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NEWS | June 25, 2015

Only rain down the drain: JBLE tips for environmental excellence

By Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In an effort to remain good stewards of the local community and environment, Joint Base Langley-Eustis environmental elements are educating personnel on pollution prevention methods and enforcing standards.

Fort Eustis environmental efforts

The 733rd Civil Engineer Division is urging base residents to practice proper housekeeping procedures such as not washing or repairing vehicles near storm water drains on base and disposing of waste, oils and grease properly.

Following these procedures is not only something the base community should do as good stewards of the environment, but to abide by the Clean Water Act, a Federal act requiring permits limiting the amount of pollution that discharges through storm water systems including drains, pipes, ditches, gutters, roads and other structures that channel into local waterways, said Ron Holcomb, 733rd CED environmental protection specialist.

"If we don't do everything we can to stay in compliance, the state would have to review our E4 [extraordinary environmental excellence] status because part of it is staying in compliance with all permits," said Holcomb.

According to Holcomb, the permit restricts vehicle repair and washing including hired commercial mobile car washing companies on the installation's residencies as harmful pollutants from vehicles and cleaners go into the storm water drains that lead into local waterways.

"If car washes are going on in residences, the base will get a violation," said Holcomb. "You can wash cars in the grass because that's going to soak into the ground. You can also wash at a facility because the water drains into a sanitary sewer, but you cannot do it in the street, residence driveway or parking lot."

Holcomb added that vehicle maintenance is also limited to the auto skills center because the center houses proper waste management equipment. This includes any type of maintenance ranging from oil changes to engine work.

Another aspect of pollution prevention is cleaning up after pets at the dog park, which is near an outfall that leads to the Warwick River.

"That pet waste will go to the Warwick River and we will get in trouble," said Holcomb. "People just have to police themselves and carry a plastic bag to clean after their animals."

Holcomb added that base members should not release any debris or liquids other than water near drainage areas especially curbs that lead directly to them. 

"Only rain goes down the drain," he said adding residents must properly dispose of medications, oil and grease to avoid sewer blockages that could overflow into the storm water systems.

Holcomb's tips for grease disposal are:

- Collect oil and grease in containers such as an empty milk jug.
- Use a paper towel to wipe excess grease after pouring it into collection containers.
- Remove oil and grease from kitchen items with scrapers, towels and brooms.
- Keep grease out of wash water.
- Place food scraps in collection containers.

"If you do come on our installation you will see that we are great stewards of the environment. We are keeping the James River fishable and swimmable," said Holcomb.

Langley Air Force Base environmental efforts

For the 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental Element, the base storm drain system is a major focal point because of the base's close proximity to the Back River. 

"Storm drains, unlike sewer lines, do not get treated prior to entering our waterways," said U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Trevor Webber, 633rd CES Environmental Element pollution prevention program manager. "When trash, debris or pollutants are left on the roads, they flow directly into the Back River and Chesapeake Bay."

To keep the local waterways clear of trash and pollutants, the 633rd CES environmental team installed safe drains at high volume inlets near industrial operations and deployed absorbent booms in several storm system outfalls as a barrier to collect petroleum residues that may enter the drains from parking lots, the airfield, and other paved surfaces during rainfall.

"Both of these systems aid us in complying with Federal and State regulations that help us maintain a clean and healthy bay," said Webber.

While washing cars in driveways and roadways is permitted on Langley AFB and Bethel Manor, Webber encourages people to use car washes because they keep oil and debris out of the waterways.

Webber also encourages people to look at what communities offer for preservation efforts adding that in Hampton Roads there are chemical and electronics collection days where residents can drop off items that may be harmful to the environment.

Throughout the year, JBLE also educates Airmen and Soldiers on proper waste management and environmental efforts, and encourages Service members to practice and share what they learn.

"As a part of the Hampton Roads community, we need to set an example for our neighbors both on and off base," said Webber. "Our local community trusts us and we must maintain that trust by being environmental stewards.  Clean the Bay Day and Earth Week clean-ups are very effective events, but being proactive by educating the public is the best way to prevent pollution threats."

For more information on Fort Eustis environmental efforts and initiatives as well as annual reports, visit For more information on household and chemical collection days, visit