NSWC Indian Head, Maryland –
January 6 marks the conclusion of a labor-intensive DLA-coordinated project to remove roughly 18 million pounds of bituminous coal from the U.S. Navy’s last remaining coal-fired, steam-producing power plant at Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head in Maryland.
The site opened as a gun-testing range on the Potomac River in the late 1800s, and morphed into the home of Navy explosive ordinance disposal research by the 21st century. For many decades, the engineers and scientists who regularly play with volatile materials sagely chose to use steam heat in their explosives research facilities to minimize the opportunities for accidents.
The plant was finally closed a few years ago and a remaining football field-sized pile of coal sat until Navy officials turned to DLA Disposition Services at Fort Meade for a solution in 2015. Meade Contracting Officer Representative Tina Moncrief and former Environmental Protection Specialist Morgan Gunn, with an assist from headquarters personnel in Battle Creek, Michigan, put together a one-time hazardous sale advertisement and, for an estimated sum of $99,000, awarded a bid to the Penn Keystone Coal Company, a black coal provider primarily serving clients throughout the mid-Atlantic seaboard.
Now, Penn Keystone had a lot of hurdles to overcome, like waiting for the coal pile to dry out after winter, navigating base access vetting processes and enduring some base construction and demolition projects – but it ultimately did pretty well for itself, snagging usable $6-a-ton coal that it would eventually sell at a profit to another firm to fire their cement kiln.
“Given the logistics and the number of interested departments involved, DLA and its representative from Fort Meade, Dan Bryan, has been extremely helpful at facilitating the removal and providing whatever assistance that has been needed in overcoming a number of obstacles that occurred along the way,” said Penn Keystone official Joe Nale.
The real win for DLA – and ultimately the U.S. Navy and taxpayers – is the money – more than $6 million – that wasn’t required for getting rid of the hazardous substance.
“The cost savings alone is astronomical,” said Bryan, an agency environmental protection specialist who stepped into the project near its start and helped coordinate and monitor well over 300 pickups by the contractor. He said the only expense any DoD entity incurred was the rental of a special front-end loader by the Navy to help accommodate Penn Keystone’s 10 truck-a-day removal pace.
“This was a long-term operation that easily could have broken down and gone sideways,” Bryan said. “We stayed on top of it and removed this coal in a consistent and reliable manner. We did a good job.”
Early December brought the end of a main pile removal process that began in late September. The next step was to remove another thousand-plus tons of substrate coal that was smooshed about a foot and a half into the earth and also deal with the small piles dotting other locations around the base. Soon, Navy facilities officials will begin soil remediation efforts to ensure no long-term impact on the environment.