Handling Munitions as Hazardous Waste
by Michael F. Flannery, Jr.
The Environmental Protection Agency's Military Munitions Rule affects the management of Army ordnance and complicates the handling of ammunition. Logisticians not only should know how the rule worksthey should take the lead in how it is administered on their installations.
If you are a logistician who has any involvement with moving, storing, handling, or managing munitions, you need to become familiar with new Federal and state rules governing hazardous waste. Why? Because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued its final Military Munitions Rule (MR), which regulates when munitions (both conventional and chemical) should be considered hazardous waste. This rule is important because it affects how you, as a logistician, manage a core military commoditymunitionsand because it is the law.
The MR responds to the need for clear rules on when the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976which governs the storage, treatment, and disposal of hazardous wasteapplies to military munitions. The EPA published the MR in February 1997, and it became effective on 12 August 1997.
What really complicates life for logisticians is that under the RCRA, states can operate their own hazardous' waste programs and set requirements that are more stringent than the Federal requirements. In other words, the states can be stricter than EPA. The EPA MR became effective in August 1997 in Alaska, Hawaii, and Iowathe three states do not have EPA-authorized RCRA programs. All of the other states have the opportunity to accept the EPA's MR or adopt their own, more stringent requirements. As of this writing, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Puerto Rico have adopted either the EPA MR by reference or a slightly modified version of the EPA MR.
Logisticians who experienced the severe trauma of hazardous waste fines and penalties a few years ago, may see the potential for an even more difficult transition to compliance with MR requirements. The challenge of meeting the new MR requirements is increased by the possibility of having to comply with differing state regulations. Compliance may be complicated because of the state in which an installation is located. So, in the absence of a national rule, it is even more important that soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen, as well as civilian workers, be trained to the appropriate standards for handling munitions.
Working With the States
Publication of the MR generated lots of activity at the headquarters of the armed services. Their concern was whether or not those states with their own RCRA programs would modify the EPA's rule. To work with the states on this issue, the services held partnering meetings with approximately 15 states that had expressed a keen interest in the MR. These meetings included visits to McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in Oklahoma to see how munitions are manufactured and demilitarized and to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California, to see live-fire demonstrations and range-clearance operations. In addition, Army regional environmental coordinators from the Army Environmental Center's Regional Environmental Offices, along with regional environmental coordinators from the other armed services, visited with virtually all the state environmental departments over the past year to brief them on the MR and the military's implementation plans.
Military Munitions Rule Guidelines
EPA Military Munitions Rule
State Military Munitions Rule (if applicable)
DOD Implementation Policy
DOD 6055.9-STD (DDESB--as revised to include the Waste Storage Standards)
EPA Technical Amendments to the Military Munitions Rule
|Logisticians should be familiar with these documents on the Military Munitions Rule.|
In the Pentagon, a special working group known as the Munitions Rule Implementation Council (MRIC) has been functioning for almost 2 years. The MRIC is comprised of representatives from all the services and is chaired by a colonel from the Army's Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics. The MRIC issued an Interim Department of Defense (DOD) Implementation Policy to field activities in February 1997. This interim policy has undergone several revisions, and the MRIC has been working with the major Army commands (MACOM's) and environmental regulators to develop a consensus on a final policy. The Final DOD Implementation Policy was scheduled to be issued this summer.
The 70-page Implementation Policy has 11 chapters and 3 appendices and contains "how to" information for interpreting the requirements of the MR. Its stated purpose is to establish an overarching policy for managing waste military munitions that is consistent among the armed services. The policy discusses complex subject matter, such as the effect on range operations, emergency responses, and special rules for chemical munitions when used and unused munitions become waste.
Still another player in this very complex matter is the Department of Defense Explosives Safety Board (DDESB), an organization established by Congress in 1928 after an investigation into the explosion and virtual destruction of the Naval Ammunition Depot in Lake Denmark, New Jersey. That 1926 accident killed 21 people, injured another 51, and caused $46 million worth of damage. Since its creation, the DDESB has been instrumental in providing effective safety oversight of the testing, development, manufacture, handling, transportation, maintenance, and demilitarization of munitions, including those containing chemical agents.
