Saturday, May 7, 2016

Same As It Ever Was

It's a bit disheartening to look back on the years I've been working on this problem....until I reflect on the small victories that have slowly but surely moved the ball down the field.

At long last, the Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger CSWAB nationwide campaign to end the open burning of military waste is underway! Please sign & share this petition to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asking for immediate action to stop this practice that General Russel Honore has called "Roman Army open burn technique."

The Radford Arsenal is now under the command of a woman for the first time in it's history, which brings hope that common sense will prevail.

Friday, May 30, 2014


 Time was, when the odds were stacked against us, Americans rose to the occasion and stood up in defense of the everyday, ordinary person who makes this country tick from the inside. That time has come now and the people who need YOU are the children who live around the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in the Appalachian mountains of southwestern Virginia ~ the New River Valley.
speaking up 
for people who need 
the power of your voice. 

Please, take a minute now to send an email directly to the Virginia DEQ

Here's what to do: Environmental Patriots of the New River Valley was notified by the Virginia DEQ late on May 30th that they have decided NOT to take action on our request to extend the public comment deadline for HWMU 5 & 16 by sixty days, through August 22, 2014 because 

they are awaiting 

So, please send an email TODAY to the DEQ simply stating:

"Please extend the public comment period for the proposed closure action on Hazardous Waste Management Units - HWMU 5 & 16 at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RAAP) through August 22, 2014 to give stakeholders a time for a full and fair opportunity to understand this major permit change." 

That's it -all you need to say! Use Radford HWMU 5 & 16 as the subject. This is an EPA Federal Facility which straddles the 
American Heritage designated New River, a national treasure.

This is the business of all Americans who are owners of the Federal Land on which this privately operated, British manufacturer - BAE Systems operates. So, send an email today as matter of civic duty!

Please include your name and complete address and EMAIL TODAY (don't' wait for Monday or a few minutes from now, please do it now!) 

 Veterans are especially encouraged 
to participate and self identify! 

Please send YOUR email to:   


they are the permit writer and Director of Public Information and Outreach for the Virginia DEQ, respectively. 

People often say they feel powerless in the face of so much bad ______ news. Insert your horror story of the day, be it a mass shooting, flooding, fire, water shortage, mudslide - someone being swallowed up by a sinkhole, even - it's not hard to see why giving up and giving in is the choice of first, rather than last resort for so many citizens.  What's more unsettling is when that sort of glassy-eyed fear and retreat paralyzes people who find nothing "worth" fighting for anymore. Join this good fight for justice, clean air & water for someone else's children because one day, they may be your own.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Watch That Hand Behind Their Back

It never ceases to be amaze me -  but the lengths that the "powers that be" will go to in their work to obfuscate and distort the truth about the Radford Army Ammunition Plant and the toxic load they dump on us daily, is simply stunning at times.

The public hearing being held June 4th is a perfect example. The Virginia DEQ's notification of this hearing reaches a new low in their dirty work, which is truly saying something. There are laws dictating how the public is to be informed about and included in public hearings on permit actions that effect their community. These are laws that public employees are breaking at their own peril in addition to implicating the private contractors employed at RAAP. The people who are supposed to be notified about PUBLIC HEARINGS are called STAKEHOLDERS because they hold the stake that the Virginia DEQ is about to drive into the bodies of every child, person and animal living here around the plant. Stakeholders are US -WE THE PEOPLE who will have to live with the decisions being made about about the hazardous (as in toxic, poisonous, disease causing deadly excrement) waste created at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RAAP).

Recall that RAAP was constructed with considerable haste atop Karst, which provides a sort of stealth septic system for contaminants to disappear into drinking water wells near and far, as well as into the New River. The EPA has long advised pubic and private entities against locating hazardous waste production or disposal atop Karst, but one might imagine the implications of this practice were not entirely clear in 1940, when the private lands straddling the New River as it divides Pulaski from Montgomery Counties in southwestern Virginia, were bought up by the Federal government. The implications of contaminating a precious Karst aquifer are certainly documented now and have been for a long time, as noted in this scientifically rigorous article on reliable contaminant monitoring in Karst that was published in 1986. One can hope that the caves and sinkholes known to exist on this land were not a factor that either resulted in a lower buying price for farmers to sell their land to the Feds, nor a "bonus" for the private company, Hercules Chemical who hired the contractor to construct the plant with an eye towards future profits. This government-private contractor relationship, originally forged to construct and operate ammunition plants in a hurry to "ramp up"production for WWII,  is known as as GO/CO or government owned/corporately operated Federal Facility. (see previous posts)

