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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Handlers track hazardous materials

By Pamela Jackson | | February 17, 2011

Editor’s note: This is the sixth article of an eight-part series on Inside Installation and Environment Division.

Purchasing items such as a can of computer dust cleaner from direct support stock control is no longer as simple as it once was. Now, every chemical or hazardous material product used here at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany must go through the Hazardous Materials Cell warehouse in Building 1260.

“One of the main programs handled by this office is the hazardous material management system, which tracks all hazardous materials handled here on the base,” said Robert Metts, pollution prevention program manager, Installation and Environment Division, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany. “We track all products so that we can downsize materials, review new materials, go green with materials and keep users from using too much of the materials.”

According to Guenter Schwarz, manager, HAZMAT Cell, Building 1260, I&E, 1,600 different products have been identified here on base that make their way through the warehouse for distribution.

Metts said their HMMS tracking system reduces costs associated with making unnecessary purchases or selling hazardous materials.

“If a customer can downsize in the amount of materials they use, it can help save money, especially if it is not used within a year. The HAZMAT Cell was stood up in 1997 and currently there are approximately $3 million worth of materials here on the base,” he said. “We are mandated by the federal government to go green, so with our management and labeling processes we can use greener products and where there are products that are not so friendly to the user, we can replace them.”

Whenever a new chemical comes on base, it goes to the HAZMAT warehouse where it is labeled and tracked wherever it goes on base. The HMMS tracking system can track much more than the materials’ whereabouts, but can also pull usage and product description reports. The labels also serve another purpose.

“If a building housing any of these chemicals accidentally catches on fire, the HAZMAT team and fire officials will know what the exact level of danger is,” Metts said. “Based on information contained in the material safety data sheets and the corresponding label, the team can tell exactly what the chemical is and know how to react to the spill. They can tell exactly what individuals have been exposed to.”

Tscharna Damerow, certified computer technician, HAZMAT Cell, I&E, said when orders are delivered, the receiving department unloads the trucks and writes a receiving report, which is then brought to her for inputting the national stock number into HMMS.

“A tracking label is then printed and serialized, which then goes back to the receiving department for the warehouse to label the products. This happens for every hazardous material product that comes to the base,” she said. “Once it is issued to the end user, the tracking label helps us keep up with the product type, description and location.”

Metts said his team has various programs like the air program, which uses HMMS to track hazardous air pollutants released from chemicals, volatile organic compounds and the material itself from start to finish.

“We know at all times who has and signed for the product and when it is turned back in. Everything is centrally located and all products are purchased through the cell and distributed to the workforce for use. Once the containers are empty, they are labeled as hazardous waste and returned to the cell for proper disposal,” he said.

Metts said no hazardous materials get into the soil or drinking water because everything is containerized and shipped out. Some types of hazardous waste are then placed in drums, properly labeled and identified, then shipped off to a permitted hazardous waste treatment facility.

“Another way we reduce pollutants is by finding greener products to replace the hazardous products. One example of this was the brake cleaner being used to clean grease off parts. The product worked so well all the shops began using it. The downside was the amount of air emissions the product produced, so we replaced it with an environmentally-friendly solvent. With that simple change, we stopped about 4,000 pounds of hazardous air pollutants from going out into the atmosphere each year,” he said.

HAZMAT officials say this type of change has been done with several products, including those the base cleans with. Some of the primary products used here are paints, cleaning solvents, aerosols and other degreasers that mechanics use, and a lot of other products.

“We are always looking for environmentally-friendly replacements for what we use. We are mandated to stop as many air pollutants from going out into the atmosphere as possible here, so whenever a customer tries to purchase a product on base, it has to go through the management team for approval,” Metts said. “If there is a more environmentally- friendly material out there, we take steps to purchase it. An employee cannot just purchase a product containing chemicals, it has to go through a special purchasing process to be approved.”