Environmental checks in Afghanistan
15 August 2013
Comprehensive environmental surveys are being conducted at Multi National Base – Tarin Kot (MNB-TK) as Australian troops prepare to complete their mission in Uruzgan.
Surveys conducted by the Force Extraction Unit (FEU) will ensure Defence meets its environmental management obligations before the base is handed back to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
The base in Tarin Kot has been occupied by coalition forces continuously since 2004 when it was first known as US Forward Operating Base Ripley.
Environmental Officer Travis Collins from the Defence Support and Reform Group (DSRG) is working with the Force Extraction Unit at MNB-TK, providing environmental advice and conducting surveys to support the ADF extraction operation.
“During my deployment I will be investigating if there is any environmental contamination on the base at Camps Holland and Russell and formulate and implement the plan to deal with it.
“In the most recent Defence Strategic Environmental Plan, Headquarters Joint Operations Command (HQJOC) committed to implementing better environmental management on deployed operations.
“The actions by HQJOC and Australian forces on the ground, demonstrate Defence’s environmental policy is embedded within its operational doctrine to ensure we don’t leave a lasting negative environmental legacy,” he said.
Mr Collins said initial environmental closure surveys involved taking soil samples to check for any contamination issues.
“We have taken soil samples from 37 targeted sites across Camp Holland and Camp Russell looking for contamination related to fuel and other contaminants,” he said.
“Soil samples to be tested for contaminants are sent to an accredited laboratory in Dubai with a strict chain of custody process and the results tell us if any remediation is required.
“Fortunately fuel contamination is easy to fix using a methodology called Land Farming, which is a bioremediation treatment process.”
Land Farming involves spreading a thin layer of contaminated soil across the ground. Minerals, nutrients and moisture are then added to stimulate microorganisms to break down the fuel into carbon dioxide and water.
Mr Collins joined DSRG through the Defence Graduate Program 10 years ago and has worked in environmental management and policy development areas, particularly with Exercise Talisman Sabre.
“Most recently I assisted HQJOC to update and implement its own environmental policy,” he said.
“I am enjoying my deployment to Afghanistan as managing such an important project is professionally rewarding and also gives me the opportunity to work as part of a team in the ADF environment.”