APWA delegation attends Mexican Public Works Conference in Huatulco, Mexico

Bob Kass
Public Works Director
City of Campbell, California
Chair, APWA/AMMAC Task Force

A tanned and well-fed delegation of APWA members recently returned from the 11th annual Mexican Municipalities Association (AMMAC) Public Works and Services Congress, held in Huatulco, Mexico, May 19 through 21, 2004. APWA has been participating in this annual event for nearly a decade, and it has become an important venue for renewing friendships, sharing expertise, and coordinating joint projects as part of the ongoing partnership between APWA and AMMAC.

Because this year's event conflicted with National Public Works Week, APWA President Dwayne Kalynchuk was unable to attend. Larry Lux, of Lux Advisors, Ltd., a longtime APWA Board Member and the Board's liaison to the International Affairs Committee, aptly represented Kalynchuk at the Congress, which was held at the beautiful Barcelo Resort Hotel located on one of the picturesque seven "Bays of Huatulco."

Attendees salute the Mexican flag as the Mexican Anthem is played during the Opening Ceremonies.

The opening ceremonies featured Jose Murat, Governor of the State of Oaxaca, and Norberto Aragon Ogarrio, Mayor of Huatulco. Larry Lux then shared the limelight with Monica Maria del Rosario Barrera Rivera, from the Federal Secretariat of Communication and Transportation. Lux's presentation was translated by Octavio Chavez, who heads up the Guadalajara office of the International City/County Managers Association (ICMA) and has long been involved in fostering a more active relationship between U.S. and Mexican officials.

The highlight of Lux's presentation was the announcement that a Spanish translation of APWA's Public Works Management Practices Manual was in final production and that copies of this manual would be available for purchase at the Atlanta Congress. This has been a major undertaking by APWA over the last year and represents a major effort on the part of APWA to provide resources to Latin American countries in their native language.

APWA delegation (left to right) Jose Gamboa, Zeferino Zanchez, Irma Myers, Bernardo Garcia, and Larry Lux

Other APWA members attending this year's Congress included Bernardo Garcia, Assistant County Administrator for Hillsborough County, Florida; Jennings Randolph Fellow Jose Gamboa, Superintendent of Solid Waste for the City of Santa Cruz, California; Irma Myers, Assistant to the Public Works Director for the City of Yuma, Arizona; and architect Zeferino Zanchez, a Tijuana-based consultant and member of APWA's International Affairs Committee who has been an important liaison between APWA and AMMAC for many years.

One of the best attended sessions of the three-day conference was the presentation by Bernardo Garcia, with assistance from Irma Myers, entitled "Urban Growth: New Urbanism and Smart Growth," a timely topic for Mexican as well as North American public works professionals. Jose Gamboa was also a featured speaker, reporting on his Jennings Randolph Fund-supported trip to the City of Aguascalientes, where he presented a session on "Quality Certification in the Management of Solid Waste" (see following article).

At the conclusion of their presentation on Smart Growth, APWA members Bernardo Garcia and Irma Myers answered a host of additional questions.

Of course, the three-day conference was not all business, as hosted dinners each night featured the finest in local Mexican cuisine and fresh seafood. The Thursday night dinner, hosted by the local Tourism Council, also featured a performance of local Oaxacan dance and music.

One of the goals of the APWA/AMMAC Task Force over the next several months is to actively market the upcoming APWA Congress in Atlanta to other Latin American countries, using AMMAC's contacts throughout Latin America. APWA has much to offer, and Latin America has much to share, by expanding the network of professional and personal relationships beyond Mexico to the growing Latin American marketplace.

For more information on the APWA/AMMAC Task Force contact Bob Kass, City of Campbell Public Works Director, at or at (408) 866-2150.

Para informacion en espanol acerca APWA o el Congreso Nacional en Atlanta, contacta a: Lillie Plowman, (800) 848-APWA,

Environmental management program for landfill operations

Jose G. Gamboa
Superintendent of Solid Waste
Department of Public Works, Resource Recovery Facility
City of Santa Cruz, California
Member, APWA/AMMAC Task Force

Editor's Note: Jose G. Gamboa was the recipient of a Jennings Randolph Fellowship for an exchange program with AMMAC. He studied the ISO certification process during his visit to the recent AMMAC Conference, submitted the following article reflecting his experiences, and will make a presentation at the 2005 APWA Congress and Exposition on his findings.

