Citizen group pushes for halt to open burning at Radford Army Ammunition Plant

An aerial view of the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, which is spending millions on pollution...
An aerial view of the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, which is spending millions on pollution controls as part of an effort that has helped to smooth relations with its neighbors.(Chris Finley & Virginia Mercury)
Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 10:20 AM EDT
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Alyssa Carpenter hadn’t reached the age of 30 when she had her thyroid removed.

A former student at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, she began getting sick after she graduated. Eventually, doctors found her thyroid was extremely diseased and suspected it could be cancerous.

Now, aged 28, even though her thyroid has been removed, health problems remain. She deals with lethargy and nausea, takes synthetic hormones and must visit the hospital frequently to have her blood drawn and medication adjusted.

“It’s really hard to find wellness after your thyroid is gone,” Carpenter said. “Carrying groceries inside basically makes me very dizzy. It’s exhausting … and costly. I’m basically chronically ill for the rest of my life.”

Carpenter thinks the problems can be traced back to one place: the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, a roughly 7,000-acre complex in Montgomery and Pulaski counties that manufactures propellants for munitions and rockets used by the U.S. Army.

Specifically, she believes her health problems are linked to contamination resulting from the RAAP’s open burning of hazardous wastes — a practice banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1980 but allowed at the Radford facility through an exception permitting open burning and detonation of waste explosives. She lived within a mile of the plant during her undergraduate studies.

The RAAP currently operates under permits issued by the EPA and Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality. BAE Systems, its owner and operator, says the facility “fully abides” by state and federal laws for hazardous waste disposal.

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NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news...
NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news organization covering state government and policy.(Virginia Mercury)