Back to the injustice at hand….Why is there a public hearing set for June 4th, 2014at the ever-so-odd starting time of 7:45 pmwhich will follow the informational part of the hearing from 7 - 7:30?  This is supposedly an action relevant and important to those people in the Central Office Region as the second link shows, rather than the Blue Ridge Region where the polluter is located and actually doing the polluting. Why is information about this meeting so invisible and unreported by any media outlet here? If you know you are in VADEQ's Blue Ridge Region or use their "region filters" as suggested, you will not find out that there is an important upcoming public hearing to discuss the Virginia DEQ's plan to allow RAAP to "close out" two sites where toxic waste has stewed underground for decades. Now, why would the website where VADEQ Public hearings by are announced to the public categorize this meeting taking place under the wrong region and fail to even mention that people can come learn about the permit action from 7 - 7:30, as is duly noted on a separate web site for public meetings in Virignia? (the first link) Just another one of those peas under a shell that keeps STAKEHOLDERS from having the facts they need in order to discover the ugly, toxic truth. Well, we're onto you, VADEQ!

PLEASE COME TO THE MEETING TO LEARN ABOUT WHAT'S IN THE GROUNDWATER (GW) that MAY BE MIGRATING into a water source supplying YOUR HOME! Many of the toxins in the GW at RAAP are not tested for under the 
Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
 including perchlorate (rocket fuel)

 EQUALLY, if not more IMPORTANT, 
if you have a well or drink water that may just be contaminated by the toxic wastes at RAAP, SUBMITTING WRITTEN COMMENTS to the VADEQ on this permit action GIVES YOU LEGAL STANDING IN ANY POTENTIAL  LAW SUIT for damages resulting from these permits which allow for
 "imminent and substantial endangerment to 
human health and the environment." 
RCRA statues 7002 & 7003

The poisons are not gone from the groundwater at these sites they are proposing to "close," no, far from it actually, but that's one of the "bugaboos" of EPA Region 3 having handed off some of the most contaminated sites for remediation under RAAP's Unique RCRA permit to the Commonwealth of Virginia, who has demonstrated what some would call a criminal  lack of due diligence in permit writing and enforcement since the VADEQ took over. 

This opinion is born out in the VADEG permit written by employee Russell McAvoy for the
Open Burning Ground on the banks of the New River  which violates the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the conditions of their RCRA permit (as is clear from the four-day-long Multi-Media Inspection that EPA conducted at the facility from May 16 - 20, 2011.
{{{Thanks to the work of conscientious citizens, this inspection report and all the photos therein will be available for us to easily share per the FOIA fee waiver extended to our group very soon!}}}  Yes, even the open burning of "too much" chromium to our air on two separate occasions at the OBG in the last couple of years has not phased the VADEQ employees with power over our air quality. The letter of April 25, 2012 [reference RFAAP letter # 11-815-115 dated August 22, 2011 and # 12-815-27 February 17, 2012] sent to Elizabeth A. Lohman of the Virginia DEQ from Paige Holt, PhD, Environmental Manager of Alliant Techsystems (ATK), Inc. (ATK is the corporation profiting from running RAAP from 1995 until July 1st of 2012) states that "Both exceedances were caused by human error." Is that justification for their decision that there would be no public notification of this toxic assault and it never became an actual violation with associated fines or required notification to the EPA, but instead resulted in a mere warning letter from VADEQ. More background on the FUBAR situation at the OBG is in my blog post of September 9, 2013 "Little Things Mean A Lot."

So, word to the wise, watch that hand behind their backs because it ain't flowers they're bringing to your door!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fourth Estate Steps In at Radford Army Ammunition Plant

The latest BAE Systems/U.S. Army meeting on May 8th, 2014 was another example of the hubris and callous disregard afforded to our Appalachian community in Southwestern Virginia - the New River Valley. Representatives of the U.S. Army's Joint Munitions Command had the gall to tell assembled concerned citizens that ambient air quality monitoring in the "fall out zone" for the Open Air Burning Ground was not an accurate way to gage our exposure. Rob Davie's exact words were, "It's the lease accurate way to determine what is happening…Ambient air quality monitoring is suspect." Really? What's suspect here is how this EPA designated Federal Facility is being allowed to poison the surrounding community without any oversight. Perhaps this story in the Washington Post has something to do with their ability to "cloak" the truth…

At long last, a local NEWS station has taken the time to research - yes, do investigative journalism - about what the heck is going on at the Radford Arsenal. PLEASE MAKE TIME TO WATCH WDBJ7 at 6PM on Monday MAY 12th for a peak under the curtain. Congressman Morgan Griffith, who sits on House Committees with responsibility for oversight of EPA RCRA facilities will explain his inaction….

