JMC rep oversees packaging of contaminated soil in Japan

By Matthew Wheaton, Joint Munitions Command, Public and Congressional AffairsJanuary 23, 2024

JMC rep oversees packaging of contaminated soil in Japan
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Contractors pack up soil into 55-gallon drums at Camp Kinser in Okinawa, Japan. (Cy Turner, Joint Munitions Command) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
JMC rep oversees packaging of contaminated soil in Japan
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – In mid-November 2023, at Camp Kinser in Okinawa, Japan, a member of Joint Munitions Command’s low-level radioactive waste team oversaw the packaging of thirteen 55-gallon drums with soil. (Cy Turner, Joint Munitions Command) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

Cyrus “Cy” Turner, who is a member of the Joint Munitions Command’s Low-Level Radioactive Waste Program, returned from the “land of the rising sun” in mid-November 2023.

At Camp Kinser in Okinawa, Japan, the health physicist oversaw the preparation and packaging of thirteen 55-gallon drums with contaminated soil.

In October 2017, due to an engine fire, a Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter made an emergency landing in a field outside the Northern Training Area in Okinawa. As a result of the incident, remnants and materials were recovered from the hard landing site as the helicopter incinerated.

The recovery included contaminated soil from the site. The area around the mishap was excavated, removed, and transported to a storage facility at Camp Kinser. Soil samples were sent to a laboratory for analysis, and the results identified low levels of certain hazardous chemicals and detectable radioactive strontium-90.

The CH-53E carries an In-flight Blade Inspection System, which contains a small amount of strontium-90. In accordance with Department of Defense policy and instruction, the soil could not be disposed of in Okinawa with these characteristics and it is on contract to be sent back to the United States for disposal.

JMC is the DOD lead agent for low-level radioactive waste disposal, so the command handled the task.

A task order was solicited and awarded to a qualified waste management firm to prepare the contaminated soil for transport with subsequent treatment and disposal back in the U.S. The task order was awarded in 2020, but the packaging phase of the project was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If the sources aren’t compromised there’s no issue. When an aircraft has a mishap, you’ve got a little more to consider as far as the environmental impact,” Turner said. “Even in the states, we have to adhere to certain standards to dispose of material like this, and in this case, the Marines had to take the dirt. Now that we have the dirt, we have additional considerations to bring back for disposal. We have sought assistance from other branches to assist us with this effort.

“Hands down, this is the most challenging project I’ve worked. It’s unique because of a mishap with soil from the other side of the world,” Turner added. “Other disposals are straightforward and this one has had challenges along the way because the material was unwanted, has hazardous characteristics, and is radiologically impacted as well.”

JMC's LLRW team embarks on global journeys to military bases, where its mission involves carefully packaging and transporting materials in various configurations. The team's endeavors play a crucial role in ensuring the DOD's compliance with environmental regulations and the secure and safe management of LLRW.

“The LLRW team’s and contractors’ actions will reduce radiation and chemical hazard exposures to the military, civilian personnel, and members of the public,” said Mike Kurth, a health physicist for JMC.