Features / Japan / Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni / News Stories

ECE programs ensure good stewardship, mission accomplishment

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan  — April was a busy month for the Environmental Division here as it worked to prepare for a two-week long inspection ending on Earth Day, April 22.“This inspection is a way to identify problems and find solutions,” said Melanie Bengtson, environmental director here.Maj. Ian Thompson, environmental compliance officer at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C., came to Iwakuni with a contracted team of professionals from the Environmental Compliance Evaluation program to conduct the triennial fenceline-to-fenceline inspection of the base.

“Here at Iwakuni, we abide by requirements in the Japanese Environmental Governing Standards, which combines Department of Defense environmental policy with (Status of Forces Agreement) requirements,” said Thompson. “We’re just making sure that we’re meeting the requirements of the laws and having environmental programs in place in order to do that.”

ECE conducts audits of Marine Corps bases all over the world using programs designated for different environmental issues, such as solid waste, hazardous waste and water preservation.

The programs used during inspection are dependent upon the installation’s needs. Required by the ECE program is a pre-evaluation checklist updated in accordance with current federal, state and local laws, as well as Department of Defense and Marine Corps policy.

“We compile the list of all the possible laws, regulations, orders and policies that we have to follow and make it into a checklist, where we literally go down and make sure that everything is being done,” said Thompson. “It’s a very thorough way of ensuring that all the programs are in place.”

The checklist notes also employee awareness of environmental compliance.

“Being compliant means that we are following applicable standards directed by environmental mandates like laws and orders,” said Thompson. “It requires that we have effective programs in place at our bases to meet those standards.”

The checklist focuses on hazardous waste, hazardous waste accumulated areas, spill contingency, above ground storage tanks, oil water separators and contractor sites.

A plan of action and milestones establishing a timeline to correct findings and discrepancies must be identified in a benchmark report. The installation validates this report annually to ensure deficiencies are being adequately addressed.

Hazardous waste programs represent a significant ECE program at Marine Corps installations.

Not surprisingly, the Environmental Division here takes hazardous waste very seriously.

“The hazardous waste accumulation points here that deal with the hazardous waste directly are being very well handled and very well inspected,” said Thompson. “They have a very good oversight program with personnel from environmental out there with squadrons every day checking the sites.”

Station safety and the Environmental Division use ECE programs to limit the use of hazardous materials by compiling an authorized use list.

“You don’t want to have too many things to pose an extra hazard,” said Thompson. “They have done a good job of ensuring that everything is labeled correctly and that when anything becomes a waste it is disposed of correctly.”

The ECE program is also used to audit and inspect the disposal of solid waste.

With limited disposal spots on base, how waste is handled and sorted is especially important.

“Solid waste is a special concern,” said Thompson. “One way to reduce solid waste is to have a really good recycling program.”

“It’s going to have to be a community-wide effort,” said Bengtson. “We’re going to harness everybody that we can to get out the word and come up with better ways to segregate our trash.”

Units are also inspected to ensure resources are in place in case of oil spills.

ECE ensures personnel are capable and prepared for incidents that may pose a threat to the environment.

“Whatever problems we find, we’ll try to figure out the root cause behind those and try to let everyone know so they can fix the problem,” said Thompson. “We’re trying to proactively assist the station’s ability to address their environmental concerns.”

In celebration of Earth Day, the Environmental Division actively participated by handing out re-usable bags. The division also got the Matthew C. Perry Schools involved by holding an Earth Day poster contest and after school activities to raise awareness about the environment among the children.

Even after the inspection concluded, the Environmental Division continued the effort to keep Iwakuni’s Environment clean by scheduling a seawall cleanup Thursday.

It’s important to remind people they are part of the solution, said Bengtson.

“Earth Day for the Marine Corps is every day,” said Thompson. “The environmental job that we’re doing here is all in support of the mission. Whatever we do is to keep us operating so our bases don’t get shut down, so we have areas to train and safe places to live.”

For more information about how to contribute to environmental awareness or activities, call 253-4854.

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