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Oversight of EPA Enforcement Falls to Congressman Griffith

You might wonder, if this Radford Ammo Plant really is shitting all over the New River Valley, where's the proof? Who else says it's all that bad? The Richmond School of Law, has released a report imploring our lawmakers to protect us from toxins. Whose listening? NOT Congressman Griffith, who sits on the House Committee with oversight of EPA enforcement, yet has taken no action on EPA's scathing inspection of RAAP from May of 2011. That's right - nearly three years ago EPA found numerous, major violations at RAAP and published them in an inspection report. Congressman Griffith's office read the report and decided not to ask EPA why there has been no subsequent enforcement. In the mean time, RAAP under the management of BAE Systems continues to spew poison into our air and water with impunity.  Those visible emissions aren't steam, folks - and since no one monitors our air quality in Montgomery or Pulaski County, we are at the mercy of the polluter to report their own violations! In fact, the Radford Arsenal's Clean Air Act status has been in what EPA calls a Significant Violation status for 7 of the last 12 quarters. Even with all this documentation that his constituents are being subjected to the mother load of toxins in Virginia, Congressman Griffith has not asked EPA what that means for the babies breathing around the plant or why the inspection results are  listed as "to be determined" three years later. Why is this for profit company benefiting from federal tax dollars while subverting environmental law? Why is our Congressman failing in his duty to provide oversight of EPA on behalf of his constituents? Equally important, why has Senator Warner's office failed to respond to citizen petitions and concerns about RAAP and the lack of oversight in the House?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

If You Care About Safe Water, Protect It!

There is a clear path for the legislation needed to better protect everyone in America from perchlorate exposure. Senator Barbara Boxer spoke from her heart about the hard science in this insightful article from the Washington Post. She is quoted making a compelling case in 2008 that the failure to regulate perchlorate in drinking water is reprehensible, at best:

"Perchlorate has been a serious, persistent and widespread problem which threatens the health of our families, especially our children," Boxer said. "For the Bush EPA to walk away from this problem and shrug off this danger is, in my view, unforgivable and immoral."

Her statement about the imperative to regulate perchlorate in drinking water is as true today as it was five years ago. The data on the long term health consequences of chronic perchlorate exposure are being compiled by us - we are the "guinea pigs" and early indications are great for the makers of synthetic thyroid hormone.  In 2011, Truthout reported on perchlorate at Army bases designated as Superfund Sites, but yet again the one-of-a-kind RCRA permit for the Radford Arsenal allows it to "slip the loop" of  EPA Superfund oversight by not being included.

Perchlorate contamination at and around military bases nationwide is not going away. Neither is the need for  Congress to pass legislation to restrict the amount of this toxin in everyone's drinking water. During the 110th session, Congressman Ed Markey co-sponsored H.R. 1747 "Safe Drinking Water for Healthy Communities Act," and Senator Barbara Boxer introduced S.150 "Protecting Pregnant Women and Children from Perchlorate Act," both of which need to be passed, reconciled and signed into law for the holidays. This important safeguard for our water will only happen when we insist on being heard above the lobbyists. Be the voice of children who need Barbara Boxer to step up to the plate again and Senator Ed Markey to join colleagues Feinstein, Cardin, and Klobuchar, co-sponsors of  S.150, to get the bill moving into law.

If you live in Virginia's 9th, Congressman Morgan Griffith needs to hear from you! Encourage him to advocate for every child in the New River Valley  by setting a uniform limit for the amount of perchlorate allowed in drinking water. We need our drinking water to be tested for perchlorate now, not only because it was recently detected in 3 of 3 private wells tested in Montgomery County, where contaminants travel in the Karst terrain underlying the facility, but also because of the ongoing releases of perchlorate from the Radford Arsenal. Those of us living around RAAP need to act locally on this one because if not us, then who?

