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Smart Resolution to Pesky Problems Earns EPA Award for DoD

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 28, 2005 – For the fourth straight year, the Environmental Protection Agency has recognized the Defense Department as a leader in pest management strategies.

DoD, along with its Armed Forces Pest Management Board, is one of 16 members of the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program to be recognized as a "PESP Champion."

The EPA recognized DoD for strategies that reduced human health and environmental risks associated with pesticide use.

Integrated pest management strategies include:

  • Integrated pest management strategies include:
  • Sampling an environment to accurately determine pest population levels.
  • Training and demonstrating IPM practices.
  • Employing cultural practices such as crop rotation or removing food and habitat for structural pests.
  • Controlling or managing pests through biologically based technologies.
  • Applying less toxic or reduced-risk pesticides and using conventional pesticides only when necessary.

Part of the plan that earned DoD the award was the goal of reducing pesticide use by 50 percent. Col. Richard Johnson, AFPMB director, said that goal was exceeded with a 55 percent reduction. He's pleased with the award, and said it's evidence of DoD's forward thinking.

"I'm delighted," he said. "It shows that people that work in the pest management field are showing initiative and looking forward and looking outward."

The fact that this is a fourth award also exhibits DoD's consistent commitment to this program, Johnson said, adding that having an IPM plan allows for planning rather than reaction.

"We have an excellent training program to train the people from enlisted soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to the civilian personnel," he said. "And training is the basis of the program. It's wonderful as far as the planning that goes into (the pest management strategy) so that we don't have to react to things; we can plan ahead and anticipate the problems that we might have and be smarter about how we're going to solve the problems."

The services are responsible for managing pests on installations and also on deployments, Johnson said. The AFPMB interacts with the EPA, which provides the overall guidance for the nation. The AFPMB then provides the background and the policy for training to the services that then implement the training and the practice of pest management on all installations.

DoD, which Johnson said has the largest pest management program in the world, is doing a good job with this responsibility, said Steve Hopkins, an EPA environmental protection specialist in the office of pesticides program.

As well sitting on the 10-person EPA panel from PESP that decides the PESP Champions, Hopkins keeps a close eye on the government program and said DoD has a solid integrated pesticide management program.

"DoD has an outstanding pesticide program and has been, for years, at the forefront of implementing integrated pest management," Hopkins said. "Every year we go back and look, and they have a pretty good plan and they executed the plan, have done a great job with training, a great job with getting each installation to look at their pest management program and try to improve it, ... and every year going back and trying to refine it and make it better."

Hopkins also lauded DoD for reaching out beyond its own borders to share it pest management discoveries with county and state entities.

"When you go out to other agencies and you find out that they are doing what they're doing because they learned it from the military, then that says to me that that really is what makes it a candidate for a champion to me," Hopkins said. "They're reaching out beyond their own borders and trying to solve problems."

Pests of all varieties can cause problems for the military at home and abroad. One of the most recent challenges has been the Iraqi sand fly. The flies' bites can cause discomfort from the beginning, but can cause horrible sores if not treated.

The problem was more prevalent at the beginning of operations in Iraq, Hopkins said. Once the troops began living in dwellings that could be sealed and air conditioning became more prominent, the flies became less of a problem.

Another way of combating the sand flies is to spray a pesticide directly on uniforms. While it works, it has to be reapplied after every washing. Currently in the works, according to Air Force Maj. Sharon Spradling, USAF liaison to the AFPMB, is a factory-treated uniform that could withstand 40-50 washings.

Hopkins added that if DoD continues its current track for pest management, the department might very well be in line for a fifth award next year, but he added that the bar is raised every year.

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