May 1, 2018 —
When people think about hazardous waste, they might imagine barrels marked with a skull and crossbones, containing highly toxic chemicals. But how does the Defense Logistics Agency support the disposal of hazardous waste — especially those the government produces daily?
The Environmental Protection Agency maintains definitions and lists of hazardous wastes — such as cleaners, chemicals, oils and fuels. The Department of Defense also generates wastes that are not regulated as hazardous but that require controlled treatment and disposal, said Rick Klingel, DLA Disposition
Services Environmental Division chief.
“There are some things that are not toxic or dangerous enough to be on the EPA’s lists but are still not so innocuous that you want to throw it in the regular garbage or toss it down the drain,” he said. “You treat oils differently from solvents, corrosives and paint waste.”
For example, latex paint does not qualify as hazardous waste, but oil-based paint or primer does. Likewise, used motor oil and antifreeze are technically not hazardous waste, but DLA has contractors who dispose of all these materials in an environmentally sensitive way.
While only half to two-thirds of what DLA Disposition Services receives is regulated as hazardous waste
, the other portion “is toxic enough that you want to dispose of it responsibly,” Klingel said.
He noted the installations that generate the waste are bound by law to thoroughly identify the material.
“If they have an industrial process where they’re painting fighter jets, they’ve probably got tanks of solvent, because they have to strip the wing before they repaint it,” he said. “All kinds of chemicals may be mixed, as they have to clean out the paint guns frequently.”
The installations share information about the materials’ properties with the DLA Disposition Services team, who then issues a disposal task order to the contractor. The contractor must know the chemical composition of the waste to choose the proper treatment or disposal facility, Klingel said.
Around the world, DLA Disposition Services has about 100 field offices that dispose of excess property, he said. About two-thirds have environmental protection specialists whose main duty is to function as contracting officer representatives on about 80 contracts.
Chunky But Smooth
“You could break the mission into four chunks,” Klingel said. His staff and regional staffs around the world handle the first chunk: gathering the requirements and building the procurement request.
The DLA Disposition Services Acquisition office does most of the second chunk, he said: soliciting and awarding the contracts.
Next, the environmental protection specialists put on their COR hats to oversee the contractors doing the actual waste removals. “That’s the third chunk,” Klingel said. The Acquisition contract officers and worldwide CORs do most of the heavy lifting.
Contractors handle the fourth chunk, submitting documentation to prove they responsibly transported and delivered the waste to the disposal facility.
Special Handling Required
Klingel’s staff in Battle Creek, Michigan, conducts quality assurance on the contractors’ performance.
“For most of the missions DLA Disposition Services supports, DoD customers bring their excess property to our field offices. We physically take it and run it through the disposal cycle,” Klingel said. “Hazardous-waste disposal is the opposite of that. You don’t want to unnecessarily move pails and drums of toxic hazardous waste from place to place.”
That’s where the contractors come in. All the hazardous-waste contracts are service contracts
, Klingel said.
“We take the service provider to the customer. We’re essentially a specialized, just-in-time hazardous waste contracting service,” he said.
“When an installation has hazardous waste they want to dispose of, they’ll give us turn-in documents. But instead of physically bringing it to our site, we’ll do a receipt-in-place and then issue a task order to the contractor.”
From there, the contractor picks up the material from the installation and takes it to a landfill, incinerator or treatment site.
Location, Location, Location
Having global service contracts means the specifications can vary according to the location. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or RCRA, governs the disposal of hazardous waste and is enforced by the EPA. However, the RCRA only applies to U.S. locations, Klingel said. In foreign countries, disposal is governed by that country’s laws or international law.
In the United States, contractors usually must retrieve the wastes within 15-30 days.
“Some contracts, in the Middle East for example, specify that the contractor has to respond within 60 days because international environmental and local customs requirements take extra time,” Klingel said.
Klingel said Jacksonville, Florida, is DLA’s largest customer because it’s where the Navy maintains and services its planes.
“It’s an industrial base with a high operation tempo, so that contract has a 15-day contractor response time,” he said.
Contracts are tailored to meet the regional customers’ operational requirements. For example, Afghanistan has a 90-day window, because it demands of the contractor a lot more work and effort to transport people, supplies and equipment from Europe, Klingel said.
Joining the Environmental Support Branch at DLA Disposition Services Headquarters is the Hazardous Disposal Branch, led by Steve Schneider, its branch chief.
Schneider has a team of manifest trackers whose primary mission is to track every pound of hazardous waste turned in under DLA’s contracts, from generation to disposal. As they look at the documentation the contractor provided his or her staff, comparing it with the information the COR entered into the Distribution Standard System, the manifest trackers verify the contractor properly managed the waste in accordance with the contract requirements. This includes verifying the only facilities used were hazardous-waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities identified in DLA’s Qualified Facility List. Only after they verify this does DLA authorize payment to the contractor.
Schneider’s team also develops and submits to the contracting office a procurement request, “basically a hazardous-waste disposal contract,” he said.
