A unique coalition of environmental organizations, citizen activists, and the Dow Chemical Company announced in July that they have achieved dramatic pollution savings over a two-year period at one of the nation's largest chemical-manufacturing plants. The production process rather than traditional "end-of-pipe" cleanup was the focus of the project, which brought activists and plant managers together for face-to-face discussions on priorities and methods. The team of experts and activists devised and implemented new production techniques that have cut pollution more than 37 percent while saving Dow Chemical millions of dollars at its plant in Midland, Michigan.
Linda E. Greer, Ph.D., senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which spearheaded the effort, said that the new model "doesn't replace the need for environmental regulation, but it does provide a new avenue for achieving environmental goals: good for business, good for the environment."
Dr. Greer cited the combination of three ingredients as critical to the project's success:
* community input on project design and follow-through,
* outside engineering expertise, and
* Dow's willingness to engage forthrightly in the process.
The pollution prevention initiative was launched two years ago to test the proposition that large-scale pollution prevention could be accomplished at a reasonable cost. NRDC, joined by Diane Hebert and Mary Sinclair, two midland residents, as well as by representatives from Lone Tree Council, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, and the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, negotiated with Dow on targeting a list of high-priority toxic chemicals emitted from the plant. They established a quantitative reduction goal of 35 percent for wastes and 25 percent for releases within two years...