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US DoD to Investigate Open Burning at Radford Arsenal

The practice of burning toxic munitions waste in the open air at military sites will soon get more scrutiny than ever before. Congress has tasked the Pentagon with examining the practice at more than 60 installations around the country, including the Radford Arsenal in southwestern Virginia.


After three decades of requests from congress for D-O-D to investigate open air burning of explosive waste at military sites,  the Inspector General has agreed to look into it and report back.

New Hampshire Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, who is on the House Armed Services Committee, introduced an amendment to the defense spending law aimed at ending the practice altogether.  “There does seem to be a recognition that they can’t continue to do it this way," she says.

Part of the reason for the continuation of what many consider an outmoded method of toxic waste disposal, says Shea-Porter, was the fact that "it was cheap to do the open burn. But I think there’s a sea change here and the people of these communities have a right to expect that. It’s long overdue.”

Nearby residents, citizens and experts have all voiced concern about possible adverse health effects from the open burning grounds at the Arsenal. Rex Card lives in a neighborhood that's within a couple miles of it.                                 

“The reason I stay, is because I trust that the right things have been being done and that nothing is going to be found, but I can’t say that I’m 100% certain nothing will be found, given that there’s been no actual collection of data from the burns that have been going on for a long time.”

He adds, " It’s kind of a 'trust but verify' scenario.  I think we’ve been promised things in the past, but I’ll be honest with you, I won’t be excited about it until I see it happen.”

New Hampshire Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter She says the Department of Defense will investigate the sites.  She says it's important to tackle this issue, "For the sake of all the people who work there, or who live in the neighboring communities.  They have a right to expect that we will do everything we can to keep them and their families safe, as we do the important work of the military."

Earlier this year, Arsenal Commander Lt. Col. James Scott announced that a new $100 million dollar closed, incinerator that will cut toxic emissions at the open burning ground by 95- per cent, could be in place by 2023.  Representative Shea-Porter says a major goal of the investigation is to confirm the importance of funding technologies to replace open burning.

The D-O-D investigation is expected to take at least a year. No start date has been announced.

Public meeting and comment period for hazardous waste permit 
Announcement of public meeting and comment period for a permit modification issued to the U.S. Army and BAE Systems, for the Radford Army Ammunition Plant located at 4050 Peppers Ferry Road, Radford, VA. The plant has requested a Class 3 permit modification of the facility's Final Permit of a new incinerator complex that will replace the existing hazardous waste incinerators with new, modernized systems and upgraded air pollution control equipment. In addition, this new incinerator complex is designed to reduce the amount of hazardous waste currently open burned under the facility's RCRA Subpart X Permit. The public comment period closes on Sept. 13, 2018. A public meeting will be held on Aug. 30, 2018 at 6 p.m. at the Christiansburg Public Library, 125 Sheltman Street, Christiansburg, VA. 

For more information, visit: https://www.deq.virginia.gov/ConnectWithDEQ/EnvironmentalInformation/RadfordArmyAmmunitionPlant.aspx#calendar



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