Altus Air Force Base saves cash, environment by filtering dirty water

Altus_Altus Air Force Base engineers are saving taxpayers thousands of wasted dollars now that they have discovered a way to recycle water used to wash aircraft tires.  They created a filtering machine to clear hazardous waste from the water, and now the base no longer will have to pay to have wastewater hauled off.  The process is efficient, and reduces man hours.

Filtering the water was Altus Air Force Base Engineer George Corey's idea.  The man, who he doesn't even work at the wheel and tire shop, says he was filling in when he noticed how the base was using dirty water.  The practice didn't make sense to Corey.

You may think that washing aircraft tires is not important - but it is.  "The whole aircraft is on the sets of wheels that are out there," he said.  "We think of tires just being tires.  But in the aircraft world, it has a tremendous impact on the whole mission."  Washing the tires cuts back on cracks.  But the problem was disposing of the contaminated water.  "The first day it was great, but then after having to deal with the dirt - it was becoming black water," he said.  His idea:  filter it.  "There's a bio-media in this machine right here," he said.  "The bio-media eats all the oil carbons - hydrocarbons - off of it."

Corey's idea could be put to use all over the United States.  "Just 10 bases - that would be 275,000 pounds less of hazardous waste that somebody would have to be getting rid of in the environment," he said.

Workers such as Kent Reitenour scrubs aircraft tires.  He likes not having to use dirty water anymore.  "We've spent hours trying to clean these tires - scrubbing, trying to clean these wheels,' he said.  He says being able to use clean water has cut his efforts in half.

Corey says the filtration system for used water will save taxpayer dollars.  "We've saved the water, we've saved the earth, and we eliminated hazard waste," he said.  He says implementing his idea makes him feel very good.  "To be honest, I never expected it to have such a big impact."

The base says it's gone from creating 27,000 pounds of waste per year to about 10 to 100 pounds, and will realize savings of about $45,000 per year.  Corey says he came up with the concept, and other engineers helped to design the system.  The machine cost about $120,000 to install.  He says the system is the first that he knows of in the entire Air Force.  Oil fields use a similar filtering process to decrease environmental impact.