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New report highlights history of environmental violations at the Radford arsenal

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A new report by an environmental justice organization argues that the Radford Army Ammunition Plant has a history of air and water pollution.

The report, published by Earthjustice, is asking the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, often referred to as “the arsenal,” to have more transparency with the public, and total compliance with environmental regulations.

The arsenal produces gun and rocket propellants and treats hazardous materials through open burning.

Over the past decade, the EPA and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality have issued numerous actions against the arsenal for failing to meet standards for clean air and water, and improper treatment of hazardous wastes. The arsenal has had to pay thousands of dollars in fines for noncompliance of environmental regulations.

In 2017, air-quality testing conducted by drone over open burns at the plant showed arsenic, lead and three other pollutants at higher-than-expected levels.

“When you look at the history of the facility, and you look at what they’re asking to keep doing, it’s hard for us as a community to believe that they’re gonna be in compliance because their history shows something completely different,” said Alyssa Carpenter, chair of Citizens for Arsenal Accountability, the group who partnered with Earthjustice on the new report.

She points to a study from 2019 by the EPA, which lists alternatives to treating hazardous wastes, which the agency says are safer than open burning.

“We have newer, safer and more advanced options now, and I think we as the community deserve to know what options we have for protecting our health and safety and our well-being,” Carpenter said.

The arsenal is in the process of building a new waste incinerator facility by 2026, and Robert Davie, deputy to the commander at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant said this will nearly eliminate the use of open burning and will cost $145 million. He also said “substantial progress has been made at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in recent years to reduce the plant's environmental impact, reducing the amount of waste treated at the open burning ground by more than 50% since 2017.”

In 2021, the arsenal received a ten-year renewal of their permit that allows the facility to continue open burning until 2031.

When asked if the war in Ukraine is impacting the workload at the RAAP, a spokesperson said that they cannot release that information, for operational security purposes.

Roxy Todd is Radio IQ's New River Valley Bureau Chief.