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Environmental Management and Operations

The Environmental Management & Operations (EM&O) Section provides environmental regulatory compliance and environmental stewardship services for city-owned facilities and activities. Compliance services include the Environmental Training Program, which provides mission critical training and instruction to City staff on environmental protection policies and practices, and the Active Tanks Program, which provides leadership, oversight, and critical inspection, testing, repair and maintenance services to City agencies that operate oil and fuel tanks. The Section also provides leadership to Denver’s ISO 14001 Certified Environmental Management System, which is a management tool used to implement the City’s environmental goals and commitments and verify that they’re being achieved. Denver is the only North American city to have all its agencies and departments certified to the ISO 14001 Standard. Through these programs we ensure that the city complies with all relevant environmental regulations and minimizes negative impacts on the environment while contributing to and supporting a healthy work environment.

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An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a framework designed for organizations of all sizes to identify and manage how operations impact the environment. Beginning in 2007, the City and County of Denver embarked on an ambitious goal to implement an ISO 14001:2004 Certified Environmental Management System across all City operations. The first agencies achieved certification in 2008 with the remainder of the City becoming certified by 2010. All City operations were recertified in 2013 by an independent auditor. Denver's EMS is based on the City's Environmental Policy - view the Policy here. Denver is the only North American city to have all operations certified to the ISO 14001 standard.

An EMS certified by an independent registrar demonstrates the commitment to continuously improve City operations and reduce environmental impacts and liabilities. The result of continuously improving operations has been numerous operational improvements and significant cost savings including:

  •  A 23% reduction in energy use measured in over 100 City buildings since 2006. This equates to over $1,000,000/year in savings. An additional 6% reduction in energy use per square foot in 140 buildings has been achieved in the first year of the Better Buildings Challenge.
  • Improved fuel efficiency by a minimum of 75% per vehicle as Denver Police Fleet replaces its fleet of patrol cars.
  • Parks and Recreation has managed to save over 270 million gallons of water and $700,000 in water costs by upgrading 37 antiquated irrigation systems throughout the Denver Parks system.

Maintaining parks, paving streets, and training police officers and firefighters are just some of the many City activities subject to environmental regulation. Additionally, the City owns and operates over two hundred separate properties where City services are provided, ranging from swimming pools to concert halls, to car and truck repair garages and an asphalt batch plant. Many of the operations at these facilities and various aspects of property maintenance are also subject to environmental law.

The City and County of Denver is subject to the same federal and state laws that businesses and institutions must observe. The majority of these laws and regulations are administered by the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The City is also subject to its own codes and executive orders; for example, numerous parts of the Denver Revised Municipal Code and the Denver Fire Code focus on prevention of risks to the environment.

The EM&O Internal Facility Compliance (IFC) Program works to insure that all City activities and operations are in compliance with all applicable laws, regulations and codes relating to protecting the environment. A team of environmental specialists work in partnership with all other City departments to provide:

  •  Technical expertise and consultation
  • Inspections and oversight
  • Sampling, assessment, and monitoring
  • Recordkeeping and reporting
  • Management of hazardous and regulated wastes

The IFC Program extends these same services to Denver’s cultural facilities that are funded in part by the City, including the Botanic Gardens, the Art Museum and the Zoo.

Although the focus of the IFC Program is regulatory compliance, promoting low impact and sustainable best management practices and pollution prevention is paramount to helping the City do its part to be a steward of the world’s resources.

In addition to serving the internal needs of the City and County of Denver, the IFC Program also contributes technical resources to the City’s response and clean-up of illegal dumping, and to accidents and crimes involving hazardous materials and spills.

City services require fuel, diesel and biodiesel to power our fire trucks, snow plows, trash trucks and street sweepers, and gasoline and E-85 to fuel our many other fleet vehicles. The City also sells fuel to other local public authorities and civic enterprises such as Denver Health Paramedics, so that they are able to reliably and economically refuel their vehicles whenever needed.

To supply that fuel, the City operates six governmental fleet fueling sites, each equipped with large volume underground storage tanks. The City also operates a great many smaller tank installations that support parks and landscape equipment, collect oil from car and truck maintenance, and power the standby electrical generators that support all of the City’s critical buildings and infrastructure.

In all, at any one time, the City has over 300,000 gallons of fuel in storage, in a variety of both underground and above ground tanks. 

Tanks of a certain size and use are subject to state and federal regulation. These regulations require that the tanks meet a high level of integrity and be operated responsibly. Forty-eight of the City’s tanks are of a size and use that they meet the criteria for such regulation.

The principal regulations governing Denver’s tanks are administered by the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment, through their Oil and Public Safety Division. The Colorado Petroleum Storage Tank Regulations derive from federal regulations administered by the EPA.

The EM&O’s Active Tanks Program (ATP), which is staffed by specialists trained in environmental protection, tank regulations and the construction and operation of tanks, works to ensure that all of the City’s regulated tanks meet state and federal requirements. The ATP also ensures that all tanks too small to be regulated by state and federal law comply with local fire code requirements. To do this, the ATP engages with the City agencies who operate tanks to provide oversight and the technical services needed to use and maintain their tanks according to legal requirements.

Some of the specific services provided by the ATP are:

  •  Comprehensive annual tank inspections and testing
  • Continuous monitoring for leaks and other operational conditions
  • Recordkeeping and compliance reporting to the Oil and Public Safety Division
  • Tank installation and removal
  • Tank site renovation and equipment up-grading
  • Tank maintenance and repair by certified professionals
  • Strategic, long-term planning for infrastructure replacement or upgrade

The ATP extends these same services to Denver’s cultural facilities that are funded in part by the City, including the Museum of Nature and Science and the Botanic Gardens.

The goal of the environmental training program is to meet federal, state and local regulatory requirements that pertain to hazardous waste management, asbestos awareness, and stormwater management. The Environmental Training Program also provides instruction on a variety of other topics that pertain to environmental sustainability and stewardship. Training events, which are provided year-round by the City’s Environmental Training expert, are customized based on each City department’s operations and potential environmental impact. In 2013, 85 training events were delivered to 1,655 city employees.


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