Radford Army Ammunition Plant modernizing by opening new, more eco-friendly facilities

RADFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) The Radford Army Ammunition Plant is modernizing and answering concerns about polluting the environment. But some groups say there's still more to be done.

The big change they're making is to the plant that supplies utility power to the Arsenal.

Starting later in May or into June, it will be a natural gas plant. That will replace the facility that actually causes the most environmental pollution here.

Lieutenant Colonel Alicia Masson is the Commander of the Radford Army Ammunition Plant.

She explained, "The problems with our aging powerhouse have really just been tied to the fact that it's a coal fired facility, and the natural gas is cleaner, it's greener, it's better for the environment, and we're really excited about it."

Staff showed there will be computers monitoring the steam output to make sure it's clean.

Lt. Col. Masson explained, "We will actually have verified data that what we're using for power is cleaner and better for the environment."

But some still have concerns.

Citizens for Arsenal Accountability (CAA) officially launched on May 19. They want the Army Ammunition Plant to be more transparent.

The groups concern with the natural gas plant is it would mean more pipelines for transportation.

CAA member Drew White explained, "That creates even more risk of building this infrastructure that has been known to cause leaks and, not only that but, you need to get the natural gas and unfortunately right now, that's fracking."

The Arsenal said there won't be any new fracking to their knowledge, and the pipeline they're using was already there, nothing new is being made.

But White was what he'd prefer to see power the 4,000-acre plant in Radford.

He said, "I don't know the limitations of solar, wind, the stuff I would like to see. But if they're going to be using natural gas, I don't want them to green-wash it."

On top of that new plant, there will be a new facility making nitrocellulose, which is the base ingredient to the propellant they make.

There are also new buildings that will recycle the acid and alcohol used to make the propellant.

Lt. Col. Masson said, "It's not something that we would dump, it is something that we would have to ship in a different way or address in a different way. By recycling, it's a large part of our environmental signature reduction plan."

While it's not the biggest environmental pollutant, the open burn facility here has been the biggest controversy for a while.

Lt. Col. Masson said they have funding to design a new explosive waste incinerator, which would destroy almost everything that open burn facility deals with.

But they're still a few years out from that being completed.