RADFORD – Big changes are underway at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant as Commander James Scott announces a new initiative to continue to reduce waste emitted into the air and local waterways.
"We are just doing the right thing for the New River Valley and our community," Scott said.
Making a major commitment to the environment in the New River Valley, RAAP, Virginia's largest polluter through the Department of Defense, is investing over $100 million worth of upgrades to drastically reduce emissions by 2023.
Scott said Radford is moving away from the use of the open burning ground, a practice that has been the center of community controversy for years.
"We are taking that initiative and starting off with an immediate reduction in the amount of lead that we sent to the open burning ground that gets treated there," Scott said.
Scott said they are working to get the new explosive waste incinerator online with the goal of having it operation by 2023. It is a $100 million dollar investment that will eliminate 95 percent of the waste burned there.
"Within the last three years, we have reduced 22 percent of the waste going to the open burning ground and we are not going to settle on our heels as we have a solid glide pass to get the new energetic waste incinerator," Scott said, promising immediate changes while they wait for government approval on the project. The 22 percent decline in the use of the open burning ground was achieved between 2015 to 2017, during a period of increased production. According to data provided by RAAP, in 2015 450,000 pounds of explosive waste was treated at the open burning ground. That number deceased to 400,000 pounds in 2016, then decreased to 350,000 pounds in 2017.
The new incinerator will allow RAAP to dispose of off-spec MK-90 grains (rocket motors) which are currently being burned. Rejected MK-90 grains will be sawed to fit into the explosive waste incinerator.
Scott explains at the moment, many materials must be burned because they cannot safely be disposed of any other way.
The commanders plan also includes reducing the amount of nitrates released into the New River.
"We are not satisfied with where we are out and we want to continually get aggressive as far as our overall stewardship challenge," Scott said.
It's a move not only to appease other community members, but also the employees who call Radford and the New River Valley home. RAAP is the second-largest employer in the area.
"The staff here, we all live in the community. I live just on the installation," Scott said. "The staff, they are passionate about what they do. The community has spoken and we heard the community. We are giving them what they want. We are giving them what we want."
To continue building on the practice of transparency and continued open dialogue with the community, Scott is offering a tour of RAAP to 90 members of the public on June 21. Members will be selected by invitation only. The tour will also be streamed live on RAAP's facebook page.