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Air Force continues pollution prevention efforts

by Eric Grill
Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment

9/11/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) -- The Air Force joins the nation for Pollution Prevention Week on Sept. 17-24.

The service continues its efforts to educate the public about pollution prevention and reducing the contamination of air, soil and water by eliminating pollution at its source.

Observed during the third full week in September, Pollution Prevention Week presents an annual opportunity for individuals, businesses and government agencies to highlight past successes, expand current initiatives and commit to new ways to protect the environment.

Pollution prevention, or P2, is reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques and reusing materials rather than adding them to the waste stream.

A policy memo co-signed April 27, 2012, by then Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Philip Breedlove and Assistant Secretary for Installations, Environment and Logistics Terry Yonkers, spotlighted the service-wide pollution prevention focus.

"P2 and waste minimization opportunities are excellent ways to conserve resources, protect Air Force people and their environment, reduce logistical and compliance burdens, and streamline processes to become more efficient," the memo stated.

The heart of the policy is a set of new P2 and waste minimization goals to be accomplished by 2020:

- Achieve a 20-percent reduction of the 2008-2010 average of recurring hazardous waste
- Divert 65 percent, by weight, of non-hazardous solid waste from landfill disposal, excluding construction and demolition debris;
- Reduce toxic release inventory releases by 35 percent from a 2006 baseline

Each goal has interim milestones to reach in 2015 and 2018 to ensure installations are on track to meet the overall 2020 goal.

"Air Force pollution prevention policy requires installations to minimize the adverse impacts on air, water and land from all aspects of the Air Force mission through implementation of an environmental management system," said Kevin Gabos, P2 subject matter expert at the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment.

One of the overarching tenants of an EMS is continuous improvement. Installations make improvements by following the P2 hierarchy, which is to first substitute materials or reengineer processes to reduce or eliminate environmental impacts. When it's not possible to achieve reduction at the source, the policy instructs commanders to emphasize reuse and recycling.

The message is simple, Gabos said. If there are opportunities for improvement, "take them."

For example, at Hurlburt Field, Fla., street sweepers are used to help prevent pollution.

"When the street sweepers remove trash, sediment build-up and debris from roads and curb gutters, they are also removing and preventing it from getting into our creeks, rivers, jurisdictional wetlands and Santa Rosa Sound," said Amy Tharp, 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron storm water program manager, in a recent commentary.

"Street sweeping is not only effective at removing microscopic pollutants that collect on our streets and parking lots, it's also an effective method of removing larger debris that can block storm water facilities, causing localized flooding during heavy rains," Tharp said.

Removing debris before it accumulates within storm catch basins also helps minimize storm system maintenance required to keep storm conveyances clean and open, she added.

As a result of Hurlburt Field's street sweeping efforts in the last year, about 100 cubic yards of debris -- equaling about 240,000 pounds -- was collected, keeping the associated pollution out of the installation's protected waterways.



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