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SecNav recognizes MCAS Yuma for pollution prevention efforts

By Lance Cpl. Austin Hazard | | April 9, 2009

Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz., recently won the 2008 secretary of the Navy environmental award for pollution prevention on a non-industrial installation, the Navy announced March 26.

Yuma will also be considered for the 2008 secretary of defense environmental award for the same category, competing against the different armed services.

“This demonstrates to the community that Marine Corps Air Station Yuma is a good steward to the land that has been entrusted to it,” said Dave Rodriguez, station environmental director.

The station won the award for projects it implemented to lessen its environmental impact.

These projects include water conservation, energy efficiency efforts, range sustainment and hazardous material consolidation.

The water and energy projects focus on reducing the station’s draw from local resources while saving money. They do this by replacing high-maintenance vegetation with local plant life, which requires much less water, and by installing solar panels throughout the station.

Local well water is used to irrigate most areas on station, allowing for treated water to be used for drinking. Since the treated water is used substantially less for irrigation, the station releases fewer chemicals into the environment. By using solar energy, the station is employing an environmentally friendly source, reducing its draw from less environmentally safe sources.

The range sustainment program involves cleaning up the station’s ranges. With the program, the environmental department has removed much of the hazardous debris on the Barry M. Goldwater and Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Ranges.

“We’ve removed and demilitarized approximately 2 million tons of range debris, which includes the remnants of munitions, targets and anything else out there,” said Robyn Vida, environmental range sustainment program manager.

Through the hazardous material consolidation program, the environmental department tracks any chemicals on station, said Rodriguez. It is a data management program that monitors the movement of hazardous materials logged in through a barcode-tracking system.

“Once a chemical comes onto the air station, we know where that chemical is at any given moment,” he said.

By tracking chemicals and ensuring there is no excess of materials, the installation has seen a 32 percent reduction of received hazmat items throughout the last four years.

“I think this shows that we are operating in an environmentally sound manner,” said Christian Kost, environmental protection specialist. “It shows that we live by our policy.”

Col. Mark Werth, station commanding officer, Rodriguez and a selected station environmental employee will travel to Washington to receive the award from the secretary of the Navy during a ceremony at the Pentagon, May 28.

“MCAS Yuma is known throughout the Marine Corps for setting the standard,” said Vida. “It says a lot when a small installation sets the example for the larger ones.”

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