The Resource Recovery and Conservation Act provides mandated guidelines for the design and monitoring of landfill activities. Furthermore, it ensures that the financial and physical integrity of a landfill is protected from environmental deterioration or legal risk after final closure. Therefore, since Subtitle D became the federal rule for designing and operating new landfill work areas, every landfill in the country must obey identical guidelines.

The Subtitle D regulation not only increased the engineering, managerial, and operational sophistication of landfills, but it also made every square yard of space more valuable due to the added cost created by the regulation.

The regulation ensured the protection of the citizens and the environment. But it is the community that makes the financial contributions essential for meeting federal, state and local compliance.

While the manufacturing and service sectors have embraced an international standard system known as ISO 9002 and ISO 14001, and although these standards are adopted by governmental agencies from other countries, our local and state governments have not followed these international trends.

ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization. The ISO 9002 standard helps organizations develop and establish quality management and quality assurance.

The implementation process provides the framework to guide organizations towards improved performance. Eight quality management principles are defined in ISO 9002 and they are: customer focus, leadership, involvement of people, process approach, system approach to management, continual improvement, factual approach to decision making, and mutual beneficial supplier relationship.

The ISO 14001 environmental management standard, just like ISO 9002, is designed to meet the needs of all stockholders including business, industry, governmental authorities and non-governmental organizations as well as consumers. The benefit is not only environmental, but implementation of this standard reduces risk and liability. Furthermore, by reducing or eliminating impacts to the environment derived from the activities of the organization, it also benefits the local and global community. ISO 14001 has developed more than 350 standards for monitoring air, water and soil, as well as noise and radiation.

The fundamental elements of ISO 14001 are included in the framework and guidance of the Standard Environmental Operating Procedures:

  • Planning: Identification and assessment of environmental aspects, impacts and other significant characteristics. The procedure includes setting environmental objectives and targets.

  • Environmental Aspects Identification: This procedure identifies the universe of activities for assessment of the environmental impact related to the activities, products and services associated with the operation. The procedure is a key reference to setting environmental objectives and targets.

  • Legal and Other Requirements: These procedures describe the method for identifying the legal and local requirements applicable to the operation of the organization along with the laws, regulations, and any other requirements established by the federal, state or local government.

  • Environmental Objectives and Targets: The purpose and scope of this procedure is to provide guidance for establishing, prioritizing, and periodically updating relevant environmental targets.

  • Environmental Management Program: This program establishes and maintains the Environmental Management Program (EMP) for achieving its environmental objectives and targets, and it must adhere to section 4.3.4 of the ISO 14001 international standard.

  • Training: The objective of this procedure is to ensure that the organization (landfill) is provided with the fundamental requirements for identifying, conducting and documenting Environmental Management Systems training for all staff whose work may generate significant impacts upon the environment. The procedure includes training methods and requirements, along with environmental responsibilities. Provisions also include an EMS refresher training annual schedule or as necessary for maintaining proficiency.

  • Communication: This step establishes a process for communication outreach and response to interested parties (internal and external) regarding the organization's EMS. The procedure also includes the methodology for receiving, documenting and responding to communication from interested parties, and discusses proactive steps for maintaining a meaningful dialogue with interested parties on environmental topics.

  • Document Control: The purpose and scope of the procedure is to establish a designated control system for the approval, issuance, and distribution of new EMS documents and forms as well as the elimination of obsolete documents and forms.

  • Operational Control: The procedure provides a set of operational controls where their absence could lead to digression from the environmental policy and the organization's objectives and targets.

  • Monitoring and Measurement: Its purpose and scope are to describe the process for scheduled monitoring and measurement of essential characteristics of the organization's operation and activities that can have a significant environmental impact and consequences to regulatory compliance. The procedure also identifies the tracking of environmental data and periodic evaluation compliance to applicable laws and regulations through internal audits.

  • Equipment Calibration: The procedure describes the controlled methodology for calibrating and testing equipment used specifically for gathering data to directly support permit conditions or other legal and regulatory requirements of the organization. This procedure is connected to the Legal and Other Requirements standard environmental procedure because it assures that the accuracy and precision of the environmental data collected and the data are known and defensible.

