Meeting provides updates on cleanup at RAAP

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Photo by Anaika Miller
Jim McKenna (left), an environmental engineer with the Army, listens to community member Devawn Bledsoe at the Restoration Advisory Board meeting Wednesday night.

The Restoration Advisory Board shared information with community members about cleanup at several inactive sites at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant Wednesday night.


The board, which is made up of citizens and Army representatives, hosts public meetings three times a year to informally provide updates on sites that are part of the Installation Restoration Program, which was created by the Department of Defense to address past hazardous material disposal and releases at the RAAP. About six members of the community, not counting Army representatives or RAB members, attended the meeting.

Steve Cole, a Blacksburg resident who has served as a community member on the RAB since its inception in 1998, said he’s been consistently impressed with the environmental cleanup work.

“I have confidence in what they’re doing,” Cole said at the meeting. “I really think they’re making a real effort to do what is right.”

During Cole’s time on the board, the list of sites requiring investigation and action from the RAAP has gone from about 80 to just a handful.

Jim McKenna, an environmental engineer with the Army, said that there are three sites that have already been investigated and are currently under long-term monitoring. Another one, an area that includes a former gun and trench mortar range, is being investigated.

“It could take another couple years, because it’s one of the most difficult ones to access,” McKenna said, answering how long it would take to complete the investigation and any possible recommended actions for the former gun and trench mortar range.

Two members who attended the meeting expressed concerns over the presentation of information, which was shared through a rolling PowerPoint presentation and handouts.

“The most helpful person here was a community outreach person who doesn’t even work for them,” said Justin Haber, a biological systems engineering student at Virginia Tech.

Michael James-Deramo agreed.

“There doesn’t really seem to be any extreme effort to go above and beyond to get information to the public,” James-Deramo said.

Cleanup update

According to a handout provided to attendees at the meeting, the former gun range and trench mortar range are adjacent to each other and located in the main manufacturing area of the RAAP. Both were used during World War II, but are now inactive.

A site investigation was conducted in October to determine whether the area poses a risk to human health or the environment. The investigation included fieldwork and historical research to establish whether there are explosives or contaminants at the site.

Results from the investigation will be published in a report, which is still in progress.

The three sites being monitored are called Solid Waste Management Unit (SWMU) 48 and 49 and SWMU 54.

SWMU 48, an oily water burial area, and SWMU 49, a red water ash burial area, are adjacent to each other and located in the southeastern portion of the Horseshoe Area of the RAAP and overlook the New River.

Soil and groundwater at the two sites have been tested several times between 1987 and 2014 for evaluation.

Soil samples taken from SWMU 48 in 2010 found traces of nine explosives, and all were below the Environmental Protection Agency’s residential screening levels except a detection of nitroglycerin. Levels of antimony, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead and mercury exceeded industrial screening levels.

Groundwater sampling at SWMU 48 and 49 found several concentrations of volatile organic compounds and 11 metals that exceeded groundwater screening levels. Corrective measures for this area were issued to reduce concentrations to minimize negative impacts on future use of the groundwater.

Perchlorate, a pollutant that has received attention from local environmental advocates, was found in groundwater sampling taken in Aug. 2007, but at levels far below the maximum contaminant level of 15 micrograms per liter. The sampling found levels ranging from 0.186 to 0.548 micrograms per liter.

SWMU 54, the propellant burning ash disposal area, is also being monitored. It is made up of two disposal areas, one in the southern portion of SWMU 54 and the second in the northern part.

A corrective action permit was issued for this area because it was previously identified as a potential threat to human health and the environment. A facility investigation in 2008 found that soil at the site was “grossly contaminated,” with special concern over levels of lead, DNT, nitroglycerin and dioxins/furans.

Though a Human Health and Risk assessment found that the contamination could possibly leach into groundwater, no impacts at levels of concern have been found in the northern disposal area.

The corrective measure action plan for SWMU 54 involved excavating soil, disposing of it off-site and then continued groundwater monitoring. In 2010, 12,678.65 tons of contaminated soil was removed from SWMU 54 and disposed of.

There are four groundwater wells at SWMU 54 currently being monitored on a quarterly basis. Sampling has shown that perchlorate concentrations are below remediation levels and are continuing to steadily decline.

The next RAB meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Sept. 26 at the New River Competitiveness Center at 6580 at Valley Center Drive in Radford.

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