By Mr. Robert Timmons (IMCOM)August 31, 2017
The pipe was barely warm to the touch as the heated thick tar-like #6 fuel oil was pumped out of underground holding tanks into waiting tanker trucks to be moved off-post.
On Aug. 25, Fort Jackson's Directorate of Public Works began removing roughly 350,000 gallons of the sticky petroleum substance once used to heat buildings on post while also saving the Army money and making more than $40,000.
It would have cost the Army $2.64 a gallon to dispose of the oil through routine channels, but after working with various agencies across post including the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate Fort Jackson was able to sell it for $.12 a gallon, said Heather Thomas, Hazardous Substance Program Manager with DPW.
The oil is naturally thick and must be heated to 190 degrees in order to burn it as well, said Curtis Helton, energy plant supervisor. "At this point it is really thin." Number 6 fuel oil is a backup fuel source to natural gas used to heat various buildings across post. Heated water warmed at the various central energy plants is piped through the buildings to warm them.
Helton said the process was also shedding the cost of infrastructure maintenance needed to store and move the potentially hazardous material.
"The system is about 50 years old and the infrastructure cannot support it anymore," Helton added. "The first step in the process is to remove the oil and the oil's holding tanks."
Not only does the oil's removal relieve pressure on the infrastructure, but it also helps the environment.
"It's extremely important" to save the government money, Thomas said, because "we are asked to do more with less … there is a money crunch so being able to save money that can go towards our mission to us is very important."
She also said "we must use those resources we have responsibly."
Pump hoses are laid over thick plastic sheeting and weak points in the lines such as joints are wrapped to make sure no materials leak out and seep into the ground. Fuel oil dropped on the ground will become sticky and virtually impossible to remove, Helton said adding that when mixed with sand it will become asphalt.
This helps the surrounding community as well, Thomas added, because it shows the Midlands Fort Jackson is a "responsible partner" in making sure there is no damage to the environment.