Ammunitions Incinerator Responds to Air Pollution Concerns

– by Annie Andersen and Emily-Erin Robinson, April 1, 2016, WSET

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Photo: WSET

The Radford Army Ammunition Plant recently received criticism from environmental protection advocate Erin Brockovich.

Brockovich said they plant’s open burn policy is harmful to the environment.

Brockovich complains that when the plant burns hazardous waste, an orange cloud drifts all the way over Virginia Tech and Blacksburg. The EPA ranks the Christiansburg metro area, which includes the plant, at 37th worst, out of 893 in the whole country, when it comes to the amount of toxins released.

In 2014, the EPA says that the Radford Army Ammunitions Plant released 9,292,749 chemical pounds of waste.

Brockovich posts: “This is one of the most dangerous and toxic facilities in the Nation according to EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory and RSEI data. There is a high level of Thyroid Cancer Incidence in the Region.”

The plant responds to the concerns that they are in compliance with all government agencies and that the burns happen 3-4 times a week for only 45 seconds each time, classifying them as flash burns.In regard to the color of the smoke, the plant says that the product being burned is orange, affecting the smoke.

Installation Commander, Lt. Colonel Alicia Masson told ABC 13, “Ms. Brockovich’s claims are erroneous.”

Masson said that 80% of the waste is destroyed in an incinerator. However, the other 20%, just under 500,000 pounds last year, is burned out in the open. Masson says doing that keeps the community safe.”There are things that cannot safely be incinerated. So the incinerator has a grinder and that grinder has the potential with the wrong material in it to actually detonate which would place people’s lives at risk.”

However, environmental activist and founder of the group Environmental Patriots for the New River Valley Devawn Bledsoe says the open burning puts lives at risk too.”I grew up in a super fund site and even though we got very low level exposure every day, now that I’m older I know how many kids I grew up with are sick and dead already so I know how important it is to stop chronic low level exposure.”

Masson said that while the plant is in compliance with all environmental agencies, they are working to cut down on the amount burned in an open burn, saying “”We just actually let several million dollars released for the design of our new incinerator which will handle more than the one we have right now.”

The new incinerator will cut back on the amount needed to be burned in the open, but there would still be some open burning required. Bledsoe says she doesn’t mind that, as long as the open burning is kept to an absolute minimum.

Bledsoe says she knows the new incinerator will help keep the community safer, but she says she’s not holding her breath for the new incinerator to be purchased.”They’ve told me for 8 years that they’re working on this and it’s all smoke and mirrors,” said Bledsoe.

ABC 13 asked Masson if the community needs be worried about its safety.

Masson said the community is safe, adding that she is a part of the community and keeping it community safe is one of her top priorities.

Bledsoe says that’s her goal too.

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