Winner by a nose

May 10, 2005

Many modern-day communities would frown on the idea of having a hot-mix asphalt plant (HMA) in their backyard; however, Staker and Parson Cos. have proven that the two can happily coexist.

Many modern-day communities would frown on the idea of having a hot-mix asphalt plant (HMA) in their backyard; however, Staker and Parson Cos. have proven that the two can happily coexist.

As environmental pressures increase in a society that has made recycling fashionable, the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) reaffirmed the importance of ecological awareness by awarding the Ogden, Utah-based plant the 2004 Ecological Award for excellence of HMA facility operations. The company received the award on Feb. 15 at a special ceremony at the association’s 50th annual convention, “Pavement Paradise,” in Hawaii.

Using meticulous evaluation criteria, NAPA has been recognizing the most environmentally aware HMA facilities with an annual ecological award, which began in 1971. Eligible companies are judged on facility design, layout and appearance, clean operations, maintenance performance practices and community involvement. The company must have programs in place for the environment and the community and it also must be a NAPA Diamond Achievement Award winner in order to be considered for recognition.

The plant owners themselves submit award entries to the NAPA Awards Sub-Committee. This 10-member committee meets in late October to review all of the entries and determine which company best fits the criteria. The runners-up for the 2004 HMA Ecological Award were Granite Construction of Sacramento, Calif., and Valley Asphalt Corp. of Cincinnati, Ohio.

“NAPA selects the award recipients using rigorous criteria to evaluate the environmental friendliness of their operations,” said Charles Potts, chairman of the NAPA board of directors. “The judges determined that Staker and Parson Companies operate in an exemplary manner.”

Paving the ecological way

Originally built in 1985, the plant was replaced in 2002 with a state-of-the-art Cedarapids plant. Staker and Parson currently operates with a counter-flow drum mix plant that produces an average of 2,000 tons of HMA per day and approximately 400,000 tons per year.

“The counter-flow technology is the latest and greatest technology for asphalt plants for reduction of emissions,” said Environmental Manager Paul Glauser. The counter-flow drum mix technology provides facilities with continuous output and consistent quality, as well as low noise and exhaust emissions.

Along with operating an environmentally efficient drum mix plant, Staker and Parson controls air pollutants and particulate matter such as nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides by using a baghouse that is considered to be 99.9% efficient.

The EPA and local states regulate hazardous air pollutants with a set standard limitation on emissions, known as the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). “For the hot-mix asphalt industry, our emissions are quite low compared to those standards set by the NAAQS,” said Glauser.

Company employees also frequently wash down the facility’s equipment and the surrounding area to control the dust created by rocks and sand.

Staker and Parson operates with a high-tech system of underground drains and an on-site containment area that captures water and particulate matter. The water is carried to one of two holding ponds where the particulate matter is filtered out.

The attractive appearance and landscaping of Staker and Parson also was a significant constituent of the evaluation process. The plant is heavily landscaped with trees, grass, shrubs and flower beds. Many species of wild animals have even found a habitat in the vegetation that has grown around the containment area. A visually appealing facility is important for Staker and Parson because the plant can be seen from the nearby freeway and the area’s main thoroughfares.

“We put a lot of money into keeping our plants running and mechanically sound and into the aesthetics of them as well,” said Greg Gordon, Staker and Parson’s asphalt plant superintendent. “We believe that ecology should be important to everyone, so we’re always doing anything we can to protect our neighbors.”

Good neighbors

Along with being an ecologically friendly facility, award recipients also must have an active role in the communities that surround them. Staker and Parson has proven that they are able to successfully work with and help educate their communities about the HMA facility, as well as the environment in which they all work and live.

Nearly a decade ago, the Ogden facility had difficulties with its gravel pits, angering the nearby community. “People were complaining and neighborhood groups were organizing, saying things like ‘We don’t want you here!’” said Glauser. “We saw a need to help educate these neighbors and put together neighborhood work groups.”

The company invited neighbors to talk with them, ask any questions they may have and to offer input to make their facility become better. “As we started to develop these relationships with the neighborhoods and with the regulators and various communities, we saw a need to do more outreach,” said Glauser.

As a result of the well-received neighborhood work groups, Staker and Parson began to develop programs to educate local elementary students by opening their facility for group tours.

For students, a field trip to the Staker and Parson plant involves a full day of activities. “We have group tours where we go out and look at the plants and the ready mix, crushing and asphalt plant operations,” said Glauser.

Along with facility tours, the company offers several educational programs for students to participate in. The company developed a program called “Rocks Build our World,” in which they educate local fourth-graders about the importance of minerals, mining and the construction industry, in addition to how asphalt and concrete are made. The program aims to help students better understand the importance of aggregate products and their relationship with the community and environment.

The program helps students “understand that without sand, gravel and rocks, we wouldn’t have roads, homes, churches, schools or any of the infrastructure or buildings that we have in our community,” said Glauser.

The curriculum also emphasizes the significance of environmental responsibility, “what we as a company have to do in order to be responsible stewards of the environment and [the importance] of reclamation projects after we mine,” Glauser explained.

In addition to the “Rocks Build our World” program, students can partake in activities such as Cookie Mining, a game that helps illustrate the economics of mining, as well as matching and memory games.

When students visit the facility, they receive an activity book that was written by Glauser. “It’s kind of a Dr. Seuss version of our industry,” he said. The book discusses safety as being important, explains all operations (sand, gravel, concrete and asphalt) and concludes with the importance of reclamation.

“We spend about two hours going through the process of teaching kids and helping them understand in a fun, interactive way the importance of these operations that are in our economy and in our lives,” said Glauser. The outreach programs for students have become such a success, during the 2003-04 school year the company presented the program to more than 800 students. Staker and Parson Cos. also donates time, money and materials to several charities, provides scholarships for college students and participates in community activities such as festivals and parades.

With the newly designed and ecologically friendly HMA plant, attractive landscape and successful educational programs for local communities and students, Staker and Parson Cos. has proven they are able to run a flourishing HMA plant while protecting the environment as well as their neighbors.

According to Peter Alex, chair of the NAPA Awards Committee, “Earning this award serves as a signal to neighbors that Staker and Parson Companies is a good neighbor who will go the extra mile for excellence.”

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