Porter Forum focuses on environmental sustainability

Speakers at Northwestern State University’s 53rd annual J. Walter Porter Forum shared insights into how infrastructure can be improved and maintained while meeting required environmental standards.

Kevin Guth, a certified industrial hygienist, discussed the challenges present in updating and maintaining public structures such as bridges and water towers that were coated in lead-based paint as long ago as the 1930s. His company, KGC, merges environmental expertise with business acumen as he oversees complex industrial hygiene and hazardous waste management projects with minimal impact to the public.

“You can’t do rehabilitation without being faced with environmental requirements,” he said.

Guth described projects with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development in which hazardous materials are contained as they are removed from surfaces to prevent exposure to air, water and soil. He said LaDOTD has been a leader in environmental policy in the United States, having selected the path of environmental sustainability in the 1990s. Although abatement costs rose, containment costs have dropped as production rates improved.

Whit Rankin, a civil engineer and principal of Rankin, LLC Consulting Engineers, is experienced in geotechnical design projects in roads, bridges and environmental containment systems.

“Techniques of construction are highly influenced by the environment,” he said. “You can’t always build the easiest way or the cheapest way.”

As an example, Ranking described the construction of Louisiana Highway 1 near Port Fourchon where construction from the water was prohibited because of the projects potentially harmful impact to the marshland. Instead, engineers designed a temporary trestle system on the elevated highway with a series of cranes that minimized the impact to sensitive wetlands.

“Innovation was driven by the constraints of the project because of the environmental impact,” Rankin said. “It was very expensive but necessary for the environmental conditions at the time.”

Other projects Rankin was involved with include construction of a giant flood gate at Empire, La.; a massive surge barrier project that took place in the midst of a manatee habitat in the marshes at Lake Borgne and improvements to the New Orleans Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System and repair of the West Esplanade Bridge in which noise pollution and traffic flow maintenance were issues.

The J. Walter Porter Forum is sponsored annually through NSU’s School of Business. The forum is made possible by the endowment established by the family and friends of the late J. Walter Porter in recognition of his interest in improving the image of business as a career field for college students and of his concern for moral and ethical standards as expressed in his philosophy of business. The forum is an effort to translate the textbook into practice by bringing capable, successful business executives to the campus to speak on selected topics in their area of expertise.

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