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Fort Jackson Structures to Be Recycled

Thu December 08, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Susanne M. Schafer - ASSOCIATED PRESS

FORT JACKSON, SC (AP) Need some old concrete for a roadbed? How about 25-year-old railroad ties for that boat pier? Or World War II-era doors and windows to help an elderly couple repair their broken-down home?

There are approximately 58 structures on this Army installation set for “deconstruction” over the next five years — meaning they will be disassembled and recycled, Army officials said.

“We have been doing demolitions for 20 years. In the past, we would have taken a building down … and put it in a landfill,” said Wayne Shealy, chief of engineering at Fort Jackson.

“Look at all this wood. These railroad ties, these telephone poles. They can all be reused,” said Shealy, waving at the 40-ft. high wooden “Victory Tower,” once used to teach recruits rappelling and rope climbing.

Along with the 29-year-old tower, which was replaced a year ago by a new steel structure, another seven buildings are due for removal in the first phase of the project. They include a decrepit 64-year-old warehouse with foot-thick concrete walls. Another is the Jenkins Street Chapel, built in 1949, which still has its oak altar, doors, and inch-thick hardwood paneling.

“The wood can be chopped up, the concrete used for roads, the asphalt for a number of uses, even the metal can be recycled,” said Julie Seel, an Army environmental scientist working on the effort.

Seel, who jump-started Fort Jackson’s effort after learning about such work at other Army installations, said more than 100 individuals came to a seminar this past summer to introduce the project to local contractors.

“There’s a lot of public interest in this,” said Seel, whose specialty is asbestos removal. “Habitat for Humanity will take all the vinyl siding they can get, particularly after Hurricane Katrina.”

Seel said a number of nonprofit institutions are interested in the materials, which can be reused for their projects.

“The pews were donated to a local church. It has hardwood floors, three-by-14-inch timbers for trusses. There’s some great material here,” said Seel, at the chapel site, now overgrown with brush and Palmetto trees. The tiny chapel and several small bungalows located elsewhere on the installation will most probably be taken apart and sold, Seel said.

All have been replaced by larger, more modern structures.

“Our number one goal is landfill diversion. If we don’t start taking these measures, we are going to fill up our landfills,” she said. S&T of Newberry will be paid $180,000 to take the structures apart and remove the materials, Seel said.

The process means landfill space doesn’t have to be purchased or used and the Army doesn’t have to provide the labor or machinery to do the work, said Shealy, a civilian who has worked at Fort Jackson for 22 years.

“Deconstruction costs are comparable to demolition costs,” he said. The actual removal of the eight buildings has not yet been scheduled, he said.

Tom Napier, a research architect of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champagne, IL, said the Army’s reuse effort stretches back about a dozen years, and lessons have been learned along the way.

“There is a pool of commercial deconstruction companies who’ve gotten efficient enough to compete with demolition companies,” he said in a telephone interview.

Army posts that have made use of some form of deconstruction include Fort McCoy, WI; Fort Knox, KY; Fort Campbell, KY; Fort Gordon, GA; Fort Carson, CO; Fort Monroe, VA; Fort Hood, TX; and an Army ammunition plant in Minnesota, Napier said.

Some have auctioned parts of buildings piecemeal or sold structures whole. “Everyone has done it a bit differently,” Seel said.

Sue Madden, the director of the nonprofit organization “Goodworks,” said her organization keeps in touch with approximately 170 elderly individuals in central South Carolina, and could use many of the items obtained from the Fort Jackson effort.

“We repair homes for needy people. Other people may see a piece of fence. I see a piece of wood that will plug a hole in a widow’s home,” Madden said. Volunteers obtain the items, or donate them themselves, and her group warehouses them until needed.

“If they’re going to throw it away — we can find a use for it,” said Madden, whose organization is based in Chapin. “We used old fencing to build ramps this past summer for two elderly ladies who had their legs amputated. … It was a real blessing.”

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