G-P Conway Chemical earns national honor

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 20, 2007

CONWAY – As a simple green flag rose over the Georgia-Pacific Conway Chemical Plant, its employees cheered.

It took one and it took all for Georgia-Pacific Conway Chemical, LLC to become one of the newest environmental leaders in the nation.

On Wednesday, the chemical plant was formally bestowed the highest recognition a work site can receive from the federal government by becoming a member of the National Environmental Performance Track (NEPT) program.

The NEPT is a program of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

To become a NEPT member, the facility had to consistently exceed state and federal environmental regulatory requirements, work closely with the community, commit to specific efforts to protect the environment and public health, and employ a comprehensive environmental management system n a process that allows an organization to methodically identify and reduce environmental impacts while increasing operating efficiency.

An independent assessment of the facility’s environmental management system and review by the EPA is conducted.

“We are role models for the entire chemical business,” said Plant Manager Ron Walls. “To all of the employees, I say thank you.”

Those who attended the flag raising ceremony got to take a tour of the 18 to 20 acre complex, which consists of a resin, formaldehyde and spray dry plants, and employs 108 workers.

Georgia-Pacific Chemicals LLC is a producer of resins and chemicals used in manufacturing forest products, like wood and paper products, and in purposes ranging from re-enforced plastics to steady release fertilizers.

Maintenance Planner Jonathan Newsome said the Conway plant produces mostly formaldehyde and OB resin.

Lunch was also provided and speeches from the plant’s management and the NEPT Regional Coordinator Reginald Barrino.

“The workforce here should be proud of this recognition and their respective roles as good stewards of our common environment,” said Barrino. “You are the cream of the crop.”

GP Chemical Division President Rick Urschel commended the employees for their work, but stressed that the recognition is only the starting point for the plant.

“This plant today is getting a big ‘A’,” he said. “One thing remains clear, you’ve got to move forward.”

Quality Supervisor Brian Bolton, a 25-year GP employee who is also Conway’s mayor, said the plant has been working towards this goal for several years.

Bolton said to get to this point each employee had to be involved.

For the employees the recognition meant they’re simply doing their job and doing the “right thing” when it comes to the environment.

“We all hunt and fish,” said Operation Tech Stan Britton, a 13-year employee. “We want to leave something for our children to enjoy.”

For Plant Controller Vicky Derzis, who has worked at the Conway facility for 13 years, the recognition brings pride into the workforce.

“It makes them feel good about the place they work in,” she said. “I think it speaks to every part of the business—safety, environment, compliance and integrity.”

Nine-year employee Joyce Lundy said the recognition was “wonderful”, not only for the employees, but for the surrounding communities.

“(I think it shows) not everything we do has a negative effect on the environment,” said Lundy, an operator at the spray dry plant. “We think about how it’s going to affect the community.”

The recognition of the plant into NEPT was a cause for celebration, not only for the employees (and a few former employees), but for Conway and Northampton County as well.

Community leaders from the Conway Town Council and Northampton County Commissioner James Hester (D-1st) joined in on the celebration.

“It’s exciting and this (recognition) shows they’re in compliance,” said Hester. “It’s a great, great asset to Conway and Northampton. And it provides employment, that’s the bottom line.”

Town Commissioner William Joyner also praised the plant on becoming a member of NEPT.

“I think it’s a good thing,” he said about the recognition. “At least they’re looking out for the people.”

Of all the work sites regulated by the EPA, only 469 facilities in the United States are NEPT members.

The Conway plant is the tenth NEPT work site in the state of North Carolina and Georgia-Pacific’s fifth member site in the country.