Florida's removal and cleanup of underground tanks is a state problem, funded by state legislation. In Iowa, issuing permits that allow the controlled emission of air pollutants is a federal mandate, conducted under the 1990 Clean Air Act. Fortunately, the act stipulates that large polluters have to pay states a fee based on the amount of air pollution released. From that fee the state can fund the use of technology, such as imaging, to manage the information gathered on polluters.
When the Air Quality Bureau made plans to use the funds for imaging, the industries that paid the fees demanded a cost-benefit analysis first, to ensure the project wouldn't end up as an expensive boondoggle. "The results showed that the system would pay for itself in less than two years by cutting our labor costs," remarked Hamlin.
The bureau installed a $1.5 million imaging system in November, built by Wang and Radian International, a technology firm specializing in environmental projects. The 175-user system consists of Wang's imaging and workflow software, Hewlett-Packard servers, a Cygnet jukebox, an Oracle database, PCs running Microsoft Windows and UNIX workstations.
Not only does the imaging system automate the distribution of the permit documents to the bureau's staff, but it also adds value by running some basic calculations based on data that is read by the system's optical character reading software. "It will calculate the potential emissions generated by an applicant based on the data they submit," said Hamlin. "It's going to save our permit reviewers a tremendous amount of time."
In Pennsylvania, imaging is helping the state track the "who, what, when and where" concerning hazardous municipal and industrial waste. The state's Bureau of Land Recycling and Waste Management has installed a $1.2 million document management system that uses imaging to convert documents on hazardous waste manifests and related fee collections -- worth $35 million annually -- into a database of information for environmental analysts.
The system, which serves 24 users, can also process incoming faxes, electronic data interchange files, mainframe reports and e-mail messages. The software, an object-based electronic document management product suite, was developed by Vantage Technologies, a firm recently purchased by Wang.
According to Bureau Chief Jeff Beatty, the system's biggest benefit is the way it speeds up the flow of information. "That time savings allows us to collect fees much faster than in the past," he said. It has also allowed analysts to spend more time analyzing information and less time searching for it. "It's liberated our analysts in terms of time. That's a positive experience for us."
Public access is another service that environmental and natural resource departments must provide. By linking imaging systems with the Internet, states can extend access far beyond what was ever thought possible. Utah's Division of Water Rights has begun putting documents on the World Wide Web at:
Iowa's Air Quality Bureau plans to do the same. Though, as Hamlin remarked dryly, "I can't imagine a lot of people will want to read this stuff. Some of it's pretty boring."