78th CEG: Environmental stewards of Robins AFB

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office


For the 78th Civil Engineer Group at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, “Spring Cleaning” happens all year long.

The staff works as environmental stewards of the installation by protecting the land, air, water and wildlife. They ensure compliance with federal, state and local environmental laws.

Recently, the group completed a stormwater cleanup project centered around six of the 14 weirs on base. It yielded more than 175 pounds of trash.

A weir is a small dam used to control the flow of water from lakes or ponds to prevent  flooding.

“All of the run-off water we have drains off base into several waterways including the Ocmulgee River,” said Marissa Willis, 78th CEG Water Quality Program manager. “This is why we do clean ups, to make sure we prevent any trash or pollutants from making it to the river, which could impact wildlife.”

Other bodies of water potentially impacted are the Echeconnee, Horse and Sandy Run Creeks.

“On this latest cleanup, we collected basketballs, a buoy, tires and other things you wouldn’t think of,” Willis continued. “In some cases, I believe people are not paying attention to what’s entering the storm drains.”

When it rains, some water does not soak into the ground. That excess water is called stormwater, and it can easily get contaminated with a variety of pollutants that can harm the environment.

There are generally four main types of stormwater pollution:

- Litter such as cigarette butts, cans, styrofoam, wrappers and plastic bags

- Natural materials such as leaves, sticks, garden clippings and pet waste

- Chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides, solvents or paint waste

- Sediment, typically from construction sites or unvegetated soil

“People don’t think about the proper disposal of cigarette butts. That’s why we have the receptacles around the base,” said Willis. “Those butts can and do build up inside the drains and over time that can cause flooding, which can impact the roads on base.

“Also, pine straw can clog up the drains,” she continued. “So instead of spraying unwanted pine straw and grass cuttings down the street, sweep them up.”

According to Willis, quarterly inspections and regular maintenance are performed on sewer drains and weirs.

In part, 78th CEG also manages six drinking wells for the installation along with depot-level hazardous materials and waste, a Title-V Air Quality program, several state-listed rare plant species, National Register-eligible archaeology sites, and coordinates with 13 affiliated Tribes.

“We want to install a culture of continuous caring of our environment on the base and outside the gate,” she said. “Educating people of the dos and do nots is the best way to promote pollution prevention and ultimately protect the environment.”

Next month, 78th CEG will hold several clean-up events in recognition of Earth Day.