Norfolk – The Virginia Port Authority's sustained commitment its environmental program has earned the agency its most significant environmental accolade: induction into the Inside Business Hall River Star of Fame.
Today's induction announcement coincides with the presentation of the VPA's 11th River Star Award for Sustained Distinguished Performance for its continued, voluntary proactive effort to help restore the Elizabeth River and keep its surrounding environment clean. The River Star is given by the Elizabeth River Project (ERP) as that organization's highest honor given to businesses along the river for their efforts to keep the waterway healthy.
"There isn't an aspect of environmental stewardship that they haven't focused on," says Pam Boatwright, River Star businesses program manager. "Visit any of the port's three terminals on the Elizabeth River and you might see environmental innovation in action: From an under-wharf storm water retention system at Norfolk International Terminals, to low-emissions locomotives and trucks, to electric cranes and state-of-the-art storm water treatment at APM Terminals.
"To do its part to restore urban wildlife habitat, the port has gone beyond basic requirements for mitigation projects to achieve significant new wetlands, oyster reefs and one-of-a-kind parks, including Plum Point in Norfolk and Paradise Creek Nature Park, which is currently in the making.
The port authority has been active in the River Star Businesses program since its first year, 1997, and has documented achievements more years since than any other River Star except last year's first Hall of Fame winner, BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair. Boatwright describes Heather Wood, the VPA's director of environmental affairs, as an "outstanding mentor" who has recruited multiple other River Star businesses.
It is, though, induction into the Hall of Fame that has Wood most proud.
"Our effort is not to win awards, but rather to be a good steward of this waterway and that has always been our guiding principle," she said. "You have to understand what your impact(s) on the environment are and take proactive steps to mitigate them; in our view, that is the only way to do business today. It is nice to be recognized for our effort and it is our guarantee that the effort will continue."
"With this award, we recognize the business that has done the most to exemplify the spirit of the River Stars program," said Bill Blake, director of sales for Inside Business, the Hall of Fame's primary sponsor. "The Virginia Port Authority has demonstrated exemplary leadership over the length of its involvement in the program to 'do right by the river' through responsible environmental stewardship practices that typically save money, improve employee morale and reduce safety risks at the facility, while safeguarding the health of our harbor river here in Hampton Roads."
The River Stars program is one of the most successful local pollution prevention and habitat restoration programs in Virginia. The ERP is a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring the river to the highest practical level of environmental quality through government, business and community partnerships. Each year the ERP, through its River Star awards, honors those companies, communities, individuals and businesses that have done their part to take care of the river, its shoreline and its tributaries.
Environmental Highlights from 2011:
The VPA signed-on to a three year $25,000 sponsorship of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's oyster gardening program that is aimed at helping to restore oyster stocks in the bay.
The VPA's Green Operator, or "GO," program was the recipient of the Environmental Enhancement Award from the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), a trade group representing leading port authorities throughout the Western Hemisphere. Additionally, the success of the GO program, led it to become the model for development of the Mid-Atlantic Dray Truck Replacement Program that offers financial support to replace older, more polluting short-haul trucks that serve ports in the Mid-Atlantic. (Only the Port of Los Angeles/long Beach has put more clean trucks on the road.)
More than 80 volunteers from the VPA, its operating company, Virginia International Terminals, Inc., and the local maritime industry spent the morning of June 4 scouring nearly four miles of Elizabeth River shoreline for any speck of trash they could find.
The VPA completed a comprehensive, independent review of its environmental management programs and processes at all three of the VPA-owned and -operated marine terminals. The audit resulted in receipt of ISO 14001 Environmental Management System re-certification, which will be good through the summer of 2014.
VPA and VIT sponsored an electronic recycling event at the VPA's Portsmouth Operations Center in honor of Earth Day.
The VPA took delivery of two new ultra low-emission GenSet locomotives that are used to build trains in the on-dock rail operation at Norfolk International Terminals.
VPA joined the Coalition for Responsible Trucking as a Charter Port Member, marking the first time that CRT's membership has expanded to include public sector representatives.