RADFORD, Va. – Leaders at Radford Army Ammunition Plant held a public meeting at the Christiansburg Public Library Oct. 20 to update the community on RFAAP’s environmental initiatives and invite residents to tour Radford’s facilities next summer.
The conversation focused on the arsenal’s construction of state-of-the-art equipment as well as the command’s dedication to pollution control, including the Energetic Waste Incinerator-Contaminated Waste Processor, an emission-controlled contained burn chamber planned to be operational by July 2025.
The facility will be required to handle at least 95 percent of the amount of waste currently disposed of by open burning.
“The construction of the new EWI/CWP facility will nearly eliminate the use of the open burning ground at RFAAP,” said Andrea Henry, a project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Minimizing the use of the burning ground and ushering in new contained technology is part of a broader push by the U.S. Army to be more environmentally-focused worldwide. Radford currently open burns about five percent of what it is legally permitted to handle, a decrease of more than 50 percent compared to three years ago.
Lt. Col. Russell Jones, RFAAP commander, encouraged residents to get a front-row seat of the arsenal’s improvements.
“In the summer of 2022 I’m going to invite everyone down to the plant for a community meeting and then a tour of Radford,” Jones said. “I want to be as transparent as possible.”
The tour date will depend on many factors, including mission needs and local COVID-19 transmission levels. Stay up-to-date on the latest news about RFAAP and the public tour by following the arsenal on Facebook: @RadfordArmyAmmunitionPlant.
Contained burn chambers- how Radford destroys hazardous waste
The arsenal is seeking permits for three new incinerators as part of its EWI-CWP to replace the current incinerators. Both versions are part of a category of waste disposal technology called contained burn chambers.
“The EWI-CWP will thermally treat energetic waste in a controlled environment,” said Robert Davie, deputy to the commander at Radford. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded the contract for it in September. Even though we’re still working through the permitting process with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, hiring a company to start designing now will allow us to respond more quickly to the VDEQ’s requirements.”
The existing incinerators are fueled via natural gas and operate continuously on a cycle based on the amount of waste that needs to be destroyed and required maintenance. The waste is fed through a grinder and crushed into tiny pieces that are then mixed with water to create a slurry. The slurry is sprayed into the incinerator, where the water becomes steam and the pulverized waste burns in a small, quick flash.
“Grinding the waste and mixing it with water is much safer than just feeding it into the incinerator as-is,” Davie said. “Sending the waste into the kiln in its full form could cause a detonation.”
However, some types of waste could actually detonate if subjected to the grinding process. That waste is the only material destroyed via open burning at Radford.
“We only burn hazardous waste as a last resort,” said Davie. “Sometimes there’s no safer alternative. If the material can’t go through the grinder prior to incineration, we have no choice but to burn it.”
Storing the material until another method is available is not a solution.
“Indefinitely storing hazardous waste is both dangerous and illegal,” Davie said. “The material could react on its own and result in waste that is even more toxic.”
The EWI-CWP will not require a grinder for safe operation, meaning almost all waste that would otherwise be burned would be able to go through the EWI-CWP in addition to the material that is already incinerated.
Radford must maintain the capability to open burn waste in the event of an emergency.
“We prepare for all possibilities,” Davie said. “We need to be able to open burn even though we intend to not use it.”
Each incinerator is outfitted with pollution control systems in accordance with permits from the VDEQ. While no contained burn chamber can guarantee zero emissions, the EWI-CWP will utilize the most advanced pollution control equipment possible and will be highly regulated by VDEQ.
Radford Army Ammunition Plant provides superior propellants, energetics and munitions to the Joint Warfighter. It is one of 17 arsenals, depots and ammunition plants under U.S. Army Joint Munitions Command.