  • Regulatory Compliance: The objective of the procedure is to ensure that the organization has the documented means for evaluating compliance pertaining to related legislation and regulation associated with its operations. The procedure includes identifying, correcting and preventing regulatory violations associated with land and regulations set at the federal, state and local levels.

  • Corrective and Preventive Action: The procedure describes a defined process for initiating corrective and preventive action in response to internal or external reported nonconformances that relates to the implementation of ISO 14001 EMS.

  • Records: The objective of the procedure is to ensure that the organization establishes and maintains guidelines to properly identify, collect, index and file its EMS records to allow for ready access and retrieval. The procedure includes transparency by permitting access to EMS training schedules, audit results, management review records, and the environmental policy of the organization including SOPs, etc.

  • Internal Audits: The procedure establishes the basic requirements for planning, performing, and documenting periodic internal audits of the ISO 14001-based EMS set by the organization.

  • Management Review: The procedure defines the essential requirements for conducting annual, independent management reviews of the ISO 14001 EMS of the organization.

Although ISO 14001 is recognized as the world's most implemented environmental management system, it has received very little recognition in not only the solid waste industry, but also utilities and public works agencies in this country despite the fact that ISO 14000 is designed to be flexible enough to adapt and help private and public sectors.

An example of ISO 9002 and ISO 14001 implementation of landfill operations are the San Nicolas Landfill in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and the Miramar Landfill of San Diego, California.

San Nicolas Landfill
The San Nicolas Landfill in the municipality of Aguascalientes, Mexico, began its planning phase in January 1997. A strategic plan was established that included the construction of a sanitary landfill that adhered to all of the legal and regulatory requirements particularly to the federal norm NOM-083-ECO: 1996. The norm, or regulation, is very similar to our Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), including Subtitle D regulation.

The Department of Public Works and Ecology of Aguascalientes, Mexico, took the lead in implementing the regulation from its sitting phase to operational. The Department also ensured that the design and operation of the landfill would meet federal, state and local regulations including the national Clean Water Act and the city master plan.

To this end, the Department of Public Works and Ecology established strong communication channels with the federal environmental, state and local agencies such as Subsecretaria de Ecologia del Estado, Secretaria del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SERMANAT), Comision Nacional del Agua (CAN), Procuraduria Federal de Proteccion al Ambiente (PROFEPA), Instituto Nacional de Ecologia (INE) and Secretaria de Desarrollo Urbano among others.

The state gained a strong interest in the San Nicolas Landfill given its design and operational efficiency. Thus, ten other municipalities built transfer stations and closed their open dumps and brought their refuse to Aguascalientes. Currently, the landfill is receiving approximately 850 tons per day.

To guarantee a high quality operational level for the burial of refuse, the Department of Public Works and Ecology identified the need of a system that would support the controls of the operational process to ensure effectiveness and efficiency and promote continuous improvement. It was determined that ISO 9002 was applicable to not only the quality of the landfill operation, but also the quality of the collection routes program. In fact, the Department runs a Division of Quality Control and has earned six ISO 9002 certifications.

The quality elements introduced were:

  • Total inspections of refuse at the gate and at the face of the cell, with trained personnel capable of identifying hazardous materials.
  • Controlling the amount of daily cover utilized each day.
  • Setting compacting objective, first at 1,360 lbs/cubic yard, then at 1,540 lbs/cubic yard, and finally at 1,760 lbs/cubic yard.
  • Development and operating a nursery to grow 45 different local species including endangered species.
It was determined that to control the environmental impacts generated from the construction and operation of the landfill, implementing ISO 14001 would guarantee the best environmental management practice available. The environmental goals were:

  • Establishing an environmental policy that would act as a guide in order to reach goals and objectives.
  • Managerial support, and involvement and assignment of resources to ensure an efficient and effective environmental policy.
  • Assignment of authority and responsibilities for each activity.
  • Documentation and control required by regulations including establishing internal audits and corrective and preventive measures.

The framework of the policy then was applied to three principal activities: (1) Managing leachate; (2) controlling biogas emissions; and (3) reforestation.

