Army bases stay green and lean with help from RMC team

Article / February 7, 2014 / Project number: 13-0156

Kingston, Ontario — The goal of the Royal Military College (RMC) Green Team is to provide an internal Department of National Defence (DND) environmental evaluation resource for the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy. By using expertise already existing within DND, the Team helps reduce the need for outside consultants.

Over the past seven years the Green Team has provided the Canadian Army with expert resources to conduct environmental risk assessments at most of its operational bases and shooting ranges.

The result has been a string of successes resulting in cost and resource savings for the Army. The Green Team has helped to optimize water treatment and harness green energy resources, dispose of harmful substances, as well as audit, assess and manage existing systems.

The RMC Green Team is composed of house experts and professors as well as research staff that have an expertise in a certain realm. Many of these problems are multi-disciplined and need several experts to tackle their complexity,” says Major (Ret) Nicholas Vlachopoulos.

Maj (Ret) Vlachopoulos has a doctorate in Geotechnical Engineering, is founder and Director of the RMC Green Team, an Assistant Professor of civil engineering at RMC and a research director at the GeoEngineering Centre at Queen’s University and RMC.

Since 2010, one ongoing RMC Green Team project has been an Army-wide well management risk assessment.  

On most Canadian Armed Forces bases, there are wells used to sample and test contaminates, to see how far substances which potentially could be harmful to health may have spread through the soil.

Individual bases have maintained their own records, but the RMC Green Team worked to collect the data in a central database.

We standardized the information so we can make good decisions. We wanted to ensure that the lessons learned from one base were shared with bases that had similar issues, ” says Maj (Ret) Vlachopoulos.

They began by developing a questionnaire for key people at each of these facilities and then conducted follow-up interviews over the phone.

They also identified some older wells that may no longer produce accurate results. By eliminating them, money and resources could be saved. 

We decommission the ones that don’t have a proper cap or don’t have a proper well lining; you are not getting a very good result from there anyways. You’re wasting people’s time and resources going out and measuring those specific wells. Your monitor time could be a lot shorter with better data, ” says Maj (Ret) Vlachopoulos.  “In the long term we can save money because we can decommission infrastructure that is no longer viable for us.” 

Bases and facilities across the country took part:

  • Chilliwack in British Columbia
  • Calgary, Edmonton, Suffield and Wainwright in Alberta
  • Shilo in Manitoba
  • Petawawa, Kingston and London in Ontario
  • Montreal and Valcartier in Quebec
  • Gagetown in New Brunswick

A similar risk assessment was also conducted at 65 small arms ranges over the past few years.

Range control monitors keep a record of ammunitions used, both frequency and quantity They use the data to decide when maintenance must be conducted. They maintain the ranges by replacing the soil behind targets with clean new soil and disposing of old contaminated earth in an environmentally sound way.

The risk varies depending on the type of munitions used.  Those could include heavy metals, such as lead, and if those metals come in contact with water there is a water contamination as well as a soil contamination risk.

For the range assessment project the Green Team sent out a questionnaire, did follow-up phone calls and also visited selected ranges.

Risk assessments help the CAF track these potential hazards and allocate appropriate resources to keep ranges operational while adhering to federal and provincial environmental laws.

The comprehensive central database the team has compiled provides a substantial resource for the DND by streamlining processes, avoiding duplication of efforts and maintaining an up-to-date source of relevant data. 

We’re open for business to help out and be a force multiplier” says Maj (Ret) Vlachopoulos. He encourages Army decision makers to bounce ideas for possible projects off the team.

We’re honest, we’re internal, and we’ll tell them what our capabilities are and what they’re not. We’re definitely a viable solution that has a stake in DND rather than an external consultant.” 

For his work with the Green Team, Maj (Ret) Vlachopoulos was granted the prestigious Deputy Minister / Chief of the Defence Staff Innovation Award for his leadership and contributions in the areas of energy efficiency, water treatment and waste management.

Article by Samantha Bayard, Army Public Affairs