Become an environmental activist
By Janet Watkins, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 22, 2011
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo-- -- The environmental movement may have been born in our lifetime. There was not always concern for the extinction of species of animals, holes in the ozone, the particulate matter we inhale or the quality of water that we drink.
In 1962 Rachel Carson wrote a book entitled, "Silent Spring." In it she discussed how pesticides used on crops were killing birds, and postulated about the effects of the chemicals on humans. In 1969 the Cuyahoga River, which empties into Lake Erie, caught on fire; water able to burn because of the caustic chemicals that factories were dumping into the water. The next year the Environmental Protection Agency was born. In 1972 the U.S. Congress passed clean air and water legislation, holding industries accountable for pollutants.
Congress followed up with legislation regulating hazardous materials used in construction like asbestos and lead-based paint. It should be noted that the Department of Defense was a front-runner in the efforts to identify and abate hazardous materials from its buildings and landscapes; even identifying sites where now extinct buildings formerly stood.
Millions of dollars have been spent by the U.S. Air Force alone to research the operational history of bases, identifying where things like motor oil and jet fuel may have been used or possibly spilled; where old landfills were excavated and covered; where training zones existed for fire departments that extinguished fires set using jet fuel; where chemical warfare training took place.
In the 1980's Air Force bases examined each building for asbestos in an abatement effort.
As hazardous materials and waste records were presciently given a human lifetime to exist on records schedules, this was the sort of information used in records searches to compile each base's operational history.
In the 1990's Congress established a forum for the interested public to participate in the investigation and cleanup process at military installations. Base officials involved in the environmental aspect of the installation now host public meetings with federal and state environmental regulators present, as well as the contractors that actually perform the investigation and cleanup for DoD. The public is encouraged to not just attend, but to participate in the process by commenting on cleanup proposals, and having their comments included in the reports that are produced on each site.
Buckley Air Force Base holds quarterly Community Advisory Group (CAG) meetings, hosted by the 460th Civil Engineer Squadron, and attended by representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Tri-County Health Department, the City of Aurora, and You - John Q. Public.
While our land-locked mission doesn't allow us to "Save the Whales", and our prairie topography doesn't demand that we "Save the Rainforests", the Buckley AFB CAG deals with the serious issues that face the 460th Civil Engineer Squadron as they grapple with the environmental issues left to them by a base continually functioning since World War II. At CAG meetings great care is taken to explain what took place on the base, what was the resultant waste or pollutant, and what is being done to restore the landscape to its original state.
The 460th Civil Engineer Squadron has also been looking towards the future. With an emphasis on being good stewards of Buckley Air Force Base and with a mind-set of saving energy and money, the base has installed a solar panel field to capture the sun's energy and save the taxpayers' money.
With the same goal of good stewardship, the 460th Civil Engineer Squadron has reached out to Native American tribes that roamed and hunted across this piece of prairie. The initial meeting of the Buckley AFB Native American Tribal Consultation brought representatives from 14 tribes. The Yankton Sioux; the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma; the Rosebud Sioux; the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma; the Ute Mountain Ute; the Flandreau Santee Sioux; the Northern Arapaho; the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribe; the Mescalero Apache; the Southern Ute; the Standing Rock Sioux; the Crow Tribe; and the Jicarilla Apache Nation are now counted by Buckley AFB as friends and partners.
Your government has gone to great lengths to ensure that the environmental status of this military installation be fully disclosed, and available for your understanding. Doesn't that area of your curious left brain that seeks to engage the world around it, deserve to be informed about the real issues that challenge our environment? Resolve to commit an evening once every three months to meet real scientists; to learn something compelling; and to engage in the current environmental discussion informed.
The 460th Space Wing Public Affairs office facilitates the Buckley AFB CAG, and provides current issues, meeting dates and venues, and documents behind its Environmental tab at the base website: www.buckley.af.mil 460 SW/PA is also available at 720-847-9431 for any questions or concerns you may have regarding this or other base issues.