A Conversation With ...George Cushnie

President, CAI Resources Inc.

A veteran of 30 years in metal finishing, George Cushnie is president of CAI Resources Inc. (Scottsville, VA) and manager of the National Metal Finishing Resource Center (NMFRC). He is also the author of Pollution Prevention and Control Technologies for Plating Operations. We recently caught up with Cushnie for a Q&A on the updated and expanded second edition of the 1994 book.

How did you originally start work on this book?

GC: The first edition was written in conjunction with a project funded by the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, U.S. trade organizations and metal finishing companies. We generated most of the information by surveying of 300 metal finishing shops and 60 equipment suppliers. Much of the information in the first book is still valid today. But many U.S. finishers have made significant strides in pollution prevention and control, including reduction in water use, chemical recovery and waste reduction. The second edition covers these advances, including technical details, costs and savings.

How do you envision platers using this book? Who is it written for?

GC: The book is written mainly to help platers and consulting engineers identify and evaluate technologies for meeting and exceeding environmental regulations. It focuses on both inexpensive ways to reduce pollution, such as optimal rinsing, and on more advanced pollution-control technologies.

What have been the biggest regulatory changes since the last edition?

GC: With few exceptions, environmental regs have not changed significantly during the past 15 years. Instead, operating costs have driven the need for improved environmental performance. For example, the combined cost of raw water and wastewater treatment has roughly doubled since 1994. Platers have responded with conservation techniques that in some cases can reduce water use by more than half.

How about technology changes?

GC: The rising costs of treating spent baths and replacing bath chemistry have made solution maintenance a higher priority. This trend cuts across all metal finishing processes, and includes use of ion exchange, membrane technologies, microfiltration and other technologies. A new section of the book covers process by process examples of the latest bath maintenance methods and technologies.

What section of the book do you think will be most useful?

GC: It depends on a given shop’s situation. Finishers with higher-than-average water use and dragout rates will benefit from reading about general waste reduction practices. Shops already doing a good job with the basics will benefit more from the sections that cover bath maintenance and chemical recovery.

In your acknowledgements, you mention the Strategic Goals Program. Can you tell our readers about SGP?

GC: SGP is a voluntary program organized by finishing industry leaders and EPA. More than 300 member companies worked toward meeting tough goals related to reductions in water use, waste generation, energy and other factors. Many of them achieved those goals and nearly all made major progress. My role was to collect and organize data submitted by participating shops over a ten-year period. The resulting database and tools include benchmarks for water use, energy, waste generation and other metrics organized on a process-by-process basis. Much of the data is available at www.strategicgoals.org.