NEWS | Aug. 24, 2020

Hazardous waste and how we deal with it

By Airman 1st Class Cory Davis Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

The 628th Civil Engineer Squadron’s installation management flight environmental management element is responsible for ensuring hazardous waste is properly processed and disposed of at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.

Hazardous waste must be disposed of properly in order for it to not harm the environment and those who live around the base and disposal sites.

“We take care of anything that is considered hazardous waste or non-regulated waste from an industrial process,” said Julie Legg, the 628th CES hazardous waste program manager. “It goes to our facility and we'll make sure it's manifested and tracked.”

Berry Lewis, the 628th CES environmental element chief explained that hazardous waste typically is either expired shelf life materials or it's a physical characteristic, such as if it has a lower flashpoint below 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it's corrosive meaning has a pH of less than two or greater than 12.5 or if it's reactive.

“We have certain batteries that meet that classification,” he said.  “We also have toxics, which is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as containing certain metals above a limit. That has a lead content greater than five parts per million is considered to be hazardous waste by EPA and require special disposal. We also get a variety of pharmaceuticals from the Navy Health Clinic, because they run a pharmacy.”

Legg said one thing that is unique about getting rid of hazardous waste on JB Charleston is sometimes calls come into the shop to dispose of unknown substances.

“Sometimes we'll go on calls where people don't know what’s inside a container,” said Legg. “That's scary because you never know. One time it was Pinesol that was in a gallon jug. That was kind of funny. We profiled it and shipped it out correctly. Then another time we didn't know what was in a drum and we opened it a little bit and it had an ammonia odor. We closed that quickly because it’s dangerous. We let that settle and then we profiled that correctly and shipped it off.”

Lewis explained how the hazardous waste is stored and where it goes when it’s done being processed. Depending on what the hazardous waste is it’s shipped to locations such as: Calvert city, Kentucky; Hammond, Louisiana; Smithfield, Kentucky; Augusta, Georgia; Kingston, Tennessee; and Emelle, Alabama.

“We have materials physically separated at they're appropriate storage locations,” he said. “When we get enough, we will process through the Defense Logistics Agency. Then with the supporting documentation, the contractor takes all of that and then we have scheduled pickup and the current shipper comes in. We'll load the containers that we've already identified and sent to an EPA permitted facility where they may do some further processing prior to being disposed of. There's actually EPA requirements for treatment depending on what the waste type is.”

Legg acknowledged why it is important to get hazardous waste taken care of quickly and safely not only for members of JB Charleston but also those around it.

“We definitely don't want to go into landfills leaching into the soil and groundwater or surface waters, so we very quickly get it all drummed up and shipped out properly,” said Legg.

Members of the 628th CES installation management flight environmental management element coincide with the Department of Defense and the Defense Logistics Agency by keeping the environment in mind by maximizing the usage of each item and minimizing environmental risks and cost through monitored compliant disposal.