News: Air quality, odor on Kandahar Airfield set to improve
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – New burn incinerators and the increased use of the Deep South Waste Water Treatment Plant promise to improve the quality – and odor – of the air on Kandahar Airfield in coming months, said environmental manager Tim Blevins July 16.
In fact, the increasing use of the Deep South plant will likely make Kandahar Airfield’s iconic Poo Pond nothing but an unpleasant olfactory memory within a year.
Blevins, a Department of Defense environmental specialist embedded with the 655th Regional Support Group, said Kandahar Airfield residents should notice a significant decrease in smoke and particulate emissions on the airbase within 2-3 months when waste incinerators replace the currently employed burn boxes.
Modern incinerators expose waste to temperatures of more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and break down solids into ash and nonhazardous gases. The incinerators, built by NATO, will be located in the Deep South sector of the airfield.
“The incinerators are far more efficient and will provide a hotter, more-controlled burn of the waste,” Blevins said.
“Residents will no longer see plumes of black smoke emitting from a burn box.”
The other new facility in the Deep South sector of the airfield, the Deep South Waste Water Treatment Plant, will eventually end the lifespan of Kandahar Airfield’s infamous black water retention pond, widely known as Poo Pond. When the water treatment plant is fully on-line and operational requirements allow, likely within one year, Poo Pond will be drained and remediated, likely within one year according to Blevins. All of the pond’s treatment equipment will be removed and salvaged.
Before Poo Pond is closed, however, it will remain operational to supplant the Deep South plant. The Deep South plant, built and funded by NATO, is operational and servicing portions of Kandahar Airfield but not yet working at full capacity.
What it all means is a drastic reduction in wafting unpleasant odors on Kandahar Airfield.
“There is very little smell associated with the new wastewater plant,” said Blevins, 55, a resident of Hampton, Va. “The new plant is entirely different than the Poo Pond. While Poo Pond is an approved waste water treatment system, the new plant is an enclosed engineering solution to the wastewater problem similar to what you would see in your home town.”
In addition to assisting NATO officials with the oversight and management of the environmental projects on Kandahar Airfield’s 3,633 square acres, Blevins continually works to expand and improve the reuse and recycling processes on the airbase. Blevins said Kandahar Airfield generates an average of 100-130 tons of solid waste per day but 41 percent of the solid waste is recycled and reused, primarily in the local economy. On average, about 34 percent of refuse in the United States is recycled and reused.
Kandahar Airfield trash that is commonly reused or recycled includes: wood, cardboard, plastic, aluminum cans, mattresses, metal and tires. Some of Blevin’s environmental statistics are eye-opening: airbase residents recycle 30 tons of plastic bottles and aluminum cans weekly as well as 3.5 tons of tires. They also produce about 5.4 million gallons of black water (sewage water) per week.
Environmental officials also manage the proper disposal of the 95,000 kilograms of solid hazardous waste (mostly batteries) and 148,000 liters of liquid hazardous waste (mainly oil and petroleum) generated by the airbase’s units and personnel each month. Non-recyclable hazardous waste is containerized and shipped to Germany, where it is treated and disposed of safely.
Although Blevins said the base is making huge strides toward becoming an environmentally sustainable community, he said it’s the little things like cast-aside water bottles and trash in ditches that show some of Kandahar Airfield’s troops still need to hop aboard the environmental bandwagon.
“If I could get U.S. troops to treat this base just like their home stations, we would see a tremendous reduction in trash and eyesores,” Blevins said.