Army's War Against Waste Rages On
Funding for environmental cleanup at Army installations has remained flat or increased slightly in the past three years, but the requirements continue to increase, service officials said.
Besides the financial pressures, there are cultural barriers that have traditionally kept environmental considerations on the sidelines, according to Army experts.
Environmental actions throughout the Army range from recycling oil in the motor pool to designing composite materials for a helicopter fuselage, said Col. James E. Dries, director of environmental programs in the office of the Army assistant chief of staff for installations management.
"Trying to keep everyone current with what the rules and issues are and trying to anticipate what the future will be [is challenging because of] ever increasing requirements," said Driers in an interview.
The Army is building its environmental stewardship program on four pillars: compliance, restoration, prevention, and conservation. The majority of funds are being spent on compliance with $390 million budgeted for Fiscal Year 1999.
The top three clean-up projects are at Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Colorado; Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; and the Massachusetts Military Reservation, said Rick Newsome, assistant for environmental restoration in the office of the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for environment safety and occupational health.
The three locations account for $130 million a year, or one-third of the Army's environmental clean-up efforts. More than 80 percent of those funds are spent on contracts with outside firms.
The Rocky Mountain Arsenal clean-up is mature, with active remediation under way and scheduled for completion in 2011 at a total cost of $1 billion, said Newsome.
The Army is testing the program manager concept on site because of the size and scope of the work. A private firm oversees the 30 individual projects that make up the effort, while Army personnel select prime contractors for each job.
The Army may turn over management of larger projects to private companies if the program is successful. Outsourcing the project is expected to save time and money, officials said, primarily through revamped scheduling practices and coordination of multiple contractors on site at the same time.
Aberdeen Proving Ground has an annual cleanup budget of $29 million. It is smaller in size but demands a complex variety of work, said Newsome. It represents a five-year effort in community partnering he described as a "lesson of hard knocks."
That is because, in the past, Army environmental remediation projects-including evaluation, planning, and implementation-were completed without consulting the community. The Army "told the community rather than sounding ideas off of the public," said Newsome.
That philosophy is changing. The Army now consults with civilian regulators and community leaders as part of the decision making process.
A similar plan is under way at the Army Corps of Engineers called "One Door to the Corps," said Patricia A. Rivers, chief of its environmental division for the military programs directorate. The intent is to make the Corps of Engineers more responsive to customers and the public.
One of the recent successes was a signed agreement for the clean-up of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in New Brighton, Minnesota. After 12 years of work, the Army has laid out a plan to deal with the plumes of groundwater pollution, said Newsome. Although the pollution is not moving off base, federal, state and local representatives were part of a three-year partnership and have agreed to the plan.
Work should take about 10 years to complete and cost $300 million, said Newsome.
In Massachusetts, the Army and Air Force are teamed up to identify the environmental hazards at the military reservation. "We haven't come to grips with the problem there yet," said Newsome, who gave no timeline for the project.
The Army is spending $68 million on pollution prevention in order to limit contamination in the future, said Richard L. Eicholtz, special assistant for pollution prevention in the office of the assistant secretary of the Army for installations, logistics and environment.
He is working with acquisition program managers to include environmental considerations in their plans. He intends to make projected environmental clean-up costs part of the initial price estimates for a system's life cycle-from initial concept to final disposal.
For example, if a cargo helicopter releases hazardous waste each time it is in maintenance, program managers can find ways to extend the cycles between regular tune-ups.
Eicholtz's office is also trying to peg pollution to specific weapons systems and the parts. The Army, for example, knows the type and amount of contaminants produced at a tank refurbishing facility, but that information does not tie the pollution to a specific part such as the Abrams turret or the Bradley gun tube.
By knowing what parts create environmental hazards, Eicholtz said, the Army can include clean-up costs as part of the life cycle price for a system and, possibly, rework the design to minimize the contamination and clean-up expenses.
"It is better to spend a little more money upfront because then you don't have to do the clean-up," said Eicholtz.
The Army is following this approach as it designs the next generation design of weapons systems. Already engineers have eliminated the use of cadmium in the M1-A1 Abrams tank, said Eicholtz. Cadmium is toxic in its pure form and its use requires personnel to wear protective gear whenever maintenance work is performed.
Comanche helicopter program managers use economic analysis to tie environmental factors to life cycle costs in the weapon system design, said Eicholtz. The Crusader artillery system is also pursuing environmentally-friendly practices, he added. Managers have designed their own environmental guide for the system.
Range 21, meanwhile, is an Army initiative to use training ranges without leaving behind hazardous waste. This effort includes non-toxic bullets and green ammunition. Green missiles are already being manufactured, though they have not been fielded. The practice projectiles do not include lead and use a non-toxic primer as the adhesive for the cartridge casing in place of the volatile organic compound traditionally used.
Type qualification of the green small arms round was scheduled for this year but has been postponed because of budget cuts, said Eicholtz.
Unexploded ordnance (UXO) will potentially cost the federal government $1 trillion to remove. It is both an environmental and a safety hazard. The Defense Department has not released its cost projections for the UXO clean-up work needed at former military sites, closed bases and transferred ranges.
Sophisticated ways to detect UXO have been developed but are not cost effective, said Newsome.
The removal of the ordnance, on the other hand, is one area where technological progress is needed. The pick and shovel process used today is nearly identical to that used during the Civil War, he pointed out.
The Army Corps of Engineers is now focused on cleaning up former defense sites where the military has contributed to contamination but the government does not own the property, said Rivers. The Spring Valley site in Washington, D.C., is one example. A recent sweep found possible unexploded ordnance buried in what is now the backyard of the South Korean embassy. Old maps of the area indicate the location may have been a military landfill site after World War I.
The Corps of Engineers spends $4 billion on environmental projects each year. About 90 percent of those funds are outsourced to contractors, said Rivers.
Restoration efforts, budgeted with $377 million, are expected to continue in 1999 at both active and closing bases, said Dries.
With base realignment and closure efforts winding down, more resources are being routed to clean up active bases.
Conservation of the Army's 25 million acres of land claimed $48 million in the current budget. The work includes range maintenance where frequent pedestrian traffic and motor vehicles have worn paths in the vegetation, leaving the area open to erosion.
The bare spots are also making training areas less effective, said Eicholtz. On small arms training ranges, for example, soldiers are actually able to predict where targets will pop up because the grass has worn thin.