Aspects and Impacts
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Environmental Aspects are any element of the Multi-Site Environmental Management Systems that can interact with the environment. The environmental aspect of an activity is that part of it that creates a possibility for an environmental impact. As such, it is equivalent to the concept of a “hazard” which is also defined as the possibility of a negative event.
Aspects can be thought of as the cause for an interaction with the environment. For example, we might use electricity, chemicals and other supplies including paper to analyze samples and report results we use in protecting human health or the environment. In the process of analyzing samples to produce data for making decisions we generate waste and although great strides have been made in reducing this over the years some waste is still produced. The footprint that results from doing something or using something can have an impact on the environment.
Environmental Impacts are any change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from the facilities’ activities, products or services. A potential environmental impact is equivalent to the concept of "risk" which assigns a probability and magnitude to the possible negative event that may result from a "hazard".
Impacts can be thought of as the effect on the environment and can be harmful or beneficial. For example, the use of electricity produced from the burning of fossil fuel creates greenhouse gas and other emissions that contribute to climate change and acidification.
Activity / Product / Service
An activity is a natural or normal function of an organization. A product is what we produce. A service is performing any of the business functions auxiliary to our production or distribution.
Significant Environmental Aspects
A Significant Environmental Aspect is an aspect that has been determined by the organization to be “significant” relative to the other environmental aspects. The criteria used to determine which impacts are potentially “significant” and which are not, have been defined as per our Environmental Procedure # and are used by all facilities. Various characteristics are used in the criteria: e.g. legal requirements, magnitude of impact, and likelihood of impact. Aspects that are regulated by law are to be classified as significant environmental aspects regardless of other significance attributes.
Our EPA Mid-Atlantic Multisite EMS considered all these factors and EPA agencywide objectives and targets or goals in establishing our significant aspects.
Below is a list of significant aspects we have identified for our EPA Mid-Atlantic Multisite EMS. This table also lists the impacts to the environment from these significant aspects.
|Green House Gas and Other Air Emissions (Stationary, Mobile, Fugitive)||Acidification, Depletion of Natural Resources, Eutrophication, Explosions, Global Climate Change, Increase in Ground level Ozone, Radiation, Release of Microbes|
|Discharge to Water||Eutrophication, Global Climate Change, Release of Microbes|
|Generation of Waste||Depletion of Natural Resources, Global Climate Change, Sedimentation|
|Use of Electricity||Acidification, Depletion of Natural Resources, Eutrophication, Explosions, Global Climate Change, Increase in Ground Level Ozone|
|Use of Supplies (Materials and Chemicals)||Depletion of Natural Resources, Global Climate Change, Sedimentation|
|Use of Petroleum (gasoline, diesel, oil and gas)||Acidification, Depletion of Natural Resources, Eutrophication, Explosions, Global Climate Change, Increase in Ground Level Ozone|
|Use of Paper||Depletion of Natural Resources, Global Climate Change, Sedimentation|
|Use of Water||Depletion of Natural Resources, Global Climate Change|
After identifying our significant aspects, the next step was to establish objectives and targets for these aspects to reduce their impact on the environment