Moving Forward on Open Waste Burning

Devawn Oberlender is looking to take a pager in the book of a far away town, where citizen protestors succeeded in stopping outside burning explosives of arms and weapons waste in the Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant.

“The chance that we have right now only comes up quite ten years, because the license is good for ten years, so what we need to replicate is exactly what they did in north western Louisiana at Camp Minden.

There they formed a”Stop the Burn” movement that ultimately brought together elected officials, state and local regulators and the military for a plan to give open burning up and use a modern indoor incinerator to dispose of the toxic substances. Now, with the open burning permit at the Radford Arsenal up for renewal, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is exploring that idea for the first time. William Hayden is spokesman for DEQ in Virginia.

“We haven’t reached any conclusions yet but that is something that would be considered as we move forward. We’ve asked the Arsenal to produce alternatives to open burning and we do hope to have some choices that go beyond the idea of just burning it the open.”

Brian Salvatore is a professor of Organic chemistry at Louisiana State University who argued for using contained incineration.

“That is what we fought for here at camp Minden. And yes it added another 15million dollars and almost doubled the price of the contract but this was something that, the EPA was willing to go to bat for us for. So I’m glad that the people in the EPA and at the country worked together here and they worked with the Army as well to obtain the additional money. And we’re quite satisfied here that this option — that, at the beginning of this we didn’t know all the specifics of these modern incinerators can perform. We’re quite confident here that this will do the job and the amount of material that’s likely to be published total will be on the order of tens of grams rather than tons of these emissions. ”

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 3, which includes Virginia, said it could not comment on the possibility of incinerators like being adopted at the Radford site, but a spokesperson for BAE Systems, the contractor in charge of the arsenal, supported it is”looking for workable alternatives to its existing procedures of waste disposal.”

The department of Environmental Quality has requested BAE to conduct an environmental impact study on its present open burning practice. William Hayden says it is the first time DEQ has asked for one.

“Because we’re getting into an issue that has generated plenty of public attention in the Radford area we knew that the more information we had, the better. People from the public have been asking for us information; they have been requesting Radford (the arsenal) for information. ”

And among them is Oberlender who says,”We’ve been burning waste out there, open burning it since 1941. You know, it is not going away.”

And neither are the environmental patriots of the new river valley. Taking another page from the story of Camp Minden Louisiana’s successful attempt to get its outdoor burning moved inside. They are scheduling meetings with federal and state officials to keep the pressure on. The first is this Friday with U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith who sits on the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has oversight of the EPA. The group is looking to make a national issue out of one that has for so long been so local and among the few areas where open burning of hazardous waste from explosives is still allowed.

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The permit that allows the Radford Army Ammunitions Plant to burn hazardous waste from firearms outdoors is up for renewal. Community activists see a chance to address environmental and health concerns about the open burning — and state regulators see a chance to explore new technologies to solve an old problem.