Robins Air Force Base [RAFB] was born during WWII as an Army Air Depot, and continues to supply parts for maintenance and repair of missile systems, aircraft, and avionics vital to US defense. Today it covers over 8400 acres with over 14 million square feet of facilities (including 3.8 million square feet of maintenance shops) and employs a workforce of nearly 20,000. In 1988, the RAFB Directorate of Environmental Management was established, with Pollution Prevention (P2) as one of the "Four Pillars" of its program. RAFB P2 efforts result in reduction of personal protective equipment, legal and medical liability, hazardous waste disposal, process time labor, tracking, storing & permitting reporting, and cost & production time.
One of RAFB's EM goals is to develop technology advances directed towards transforming depot maintenance activities to meet future challenges - such as minimization of pollution generating materials, reducing hazardous material dependency, enhancing total Ownership Cost risk levels, and others.
Geosyntec's Scope of Services
RAFB selected Geosyntec for their "Environmental Technology Enhancements" project aimed at using Process Specific Opportunity Assessment (PSOA) protocol to identify and analyze potential P2 opportunities. We used a five step process (baselining, benchmarking, alternative analyses, integration, and demonstration/validation) to design and construct prototype P2 systems. Geosyntec PSOA tasks have included a variety of processes at the base, such as paint gun cleaner evaluation, chromate conversion coating reduction assessment, ventilation system improvements, electroplating process enhancements, paint application technology advancement, and byproduct material reductions.
As one example, the objective was to evaluate current paint application practices at RAFB and propose technological advances for these activities to improve painting performance and enhance the work environment by reducing or eliminating hazardous waste and worker exposure to hazardous waste during painting. With nearly the surface area of a football field, each C-5 aircraft requires 390 gallons of paint and generates nearly 800 empty containers in the process.
In paint application technologies, there are three commonly used systems which range in price from $400 to $6500 each, and have a paint transfer efficiency of 65% to 90%. Using the five-step process, Geosyntec looked at current base conditions and benchmarked five off-base entities in the transportation industry. Based on this evaluation, the AAA technology was recommended and 2 prototypes constructed and tested on five C-130 aircraft. The results were excellent: reductions of 53% in primer paint usage, 22% in topcoat, and 66% in cleanup solvents. Based on these results, additional AAA systems are being added.
As a result of the "Environmental Technology Enhancements" project, PSOA's and five-step process, RAFB is meeting its goals in EM. RAFB EM is a repeat winner the DoD Pollution Prevention Award (Industrial Category in 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001, and 2003) due in part to the substantial cost savings as well as reductions in waste and worker exposure realized from their P2 program. The paint gun project alone yielded yearly budget savings projections of $220,000 for the C-130 aircraft, and preliminary testing on F-5 and F-15 aircraft indicate an additional $434,000 in annual direct cost savings These cost savings do not include reductions in disposal costs, VOC's, and labor and ancillary equipment.