Military and civilian leaders joined Fort Hood Garrison Commander Col. Jason Wesbrock and Director of Public Works Brian Dosa for an Environmental Quality Control Committee meeting June 18 at III Corps. Dosa explained the purpose of the forum is to meet quarterly, balance training and readiness with environmental compliance and share information with commanders and units.
“There are two things we need to do at this meeting,” Dosa said. “First, pay attention, be part of the conversation and provide feedback. Second, take the information back to your units so they will be made aware of the issues and successes.”
The meeting guided military personnel and civilians through discussion about the installation energy and water plan, compliance assessments, environmental training, zebra mussels and challenges with recycling. But a hot topic was about changes to the installation’s hazardous waste program.
Wesbrock opened the meeting explaining how the garrison paid a $250,000 fine to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Not because we impacted or affected the environment in any way shape or form, but because of a procedural issue that was approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality,” Wesbrock said. “When the EPA came in and said ‘Nope, that is not how you are supposed to do it,’ Fort Hood was fined for it.”
The EPA determined the installation’s waste management practices did not fully comply with the federal regulations for hazardous waste.
“It started over $1 million, but through our lawyers, we got it down to $250,000. We had to pay that out of the Garrison fund,” Wesbrock said. “That translates to taking money from other services that would have otherwise supported Soldiers and Families’ needs, to pay for a penalty to the EPA.”
Fort Hood had been operating under an agreement with the state regulator, TCEQ, which gave the installation relief on how it managed waste. Jerry Mora, solid waste program manager, DPW, explained how the EPA did not take that into consideration, resulting in a consent agreement and a fine.
“The EPA is enforcing compliance with the regulations at the point of generation – in the motor pools,” Mora said. “Soldiers and units will need proper containers, labeling, storage and must understand time limits on how long they can store waste and how to prepare documentation.”
Previously, the waste generated at motor pools was considered a used product. Soldiers collected and stored used products in a used product reclamation point building and then would turn-in these items to the DPW Classification Unit where environmental staff would characterize it is as hazardous, non-hazardous or universal waste.
“Now these items are no longer considered a used product,” Mora said. “It is a waste as soon as it is generated and Soldiers at the motor pool declare the spent material is no longer usable to them.”
The EPA has provided a timeline for Fort Hood to fully comply and standardize hazardous waste changes at more than 100 sites across the installation by March 2020.
“During the next EPA visit, if they found a motor pool not in compliance, they could issue a notice of violation and potentially another fine,” Mora said.
“We have to change how we are doing business as it deals with recoverables from the motor pools and how we label hazardous waste,” Wesbrock said. “It’s going to be an education process that occurs over time, but, in the end, it will change how we are doing that.”
The education process will begin with piloting changes at three sites to identify issues and determine how to best standardize practices.
“Waste staff and dedicated contractors are going to help units to fully comply with the regulations, and at the same time, try to minimize the impact to the Soldiers,” Mora said. “Once we are confident we have everything in place, we can roll out standards to the entire installation.”
The goal is to present pilot results at the EQCC meeting in December, roll out the program in January 2020 and achieve full compliance by March 2020.
“We need to get the word out to the commanders and down the chain of command,” Wesbrock said. “We want to put the money where it needs to be, and ensure we have longevity of resources here at the installation so that we can continue to train and live here in the future.”