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Environmental Management

Includes: environmental inspections.

Van Lewis, Manager (17 years with M&O, manager 7 years) 9 Inspectors/staff

The Environmental Management Department supports M&O as well as the Facilities Design + Construction Division. Its certified inspectors (in various environmental specialties) perform EPA and OSHA mandated environmental inspections and oversee the resolving of issues discovered. Detected dangerous levels of contaminants (asbestos, mold, radon, and lead) are attended to immediately in maintaining ambient indoor air quality throughout the District. Contaminant issues also arise with the carrying out of M&O repairs and FD+C renovations, demolitions, and even new construction.

In addition to complying with federal mandates in conducting every three year asbestos inspections, the Department also performs regularly scheduled drinking and waste water sampling to confirm that the District is in compliance with state and federal regulations. The Department immediately corrects any irregularities found in preventing future issues.

Clean and safe indoor air is obligatory to student focus, comprehension, and academic achievement! APS established its own Environmental Management Department in 1989 when EPA’s asbestos regulations became effective not only for students’ well-being and health, but also because it was the smartest and most expense efficient solution to managing safe and comfortable learning environments. APS’ Environmental Management Department is not only the sole in-house environmental function throughout New Mexico school districts, it is also one of only a few nationwide. Its purpose is not driven by profit, but rather is motivated by the safety and comfort of students, staff, and other occupants at an immeasurable savings to the District and local taxpayers. In its service to APS’ occupants, the District has never failed an EPA asbestos inspection audit nor has been cited for non-compliance of any environmental regulation, which is extremely extensive.

The staff has well over 100 years of combined experience in the environmental field and maintains 20 plus specialized environmental certificates and licenses that include Asbestos Contractor Supervisor, Asbestos Inspector, Asbestos Management Planner, and Asbestos Project Designer. Certifications are also required in Hazardous Waste Operations, Water Quality, Waste Water Systems, and Indoor Air Quality. These amply competent and proven professionals perform work as District employees at considerably less than the average environmental consultation rate of $75-$150 per hour. The Department more than pays for itself in continuously staying ahead of the eight ball by controlling costs and liabilities in the management of environmental issues.

Because the Department’s work is largely directed by EPA and OSHA regulations and is not reactionary — in that something is broken that needs fixing — previous Year End Reports have stated that the greatest percentage of work orders are “preventive” maintenance. While regular inspections do in fact prevent environments from becoming noxious or even unpleasant, it is not PM work in the conventional sense of the term; the PM concept doesn’t quite apply to the Department’s functions. Also, “reactive” work can be significant in terms of time and cost and varies widely from year to year. It is work initiated by other M&O Departments, FD+C, or occupants of schools or other facilities. Occupant complaints, responded to immediately, are the lessor of the reactive work orders and are most often about suspicious odors. The more time and cost intensive work ensues because a repair or construction project will impact building material, floors, ceilings, walls, or plumbing, that may contain hazardous toxins. In such a case, the applicable M&O Department or FD+C must request an AHERA Compliance Work Plan prior to starting the repair or building work. The Environmental Management Department is responsible for reviewing the historical data of the site, taking samples of affected materials for analysis, and generating the AHERA permit. The permit authorizes and details precisely how to safely carry out the work in the specified area. In the case of a large project (see first Highlight below), the role of environmental inspectors is broadly extended as developing specific protocols and overseeing the work of contractors is paramount to managing costs and ensuring the safe handling of hazardous materials. It is safe to claim, however, that all tasks that can be managed through PM Direct currently are.


Designed demolition plan, prepared documentation, and supervised demolition of the old Del Norte High School

The rebuild of Del Norte High School required the demolition of the old school, which proved to be no easy task. The comprehensive inspection of the old buildings entailed looking at every building material and identifying asbestos containing material as well as other environmental concerns that would be impacted by the demolition. Regulation dictates that all asbestos has to be removed prior to demolition, however, in the case of the old Del Norte, most of it was concealed.

Following the inspection, the Environmental Management Department Manager wrote the design specifications for precisely how the asbestos portion of the demolition was to be carried out. The enormous job was put out to bid as it was too large for the District’s current approved contractor, due to the asbestos being so connected to the demolition. The proposing contractors had to propose for both the asbestos removal and the demolition, as in this unique case they would be carried out concurrently. Proposers were required to submit a detailed demolition removal plan for review by the Environmental Department Manager.

