Thursday, July 11, 2013

Inspector General Reports Waste Incinerators at Forward Operating Bases Not Being Used

The Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reports that there is underutilization of waste incinerators at Forward Operating Bases in Afghanistan.

"An issue potentially endangering the health of U.S. military and civilian personnel supporting 
the mission in Afghanistan has come to my attention that I believe requires your immediate 
action. Specifically, Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province is underutilizing its four solid waste 
incinerators and, as a result, is continuing to use open-air burn pit operations to dispose of its 
daily waste. We recently noted in an inspection report concerning waste incinerators at Forward 
Operating Base Salerno that there are health concerns associated with breathing the smoke 
emissions from open-air burning.1 The toxic smoke from burning solid waste each day increases 
the long-term health risks for camp personnel, including reduced lung function and exacerbated 
chronic illnesses, ranging from asthma to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. I am also 
concerned that, in its efforts to terminate open-air burn pit operations, the camp is pursuing a 
$1.1 million contract, which may not be necessary, for hauling its solid waste to a local landfill. 

"Camp Leatherneck, currently consisting of about 13,500 U.S. military and civilian personnel, 
spent $11.5 million to purchase and install two 12-ton and two 24-ton capacity incinerators. My 
inspectors made several visits to the camp and found that the 12-ton incinerators were not 
being used to full capacity and the 24-ton incinerators were not being used at all because a 
contract for their operation and maintenance had not been awarded. As a result, the camp was 
relying heavily on open-air burn pit operations to dispose of its solid waste. However, 
Department of Defense guidance and a U.S. Central Command regulation limit the use of openair burn pit operations. Camp Leatherneck is in violation of this guidance and regulation. 

"Camp officials advised that they are planning to eventually use all four incinerators and are 
looking into the feasibility of contracting to have any excess solid waste hauled to a local 
landfill. In mid-June 2013, my office was notified that a contract was about to be awarded for 
operating and maintaining the two 24-ton incinerators and that a contract for hauling trash offsite should be in place by the end of July 2013. These are positive steps toward the cessation \ of open-burn pit operations. However, if the base incinerators were used to their full capacity, 
hauling trash off-site may not be necessary. 

"My office’s analysis shows that, given Camp Leatherneck’s 13,500 personnel, the solid waste 
generated each day could be processed by operating all four incinerators at least 18 hours a 
day. According to the manufacturer, these incinerators are built to operate 24 hours a day, 7 
days a week. The analysis also shows that as Camp Leatherneck’s drawdown continues and 
eventually reaches 12,000 personnel, it would be capable of processing all daily solid waste by 

"Spent for Unused Incinerators and the Continued Use of Potentially Hazardous Open-Air Burn Pit 
Operations (April 25, 2013). IGAR/Camp Leatherneck Incinerators 
operating only three incinerators—one 12-ton and two 24-ton—for 20 hours per day. 
Consequently, making efficient and effective use of the incinerators would enable the camp to 
terminate open-air burn pits operations and possibly eliminate the need for the trash hauling 
contract. 

"Accordingly, you should consider terminating the use of Camp Leatherneck’s open-air burn pit 
operations as quickly as possible by ensuring that the camp’s 12-ton incinerators are used to 
their full capacity and by awarding an operation and maintenance contract for the 24-ton 
incinerators. In addition, I suggest that you reevaluate the need for the $1.1 million contract for 
hauling the camp’s solid waste to a local landfill in light of the incinerators’ capability to process 
all the waste.