Since 1970, Earth Day has been a recognition of improving the environment and increasing community awareness in its role in maintaining a better Earth.

West Point first celebrated Earth Day in 1995 with events that have centered on the academy's responsibility of being stewards of the lands and committing to the conservation of West Point.

However, for the Environmental Management Division of the Directorate of Public Works at West Point, every day is Earth Day in keeping the academy's reservation as pristine as possible.

The Environmental Management Division encompasses five sections: environmental compliance, natural resources, solid waste management, the Recycling Center and pest control. Those five sections fall under three branches within EMD.

"There are three branches within my division ... I have the environmental engineering branch, which are the compliance guys; the natural resources branch, which is forestry and fish and wildlife as well as pest control, too," Jennifer Butkus, EMD chief, said. "There is also the solid waste management, and they are the folks who run the recycling center and do all the abatements for lead-based paint, asbestos and mold. They are also in charge of the waste contract and oversee the transfer station on Route 293. We also have an agronomist who is in charge of landscape management."

Friday is a big day as West Point will be recertified as a Tree Farm, which is part of the American Tree Farm System that sustains forests and healthy wildlife habitats. West Point also has been recognized as a Tree City USA community by the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to community forestry, which is the 12th time West Point has been nationally recognized.

"With Bob Jones (USMA's head agronomist), this is our 12th year for the growth award by Tree City USA within 15 years," Butkus said. "We've been fabulous stewards of the environment probably longer than any other Army post."

Kevin Kirkpatrick, environmental engineer in the compliance department, said West Point was the first forestry program in the Army in 1903. And, even though it has been about conserving trees and wildlife, recycling has been an immense part at keeping the area environmentally friendly to all who inhabit the grounds.

"We recycled 42 percent (of nearly 10,000 tons) of our waste materials last year," Butkus said. "Waste material is classified as paper products, cardboard, cans, plastic bottles, and all those things are recycled. Metals are also recycled and the furniture that comes out of the barracks, those things are recycled as construction debris."

West Point has been able to do a fine job recycling, but Kirkpatrick said that community members should take note of not throwing garbage into recycle bins because that recycled material will be considered contaminated and will not be processed for recycling.

John Dopler, West Point recycling manager, has done a great job of being proactive with the recycling program. Butkus said through the qualified recycling program, a unique DOD program where Army installations are allowed to sell recyclable materials, that West Point's Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation received about $35,000 over the past four years.

Dopler's foresight has helped West Point maximize its recycle profits from his purchases of sealand shipping containers, which are used to stockpile recyclable materials until they are sold.

"When the markets are up, they sell the materials at a higher rate ... getting the best value for our dollar," Butkus said. "By doing so, he's doing a fabulous job of generating revenue for the installation. It's a great way to keep (the materials) dry and they are portable--it is very innovative."

West Point has always been a step ahead in keeping with innovation, and that can be seen in central area with the solar trash cans.

The solar trash cans use compactors inside the can to reduce the number of times the trash needs to be picked up. Kirkpatrick said those containers hold five times more waste than the regular containers.

"It's important because (the solar trash cans) are self-contained and water doesn't get in and animals don't get in," Kirkpatrick said. "With water not getting in, the waste is much lighter because water adds weight to waste, so when you pay by the ton for your (waste) transfer fee, it's cheaper because it's dry."

There are several projects that EMD is involved in that are either underway or will soon be underway including the E-85 hydrogen fueling station to be built at the Old PX area next to the FMWR Fitness Center. That construction starts this summer. The steps toward building the new U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School, where the current motorpool is placed, are currently ongoing.

"With USMAPS coming here and the move of the motorpool, we're making sure they're doing all the LEEDs (leadership in energy and environmental design) with our projects, the major projects, to make sure that they're looking at it," Butkus said. "USMAPS is being built on an old landfill, so that has been a challenge to make sure that when it is fully constructed it will be safe for all occupants and it's done properly. We've been working very closely with the Army Corps of Engineers, who've taken the lead on it."

Another significant program through EMD is the MS4 Program, which is the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System.

The program originated through the rules and regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to address the non-point source of pollutant discharges into the area waterways, which is different than point source discharges from origins such as waste water treatment plants.

"Over the years, as determined through research, there's just as much pollution coming from rain water on the ground and roadways that gets into the storm drains and ends up in the river than comes from a waste water treatment plant--a lot more in terms of volume of water," Mike Aiello, an environmental manager who is in charge of the MS4 Program, said. "Community members should be aware the storm drains go directly to the Hudson River ... and residents need to be cautious to not pour anything in storm drains because it can make it to a stream (among the many at West Point) that reaches the Hudson. This year we will be mapping all the outfall steady streams for our storm drain system."

All these programs that have made West Point a land steward leader and mindful of conservation are directly attributable to West Point's leadership and their vital role and awareness of the importance of keeping the environment clean.

"Col. (Dan) Bruno (garrison commander) has been extremely supportive of the environmental program. He's always been supportive, inquisitive and interested, and he wants to do great things for West Point and we're grateful for his support," Butkus said. "Our DPW (head) Matt Talaber has also been extremely supportive. He's interested in sustainability and wants to make the new USMAPS campus as platinum as possible, which is green building standards for new construction. He's been very proactive."

While Earth Day passed on Wednesday, the EMD is hopeful that the community continues to be aware that every day is important to keeping West Point green.

"Hopefully, the community keeps aware of what is going on environmentally in their area," Kirkpatrick said. "(They should) stay aware of what is around them and take care in doing their part in the community for the environment as best as possible.

"We have a lot of people who do a lot of great things, but it's a team effort," he added, "and it comes down to the residents from the cadets, professors, Family members and everybody else who works here to do their part to keep West Point the way it is and improve it."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16