It’s a long process, beginning a year out. Schneider and his team meet with customers, hazardous-waste generators, military service members and CORs, to gather all the requirements and consolidate them into a contract.
Schneider said the contracts are typically renewals or follow-on contracts. But sometimes they write brand-new contracts or requirements, such as the one they’re working on for a foaming agent used in firefighting.
His team is writing a contract for removal, destruction and disposal of the chemical for the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, having developed one for the Air Force last year. The foaming agent contains chemicals that are “on the EPA’s radar,” Schneider said.
The most common waste items the team disposes of are generated by motor pools: petroleum, oils, other lubricants and antifreeze. But they also dispose of “everything coming out of the various installations,” he said.
The team has 54 contracts that cover nearly all U.S. military bases, Schneider said.
“Some bases specialize in different operations like metal plating, for instance, where they’re generating waste that contains cyanides and heavy metals. We manage a broad spectrum of hazardous wastes, including ignitable, corrosive, reactive and toxic wastes,” he said.
CLINching a Victory
Schneider said the most significant task his team has done is reengineering DLA Disposition Services’ hazardous-waste disposal contracts, aligning them with private-sector standards.
Starting four years ago, the team launched the first-of-its-kind profile-based, contract line-item-number contract, known commonly as a CLIN.
This helps contractors make better informed, more competitive bids, Schneider said.
“It’s been quite a challenge to convert our contracts from a 25-year-old, outdated model to one that’s vastly different but much more efficient,” he added.
Schneider explained previous contracts were designed solely around EPA waste codes. He also said the Federal Acquisition Regulation forbids the government from imposing financial risks on the contracting community that companies don’t normally encounter in the private sector. But the previous contracts did just that.
“The contractors had to make a lot of assumptions because our CLINs were so broad and generic,” he said. “Our CLIN descriptions now are much more specific and developed with the different technologies in mind.”
Schneider said a lot of CLINs are very technology-centric.
“Some CLINs do require certain technologies, but for the most part, we don’t tell our contractors how they must dispose of the waste,” he said. “But by looking at our CLIN descriptions, they can leverage their best assets to provide a more competitive bid.”
When Schneider’s team designs the CLINs, they use cost triggers in the descriptions to indicate which technologies might best be used. For example, a CLIN may describe the energy value of a waste, enabling the contractor to base pricing on using fuels blending for disposal, rather than the more costly technology of incineration.
In fuels blending, organic waste is used as an alternative fuel to manufacture cement. It displaces the coal that would otherwise be burned by the cement kiln. The cost to the contractor is a fraction of the cost of incineration, where the waste is simply destroyed and no energy is recovered.
“It’s always more expensive to burn something for the sake of destroying it than it is to recover energy from it,” he said. “What we’ve done is eliminate much of the guesswork and financial risk to the contractor without transferring any of that risk to our warfighter customers.”
With Disposition Services providing more details about the waste, “contractors can better determine their technology of choice rather than base their costs on worse-case assumptions they had to make under the previous, generic CLIN structure,” Schneider said.
“We’re clearly seeing more competition for our business,” he added, “and the data indicates that DoD and taxpayers are saving approximately 17 percent for the management of military-generated hazardous waste under the new contract model.”
Another reason for the change from waste-code-based CLINs to profile-based contracts is to standardize contracts across DLA worldwide, Schneider said.
“When DLA employees go from one region to another, the contracts are very similar in format and content,” he said.
The Weighting is the Hardest Part
One of the biggest differences is that the previous government contracts were on a per-pound basis to comply with RCRA, established more than 25 years ago.
“We’ve now aligned with industry in that most of the waste is managed and priced by container size — that’s been a big change,” Schneider said. “Some things, like batteries and polychlorinated biphenyls are still measured in pounds. But by far, most of the waste now is turned in, managed and priced by container size because that’s the way industry does it.”
Schneider said the conversion from pounds to container size presented challenges to many customers.
“Our reporting and our data only showed how many pounds of toxic solids were turned in for a given period. Because everything was based on pounds, we couldn’t tell how many of those pounds were turned in as 55-gallon drums and how many were turned in as 20,000 pound bulk loads,” he said.
“So we had to create a new contract model with estimated quantities that were, at times, much of a guess. But now that everything is by container size, renewals of these five-year contracts are easy, because we can pull a report and we can see how many 5-gallon pails were turned in, how many 55-gallon drums, how many gallons were removed by tanker trucks versus drums — it’s a lot more specific now.”
Schneider said he sees potential for further improvements, such as transportation pricing that’s separate from disposal pricing, and an increase in waste minimization. But one thing will not change.
“Everything revolves around RCRA,” he said. “That’s our ‘holy grail’ and is at the centerpiece of our disposal contracts.”
From contracting and manifest tracking to ultimate disposal, the focused effort by so many employees across the agency helps DLA avoid a type of waste many consider one of the most hazardous of all: waste of the American taxpayers’ money.
That’s a hazard no one at DLA will accept.