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14 June, 2000

The United States Coast Guard: Stewards for the Environment

With a Coast Guard crew of 75 and a population of scientists that puts the total population of the USCGC Healy over 100, there is a need for waste management. Solid waste is produced here, as it is anywhere else. From the food scraps in the mess hall, to paper towels, aluminum cans, and batteries; there needs to be a system for separating, recycling, and disposing of the trash produced on board. Today, Jay and I were given an orientation / training session by Ensign Plylar.

The trash that is collected on the Healy has been disposed of in clear plastic bags, so that items that are not supposed to go in the incinerator can be identified without having to dig through the trash. As with many communities around United States, the USCGC Healy recycles what waste it can. The trash is divided up into categories: aluminum, paper products, batteries, etc. Aluminum cans are saved for recycling, combustibles are incinerated and non-combustibles are set aside for disposal at ports of call.

The focus of today's training was the incineration system. This system can be used to burn paper products, oily rags, and plastic. Metals such as tin cans and foil, glass, food products, aerosol cans, batteries, etc. cannot be placed in the incinerator. The incinerator can burn solid waste products at a rate of 100 pounds per hour and liquid waste products at 20 gallons per hour. The incinerator burns diesel oil and/or sludge in the combustion section at 950 degrees Celsius / 1,742 degrees Fahrenheit.

The basic components of the incinerator include a feed door, an access door, a sludge tank, a mixing tank, pumps and burners. The feed door is used to load the solid waste safely while he incinerator is in operation. The access door is closed by an air lock (To prevent the door from opening while the ship is rolling.) while the waste is being loaded. After securing the feed door, a button is pressed to open the access door, which then allows the waste to fall into the combustion chamber. The sludge tank, which contains black water and waste oil, store these wastes before incineration. The pumps supply the incinerator with appropriate amounts of diesel fuel and sludge for incineration. The burners are made up of igniters, which spark the fire, and atomizers, which spray a mist of sludge and/or diesel oil, needed for continued combustion.

Of course with anything involving fire on board a ship, there are many safety precautions in place when working with the incinerator. Several fixed and portable fire fighting systems are nearby, inside and outside the Incinerator Room. There is also many emergency shut off features on the incinerator itself. One other safety feature is the carbon monoxide detection alarm system.

The United States Coast Guard recognizes its roll in being a good steward for the environment. Admiral James M. Loy, United States Coast Guard Commandant wrote in his Commandants Environmental Stewardship Challenge, " As an operator of a wide variety of vessels, aircraft, and support facilities, the Coast Guard also has a special duty to ensure that we use our limited resources wisely and minimize the environmental impact of our operations." This is being carried out on board the USCGC Healy while providing a platform for scientist to study and better understand our environment.

A flame failure causes the incinerator to automatically and safely shut down.

A peek inside the combustion chamber, as it incinerates solid waste at temperatures above 840 degrees Celsius / 1544 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ensign Plylar, the teacher's teacher.

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