Employee Spotlight: Rene Rong on Stormwater Management

By: Corporate Communications
August 30, 2021


At CF Industries, we prioritize sustainable water management and water quality in all our site operations. For National Water Quality Month, we spoke with CF Environmental Engineer Rene Rong about how the Stormwater Management Team at the Courtright Complex ensures we continually improve how we protect this valuable resource in their day-to-day work and long-term projects.

Tell us about the Stormwater Management Team’s responsibilities.

Our team is comprised of multidisciplinary site leaders from departments like environmental health and safety, maintenance, production, engineering and others. Overall, the team’s objective is to set directions, provide support and oversee the execution of water management. This includes activities surrounding the processing of effluent water and stormwater, in addition to water treatment, usage, disposal and more. We meet regularly to discuss and bring attention to any potential risks to validate them and propose solutions coupled with immediate actions. These risks and solutions can be both short term and long term such as engineering projects, maintenance, ditch cleanup or other projects that we believe will make our water management more efficient and our protection system more robust.

CF’s sustainability goals include ensuring sustainable management of water availability, use and discharge for all manufacturing operations. How have you and your team prioritized this goal?

Having an already established water management team at the Courtright Complex has made it easy to set our sight to align with the corporate ESG goals. When the Stormwater Management Team meets, we discuss initiatives that would proactively drive us closer to these goals and set the intentions for projects with them as the basis. Then, we subsequently choose the best actions that will equip individuals on site to meet those goals. We have also fostered a culture of responsibility by training, educating and empowering individuals to identify and raise potential concerns over water management.

What new or innovative ways is CF managing stormwater?

We have a few projects in the works right now, but one way we sustain continued innovation is through the lab’s commitment to discovering new ways of providing quicker internal checks on water quality. Every day they are optimizing the process to move forward faster by identifying issues and taking immediate action. For example, the lab implemented testing strips to efficiently detect salt in water. This is useful, especially in the winter when we’ve experienced issues with salt triggering false contamination alarms. Additionally, we currently have an engineering project in its construction phase that will increase our capacity to reuse water and feed more water back into our process. We would be able to reuse a minimum of 4000m3 of water that would be sent offsite or otherwise processed. We are always looking for new ways to innovate.

How do you balance regulatory requirements and the plant’s operational needs?

Our biggest priority is being proactive as opposed to reactive in our operations. Water can be a big risk on site because the regulatory requirements on effluent water quality are stringent. As a team, we formatted understanding to get consensus on the compliance challenges and the regulatory requirements. We established a responsible water culture for all on-site employees through training to ensure deeper understanding of water management and to help everyone see the bigger picture. We also created a baseline calculation to provide a quantitative base for water releasing on site. This gives us a framework for understanding if water is safe to be released to effluent and allows our operation supervisors to do their job without having to cross check with our water management team or EHS. By establishing internal criteria, operations have a lot of flexibility.

In your opinion, why is it important for CF and its peers to practice responsible water resource management?

We are responsible for ourselves, the community and the general public when practicing good water resource management. The Courtright Complex is fortunate to be situated right by the Great Lakes with lots of clean water near us, so we have been implementing best practices to not take that for granted. We’re motivated to preserve such a good water source and maintain the sustainability of it by practicing responsible water resource management. Water is a key input into all CF production, so as the climate evolves, it increases enterprise risks. Practicing responsible water management is essential in mitigating risks of climate change and being proactive.