Today's Sing-Along "Rocket Fuel for Breakfast!"

There have been times when Congress has tried to protect us from the endocrine disrupting chemical, perchlorate. At those times, the Department of Defense springs into action to head off common sense regulation of rocket fuel in drinking water under EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). 

One such symphony of action began in 2009, when the EPA decided that despite Congressional actions geared toward preserving the supremacy of environmental laws over military standards, they would aim for DoD "harmonizing" with the EPA . Dod chose this new impetus in response to a Congressional attempt to limit perchlorate in the water we drink, H.R. 1747 introduced in the 110th session. Aptly named the Safe Drinking Water for Healthy Communities Act of 2007, the proposed law was a sure-fire threat to the ongoing production of all things explosive - for military and private markets. Despite warnings from the Government Accountability Office in 2011 admonishing Congress to exercise their oversight responsibility to regulate perchlorate because EPA seemed to be turning a deaf ear to the facts, noting

"EPA did not include the Office of Children's Health Protection in its small group despite EPA's and the National Academies' conclusion that iodide uptake inhibition from perchlorate exposure had been identified as a concern in connection with increasing the risk of neurodevelopmental impairment in fetuses of pregnant women with iodine deficiency and to developmental delays and decreased learning capability in infants and children," 

in the end, EPA chose not to act according to the precautionary principle. There is no federally enforceable standard (Maximum Contaminant Level - MLC) for perchlorate in the current Safe Drinking Water Act. This means that annual water quality report you get does not include perchlorate - not for   anyone's drinking water, although a few states have set their own limits. The Congressional capitulation to the well-harmonized efforts of EPA and DoD to avert oversight wasn't a freebie, but the efforts of AlliantTechsystems (ATK) and other key players in the munitions industry made for beautiful music at the cash register. Costly regulations on  perchlorate would eat away at profit margins and we know how that scale tips. As this one-of-a-kind environmental clean up permit points out, "...there were concerns that an NPL listing would decrease the economic development potential for this GO/CO facility." This philosophy provided the basis of an agreement between EPA and the DoD dating back to 2000, wherein it is the stated policy that "monied interests" will trump health and safety for the community of living things all around the Radford Arsenal.

The defeat of H.R. 1747 by ATK, who had the great fortune of operating the GOCO (government owned/corporately operated) Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RAAP) from 1995 until 2012, was a boon to maintaining high profitability at this turn-key federal facility. Plus, it made the whole environmental mess easier to turn over to BAE Systems, when they lost this lucrative contract to the recently DOJ sanctioned British firm.  Today, ATK enjoys the benefits of no restrictions for perchlorate under the SWDA in their capacity as "tenant" of Michael Chertoff's BAE Systems. As this document from BAE details, their deal permits them to literally spew perchlorate into the air (SEE compelling photo here!) as part of their "energetic waste" disposal process. Do-si-do your partner, friends! BAE and the U.S. Army are considerably less forthcoming about how much perchlorate leaches into the ground water beneath the OBG, deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia where silence is golden.

Now, if you visit the New River Valley you might think fishing or floating down this American Heritage River in the gorgeous area just outside of Virginia Tech would be a fun, safe, family outing. Beware the blow-horn announcing to "evacuate the river - explosives burning is about to begin!" If you live and breathe here everyday, you might believe that there are regulations protecting your children from ingesting dangerous levels of hormone disrupting perchlorate, breathing it in while playing outside, or getting a "double dose" of dermal/inhalation exposure in every shower. You would be wrong. In fact, our local Sierra Club found perchlorate in 3 of 3 private wells tested this past July in Montgomery County, where it borders the arsenal.  Those results were announced by the Club's NRV chapter at a BAE/U.S. Army meeting on September 5th. They were even briefly published on their website, but this researcher cannot find them published today. Despite the assertion that perchlorate detection in 100% wells off site does not prove cross-contamination, at least one highly qualified would-be whistle blower disagrees. In fact, more than one expert concurs that finding even low levels of perchlorate in these wells after months of record rainfall, flooding and even drastically reduced burning of toxic waste at the Open Burning Ground (due at least in part to this weather) proves contaminants in the groundwater at RAAP are traveling off-site through the Karst topography underlying the plant. If only there were no consequences to truth-telling in America today, we would all be safer.

Rocket fuel in your morning coffee, anyone?