After much effort and few results, the Roanoke Times reported Friday that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will investigate whether the Radford Army Ammunition Plant has contaminated local drinking water.
The agency also announced that it will hear from residents of the New River Valley at a public meeting on January 24.
For a number of years now, some residents of the New River Valley have argued that their drinking water has been contaminated by the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, whose function is to produce “propellants and explosives in support of field artillery, air defense, tank, missile, aircraft and Navy weapons systems.”
The environmental group that ultimately forced the attention of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is the Environmental Patriots of the New River Valley, a community organization that claims that the Radford Army Ammunition Plant has eroded the health of community members, primarily through open burning grounds.
Although tests in the past have proved inconclusive, it is difficult to believe that burning 8,000 pounds of Munitions Constituents per day would not have some adverse effect on surrounding population centers, regardless of the emission control technology being used.
Indeed, the New River valleys and Roanoke have the highest rates of breast cancer in Virginia. This fact alone and others like them do not prove that the Radford Army Ammunition Plant is a, or THE, culprit behind these higher than average rates of cancer.
It does however warrant the kind of attention that the federal government is only now giving. Perhaps it was arrogance; perhaps it was apathy; perhaps it was merely a political calculation of costs to benefits. Whatever the reason may be for taking so long to comprehensively address this issue, it should be restated that our government is here to serve the people, not the other way around.
After much time and energy, concerned residents of the New River Valley may now get some of the answers they’re looking for.