TOXIC solvents used to clean warplanes, tanks, and other weapons
have long been among the Pentagon's major pollution problems.
So, in an effort to cut down its dangerous waste production, one
Air Force depot has developed a greener method for stripping
corrosion and dirt from jet engines: dry ice pellets blasted from a
hose under pressure.
It's a move that is part of a larger trend. After decades as the
biggest and least-accountable producer of pollutants in America,
the Department of Defense (DOD) has begun to seriously address
Pollutant control and compliance is slated to receive one of the
largest percentage increases in the military budget for 1993, even
though overall defense spending is sure to decline considerably.
Environmentalists welcome this funding rise and credit DOD's new
pollution control efforts. But they worry about whether the defense
bureaucracy has truly accepted the new environmental order.
And they point out that the Pentagon has made hardly a dent in
the vast job of cleaning up contamination at its bases, both in the
US and overseas.
Need to do more cited
"Is DOD making progress on the environment? Yes," says Ralph De
Gennaro, a Friends of the Earth federal budget expert. "But they
need to do more. There's still a failure to accept that they're
going to have to meet the same kind of standards that civilian
industry has been meeting for years."
The DOD is the largest institution in America, and through the
years many of its daily activities have left a stew of toxic or
otherwise dangerous materials in their wake.
In 1989 the department estimated that it was producing some 900
million pounds of hazardous waste a year, for example. The same
year DOD personnel were involved in 658 oil or toxic-waste spills
that needed special cleanup.
Overall, DOD environmental officials have identified more than
20,000 sites contaminated by past practices at 1,600 different
facilities. As of last year, 374 of those sites were listed as
cleaned. Estimated cost for a complete scrubbing of Pentagon
installations range from $20 billion on up. The contaminated sites
range from oil-soaked motor pools to dumps full of chemicals used
in poison gas.
The nuclear wastes of the nation's atomic bomb complex are a
separate problem, largely the responsibility of the Department of
Military service efforts to clean up hot spots began on a small
scale in 1975. In recent years, under pressure from Congress and
the Environmental Protection Agency, the Pentagon has planned
explosive growth in funds for pollution cleanup and prevention. …