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.

1 comment:

  1. As I read the many good faith efforts to make the United States a better place. I find that most people make decisions not based on doing the right thing. Instead, they go with what is in their best interest.

    We as a Society are far too splintered. If we as Americans could form an advocacy group excluding red line issues like abortion, gun rights, religion, gay marriage etc, these are divisive issues, we could all come together over an issue like this with enough clout to force a change.

    1) form an advocacy group
    2) form a team of thinkers
    3) groups or individuals submit issues
    4) thinkers select an issue, investigate and brainstorm on various solutions
    5) submit solutions to followers
    6) followers vote best path
    7) all followers stand behind chosen path as one.

    I feel once followers see that sticking together as one on a massive scale. We can take back America one issue at a time.