Army delivers updated guidance on lithium batteries in household goods shipments

FORT KNOX, Ky. — Rapid growth in the use of lithium batteries has changed the American landscape, powering virtually everything these days. As a result, officials at the Department of Army have tweaked guidance on Soldiers and Department of Army civilians shipping them in household goods during permanent change of station moves. “We’ve gone through such an era of technological advances that batteries are everywhere,” said Marie Torres, traffic management specialist at Fort Knox’s Logistics Readiness Center. Personnel are authorized a combined limit of 100 watts in their shipments, and those who must leave products behind with unremovable batteries that exceed the 100 watt-hour threshold can receive a reimbursement. “If the lithium battery is removable from an item, the battery must be removed, and the item shipped without the lithium battery,” according to the guidance. “You will not be compensated for the item if the battery is removable. If the lithium battery is not removable from the item, you may file a claim for loss of the entire item.” Torres said some Soldiers and civilian employees may overlook some batteries when planning for a move. “At Fort Knox, we haven’t really experienced any issues with lithium batteries so far,” said Torres. “The main issue, however, is with power tools. Power tool charging batteries can quickly add up to 100 watts.” According to several commercial websites, power tool batteries can use between 10 to 100 watts, depending on the power tool. Torres explained that Soldiers and civilian employees are responsible for shipping any removable batteries that exceed the 100-watt limit. The destination can also make shipping of lithium batteries more challenging. Transportation officials are concerned with their combustibility. “It depends on where they’re going,” said Torres. “Stateside isn’t as big of an issue versus going overseas, or when household goods are stored. “The heat, when items are not temperature-controlled, can cause metals to expand and burst.” One exception to the 100-watt restriction involves electric vehicles. “Those are separate from household goods; they go through the [Vehicle Processing Center],” said Torres. “The VPCs are not having any issues with shipping electric vehicles.” Officials at the Atlanta VPC confirmed this, stating that the only special requirement for shipping or storing an electric vehicle is that it is fully charged when dropped off at the VPC. Those who need to dispose of excess batteries or batteries that no longer hold a charge can take them to the hazardous materials center at Building 2954. “We collect them all from any unit, organization or agency,” said Brian Faber, Hazardous Waste Program manager. “We then ensure the terminals are taped up, box them up by type, and ship them through DLA Disposition Services. “We take care of all of that for the whole installation.”