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Mill Hosts Science Teachers

To Foster Understanding of Environmental Compliance

By Holly Hunter

American Cotton Growers (ACG) is aware of the environmental concerns that affect our surroundings and is fostering an understanding of these issues by hosting on-site visits for area school teachers.

Teaching Environmental Sciences (TES) is a graduate course for K-6 elementary teachers sponsored by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) and its partners. The course is held at state universities throughout Texas.

The class emphasizes three environmental areas for which the TNRCC has regulatory authority: air, water and waste. TES concentrates on reaching an understanding of how these issues affect a community’s environmental and economic health in the area of the state where the course is taught. The course has proven to be beneficial to teachers so that they can provide the most recent information to their students for classroom exercises.

“Teachers gather resource materials for use in classrooms and become motivated to integrate environmental science issues with subjects they are required to teach,” says Julie Thomas, a member of the TES advisory committee.

The course is designed to provide balanced information and to promote partnerships among teachers, government agencies, businesses and community organizations so students become prepared to take their place as citizens committed to environmental protection through individual behavior changes and career opportunities.

One of the purposes of the class is to provide teachers with “real world” examples of the environmental issues being studied. One of the field trips for participants at Texas Tech University is a tour of ACG at Littlefield, TX. This allows teachers to learn how environmental regulations have an impact on business operations.

Half a day of the 10-day course is spent at ACG. The tour at ACG is guided by Environmental Compliance Manager Chip Higgins of Plains Cotton Cooperative Association (PCCA). “We’ve been providing a tour at ACG for the past three years,” says Higgins.

“The tour begins with a 30-minute introduction about what a cooperative is,” Higgins explains. “Then, information is presented about the environmental practices implemented at ACG such as the air washes and evaporation ponds.”

ACG’s Safety Director Steve Chambers says, “The practices used at the plant keep ACG within the limitations of the Environmental Protection Agency and allow the plant and its employees to work in an efficient manner.”

The air washes are giant evaporative coolers that serve as an air conditioning unit as well as a heating source, Chambers explains. They also maintain proper humidity and temperature levels in specific rooms such as the yarn and weave rooms. For yarn to be woven properly, it must contain a certain percent of moisture. The air washes also serve as filtering units. The air from both inside and out goes through large filters that purify the air before it is dispersed throughout the mill.

“The evaporation ponds help dispose our used indigo rinse water,” Chambers says. The water is pumped into pits where the water is treated with 50 percent hydrogen peroxide to reduce odor. The water then goes to an underground fiberglass tank that pumps the water into lagoons. The lagoons are lined with thick plastic that prevents the dye water from being absorbed into the ground. Electrical devices known as aerators stir the water that permits the evaporation process to take place more efficiently.

The TES course has been very successful in establishing a partnership between ACG and teachers to help prepare students to take their place as citizens committed to environmental protection. For more information, contact the TNRCC’s Education Assistance Section at (512) 239-0010.