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Environmental team aids Tyndall AFB hurricane recovery

A destroyed civil engineering building on Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, was among 1,165 environmental assets evaluated by an environmental recovery assistance team Nov. 5 – 9.

A destroyed civil engineering building on Tyndall Air Forc Base, Fla., was among 1,165 environmental assets evaluated by an environmental recovery assistance team Nov. 5 – 9, 2018. The team’s assessment of the environmental impact of Hurricane Michael on Tyndall AFB is helping recovery and rebuilding efforts at the base. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) -- An Air Force environmental recovery assistance team’s assessment of the environmental impact of Hurricane Michael on Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, is helping recovery and rebuilding efforts at the base.

The ERAT – including environmental experts from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center Environmental Directorate’s East Regional Branch and the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron – evaluated 1,165 environmental assets in support of Task Force Phenix Nov. 5-9.

The task force, under the command of Col. Pat Miller, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center vice commander, is assessing the long-term usability of facilities at the installation.

Composed of environmental compliance, conservation and restoration program experts, the onsite ERAT evaluated the status of underground and above-ground storage tanks; fuel facilities; air quality sources; oil water separators; temporary storage and disposal facilities for hazardous waste and materials; remedial action systems; and impacts to habitat of threatened or endangered species.

The team classified results as green, yellow or red to identify the level of damage and repair needed. Despite massive devastation at the based, only four percent of environmental assets were rated red, requiring significant action, said Mark Summers, ERAT lead and Robins Air Force Base, Gerorgia, Installation Support section chief.

Determining the environmental impact of a catastrophic natural disaster is not easy, but the information is invaluable as Air Force leaders identify priorities, develop rebuilding cost estimates and notify environmental regulatory agencies of site status.

“The team knocked out a ton in very short order. I truly appreciate their dedication, professionalism, and commitment to Tyndall's future,” Miller said.

The task force called on AFCEC for support because most of the base environmental team were personally impacted by the hurricane, Summers explained, adding that several people took time away from dealing with hurricane damage to their own homes to join the ERAT.

“I was impressed they came in to help us,” he said.

Additional offsite support from AFCEC East Regional Branch team members at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, helped the ERAT compile, write and deliver reports.

“This was a true team effort,” Summers said.

Working 13- to 14-hour days, the team delivered a 141-page environmental impact assessment report, verified all regulatory notifications were made and ensured Florida Department of Environmental Protection emergency orders were met.

“(We worked) long hours, but it was a rewarding week. The experience gave me a great respect for the work the military – uniformed, civilian and contractors – is doing to get Tyndall back up and operational,” Summers said.

“The pictures you see, even the news, it’s not reality,” he continued. “I was not expecting that level of devastation, but I was thoroughly impressed with the work that’s already been done to clean up the installation.”

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