WSU Students Get Lessons in Real World Environmental Science

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University students pursuing a degree in environmental science are getting the opportunity to have hands-on career experience and learn ways to save the environment from pollution.

Dwight Hagihara, director of WSU Environmental Health and Safety, is teaching a class titled Introduction to Environmental Management Systems. He says the class is an opportunity for students pursuing a career in environmental health and safety to get experience and focus on teamwork while in college.

“These people are ready to go into the real world,” he said of the students that take the course.

“The course is offered through the Environmental Science and Regional Planning program. The first half of the course focuses on lectures and information about how environmental management systems fit into job opportunities,” Hagihara said. “The second half is for students to apply their knowledge by working with operations at WSU and businesses in and around Pullman to develop environmental management systems, or pollution prevention plans.”

The students, in small groups, first research the operation’s practices and the hazardous waste associated with the operation. Then, they write a unique management plan for each plant. The plans identify potential pollution areas and offer several different solutions.

“The idea is to help businesses and operations take a proactive approach to pollution prevention rather than waiting until pollution occurs,” Hagihara said. “It emphasizes looking upstream for pollution problems.”

One of the plans written by the class has saved WSU Publications and Printing about $95,000, Hagihara said.

The International Standards Organization for environmental regulations develops the standard, called ISO 14000, which the students and businesses work to attain.

The idea for this year’s project came from the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Labs 21” initiative. The initiative is a voluntary program targeting scientific laboratories and finding ways to save them money while improving the environment.

Laboratories are targeted because they require millions of dollars worth of energy to run and add thousands of pounds of pollution to the air, soil and water, according to the EPA Web site.

“The students this year will draft a lab design standard for future labs and remodeling of current labs,” Hagihara said.

“Both sides benefit,” Hagihara said. “We manage their hazardous wastes and make it cheaper for the companies, and students get to apply what they’ve learned.”

This year, the class also will be working with WSU Facilities Development, which is in charge of new construction and renovations on campus.

“We’re always enthusiastic about participating in teaching students,” said Bill Turner of Facilities Development. “We like to talk to students about the planning and architectural considerations that underpin the creation of good facilities.”

“Several major new laboratory facilities are in the ten-year capital plan for the university, so the timing for this project is good,” Turner said.

“Facilities Development is researching the latest laboratory standards right now, and we look forward to sharing what we learn with the students,” he said.

Some businesses the class has written plans for in the past include Colfax Body Shop, McGregor Agricultural Chemicals, Triticum Press, New University Printing and Clyde’s Auto Service.