A Must-Have for Your Next Capital Improvement Project


It’s that most wonderful time of the year…

Many businesses are planning to move forward with capital improvement projects, whether they are additions to existing operational facilities or brand-new facilities under development.

In either case, I can’t stress enough the importance of figuring out what environmental permits are needed and having them in place – prior to initiating any site work. Even if you are simply adding on to an existing facility, don’t assume that previous or current permits will have you covered.

These permits fall into two categories:

1.     The process/manufacturing end. These permits will cover what you plan to do in this new facility or the new section of your facility.

2.     The actual construction for this capital improvement. These permits will cover you as you complete the work.

I see facilities running into three significant compliance issues with regards to capital improvements:

·        A facility, either the existing facility or a construction site, doesn’t have a permit in place when needed.

·        They have a permit… but it’s not the correct one.

·        They have a permit, and it’s the right one. But they did not read the permit thoroughly and, as a result, did not follow the permit conditions correctly.

The Need for Effective Permit Management

Another issue I’ve seen with regard to managing permits and permit conditions is that at the beginning of the capital improvement project, everybody involved is on board, including facility owners, staff, contractors, and the rest.

They are diligent in keeping everything up to date and making sure all permit conditions are accounted for. But as time goes on, especially in long-term capital improvement projects, like a site redevelopment, for example, management of permits can all too easily fall by the wayside.

This can mean trouble, if for example, a regulator shows up at the construction site and you don’t have everything in place.

Often a regulator will be on site at the beginning of the project. Usually, facilities have the proper permits at that point.

However, it’s in the later phases that problems often arise. Different phases of a project might require a change in a permit or an additional permit because conditions at the site have changed or additional activities have been put in place.

My advice is to put someone in charge of making sure the proper permits are ready at every step of the project, a permit manager. This person should be charged with coordinating with management, consultants, contractors, and anybody else involved. And all those folks should be required to keep this person in the loop with any changes, developments, emergencies, delays, etc.

If you don’t identify a permit manager, there can be a tendency for everyone to assume someone else is taking care of permits. That’s when permits are forgotten, and problems crop up.

Part of that work in monitoring permits is to make sure the right parties are identified.

For example, at the beginning of many capital improvement projects, there is an assignment of responsibilities.

For example, Mr. Contractor is responsible for storm water management and compliance at the construction site. Oftentimes, that permit will be issued in the name of the contractor, but the property owner is also listed on that permit.

The problem is that if there is an issue, and a regulator issues a notice of violation and fine, both parties will appear on that NOV.

So, part of that permit manager’s job is to make sure everybody stays on top of their permits and is doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Not doing so can have even more serious ramifications than just one notice of violation.

Let’s say one party is not holding their end up, and a regulator shows up for spot inspections for stormwater issues on the construction project.

The regulator is making sure the proper inspections are being done, samples are being collected, readings are being recorded, the right monitoring is in place, etc. The regulator is also making sure that the right equipment, like filter socks or hay bales, is in place and being properly used to prevent sediment erosion and transport.

What happens when they show up and the site is a mess? There are soil piles all over the place, with sediment washing all over… The NOV is filed.

But that’s not the end of the story.

When that inspector goes back to the office he’s going to chat with his colleagues.

He might tell the hazardous waste folks that he was just out at a site that had a lot of issues with stormwater management. “There was really no management in place,” he might say. “And, oh, by the way, I noticed a bunch of drums staged in an area of the site. If they’re managing hazardous waste storage like they are stormwater, you should probably go out there.”

Soon other departments from that regulatory agency will come out to do inspections to check compliance throughout your facility. You’ll find you’re under a lot of scrutiny.

This can even happen for facilities that are operating. In this case, the regulator is on-site to check out the area of the capital improvement project—the construction activity. If they find that permit management is out of step, you’ll have more inspections, not just at the construction site, but they will also be looking at your manufacturing process and if you’re complying with permits correctly there.

The best way to avoid that extra scrutiny from regulators—and to avoid fines, penalties, even a temporary closure of a facility—is to never assume “somebody” is taking care of your permits. You should name a “permit manager” as overseer of all things permits, tasked with making sure permit management is consistent and ensuring that everybody involved in the capital improvement knows their responsibilities.

They’ll confirm it’s all being taken care of from start to finish.

Planning a capital improvement project? My team and I are happy to help you with permit management. Just call me, Mark Roman, at 609-208-1885 or get in touch via email at markroman@envisionenvironmental.com.

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