Many industries have the potential to impact the environment, from manufacturing to landscaping. Sometimes a hazardous byproduct cannot be avoided, but there are ways to properly dispose of it, and regulations regarding how, where and when you can do so. In this discussion, we'll highlight a few resources and provide examples of the sorts of regulations you might expect. The fines for violating environmental laws and regulations can be steep, rising into the hundred thousand dollar range. Even beyond the fine is the damage to a company's reputation. The impact on your business is far less if you comply with these environmental laws and regulations from the start.
The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, publishes a website that allows you to search for regulations based on your industry and by topic. For the purpose of this discussion, we'll follow the industry, or business sector, path. Feel free to click the heading above to visit the site and follow along. In the Construction industry, the laws and how to comply are split into Air, General, Lead, Waste and Water.
Suppose you're curious about regulations in place to protect the Ozone. You could follow to the link for Ozone protection and then learn that Dichlorofluoromethane, for example, is a substance currently being phased out--meaning it shouldn't be used if possible and soon it will be phased out and then could only be used in any situation the EPA deems necessary.
Under compliance, you could follow the Indoor airPLUS Construction Specifications and learn not only how your construction company can comply with air-related laws and regulations, but how to gain a benefit by being able to designate homes you build with the Indoor airPLUS label.
This handy link provides environmental laws, regulations and news by state. For example, here in Utah, you can view information about the Clean Air Act, specifically how it applies to the state. Resources such as the 2011 Compliance and Enforcement Results page provides examples of cases in the year 2011, such as Poplar Oil Field, in which the EPA issued an order to monitor municipal and private wells for contamination.
Sometimes it's easy to think, My business is so small--how can I possibly be negatively impacting the environment that much? Two things to consider here are that ideally, negative impacts on the environment aren't good both for the earth and for the people living on it--and can be damaging to your business' reputation as well. The other point to consider is that some substances get worse over time, or end up someplace you don't intend. It's difficult to imagine that any company intends toxins to get into, for example, a public water supply, but once there, the entire water supply may be contaminated.
The EPA offers programs to help small businesses become and remain compliant. This portal also provides a path to communicating with the EPA regarding the impact your business may or may not have on the environment.