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Letterkenny leading the green Army charge

May 01, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Olive drab is the color most associated with the U.S. Army, but the military is getting greener, environmentally speaking, and Letterkenny Army Depot was recognized Monday for its efforts at reducing waste.

"I'm an environmentalist," Depot Commander Robert A. Swenson said after the depot was presented the Secretary of the Army Environmental Award for 2006. Swenson said he believes it is possible to run a facility the size of the depot "without doing any damage at all to the environment, but we are not there yet."

Although the depot was honored for its work in recent years at reducing waste and pollution, years ago it was designated a Super Fund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because of soil and groundwater contamination from industrial processes.

The award, in the industrial installation category, recognizes the depot for reducing solid waste by 58 percent, or 4,756 tons, as well as for other steps it has taken to reduce waste and improve efficiency. It is one of six installations in the Army to receive the award, according to a depot press release.

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Swenson said lean manufacturing - a system for eliminating inefficiency and waste from manufacturing processes - is responsible for improving the depot's environmental performance.

In Building 350, where Humvees are rebuilt and upgraded, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Tad Davis told depot workers and personnel that $725,000 was saved in the previous two fiscal years on waste elimination, while repair time for Humvees had been reduced 40 percent for a savings of $14 million.

"The Army ... is embarked on the 'Green Way,'" Davis told the workers. The Army will be constructing more environmentally friendly buildings, buying more materials and supplies made from recycled materials, and incorporating more energy-saving technology into its processes, he said.

"It makes you feel great about having a good impact on the environment while meeting our production goals," said Matthew Fegan, a supervisor on the Humvee recapitalization line. Among the steps taken to improve the environment, he said, are switching to safer cleaning products and recycling used diesel fuel from vehicles for use as fuel for boilers at the depot.

The Army also recognized the depot for saving 77 percent, or $500,000 annually, on hazardous waste disposal costs for blast media, the abrasives used to clean metal surfaces, according to a depot news release. The use of hazardous solvents, such as methylene chloride and tricholorethylene, has been significantly reduced, the release stated.

The depot has also been acquiring dual-fuel vehicles that can run on gasoline or E85, a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

The award puts the depot in contention for the Secretary of Defense Environmental Award, the release stated.

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