Supervised by the Department Manager, the local winning demolition team had to be made aware of asbestos throughout all four of the structures to be torn down in Phase I of the new building project and alert to identifying it. (Another three buildings are slated for demolition in Phase II of the project.) Vermiculite, a popular insulation due to its properties as a lightweight, fire-resistant, absorbent, and odorless material, was found inside the cinder block hollows of the old school. This particular Vermiculite, however, contained more than the EPA allowed percentage of asbestos containing material.

The art of removing the secreted asbestos served as 80% of the demolition project. The demolition operation had to meet strict standards, as legal, financial, and health safety liability requires that it be done correctly. All buildings had to be knocked down and cleaned up within a contained environment by technicians donning protective suits and respirators. The entire structure was sealed in plastic and HEPA filtered exhaust machines trapped the asbestos fibers in a negative pressure containment that drew the filtered air outdoors. Due to careful planning and oversight by the Department Manager, the problematic job was carried out to exact specifications.

Streamlined routine inspections

Performing three-year inspections on a programmed PM schedule has become problematic due to the volume of reactive work to be performed by a limited number of inspectors. Consequently, inspections are now conducted while the inspector is on site performing another task. The need to be as time efficient as possible has necessitated this economical practice.

Sending materials analysis to various laboratories proved successful

In the last fiscal year, the Department awarded sample analysis contracts to three price competitive chemistry labs. Work turnaround and invoices pertaining to the newly engaged laboratories were reviewed, and the switch from previously using the sole in-state laboratory at a considerably greater cost to the other labs was evidenced to be successful and expense saving. Only the minority of sample tests needed immediately in regard to emergency situations are now sent to the emergency laboratory.

Mentoring new in-house insurance adjusters

The APS Risk Management Division ceased using contract adjusters and hired in-house adjusters in the last fiscal year; however, they have limited structural experience. The Environmental Management Department Manager and inspectors are mentoring the adjusters in identifying the scale of the repair work to be performed at all District facilities. It takes time and averts their attention away from their already demanding responsibilities, but saves time and financial resources in the long term. Unfortunately, contractors consider disaster-caused damage covered by insurance a good opportunity to repair “beyond need,” driving up the price. In guiding adjusters in determining the scope-of-project for contractors, damage restoration is completed more cost and time efficiently.

Replaced electronic notebooks with iPads in remotely accessing the Asbestos Management Plan database

The inspectors’ ability to remotely access their office computers via the APS Intranet using a mobile device saves them from having to tow reams of printed information to school sites. And switching from notebooks to iPads has made their job even more user friendly, faster, and less cumbersome. The notebooks were repurposed for use by technicians in the Key Shop.

Reconstruct main boiler room and water treatment system at Corrales Elementary School

Stripped the entire water system in the boiler room and installed new pressure tanks and greatly simplified the school’s potable water system. An automated chlorination system was added that continuously monitors and adjusts the dispensing of chlorine in keeping the drinking water safe; chlorine levels shift as volume fluctuates. The Department also re-piped the remaining older part of the campus to reduce the lead concentration in the water and eliminate the need for lead treatment. The desperately needed reconstruction was designed several years ago, but the $100,000 expense had delayed the project, which is now complete.

New PM program

  • Drinking water compliance sampling at the four APS schools served by wells as they are located outside of the municipal water utility’s service area (Los Padillas Elementary, Corrales Elementary, Polk Middle School, and Sandia Rec, the District’s outdoor museum).
  • Environmental instrument calibration schedules for the technical analysis instrumentation that requires annual factory mandated calibration to ensure accurate measurements. Most of the Department’s instrumentation requires annual testing and adjustment.

Special Challenge / Issue

Tracking PM tricky

As routine inspections can’t be tracked in SchoolDude but would be considered PM, for lack of a better classification, the Department is challenged in correctly presenting a picture of the work performed through SchoolDude figures. An accurate representation of the Department’s PM production is, however, desirable. The Manager and the inspectors are confronted daily with accomplishing this task, which would be beneficial, without greatly inhibiting productivity.


Status of 2012-13 Goals

  • Perform a complete redesign and reconstruct the main boiler room and water treatment system at Corrales Elementary School. This project is necessary to facilitate proper drinking water treatment and ensure that safe and healthy water is provided at the school. Done. See Highlight above.

2013-14 Goals

  • Refurbish the wetland cells to ensure proper waste water treatment at Corrales Elementary School. Due to the age of the wetlands, cells have become overgrown and not working as economically or ecologically as designed.
  • Draft Department Procedures Manual. In progress.
  • Redistribute tasks of the Inspectors to be more specialized and conserve time and resources. Currently all Inspectors perform all environmental tasks at their assigned schools. Process was started in the last fiscal year but has not been fully developed.
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