Environmental Training

Written by Shirley Parker
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Until you have seen dead and dying wildlife in polluted wetlands or unwittingly dragged out-of-state visitors through a dying lagoon area, the need for environmental training really doesn't hit home. You get "Heal the Bay" solicitations and "Don't Eat These Fish" warnings in the mail, but the impact tends to be minimal. Then you see the pollution for yourself or meet a group of mothers whose children have all developed cancer from wading, swimming, and fishing activities in a local pond, and environmental hazards are suddenly upfront and center.

Some forward-looking states have been providing comprehensive training for occupational safety and health for 20 years or more. Fewer have included environmental compliance in their technical arsenal. However, in heavily populated states, there is little choice but to comply or pay a heavy price in illness, goodwill lost, or in fines. But fines don't pay for the medical treatment of the thousands who are injured and sickened. Nor are they high enough, as a rule, to deter the worst of the repeat offenders discharging chemicals into waterways.

Municipal wastewater treatment facilities are strained to frequent breakdown point and still there isn't enough funding to upgrade the systems. Yet communities throughout the United States and in many other countries must comply with stringent water quality regulations. Our future literally depends on clean water. Centers for environmental training, as well as private schools, can provide much needed education and technical expertise to help smaller communities and manufacturers meet compliance deadlines, where such exist.

Some Environmental Changes Are Still Voluntary

While there is increasing pressure from various levels of government to implement clean manufacturing and waste disposal practices, some employers are choosing to be environmentally conscious for some very good, practical reasons. Not polluting in the first place means no cleanup expense later. Employees are healthier and happier and don't file lawsuits against the company. A public partnership with a known environmental training center reaps big rewards in community relations. And if a company can establish even a small preserve around its plant, where wildlife is obviously thriving, instead of dying, the ripple effect reaches other business enterprises that would like to be seen in the same positive light.

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