The DOD Ammunition and Explosives Safety Standard, DOD 6055.9-STD (most recently revised in January 1998), forms the basis of the DOD explosives safety program. On average, 20 ammunition and explosives accidents are reported to the DDESB each year. This may seem to be a high number, but, given the quantity of munitions moved and used worldwide by all of the services, this is a good track record. Most of these accidents occur at manufacturing facilities where munitions loading, assembling, and packing take place. The rest occur during disposal operations, training exercises, and unauthorized handling of unexploded ordnance.
Expanding the Scope of DOD Standards
The DDESB Explosives Safety Standard, which has been a successful management tool over the years, is the primary basis for regulating munitions, including their handling as waste. However, the safety standard is an internal DOD standard and not subject to the EPA rulemaking procedures requiring public comment. This gives some environmental regulators and their constituents cause for concern.
Therefore, a "gap" analysis comparing DOD 6055.9-STD and the RCRA was performed. The DDESB standard then was amended to include specific instructions about storing waste munitions. These are the so-called "Waste Storage Standards," which were adopted by the DDESB in January 1998. The changes under these standards include the requirement for adoption of local standing operating procedures for all munitions storage units (such as ammunition supply points) that address safety, security, emergency preparedness, and environmental protection concerns. "Closure" (a hazardous waste term) of "conditionally exempt" (CE) storage bunkers used for waste munitions is required when they are taken out of service. Additionally, there is no CE category allowed for storage bunkers that have existing DDESB waivers or exemptions, and there are "termination of use" procedures for all storage bunkers.
On top of all this, the EPA plans to issue technical amendments to its MR. It is believed that these amendments will serve mostly to clarify the MR by fixing misidentified paragraphs and providing cross-references, but there also are likely to be some explanations and interpretations included as well.
Training Is Imperative
If you are a logistician in the class V business and these terms and acronyms sound strange and confusing, you are forewarned that training and expertise in the subject is essential to successful compliance. Logisticians should take ownership of the MR and not repeat the experience of the early 1990's that saw environmental staffinstead of the logistics communitytake on the oversight of the hazardous materials mission by default along with the hazardous waste mission. That situation is slowly turning around as the logistics community begins to assume responsibility for hazardous materials management and take advantage of pollution prevention opportunities through formation of installation hazardous material management centers (sometimes called HAZMART's or pharmacies). Logisticians also have begun to demonstrate improved management of hazardous waste treatment storage and disposal facilities (TSDF's) and hazardous waste disposal contracts by the Defense Logistics Agency.
Now, instead of letting the environmental community run the show, logisticians should take the lead and let environmental personnel and others provide the staff assistance to a team effort supporting this readiness issue. The Army is the commodity manager for conventional chemical munitions for all of the armed services and owns the chemical munitions stockpiles. Arguably, munitions is the single most essential category of logistics required for the military to perform the warfighting mission. And logistics, of course, wins battles.
Fortunately, the logistics community has been in on discussions about the MR at Department of the Army headquarters from the outset. Logisticians should be the MR operators all the way down to unit and installation levels. That is because they, not environmental personnel, are in the best position to make determinations and handle munitions when munitions become waste.
Training on the MR at your installation should be the vehicle to assure compliance. Of course, the installation commander must be aware of the requirements of the MR. In addition, the following individuals at the installation level need to form a team and become increasingly knowledgeable about the MR requirements of your state: the ammunition manager, ammunition supply point manager, quality assurance specialist_ammunition (QASA), explosives safety officer, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) personnel, trainers, range officer, public affairs specialists, environmental attorney, and environmental protection specialists. I'm sure you can think of a few more.
How do you get the required training? The training package being prepared by the Army Defense Ammunition Centerrecently relocated to McAlester Army Ammunition Plant from Savanna, Illinoisshould be available. It provides a CD-ROM self-study program that covers the DOD Implementation Policy and contains general scenarios most likely to be encountered in dealing with the MR. But contact the director of logistics at your MACOM; this subject is too complex for the self-help approach alone. The MACOM should be able to provide information and perhaps a training team that can address the requirements of your state. Your Army regional environmental coordinators can be of assistance and can communicate and resolve MR issues with your state environmental authority, but the requirement for training lies within your chain of command.
As soldiers, you understand that the threat from munitions is first and foremost related to their explosive nature. The threat to the environment resulting from waste munitions now must be added to your list of concerns. Keeping abreast of the Military Munitions Rule will make you a better logistician while ensuring that Army munitions are ready when needed. ALOG
Michael F. Flannery, Jr., is an Army Regional Environmental Coordinator with the Western Regional Environmental Office of the Army Environmental Center.