MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., --
Employees from the Combat Center’s Hazardous Waste Management section are trend setters when it comes to saving taxpayers’ dollars.
Much like personally owned vehicles, batteries for tactical vehicles lose their charge after excessive use. With units training at the Combat Center practically non-stop, vehicle batteries take a beating.
Maintenance sections aboard the Combat Center can bring their dead batteries to the Hazardous Waste Management section, located on Rifle Range Road, to exchange them for reconditioned ones. Batteries are exchanged on a one-for-one basis.
Sulfate buildup on battery plates within the plastic housing is the main cause of lead-acid battery problems and failure.
The equipment used by HWMS reverses the natural electro-chemical reaction within the battery.
Dead batteries are connected to the Pulse Tech HD pallet charger, which services 12 batteries at a time, or to the World Charger, bench top model, which can recondition a single battery.
These are ready for use typically within 48 hours.
The battery reconditioning program, in its third year, saved the Combat Center $356,520 in fiscal year 2011 by reconditioning 991 batteries.
“Why would you want to spend the time and resources (energy and money) when you can get batteries for free?,” said Dave Budd, an environmental protection specialist with Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Division. “All they (mechanics) have to do is bring us their dead batteries.”
However, when mechanics continue to use old technology to recharge dead batteries, the batteries become unserviceable once they die again.
Batteries that are reconditioned instead of recharged can go through the reconditioning process several times before the battery become completely unusable.
Getting Combat Center personnel to utilize the program requires training at the small unit level, said Pat Mills, the supervisor for the HWMS.
Retraining maintenance personnel and maintaining desktop and local standard operating procedures with the most up-to-date information about the program are the best ways to ensure the program continues, added Mills.
Not all batteries turned into the center can be reconditioned though.
Those batteries are sold to a civilian vendor as recyclable waste product. The vendor reutilizes the plastic housing, sulfuric acid and lead plates. The money earned through this program is then used to pay for the disposal of lithium batteries that cannot be reconditioned or recycled.
Currently, the Combat Center is the only installation within the Marine Corps using the Pulse Technology to recondition batteries. But, Carl Atchley, a hazardous waste material handler with NREA, is working closely with the manufacturer. He said he expects maintenance shops Marine Corps-wide will have the capability to recondition their own batteries in the near future.
“If we can keep the vehicles rolling, then the Marines can continue to get the training they need to be successful,” said Mills.