CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Iraq --
Marines and sailors aboard Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq, are doing their part to protect the local environment by focusing on the proper disposal of all hazardous material aboard the base.
As the U.S. military at Camp Al Taqaddum continues to draw down its forces and remove equipment from the forward operating base, they must ensure the base is free of all hazardous material before returning control of the base back to the Iraqi government. With only one Marine in charge of Camp Al Taqaddum’s environmental program, coordination and communication with subordinate and tenant units is critical to having the base ready for the transfer.
Since he was deployed in January 2009, Staff Sgt. Samson Erdly, Combat Logistics Regiment 27 (Forward) base environmental chief, has been responsible for the oversight of all hazardous material on the base.
“Nearly everyone on TQ handles HazMat,” Erdly said. “Each unit normally has a site manager who is in charge of the unit’s storage area and they also will have handlers that handle HazMat. Each unit also has an Environmental Officer appointed to oversee the entire unit’s HazMat operation.”
Some hazardous materials service members use include different types of batteries like lithium, nickel metal hydride and lead acid vehicle batteries. They also encounter sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, water treatment chemicals, compressed gases, petroleum, oils and lubricants, and contaminated soil.
Erdly added that individual units are responsible for the proper storage and disposal of their materials. If they have a spill, they are responsible for cleaning it up, but if they require assistance, he will assist them to ensure the spill is cleaned up properly.
“It’s important to clean spills because the material spilled could seep into the ground and into the water table,” Erdly said. “[A spill] could also cause the ground to catch fire or explode if something else were spilled in the same area that is not compatible with the originally spilled material,” Erdly continued.
As each unit cleans out their area before heading back to the states, all the materials they have stored are transported to one of the two HazMat lots aboard the base for proper disposal.
There are several ways to properly dispose of HazMat . Most materials are taken to incinerators, local refineries or landfills.
“All petroleum, oils and lubricants are sent to refineries to be re-refined (recycled),” Erdly explained. “All other items are sent to be properly disposed of either by land farming, incineration, or burial in a sanitized landfill.”
Erdly said the Army unit that is replacing them will have a minimal amount of work to do because of the hard work everyone has done thus far to clean up their work spaces and dispose of their hazardous material.
“Everything we brought has to leave,” Erdly said. “What’s still left after [the Marines] leave, the Army will take over and ship out prior to the base closing,” he said.
As units depart one by one, Erdly inspects their unit areas one last time, to ensure everything is cleaned up and that they leave the base as HazMat-free as possible for the Iraqis who will inhabit the base in the near future.