A shift to management by technology
by Sarah Smith
Sarah Smith About the Author
Sarah Smith is president of Madison Environmental Group, a consulting firm based in Boxford, MA. She specializes in FBO/ airportrelated environmental management and resolution, and has managed projects for aviation, petroleum, and industrial interests. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (978) 352 5086.
Regulations for noise, air, water, oil storage, waste generation, etc. continue to evolve, and airports and operators continue to climb the uphill battle of what to do and how. A simple yet proven solution is to shift from a state of confusion to one of Management by Technology.
Understanding the applicability of environmental rules and regulations to the aviation industry continues to be a challenge. In general, regulations are not written specifically for airport operations, which can make compliance management difficult and expensive. As a result, the regulations are subject to interpretation by an owner or operator which in the end may not match the interpretation by an inspector. The savvy manager should plan on shifting from the 1990s style of paper management to the most economical, efficient, and accurate style of Management by Technology. This is how it works.
To manage environmental compliance, one must first create an inventory profile — an activity or item which may be subject to a local, state, or federal rule or regulation or in some way is connected to the regulated item. Inventory is entered into an Environmental Management Inventory System (EMIS). Essentially, the EMIS is the dictionary to the facility.
The Geographical Information System (GIS) is used as the platform to "layer" airport features including CAD files, topographic maps, wetlands features, noise contours, aerial photographs, etc. for an imagery relationship to the inventory in the customized EMIS database. The relationship of the database to the image creates a "smart map" of the facility.
An inventory profile may include: the size, use, and tenant data of a leasehold parcel, the facility type (air craft storage hangar, maintenance hangar, Thangar, terminal building, office), environmental data (asbestos, assessment, remediation, storage tank removal, monitoring) or construction projects. For airport owners and operators, inventory data may include property valuations, a tenant database, fuel facility locations and hydrant systems, utility locations, etc.
The information may already exist in one form or another and is combined into one profile to create a customized database and smart map. An example may be an aircraft hangar that is leased to a tenant for aircraft washing, yet the floor drains connect to a storm sewer. Knowledge of the activity (washing) in the hangar (item) would trigger a link to the applicable regulation or a best management practice. Now the issue can be managed before something goes through the floor drain that would violate a rule or regulation.
The inventory of a tenant facility may include oil storage tanks, chemicals and waste generation points, location of potential pollution sources (i.e. deicing, equipment washing stations, fueling operations), hangar use, hangar construction, heating oil tanks, and oil/water separators. Data is entered into the EMIS and depicted in the smart map to visually display the data point. A data point could be a 55 gallon drum of mineral spirits or a 25,000square foot hangar that’s subleased to a flight department.
Environmental projects pending or ongoing at a facility should be included in the inventory. An environmental site may be an area where a fuel spill occurred and the incident was reported to the state agency. The release would have a tracking number associated with the incident that links to the state’s regulatory database. Data collected from an environmental site may include the date the tanks were pulled, soil/groundwater quality data, or the status of the project.
Knowing the data to include in the inventory profile is accomplished through electronic auditing. The Electronic Auditing Tool© prompts the user on areas to investigate and asks specific questions for the operation. The Electronic Auditing Tool© is customized for the airport, the fixed base operator, the airline, and the cargo operator, and consists of a handheld data assistant used to collect information relative to the environmental, facility, or safety audit. Once complete, data is linked via wireless technology directly into the EMIS database and GIS imagery as the means to query the data.
In some cases, there may be databases that already exist in Excel or Accesstype databases which can be transferred into the EMIS database. An example would be a contractor’s database or a base tenant. For airports, the information may be connected with a property valuation and rent analysis. Whatever the information, the data are entered into the EMIS and accessed through pulldown menus for the various items.
The database is multitiered and depends on the inventory profile. A platinum level database, for example, may include links to OSHA and EPA regulations in relationship to the use of a tenant’s parcel. A gold level may include legal descriptions of a parcel, facility description, subtenant lease agreements, fuel storage operation, etc. A silver level may be limited to environmental features.
New wireless telecommunications technologies offer exciting new possibilities for the shift to Management by Technology. While sensors that can continuously record environmental or operational conditions have been used for many years, the new wireless technologies will enable realtime data transfer. Noise, air quality, surface water quality and flow, and groundwater conditions can be monitored on a continuous basis.
EMIS, GIS, and remote sensors bundled together make an excellent tool to monitor realtime events. Paybacks into these technologies can be relatively short when the prevention, operation, and implementation perspectives are considered. Remote sensors are used to send data through wireless technology to the EMIS database that is linked to the GIS to automate and control airport environmental issues (noise, air, water, fuel, etc.). Wireless has revolutionized how data is collected and transferred into a customized database.
Security monitoring and location of security access points is readily linked to the database for visual observation and surveillance.
Once the electronic audit and/or the wireless real—time monitoring is transferred into the EMIS and GIS, the information is visually accessible through a desk or laptop computer. What one sees is a map of the airport and a depiction of the subject site (an entire airport or individual leasehold). The site would be in realtime coordinates to submeter accuracy.
A pull—down menu for an FBO may include fuel facility, hangars, environmental projects, compliance plans, registration and insurance documents, aircraft fueling, etc. An airport menu may include a tenant’s database, documents database, properties, and environmental issues.
The click of a button provides information needed to research a particular issue, field a question, or access information as needed. A pending inspection by EPA in which they want to see the SPCC Plan, the Certificate of Financial Responsibility, and the tank registration form is made easy — click, click, click and print. The operator is ready for an inspection, for due diligence, or for a meeting with the airport to negotiate a lease extension.
By web—enabling the application, managers and decisionmakers within an organization can view the same data and reports as the person making them. Project stakeholders have access at preapproved security levels.