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But Radford has, at times, sent even more pollution into the air than it is allowed.
It has failed to report some of its pollution to federal agencies, as required.
“State and federal regulators and Do D scrutinize these operations to ensure the installation is operating in compliance with permits in a safe and environmentally responsible manner,” wrote J. King, director of munitions in the office of the assistant secretary of the army for installations, energy and the environment, in a statement sent to Pro Publica.
But the EPA’s system for determining how much chemical burning is safe amounts to little more than educated guesses, Pro Publica’s investigation shows.
And it has misled the public about the chemicals it burns.
Yet every day the plant is allowed to ignite as much as 8,000 pounds of hazardous debris.
Local communities — from Merrimac, Wisconsin, to Romulus, New York — have protested them.
Researchers are studying possible cancer clusters on Cape Cod that could be linked to munitions testing and open burns there, and where the groundwater aquifer that serves as the only natural source of drinking water for the half-million people who summer there has been contaminated with the military’s bomb-making ingredients.
Operators at the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama were cited in 2012 for burning despite cloudy weather conditions, conduct explicitly prohibited in their permit because it could make the pollution more dangerous.The limits are established using layers of modeling that can be highly speculative and that often bear little resemblance to the day-to-day reality of a place like Radford.“They say look, these emissions factors show this stuff is pretty much harmless,” said Charles Hendrickson, a senior EPA remediation project manager who deals with burn sites.Shortly after dawn most weekdays, a warning siren rips across the flat, swift water of the New River running alongside the Radford Army Ammunition Plant.Red lights warning away boaters and fishermen flash from the plant, the nation’s largest supplier of propellant for artillery and the source of explosives for almost every American bullet fired overseas.
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And at the Redstone Arsenal, an Army experimental weapons test and burn site in Huntsville, Alabama, perchlorate in the soil is 7,000 times safe limits, and local officials have had to begin monitoring drinking water for fear of contamination.