RADFORD, Va. — The Radford Army Ammunition Plant plans to install a new contained incinerator to reduce open burning of toxic waste.

The incinerator will handle a majority of waste now burned at the arsenal's open burning ground, said Lt. Col. Alicia Masson, the base's military c commander.

"Until the design is complete, implementation schedules are unknown," Masson told The Roanoke Times in an email statement. "Details of the new unit's performance cannot be projected at this time other than to say it will be fully compliant with current and projected regulations at a minimum — but it will be markedly improved."

Other steps are being taken to reduce emissions, including a new nitrocellulose facility that's under construction and a power plant to replace the arsenal's World War II-era coal-fired plant, she said.

The arsenal releases more pollutants than any site in Virginia. In 2013, the plant released about 9 million pounds of pollutants, compared to about 7.7 million pounds in 2012, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's annual Toxic Release Inventory.

The government-owned and contractor-operated plant, located in Montgomery and Pulaski counties, produces propellants.

Devawn Palmer-Oberlender, of the Environmental Patriots of the New River Valley, said a new incinerator is an improvement from open burning.

Palmer-Oberlender said she hoped air monitoring also would be implemented.

Last week, Palmer-Oberlender and Maria Bowling, of the New River Valley chapter of the Sierra Club, compared open burning at the Radford arsenal to the closed incineration chosen for Camp Minden, a Louisiana munitions facility. The EPA arranged to destroy expired munitions at Camp Minden through closed incineration after neighbors spoke out.

Masson said the Camp Minden waste is a single type of expired ammunition. Waste sent to Radford's open burning ground is a mix from both the government munitions-making operation and the work of contractors who share the site, Masson said.

She said waste sent to the plant's existing two closed incinerators is ground before it is burned. An explosion could be triggered if the waste contains something that sparks during grinding.

The new incinerator is envisioned as being more able to handle the mix of materials, Masson said.

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