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Fort Drum finds environmental improvements, savings

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FORT DRUM — When it comes to finding ways to go green and save green, officials on post see how small changes locally can make a big difference.

“It’s about savings; it’s about stewardship,” said James M. Miller, the post’s environmental chief. “They augment each other.”

That work goes all the way down to the collection and repurposing of antifreeze and cleaning solvents used in maintaining the post’s vast vehicle fleet.

The waste fluids collected around the post are brought together at a distilling operation based near the Gasoline Alley gate off Route 26. Special distilling machinery at the facility purifies and dehydrates the product, leaving only its main chemical formula, ethylene glycol. That formula can be rehydrated and, after quality testing, be readied for another use.

“The circle of life continues,” Mr. Miller said.

Annually, the work saves about 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of antifreeze and solvent, creating savings of about $50,000. “Every dollar counts,” Mr. Miller said.

Outside the small processing facility stands a series of tanks, which contain used oil and off-spec fuel that can be repurposed and sold off-post. Repurposing of up to 40,000 gallons of used oil can save up to $200,000 in disposal costs, while the repurposing of up to 20,000 gallons of off-spec fuel can save up to $150,000.

More importantly, the above-ground tanks are set up to avoid leaks, a problem that has plagued the post in years past, including the grounds near the tank area.

“There’s no comparison,” Mr. Miller said. “This is so much better.”

In the past decade, the post has eliminated nearly all of its 800 underground storage tanks. The 11 that remain are primarily at the post’s consumer gas stations. Besides saving money, the post’s tank removals have saved it further regulatory challenges.

“It’s really been a win-win,” he said.

The fluid reuse is a small part of the recycling efforts in place on post as a component of the Army’s Net Zero Initiative, which aims to preserve resources and reduce waste going to landfills. In the 2013 fiscal year, the post recycled about 2,200 tons of material, from scrap metal to cardboard to wood pallets.

“Anything that’s recyclable, we’re recycling it,” Mr. Miller said.

The recycling work at the post is just one facet of the site’s green operations.

The post has spent years implementing items such as geothermal heating for buildings, solar walls that can regulate the temperature of incoming air and systems to conserve heating during low-traffic hours. Three buildings have active photovoltaic panels that not only supply power to their own building but pass excess power back into the grid.

“All of these systems come together to reduce these greenhouse gases,” Mr. Miller said.

According to post statistics, emissions have fallen about 35.2 percent from 2008 to 2012, from 54,003 metric tons to 34,957 tons. Mr. Miller said those emission reductions correspond with cuts in fuel costs, though exact numbers were not available.

The next major green step for the post will be to have its power supplied by the biomass plant operated on post by ReEnergy Holdings LLC. The Army on Feb. 19 announced its intent to award a 20-year contract to the company to supply up to 28 megawatts of power, which would make it the service’s largest renewable energy project to date.

However, no timetable has been set on when the final deal will be approved.

A GREENER TREND
Greenhouse gas emissions at Fort Drum, measured in metric tons, show a decline from 2008:
2008:54,003 2009:45,042 2010:47,055 2011:37,513 2012:34,957
2013 statistics have not been fully calculated.

Earth Day-related events
Today Lecture: Living Deliberately: Evolving a Happy Sustainable Lifestyle; 12:30 p.m., Room 6-100, Jules Center, Jefferson Community College.

Wednesday Lecture: It’s All About the Water; 12:20 p.m., Room 2-107, Samuel Guthrie Science Building, JCC.

Thursday Lecture: Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy and Alternative Technologies in the North Country; 12:20 p.m., Room 6-100, Jules Center, JCC.

Friday Lecture: Establishing a Campus Arboretum & A JCC Alum’s Journey in Environmental Studies; 12:20 p.m., Room 2-107, Samuel Guthrie Science Building, JCC.

Saturday North Country Earth Day celebration; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., New York State Zoo at Thompson Park.
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