It was determined that the best environmental benefit of leachate was to inject it into the garbage in order to accelerate organic activity and increase the rate of settlement. Therefore, the San Nicol s Landfill operates as a bioreactor.

Each month, samples of the leachate are analyzed for evaluating its toxicity.

Biogas is currently being flared but the agency is evaluating the possibility of installing a methane plant for generating energy.

Reforestation occurs in areas of the landfill in need of vegetation. Trees are replanted from developed areas.

The municipality of Aguascalientes, Mexico, received Mexico's first federal Certificate on Environmental Achievement on May 6, 2004. The certificate must meet stringent federal audits and meet environmental goals.

The municipality of Aguascalientes has become a leader in Mexico.

Miramar Landfill
The Environmental Service Department of the City of San Diego manages the Miramar Landfill.

The City of San Diego was one of thirteen agencies that participated in an EPA-sponsored pilot project called "Initiative for Government Entities." The project prepared the participating agencies to get ready for ISO 14001 certification.

The City of San Diego decided that in order to provide the best possible environmental management plan it would require ISO 14001 certification. Implementation took approximately one year and at approximately $200,000 cost—mostly staff time.

One of the first benefits of the certification was a decrease in the consumption of diesel. A practice that permitted the equipment to run at idle was eliminated and new standard operating procedures were put in place. This change alone has resulted in savings far exceeding the cost of the certification.

Another project at Miramar is revegetation. The landfill is a 1,400-acre site built on natural open space. In order to revegetate the land, Miramar, like Aguascalientes, operates a nursery. The nursery grows native plants.

The goal of this program is to eventually return the landfill to its original state. However, in its present state the citizens and landfill staff benefit immensely from the ISO 14001 program because it provides assurance that the agency is managing the disposal of the community's solid waste at the highest possible environmental standards.

In my opinion, the City of San Diego operates one of this country's most sophisticated landfill environmental management programs.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Clean Water Act, and other regulations designed to protect air, water, land and protected species are norms that have become central to landfill design and operations.

Landfills must adhere to requirements often difficult to apply due to economic conditions and lack of political local support. Yet, all landfills must comply with the requirements of at least the RCRA norms. In other states, landfills must meet tougher state standards.

Years of accumulated experience implementing Subtitle D regulation can only benefit from sound environmental management programs. A sound environmental management program can only help reduce liability and risk, while reducing the environmental impacts caused by the operations and protecting the investment.

Landfills such as San Nicolas Landfill in Aguascalientes and the Miramar Landfill from San Diego are models of landfills operating at world-class standards.

Jose G. Gamboa can be reached at (831) 420-6273 or at


A Six-Chicken Pond
In West Africa, standards of measurement are different from those in the United States. This is not a reference to the obvious differences such as the metric system and the American system, i.e., kilograms vs. pounds, liters vs. quarts, or kilometers vs. miles. New standards arose as the foreigner had contact with the nationals, or as he responded to their needs.

An engineer in one of the drought-stricken countries of West Africa was directing a community development project. Small earthen dams were being constructed in several villages in order that water might be available for livestock and crops. An additional benefit was the recharging of the groundwater so that nearby wells would not go dry. With the construction of these ponds, new standards of measurement arose for the engineer.

Almost without fail, at the end of the first day's construction of a new pond, a villager would approach the bulldozer operator with a gift of appreciation—usually one or two chickens. In recognition of the drought and the poverty, this was a remarkably generous gift. As the work progressed, other chickens (or occasionally eggs) were offered. These gifts were never refused, for to do so would have been the ultimate in unfriendliness. In one particular village, in a remote location, the degree of appreciation is still remembered. The pond having the most value, at least according to the villagers, was a three-acre pond in the village of Guantenga—a six-chicken pond by the customary measurement, but liquid gold to the nationals who paid the price.

Source: "The Application of Situational Leadership Theory to Missionary/National Relationships in West Africa," pp. 94-95, 1989, by Jimmy B. Foster, P.E., Director of Public Works, City of Plano, Texas, and Chair, APWA International Affairs Committee

Cultural Proverbs

"Ask about your neighbors, then buy the house." - Jewish Proverb

"Examine what is said, not him who speaks." - Arab Proverb

"Forget injuries, never forget kindness." - Chinese Proverb