ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Anniston Army Depot was awarded the Governor's Air Conservationist Award at a ceremony hosted by the Alabama Wildlife Federation Aug. 3 in Prattville, Ala.

The Alabama Wildlife Federation's Governor's Conservation Achievement awards are the most prestigious conservation awards in the state, according to the AWF website. For over 30 years, the AWF has presented the awards to individuals and organizations making great contributions to the conservation of the state's wildlife and natural resources.

"I believe those who care about our natural resources and our wildlife are those who love Alabama the most," said Dr. Robert Bentley, governor of Alabama, in his remarks at the event.

In 2009, the depot, with the assistance of the Research, Development and Engineering Command Environmental Acquisition and Logistics Sustainment Program's Sustainable Painting Operations for the Total Army project, began a study to reduce hazardous air pollutants associated with its maintenance activities. This included the paint stripping processes, which have historically been major air polluters.

Methylene chloride, a hazardous air pollutant, is a widely used chemical solvent historically used in paint stripping processes. An acid base paint stripper containing approximately 75 percent methylene chloride was used in the depot's paint stripping processes.

Study participants located three products capable of replacing the paint stripping compound and the chosen replacement completely eliminates the use of methylene chloride and has the additional benefit of lowering operational and maintenance costs.

"This particular project was very important because it shows the dedication not only of the Army, but also of management here to projects like this. It shows that they are dedicated to make changes," said Patty Dodson, an environmental engineer for the Directorate of Engineering and Quality.

Throughout 2011 and 2012, the depot invested $750,000 to convert four vats to use the new chemical compound.

"We have to continue to improve our environmental footprint and make the process better for everyone involved," said Randy Bright, chief of the Directorate of Risk Management's Environmental Compliance Division.