By Bill Bradner (for U.S. Army Environmental Command)April 18, 2013
Tobyhanna Army Depot recently won the 2012 Secretary of the Army Environmental Award for Environmental Quality at an Industrial Installation for their comprehensive environmental management program that covers air quality to groundwater and everything in between.
The depot, located in Monroe County in Northeast Penn., is the largest full-service electronics maintenance facility in the Department of Defense.
The Tobyhanna Environmental Management Division, Directorate of Industrial Risk Management, is responsible for ensuring the facility is compliant with all environmental regulations, and works to reduce the footprint of the facility through pollution prevention, energy efficiency, and resource conservation.
"We establish cross-functional environmental objective and target teams to bring in ideas and contributions from across the depot to tackle the environmental challenges," said Nathan Edwards, chief of the Environmental Management Division.
"This ensures that all the stake-holders have buy-in and everyone works to remain in compliance and support our mission of continual improvement," Edwards said.
Recent teams have focused on the areas of wastewater discharge, hazardous material management and energy conservation.
Nestled in the Pocono Mountains, the depot covers nearly 1,300 acres and is surrounded by state parks and game lands. More than half the depot property remains predominately undeveloped, and provides a habitat for diverse types of wildlife including fish, waterfowl, beavers, bears, deer and turtles.
In 2012, the EMD conducted three phases of planning-level surveys for flora, fauna and vegetative communities. They also conducted a survey of all wetlands on the property--nearly 159 acres in 36 areas.
"The surveys will allow us to focus on specific conservation efforts going forward," natural resource manager Neil Kresge said, "minimizing the impact we have on the environment."
One example of their efforts to reduce their environmental impact is their participation as a Net Zero Water Pilot Facility, which includes the goal of reducing potable water use 50 percent by fiscal year 2020. In the past two years they've initiated a number of conservation projects including acoustic leak detection, water system pressure monitoring, drinking-water-system leak detection surveys, increased water metering, water recycling and reuse in industrial operations, rain water harvesting, and public awareness campaigns.
The projects have already resulted in a 38 percent reduction in water use, saving more than 20 million gallons of potable water each year.
The acoustic leak sensor project was such a success it recently was awarded the 2012 Department of Energy Federal Energy and Water Management award.
"Water savings help lower the cost of producing items for the war-fighter," said environmental protection specialist Tom Wildoner, "and it trickles down the supply chain, requiring less chemicals for water treatment and fewer tankers delivering chemicals to the depot."
"The over-all improvement to the environment--less pollution, less chemicals, less impact on the watershed--is really incalculable," Wildoner added.
The environmental projects continue inside the buildings on post. Building 30, the newest facility, is under review for Leadership in Energy and Energy Design certification. It also contains a number of innovative environmental controls and technologies with application across most military industrial facilities.
The building includes a large paint booth and two blast booths that feature variable frequency drives to conserve electricity in fan motors and air compressors. It also uses a heat recovery system to reduce natural gas consumption and captures thermal energy in exhaust systems.
These systems save more than 10 million BTUs annually, for a cost savings of more than $100,000.
"Construction has already begun to roll this technology out to another 10 paint booths on the depot," Edwards said, "which will result in a total savings of nearly a half-million dollars annually in utility costs."
On a smaller scale, the depot has begun using laser stripping technology to reduce electricity costs association with traditional large-scale blast booths. This also reduces the hazardous waste associated with blast media.
To ensure they have a handle on air-borne waste, 31 manometer alarms were installed to provide real-time monitoring of paint and blast filters, which ensures emission controls are followed and cleanliness and serviceability of the equipment can be maintained.
The depot also has developed an extremely effective recycling program involving all organizations and tenants on the installation. In 2012, more than 80,000 cubic yards of debris was recycled rather than sent to landfills.
Excluding construction and demolition debris, the depot recycled more than 4.7 million pounds of materials in 2012. The recycling rate averages 60 percent, well ahead of the Department of Defense's 2015 goal of 50 percent.
Recycling sales brought in more than $1 million and have a cost-avoidance figure of another $270,000.
"The revenue gained through recycling is used to manage the environmental programs, invest in environmental- and safety-related products, and to support morale, welfare and recreation projects," Edwards said.
Also in 2012, the depot diverted almost 65 tons of useable scrap wood pallets to a program that turns them into birdhouses and sanctuaries, saving nearly $7,500 in recycling costs and benefitting the local community and wildlife.
The concern for the environment doesn't stop at the gate. Depot personnel are active in the Monroe County Emergency Management Agency, the N.E. Pennsylvania Pollution Prevention Energy Efficiency Round Table, the Pocono Mountain Chamber of Commerce's Environmental Council, the Monroe County Solid Waste Advisory Committee and the Pennsylvania Environmental Partnership.
"Employees at all levels are engaged, empowered and encouraged to take an active part in the environmental program," Edwards said.