Radford Arsenal invests hundreds of millions in cleaner technology

By Rachel Lucas - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

RADFORD, Va. - On Wednesday, the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Drinking Water awarded the 2016 Excellence in Waterworks Operations Performance Gold Award to the Radford Army Ammunition Plant.

The award is given for water systems which have demonstrated excellence in performance and operations, and for the treatment and distribution of drinking water to the public.

That's not all the plant is working on, a multi-million dollar project is underway that will drastically reduce emissions from what is currently Virginia's largest polluter.

Rob Davie, the plant's chief of operations, walked WSLS 10 through the new steam-powered plant, which is replacing the old, outdated coal fired plant that's responsible for a lot of their emissions.

The new plant is making the munitions production process much cleaner for the environment.

Exceeding emission limits into the air, the coal-fired power house, has powered the production of munitions for decades at the Arsenal and has been LTC Alicia Masson's main priority to change.

"The coal-fired power house has what's called opacity incidents and that's where we were emitting things into the air that more than what exceeds our permissible limits on opacity. Those events were occurring regularly enough to cause the Army years ago to look for a better option," said Masson.

Years of research and $60 million later, Masson said those emissions from coal will now be reduced to zero.

Steam is now that better option.

"We were able to achieve our power requirements and power goals in greener, cleaner technology... as opposed to the hulking monstrosity that is the brick-and-mortar facility, and it also gets us away from using coal which also protects the environment," continued Masson.

Davies said the new power house should be fully operational in a month.

In addition, only yards away, a $400 million construction project is underway on a new nitruscellulos facility. What is used to begin the gun powder production process will now be a much greener method. 

Construction is expected to be complete in late 2018.

Now in the permitting process, Masson has also pushed for a new incinerator that will reduce the use of open burning that's been a point of concern for the public.

"I'm never going to be able to say we'll dispose of 100 percent because I don't know what the future of munitions look like, but I can say that we'll get as close as we can," said Masson.

Preliminary test results are back from drone air testing directly over the open burn sites.

"It supports that what we're doing is exactly the correct way to do it and it supports that what we are doing as we are conducting those burns is not a danger to health or human life," said Masson.

Those test results are a huge deal,  especially since the open burn sites have been a point of public concern.

They are conducted by the University of Dayton and NASA, an outside source from the Arsenal. Masson will discuss the full test results as soon as they become available. 

 

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