) Technology Transfer Seminar. In addition to several papers I authored on the subject, I co-authored a paper which was presented before a conference of the Air & Waste Management Assocication (AWMA).

I have applied for and received environmental permits for various air pollution control devices covering hundreds of emission sources, and I was responsible for the proper operation and monitoring of those devices. At one point, I became the head of my company's Health, Environment and Safety (HES) department, with responsibility for multiple facilities. It was my duty to insure compliance with all kinds of environmental permits including: stormwater, wastewater, air pollution, hazardous wastes, underground storage tanks, spill containment-prevention, DOT hazardous material transportation, health and sanitation, etc. I even created an HES website for my company's "intranet".

I have been a member of the NJ State Chamber of Commerce's Environment Committee, and a member of the Chemistry Council of NJ's Environment Committee. I've been to Trenton on numerous occasions to meet with officials at the NJ Dept of Environmental Protection, and to attend environmental seminars, etc. In my current position, I am still involved with the design, installation, permitting and operation of air pollution control devices.

On a personal level, I was recycling before recycling was "in" (including those Boy Scout newspaper recycling drives of the 60s). I have worked to make my home energy-efficient. I even use those twirly compact fluorescents bulbs. For years I purchased AMOCO 'Ultimate' gasoline (later BP 'Ultimate') even though it cost more than other gasolines. Why? Because I read that 'Ultimate' was refined an extra step, and by removing those additional impurities, a car running on 'Ultimate' gasoline produces fewer emissions. Unfortunately, 'Ultimate' is no longer available in my area or I would still be using it.

As a father, I do not want to pollute the earth where my child lives, and where she may someday raise a family of her own. As an engineer, I believe that it makes no sense to pollute when there are technologies available to prevent pollution. As a Christian, I believe that we are called by Jesus to be good stewards (Luke 12:42) of all the blessings which have been bestowed upon us... not the least of which is our planet. I believe that God has called each of us to tend this earthly garden in which we have been placed (Genesis 2:15). I also happen to believe that global warming is real, but it is not caused by man-made emissions of CO2.

I remember the first Earth Day in 1970... I was just getting ready to graduate from high school. And I remember how polluted our earth was at that time. Living in the New York metropolitan area, the effects of pollution were plainly visible: from smog, to smells, to dead fish in dead rivers. We have come a long way towards cleaning up our planet since then, and I would like to think I have played some small part in that effort.

Just thought you should know.


At 9/10/2008 1:28 AM , Anonymous camojack said...

"In my second position, I was hired by a well-known aircraft manufacturer."

What a coincidence! In my current position, I was hired by a well-known aircraft manufacturer.

At 9/10/2008 8:07 AM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

How 'bout that?

(:D) Best regards...

At 9/10/2008 8:15 AM , Anonymous RAM said...

Hey Jim, don't let the "left wing-nuts" get to you. Us "right-wing nut jobs" MUST stand together!

Regards, The "One and Only" Republican Attack Machine!

At 9/10/2008 10:20 AM , Blogger Beerme said...

A very impressive record of "green" accomplishments, my friend!

But...I'm sure that the statement at the end-you know, where you say you don't think that global warming is caused by man-made emissions of CO2-will render your accomplishments null and void for the majority of liberals.

We get it, though!

At 9/10/2008 4:22 PM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

Thanks! It's nice to see you "out and about" as they say.

(:D) Best regards...

At 9/10/2008 4:26 PM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

Thank you. And you're right, I'm sure that it's not good enough for some. There's just no pleasing pleasing people who refuse to face facts.

(:D) Best regards...

At 9/10/2008 8:24 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. You are a man of many talents--I keep discovering news ones!
Thanks for sharing.


At 9/11/2008 9:01 AM , Blogger Hawkeye® said...

Thanks! I guess I just suddenly felt the need to share. Hope all is well with you and yours.

(:D) Best regards...


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