Sunday, September 8, 2013

"Skid Burns" Dirty Business for the Army & BAE Systems

I am not a scientist of any kind. I'm actually a Social Studies teacher who hasn't done much classroom teaching at all. I do hold a BA in History from ASU, where I learned a few things about Peace Education. I also managed 50 credit hours towards a masters degree at Purdue, which honed my critical thinking skills from a citizen-education perspective.

Still and all, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize there is something fundamentally wrong when recommendations from a major consulting firm (CH2MHill,) to the U.S. Army's contractor in the Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) of 2005 are ignored by regulators. The report states in no uncertain terms that the current practice of "skid burns" at the Open Burning Ground (OBG) ought to change because it is  exceedingly toxic. CH2MHill makes a gentle reference to what amounts to a toxic assault from RAAP on the air of every single baby, child and adult breathing here in the New River Valley. They inform the company operating the Arsenal from 1995 through June of 2012, Alliant Techsystems (ATK)  that

"The low temperature combustion following the consumption of the diesel fuel provides conditions conducive to the formation of dioxins and furans as products of incomplete combustion." page 43.

This reference to what is known as a "skid burn" comes under the section heading 7.2 Proposed Mitigated Skid Burn Pan. Granted, the contractor is looking to make a profit here by installing natural gas lines to replace the diesel fuel as a source of combustion. Never mind that this whole toxic mess sits squarely in the 100 year flood plain, less than a mile from the Pulaski Thrust Fault and atop Karst topography. The report does seem to be saying that this method of soaking each clay lined pan loaded with "munitions constituents" in 12.5 gallons of diesel fuel to facilitate combustion creates more cancer causing particulate matter (PM) than is necessary. The U.S. Army who is on site helping to operate this base has taken an oath to protect and defend the people living here, so why would the  U.S. Army Environmental Command allow this to continue? Shoot, why would Senator Mark Warner turn a blind eye to the pictures in the EPA inspection report which was brought to his office for a personal meeting with his staff on April 29th, 2013?

A "skid burn"  is quite a site to behold, which is one reason the OBG permit issued by the Virginia DEQ for this special disposal method dating back seventy years, notes the following security procedure:

“Warning.  The burning ground of the Radford Army Ammunition Plant is about to begin burning operations.  Evacuate the river area immediately.”

As officials explained on September 5th, they make sure all the college students and others who like to float down the New River, smack dab through the Main Manufacturing Area (MMA) which includes the permitted pollution outfalls in addition to the OBG, are not in danger from the - well, they don't call it an explosion, exactly. You know what they say, "who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? This handy Map of Peppers Ferry to Whitethorne float from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), does not make mention that your float may be interrupted by the military open burning along the way. Nor or there any signs where people of all ages "put into the water" to float down an otherwise stunningly beautiful New River.

Neither the U.S. Army nor BAE Systems elaborated on how long they patrol the river after a burn, but the EPA reports skid burns have been known to smolder for four hours or more. Paddle faster.

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