Saturday, March 30, 2013

So Much for a "Well Informed Electorate"

Originally titled "Radford Arsenal Public Meeting Turns Ugly," the video for this story was temporarily unavailable on Friday before being re-routed to appear under the upbeat description, "Radford Arsenal Works to Clean Property." The decision by our local CBS affiliate to censor their report of how the public was mistreated by government representatives would have made George Orwell blush.

It certainly wouldn't do to have the public left with an impression of the truth - that the Arsenal representatives were rude, confrontational and even condescending to the citizens gathered at this community involvement meeting. No, that wouldn't be good public relations for the corporations who have been successful in making record profits while enjoying the "hands off" approach that EPA takes to this government owned "federal facility." Which is why the history of reporting on the Arsenal's environmental violations has been spotty, at best. It's a safe bet that three fourths of the people living in the New River Valley have no idea that the Arsenal operates an Open Burning Ground (OBG) where they are permitted to burn 8,000 pounds of "munitions constituents" per day.

The press remained silent when the Virginia DEQ issued a warning letter to AlliantTechsystems (ATK) in April of 2012 for "excess chromium" in two separate "skid burns." These burns use twelve 1/2 gallons of diesel fuel to soak the hazardous waste on each pan before ignition. Under the current permit, "skid burns" are allowed a specified ratio of barium, aluminum and chromium on each pan. That limit wasn't enough for a burn ATK conducted on the 11th of August 2011, the first day of school for the children in Montgomery County. On that day, the children at Belview Elementary, a short mile and a half downwind of the OBG, were treated to an "excess" amount of chromium in the "skid burn" that day. The burns, which typically begin at 1 pm and can smolder for hours, disperse dioxin along with other metals and air-born toxins to the surrounding communities. Although at one point the for-profit contractor requested that regulators consider all of the chromium burned as existing in the innocuous trivalent form, this dubious suggestion was denied. The fact is that they have been burning hexavalent chromium at the Open Burning Ground, one of the most carcinogenic metals known to science, for decades.

The current contractor operating the facility  is asking the Virginia DEQ to modify the OBG permit to allow more chromium  in every "skid burn." You might think the local media would be all over this outrageous proposal, but you would be wrong. Instead, the only TV news station that had the where-with-all to report that community members are concerned found itself on the receiving end of the Pentagon's wrath. Welcome to a hobbled Fourth Estate which cowers in the face of the Military Industrial Complex and their corporate benefactors. Ike must be spinning in his grave.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ignorance Must Be Blissful, Jim

Wait! Wait! Don't touch that dial! Breaking news just in to our databanks.....Jim McKenna, Co-Chair of the Arsenal's Restoration Advisory Board and DoD employee, tells citizens concerned about toxins released to the air from the Open Burning Ground (OBG) that there is no way to measure air quality around the OBG. This is a novel perspective given that the permit modification being proposed to allow BAE to burn more hexavalent chromium than the permit allows them to do now will be reviewed in light of risk assessment data. This point of fact seemed to be a foreign concept to the man who runs the community involvement meetings. If he doesn't believe the level of toxic exposure from air emissions created in the open burning of hazardous waste can be measured, why is he so sure it's safe for the children downwind to be breathing?