Manassas Journal Messenger | County to try out environmental program

Prince William: Your leaders will not have anyone to fall on a sword for them when it comes to pollution.

County supervisors made that clear this week when they discussed more stringent environmental policies that are voluntary but raise the bar on internal oversight.

“Liability won’t end with a division manager. It will go all the way to this board and Mr. [county executive Craig] Gerhart,” said Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, whose law firm has represented companies found responsible for pollution. The CEOs go to jail, he said.

Prince William is going to participate in Virginia’s environmental excellence program, a voluntary program Manassas is already in. It sets criteria to encourage environmental management systems.

“For me to be able to go to sleep well at night, we need to know that this program does what it says,” he said.

Finance Department risk management staff David Wenzel said the county is “apparently meeting” Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and Environmental Protection Agency requirements.

Connaughton said the difference between the present and when the program is adopted is now if a landfill employee violated environmental laws, as long as the county board or division supervisors did not know about it, they would not be liable.

With the program, the county is saying it is looking over the worker’s shoulder, and if laws are broken, the county board and management can face civil and criminal penalties, he said.

“It won’t be held up as a shield. It will be used against us,” he said.

To implement the policy, the county in its current budget will spend $100,000 to train employees.

The county also needs to spend money to upgrade facilities.

Already the county has spent:

? $3 million to $3.5 million in solid waste improvements.

? $50,000 in fleet management upgrades.

? $65,500 to upgrade underground tanks at its buildings and grounds facility.

? $20,500 by environmental services division.

Wenzel said the county might add $600,000 to next year’s budget, including:

? an environmental management system manager position.

? $295,000 to the solid waste division to buy an aerosol disposal unit, a truck wash, and waste oil collection area upgrades.

? $300,000 for fleet management upgrades including an oil/water separator for the heavy equipment shop and testing of the old maintenance facility being turned over to county schools.

Prince William and other localities studied environmental liability after the City of Roanoke, as part of its settlement, presented to state jurisdictions on how it paid $6 million in fines in the mid-1990s for a long history of poor waste disposal with sporadic management oversight.

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