Pa. Guard's 111th LRS HazMat Pharmacy keeps green techniques

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond
  • 111th Attack Wing Public Affairs
During a no-notice inspection conducted at the hazardous material storage area here by the U.S. Property Fiscal Operations staff on July 21, the officers made a shocking discovery - nothing.

Not a single hazardous material item was found.

"The (Hazardous Material) Pharmacy here at Horsham Air Guard Station is very different from any other Guard base out there," said Master Sgt. Joe Sommers, from the 111th Logistics Readiness Squadron with a primary duty of manning the Hazardous Material (HazMat) Pharmacy. "It's basically just the brick and mortar; we don't keep anything on hand."

The Hazardous Material Pharmacy, referred to as the Hazmart or HazMat Pharmacy, is intended to provide an environmentally friendly way to handle, store, dispense, track, recycle and dispose of HazMat on an Air Force installation. But Guardsmen of the 111th Logistics Readiness Squadron found a way to keep the Hazmart here more green with a simple motto: Every item is ordered as needed; no exceptions.

Sommers said that on average, installations have 100 to 400 hazardous material items in their Hazmart. Improper storage or insufficient tracking and ordering has the potential to increase the chances of hazardous material expiration, turning it into hazardous waste (HAZWASTE). HAZWASTE must be disposed of by the installation's environmental engineering unit. And while every precaution and action is taken to limit an environmental impact; even the soundest practices can incur a burden.

"We totally eliminated that problem by putting the responsibility on each individual shop to tell us what they need; then [the 111th LRS purchases] those items as needed," said Sommers, who was critical in forming the new hazardous material handling process in 2011. "No unit gets more than they need. So, there's no leftover to come back to the HazMat Pharmacy-- nothing left that can become hazardous waste."

Prior to the 'as-needed' process, individual units ordered their own materials and could place or remove untracked items from the Hazmart. Without proper tracking or due to an overabundance of products, hazardous materials often became HAZWASTE. The current system has drastically reduced the installation's amount of waste.

The Air Guardsmen took over the responsibility of the HazMat Pharmacy from the Navy after a large portion of the installation was shut down as a result of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) actions initiated in 2005.

"Before 2011, the units would purchase the items they needed in bulk because they were attempting to decrease cost," said Maj. Seth Foulkes, former environmental engineer here and part of the original Air Guard HazMat material process team. "No one was doing anything nefarious. The idea was more that people were honestly trying to save money; but, they ended up having far too much of a product than they actually needed."

Foulkes stated that along with waste left from the former host unit, products would expire, turning into HAZWASTE, requiring costly disposal.

"I remember having to tell the commander [in 2011], 'Yes, Sir. We have a problem here.'" Foulkes said about speaking to the former 111th Attack Wing commander, now The Adjutant General of the Pennsylvania National Guard Brig. Gen. Tony Carrelli. "Compliance is the goal when we're speaking of longevity and sustainment of the base."

And while units here still obtain and use the lubricants, oils, adhesives and paints they need to accomplish the mission, the waste is almost none. In fact, Sommers said, there are years that the installation makes no HAZWASTE disposal shipments -- drastically lower than that of the average installation.

"We are allowed 22,000 pounds of HAZWASTE per year," said Lt. Col. Jacqueline Siciliano, Horsham AGS's environmental manager. "At most, we put out 800 pounds. And almost all of that is universal waste."

Universal waste is a category of waste materials designated as "hazardous waste," but contains materials that are very common. It is defined in 40 C.F.R. 273.9, by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, but states may also have corollary regulations regarding these materials. Items that fall into this category include batteries, many thermostats and fluorescent lamps. This waste is material that commonly can be either burned for energy or recycled. Again, the amount produced by base personnel is negligible.

And being ecofriendly also saves dollars and cents, since HAZWASTE disposal can haul a hefty price tag. "HAZWASTE disposal can cost $10,000 - $50,000 or more, depending on what and how much material is being disposed," said Sommers.

"Basically, our practices here decrease the Air National Guard's HAZWASTE footprint," he said. "So yes, we're saving time and money; but, that's a bonus. We're doing it because we have the responsibility to conduct our mission in the most effective and safest way possible - and we've figured out how to do that."