U.S. Army Signal Center, Ft. Gordon
Fort Gordon, located on 56,000 acres near Augusta, Georgia, is home to the United States Army Signal Center. The Fort’s population of 18,300 is composed of 12,800 military personnel, 3,200 civilians, and 2,300 dependents. The primary military mission of the installation is to train soldiers to install, operate, and maintain modern military electronic communication equipment and systems. In addition to their military mission, Executive Order 12873 as of October 20, 1993 directs all federal facilities to make more efficient use of natural resources by maximizing recycling and preventing waste wherever possible. Response by the military to this Order has resulted in many environmental improvements throughout the commands.
Initially Fort Gordon documented the bulk of their pollution prevention efforts through a Waste Reduction Plan. The Fort has since committed to a formal Pollution Prevention Plan drafted in December 1995 and revised in September 1996. The current plan centers on using best management practices, continuous training, and new technology to reduce hazardous, regulated, and solid wastes while also reducing the use of listed toxic and ozone depleting chemicals. The goal of the plan is to reduce each of these waste streams and chemical uses by 50% by 1999 using 1994 as the baseline year.
Fort Gordon operates a Qualified Recycling Program under Army regulation guidelines. The recycling center accepts paper, cardboard, plastics, metals, and clear glass. In November 1995 the Commanding General made recycling mandatory for all on-post housing residents and offices. To enforce this regulation garbage collectors have ceased to collect refuse that contain recyclable items. As a result of these efforts, Fort Gordon’s recycling center increased recyclables processed from 2.6 million pounds in 1995 to over 4 million pounds in 1997.
Fort Gordon’s vehicle related pollution prevention activities on post include the use of alternate clean fuel vehicles, reduced motor oil usage, and lead-acid battery disposal reduction. Forty-two natural gas powered vehicles have been incorporated into Fort Gordon’s fleet. While these vehicles are less convenient to fuel and have a limited mileage range, hydrocarbon emissions are potentially 85 to 95% less than the gasoline-powered vehicles. Fort Gordon also participates in the Army Oil Analysis Program (AOAP). The AOAP program involves the periodic testing of a vehicle’s motor oil to determine if it requires changing. This program is estimated to have lengthened the period between oil changes on average by 33%. The Fort participates in the Vehicle Battery Consignment Program. Through a contract between the Defense Department and a vendor, spent lead-acid batteries are picked up and replaced with fresh recycled ones. This effort has reduced lead-acid battery disposal to nearly zero.
In order to reduce solvent use on post, 47 solvent parts washers were replaced with units that use a self-renewable bioremediation aqueous cleaning system. The new system uses enzymes to digest oil and grease thus keeping the fluid clean. It is estimated that over 8,000 gallons of spent solvent will be eliminated from Fort Gordon’s waste steam each year.
A newly constructed Consolidated Maintenance Facility housing all of Fort Gordon’s facility mechanical, electrical, and vehicle maintenance has incorporated several pollution prevention initiatives. Conventional paint spray guns were replaced with High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) guns, increasing the paint transfer efficiency from 30% to 50 – 65%. Funding has been approved to purchase electrostatic spray equipment which is expected to increase transfer efficiency above 70%. The Training Support center will soon replace its paint booth waterfall cascade filtration system with a down draft air exhaust system. This will eliminate the need to dispose of large quantities of hazardous paint sludge, reducing the waste stream by over 80%. Also a plan to apply a peelable coating to the paint booth interior will eliminate solvent currently used to clean the booths.
Construction of a Hazardous Material Control Center (HMCC) is scheduled for 1998. This facility will provide centralized management of hazardous materials from the time of request until material is used or sent to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office for disposal or sale. By controlling the requisition, receipt, storage, issue, and disposal of hazardous materials, the HMCC will ensure cradle-to-grave tracking. It is estimated that the HMCC will reduce hazardous material purchases by 5%, shrink disposals by 10%, and reduce sampling of unknown material by 65%. Units will save over 1,000 man hours associated with administration of regulatory requirements, disposal assistance, and stock management. Other savings that have not been quantified include reduced regulatory actions, improved safety, improved readiness, and efficient material control. The HMCC will also add equipment to puncture, drain, and crush spent aerosol cans, oil filters, and paint cans, therefore allowing the scrap to be recycled or disposed of as non-hazardous solid waste.
Future waste reduction projects being considered by Fort Gordon include antifreeze recycling, vehicle oil bypass filters, land farming of fuel-contaminated soil, and a distillation unit to recover used paint thinner.
Fort Gordon is demonstrating, as are other military installations, that commitment to waste reduction together with creating the environment and tools to implement improvements does yield big rewards.
Information for this case study was submitted by Mike Bien, Environmental Specialist at Fort Gordon, (706) 791-2403.