When he came to Redstone Arsenal in 2010 as a 40-year-old intern, Clint Howard of Hartselle was already a seasoned environmental engineer.
Howard, now the chief of the installation’s Restoration Branch in the Garrison’s Directorate of Public Works, had worked for various municipalities and utility companies in North Alabama; was co-owner of an engineering, surveying and construction company in Decatur; and had owned his own consulting firm for nearly a decade.
But when the economy tanked after multiple national banks collapsed in 2008 and Howard had an opportunity to work at Redstone, he happily accepted. He rotated throughout the Garrison and eventually worked in master planning for a couple of years.
When an opportunity in the environmental division opened, Howard jumped on it. He was a site manager at first and later promoted to his current position.
It’s a big title with even bigger responsibilities: clean up the messes left from decades of dumping and burying munitions, pesticides, heavy metals, rocket fuels, solvents and other pollutants on Redstone Arsenal.
Progress is slow but steady, Howard said, noting that the number of acres that are cleaned up each year varies, depending on which sites are currently under contract and how fast the cleanup action goes.
“Some cleanups can take several years while others can be done in a few months,” he said. “It depends on the width, depth and magnitude of pollutant at a particular site.”
Over 300 “clean” acres on post were released to the Garrison for hunting in 2019, thanks to the effort of his team of five government and four support contractors, the Army Environmental Command, two Corps of Engineers districts, nine prime contractors with multiple subcontractors, and a plethora of other government support agencies.
“It’s a big task coordinating and managing all these teams of people,” Howard said.
No land releases have been made yet this year, but more acres have been cleaned since: 422 total acres were released in 2019, 42 acres in 2020, 18 acres in 2021 and approximately 10 acres in 2022.
When the program was started there were 432 sites of potential contamination.
“Now we’re down to about 114,” he said. “We’ve knocked out over 70%. We’re making good progress.”
These sites are in various cleanup phases.
“Some are currently being investigated for the nature and extent of the contamination while others have moved into the actual cleanup phase,” Howard said. “We are digging the contamination out of the ground or trying to pump some sort of amendment into the soil and groundwater to assist mother nature in cleaning it up at a faster pace.”
His message to the community: progress is being made.
“Redstone is a very high priority for the Army,” he said. “We actually get about one-eighth of the entire Army environmental cleanup funds.”
For Howard, a civil and environmental engineering graduate of the University of Alabama in Huntsville who spent many of his formative years in his mother’s hometown of Leroy, where “there was no redlight in town,” the project is fulfilling life’s work.
“Every day, we are continuing to return and restore acreage” for the Army missions, tenant organizations and the Garrison, Howard said.
“The biggest thing is the protection of human health and environment,” he said. “We are steadily working at getting this place cleaned up.”
When he accepted the challenge of decontaminating the land on Redstone, “I knew exactly what I was getting into,” he said. “I love it.”