Environmental Control Officer (ECO)
Defining the EMP
An Environmental Management Plan (EMP) can be defined as "an environmental management tool used to ensure that undue or reasonably avoidable adverse impacts of the construction, operation and decommissioning of a project are prevented; and that the positive benefits of the projects are enhanced". EMPs are therefore important tools for ensuring that the management actions arising from Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes are clearly defined and implemented through all phases of the project life-cycle.
Environmental authorisation is granted by the relevant authority based on certain conditions being met prior to and during construction of a specific project. One of these conditions is the client's responsibility to appoint an experienced environmental control officer (ECO), to monitor and report on compliance to the commitments stated in the approved Environmental Management Plan (EMP) and the environmental authorisation itself.
The primary role of the Environmental Control Officer is to act as an independent quality controller and monitoring agent regarding all environmental concerns and associated environmental impacts. In this respect, the ECO is to conduct periodic site inspections, attend regular site meetings, pre-empt problems and suggest mitigation and be available to advice on incidental issues that arise.
The ECO is also required to conduct compliance audits, verifying the monitoring reports submitted by the Environmental Officer or Environmental Manager.
Environmental Assurance Independent Environmental Control Officers have:
• Good working knowledge of all relevant environmental policies, legislation, guidelines and standards;
• The ability to conduct inspections and audits and to produce thorough, readable and informative reports;
• The ability to manage public communication and complaints;
• The ability to think holistically about the structure, functioning and performance of environmental systems; and
• Proven competence in the application of the following integrated environmental management tools:
o Environmental Impact Assessment.
o Environmental management plans/programmes.
o Environmental auditing.
o Mitigation and optimisation of impacts.
o Monitoring and evaluation of impacts.
o Environmental Management Systems.
Lines of Reporting
The Contractor and the Environmental Officer are answerable to the Environmental Control Officer for non-compliance with the Performance Specifications as set out in the authorisation ROD and EMP. The Environmental Control Officer provides feedback to the Project Manager, who in turn reports back to the Client/Implementing Agent and I&AP's, as required. Issues of non-compliance raised by the ECO must be taken up by the Project Manager, and resolved with the Contractor as per the conditions of his contract.
Decisions regarding environmental procedures, specifications and requirements which have a cost implication (i.e. those that are deemed to be a variation, not allowed for in the Performance Specification) must be endorsed by the Project Manager.
The ECO must also, as specified by the Environmental Authorization (RoD), report to the Government authorizing department as and when required. This will only be during emergency situations will the IECO report directly to the Contractor.
General Duties the Environmental Assurance IECO's
• Monitoring and verifying that the EMP is adhered to at all times and taking action if the specifications are not followed;
• Monitoring and verifying that environmental impacts are kept to a minimum during the planning and design and construction phases of the project;
• Assisting the project proponent in ensuring that all environmental authorisations have been obtained;
• Ensuring that environmental awareness training is implemented as specified through the environmental training needs analysis;
• Reviewing and approving environmental objectives and targets; and
• Assisting the Contractor in finding environmentally responsible solutions to problems.
Specific Duties during Construction Phase which the Environmental Assurance ECO's perform;
• Conducting, surveillance, monthly inspections and detailed audits;
• Compiling and completing checklists in order to aid the surveillance and inspection requirements;
• Keeping records of all activities/incidents concerning the environment on site in a Site Diary;
• Issuing of spot fines for transgression of activities identified in the EMP;
• Recommending the issuing of penalties to the Engineers Representative for contravention of the EMP. The following transgressions suggested should be penalised:
o Hazardous chemical/Oil spill
o Damage to sensitive environments
o Damage to cultural sites
o Removing/damaging indigenous trees and other vegetation
o Unauthorised explosions
• Keeping a register of complaints on site and recording community comments and issues.