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Real Time Air Testing Coming To Radford Community

Officials at the Radford Army Ammunitions Plant announced new strategies for reducing toxic waste at its open burning grounds --and new ways of including the public in those efforts.

Charlie Saks, with the Radford Army Ammunitions Depot is holding a camera to stream the Arsenal's community meeting.

"Something new, we're doing at this meeting is streaming it on Facebook Live..."

And not only is that new window opening at the Radford Arsenal. Lieutenant Commander, James Scott is also opening its doors to the public.  The arsenal will host a series of visitors, pending security clearance, needed in order to walk onto a federal government site that straddles parts of Pulaski and Montgomery counties in southwestern Virginia.

He explains, " We bring our first responders out in April.  We have local officials come out in May.  Our community members who've been on this journey with us we're going to invite them out in June, and in August we'll do a full open house."

At its quarterly community meeting at the Christiansburg Public Library, several people thanked arsenal officials for steps they're taking, including; plans for a new state of the art incinerator and a new process for, literally, cutting some toxic materials down to sizes small enough for disposal inside an existing incinerator. Both devices would reduce the amount of lead waste emissions.

The arsenal also green lighted a plan by the Ecological and Human Heath in Rural communities team at Virginia Tech to measure air pollution in real time. It will be the first toxic emissions, such as organic compounds,-- and possibly lead--- will be measured directly from sites in the community around the arsenal. EHHRC will document data, and residents' concerns and share their findings with the  RAAP officials, local and national officials and the public.

Emily Satterwhite, who teaches Appalachian Studies at Virginia Tech is coordinating the interdisciplinary group of scientists and students. They'll place air monitors where people want them to test, and they'll compile information from area residents to share with officials and the community.

“The arsenal has been monitoring on site and there’s a new DEQ monitor just offsite to the south east. We're hoping to find community partners in the NE, the direction the winds go, who are interested in working with us to do on site air monitoring.

 A.J Prussin is an air quality expert at Virginia Tech.  He says, "We learned a lot of lessons during the Flint water crisis.  They set up a very nice website residents could go and get water quality data very quickly.  We want to have something similar, where the residents can be getting the area quality data results from our sampling much more quickly than, the couple month lag that there currently is, with government."

Prussin added, that Virginia Tech has is an independent observer with no vested interest in the outcome of the testing.  "We will do good science" he says. "And good science speaks for itself."

At its quarterly community meeting, Arsenal officials also discussed a plan to re-purpose nitrates produced by the plant.  The high levels the Arsenal emits have earned it the dubious honor of " largest polluter" in the state of Virginia.  They say their goal is to turn the nitrates into fertilizer and other substances that are beneficial to the environment.

We will post details of the air monitoring study as soon as they become available. 

The project was initiated in February. Testing and other information gathering is expected to begin in later this fall.

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.
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