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AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — With bigger issues on the radar screen — the war on terrorism, tougher fitness standards and longer deployments — an Air Force initiative on the environment hasn’t generated too many blips.

But airmen at bases across the world are gathering information and planning how to implement their own versions of the Environmental Management System. The system, which will be used to thoroughly track hazardous materials that airmen use on the job, likely will have a small impact on most airmen.

“It’s not really going to change what we do a lot,” said Capt. Ed Eisenhauer, chief of environmental compliance for the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano. “Our processes have been pretty well scrutinized.

“We’re not doing anything ridiculously wasteful or anything to harm the environment.”

That said, Eisenhauer — who briefed others at Aviano on the initiative this week — says the system should save time, paperwork and money when it’s implemented. It’s supposed to be in place by the end of 2005.

The system should also help keep better track of the array of hazardous materials, from oil discarded during engine maintenance and cans of spray paint to expired bullets and computer printer cartridges.

All those materials are currently tracked in some way, Eisenhauer said, but the new system will realign the process and keep the information in a computer database.

The system — touted in a slide show as being more than just a computer program — will also include information such as an individual’s history working with potentially hazardous materials.

Units on base are being asked to provide comprehensive lists of potentially hazardous materials they use.

“While we’re doing that, we’re also going to take a closer look at how we do things, try to be even more environmentally friendly and possibly save a little money,” Eisenhauer said.

For instance, a survey of one vehicle maintenance facility on base found that it is spending more than 5,000 euros a week for a service to pump out a tank full of water and discarded oil. Getting equipment and a process in place to recycle that material could save thousands of euros, Eisenhauer said.

He said he doesn’t think there is widespread waste of materials, such as spray paint. But the new system would allow each can to be tracked from the time it’s picked up, stored on the shelf and eventually disposed.

Instead of several organizations with varying types of forms tracking the lifespan of such materials, all the information will be stored in one place.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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