Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

Wing environmental program gets top marks

by Monica Mendoza

21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  — Environmental evaluators left no stone unturned as they closely scrutinized dozens of 21st Space Wing environmental policies and practices, Feb. 1 to 5.

The team pored over protocol reports, examined pumps, inspected hazardous waste procedures and looked for toxic substances. They reviewed air quality, water quality and cultural and natural resources.

“Peterson is one of the best (programs) we’ve ever seen,” said Ron Lester, Headquarters Air Force Space Command, Environmental, Safety and Occupational Health Compliance Assessment and Management Program team leader.

Every three years, outside environmental evaluators conduct an ESOHCAMP review on Peterson to ensure policies and practices are in compliance with federal, state and local regulations. Evaluators, whose goal is to provide a fresh look at base programs, identified areas of non-compliance and areas of excellence. The evaluation is meant to identify issues so base officials can make corrections to protect employees, eliminate mission risks and avoid enforcement actions or fines.

The 21st Space Wing’s environmental leaders received high praise from evaluators. Seven “Best Practices” were identified in areas of air emissions, cultural resources, water quality, respiratory protection and occupational health management. One evaluator said the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron’s fire department has kept the best records of respirator inspections of any he has ever seen. Further, Peterson received two “Exemplary” ratings in air emissions and wastewater management – a first within the command, said Karen Kivela, Headquarters Air Force Space Command ESOHCAMP program manager.

“We believe these practices should be implemented throughout the command and even throughout the Air Force,” Ms. Kivela said.

Overall, there were 60 findings, or areas for improvement, most of which are not high risk. Of the 60, 23 relate to training and 24 relate to procedures. For example, areas of improvement include, expanding standard chemical exposure assessments to ensure workers are not exposed to high levels of chemicals and improve ventilation. Other areas include improve hearing conservation training, label hazardous noise equipment and improve secondary containment for oil.

Wing environmental officials will write corrective action plans and return those to the evaluation team by April 23. Mr. Lester said leadership should focus on three areas: the ventilation protection program; spill prevention, Control and Countermeasure Plan and shop specific training; and the expanded standard chemical training.

Col. Stephen N. Whiting, 21st Space Wing commander, said the evaluation helps wing leaders determine how to direct base resources for continued improvement.

“We have some areas to improve in and we will attack those aggressively,” he said. “Overall, it was a very successful visit.”

Evaluator Bob Campbell, ESOHCAMP occupational health lead, praised the bio-environmental flight for their careful work in hazard communications. The team earned an “Exemplary” rating.

“They are giving good templates to use, good instruction, they are doing self assessments and going above and beyond to make sure the shops are implementing the programs,” Mr. Campbell said. “This is the second time we’ve given an exemplary rating in four years.”

Peterson’s wastewater program also earned an “Exemplary” rating. Evaluator Dr. William Hancuff, of URS Group, Inc., said in his 15 years of evaluating base programs, this is the first time a wastewater program in AFSPC earned the highest rating. An outstanding municipal storm, sewer system and an excellent compliance record make the program one of the best in the Air Force, he said.

“Wastewater is the most strictly enforced of all programs by Environmental Protection Agency and the state,” he said. “You have a lot of things to be proud of here.”

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