BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
15 million pounds of hazardous waste.
That’s roughly how much gunk and gak the Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services Europe and Africa team is removing each year on behalf of U.S. forces stationed on or operating within the two continents.
The critical mission has continued through the pandemic despite sometimes onerous travel and business restrictions and ever-changing rules on what kinds of materials can and can’t be shipped out of various countries. Maintaining good relations with host countries by responsibly disposing of wastes generated while operating there is essential to steady diplomacy and strong alliances.
“Some of our removal locations – places like Israel, Kosovo and Niger – are very remote, with few commercial flights and only bare necessities,” said DLA Disposition Services Supervisory Environmental Protection Specialist Paul Hudson. “Our contracting officer representatives are billeting with the military in field conditions. Usually, it is not a normal base set up, but more of a forward operation location. It’s almost like a short-term deployment.”
In recent months, regional disposition personnel have handled warfighter hazardous waste disposal needs in nearly 20 locations, including places like Romania, Belgium, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, and nearly a dozen sites in Germany.
Shireen Washington serves as environmental operations monitor for disposal throughout Europe and Africa. She said that in the past five years, the agency’s CORs – who coordinate and oversee contractor hazardous waste removals – have dealt with 250 different waste types. Some of the most common include batteries and antifreeze, tank sludge and contaminated soils, used oil lubricants and JP8 fuel, treated wood and oily rags.
“The work our CORS do is critical to the mission to support the warfighter,” Washington said. “As we have weathered the COVID-19 storm, our CORS have not missed a beat as they continue to plan, provide effective service and execute support to regular and cyclic hazardous waste disposal operations.”
Washington said DLA’s CORs have done an outstanding job of adapting to and overcoming pandemic-related limitations and are still finding ways to keep disposal streams flowing.
“A classic example of our CORs’ support to warfighter readiness through atypical means has been conducting hazardous waste removals without a COR present, i.e., ‘COR-lessly,’” Washington said. “Our CORs are no strangers to focusing on aligning key priorities and initiatives, and with these types of removals, communication, scheduling, and coordination is key. Our CORs have had great success in supporting the warfighter with COR-less hazardous waste removals, and all this has been accomplished during a worldwide pandemic.”