By Rita Hess (USAEC ContractorApril 4, 2019
Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield (FS/HAAF) is the largest Army installation east of the Mississippi River. Home to the 3rd Infantry Division, the installation successfully supports readiness requirements and enhances quality of life.
By being proactive; planning for the future; and forging strong relationships throughout the installation, community, and regulatory arena, its Sustainability Management System (SMS) Team has also helped cement FS/HAAF's reputation as an environmental leader and good neighbor. Their outstanding efforts helped give the program staying power that will outlive current employees and earned them the 2019 Secretary of the Army environmental award for sustainability in the team category.
The team's strategy is akin to a "divide and conquer" approach, spreading out responsibilities among many.
Four Process Action Teams (PATs), composed of representatives from installation directorates, track activities with potentially problematic environmental conditions and help disseminate sustainability requirements across the installation. The four teams are: Infrastructure and Environment; Regional Development; Training Lands; and Procurement, Materials, and Resources. In FY17-FY18, they tracked 135 actions.
"The successes of the Sustainability program have been a team effort culminating with achievements that always support Mission Readiness and enhance quality of life," said Col. Jason Wolter, FS/HAAF garrison commander.
The SMS emphasizes the garrison in its entirety, rather than individual groups with competing interests. Such partnerships, which involve year-round planning and coordination, are effective for everyone and for the environment.
For example, high water sometimes washed out tank trails at stream crossings on the installation, impeding training and transferring sediment to streams. Normal streamflow and function was restored by implementing wetland restoration activities to include the removal of silts and sediments from waterways, watershed analysis, and properly sized culverts. As an added benefit, more than 28 miles of stream crossings were hardened over the last 10 years providing uninterrupted access to critical training and live fire facilities.
The SMS Team nurtures strong partnerships with communities and municipalities. In 2010, FS/HAAF collaborated with the nearby city of Hinesville to implement the "Purple Pipe" project, which distributes reuse water from a Hinesville wastewater treatment plant to Fort Stewart for irrigation and industrial purposes. In June 2017, the Purple Pipe system was expanded to include an irrigation system in one of Fort Stewart's housing areas. As a whole, the Purple Pipe system saved FS/HAAF more than 80 million gallons of potable water during the award period.
Partnerships with regulatory and environmental stakeholders instill trust in FS/HAAF. The installation worked with Georgia Power on a 250-acre photovoltaic power generating system capable of producing solar energy. Being one of three installations east of the Mississippi to have such a system moves the Army closer to its renewable energy commitment.
Perhaps the most important message the SMS Team communicates is to "think locally and act globally." FS/HAAF's environment extends beyond its borders, to the country and the planet. Fostering this mindset encourages the entire community to protect and preserve installation training lands--and the world--for future generations.
For example, from a FY07 baseline, the team achieved a 56 percent reduction of potable water consumption intensity in FY17 and a 61 percent reduction in FY18. The installation exceeded their 36 percent reduction goal well before their FY25 deadline.
The team also maintained a successful Hazardous Materials Mart (HAZMART) Pharmacy to ensure customers have sufficient stock to conduct maintenance operations, while managing shelf life to ensure product use before expiration--thus eliminating waste.
Through the installation's Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) program, conservation easements help prevent encroachment from incompatible development. During the award period, FS/HAAF's ACUB program protected more than 4,223 acres, increasing its total to more than 80,000 acres.
The installation has also increased the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) population by installing 324 artificial cavities, conducting mid-story mowing operations, and translocating 41 RCWs to assist recovering other southeastern United States populations.
A robust outreach program on and off the installation relays the message that everyone has a role and responsibility toward sustaining the mission. The Team ensures FS/HAAF personnel know about compliance and sustainability concerns, as well as best management practices through online training for Soldiers, Civilians, contract staff, and tenants.
Team activities, events, tours, and presentations also support sustainability initiatives. During the past two years, environmental program staff presented at forums and conferences; served on technical boards; participated in community meetings; celebrated Earth Day, America Recycles Day, and Arbor Day; and publicized its efforts in print media and online outlets. They reached more than 50,000 people in FY17-FY18 by sponsoring or participating in approximately 160 events.
Specifically noteworthy, its Qualified Recycling Program (QRP) conducts recycling training for newcomers, courses to help set up recycling programs, as well as training courses for Environmental Compliance and Recycling Compliance Officers. The QRP trained more than 11,700 people during FY17-FY18.
As a result of these efforts, the installation achieved an average diversion of 52 percent for municipal solid waste and an average of 77 percent for construction and demolition, exceeding goals and providing cost avoidance of over $1.9 million during the award period. Continuing on this course, FS/HAAF will achieve a 22-year lifecycle cost savings of $24 million.