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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Bobby Wesley Bush, Jr., June 21, 2000. Interview I-0088. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Federal regulation as an impetus for becoming more environmentally sound

Bush explains that Hickory Springs Manufacturing Company did not necessarily change its procedures in terms of environmental issues of its own volition, but rather that changes in its foam manufacturing processes were dictated by federal regulation. Bush relates this specifically to Hickory Springs transition to using acetone as a blowing agent for foam after federal regulations had determined that methylene chloride (which had been used previously) was too hazardous as a possible carcinogen.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Bobby Wesley Bush, Jr., June 21, 2000. Interview I-0088. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

I wanted to talk with you about environmental issues and concerns at the company, and what I'm particularly interested in is points where the company decided, "We've got to do something differently. We've got to use a different process, we've got to change the way our employees are handling a material, we've got to rethink something for whatever reason."
I don't know that it was a conscious situation where we just sit down and say we're going to take a different path. Most of this was forced or fed by regulation, and what happens is, these regulating bodies set standards and they don't tell you how to achieve their standards, which usually in this case is a reduction or elimination of a certain emission, either to the atmosphere or within the plant, which is where OSHA comes into play. EPA deals with everything that goes outside the plant. They just set standards, and they say, "We don't care how you get there, but we want no more than X part per million going out the stack." Or measurable modeled at the fence line. So when a lot of these regulations were proposed, there was no common known way to get there. So everybody's scrambling, including our chemical suppliers, to come up with, first of all, a way to achieve the target, and secondly, a way you can achieve the target and maybe come out smelling a little bit better, a cheaper process or something along those lines. And we have been pioneers, and part of it was just the personnel we had at the time. Graham Walmsley was a real innovative guy, and he liked to develop things himself. That was just his nature. He certainly looked and considered everything else that was available, but everything was in the developmental stage when we were told we had to get out of methylene chloride use as an auxiliary blowing agent in foam. We'd already gotten out of freon because of ozone depletion, and now some states and then later the federal government decided that methylene chloride was a possible carcinogen, and so we had to find a way to eliminate that. And we were really several years ahead of where the industry was, just because Graham was innovative and he lucked into using acetone as a blowing agent instead. And we took all the proper precautions to use it and were able to patent it, and it was just a neat process and I don't know how much of it was just happenstance and how much of it came from his experience and skill as an inventor.