ACTION ALERT: Act Today to Ask the Senate to Halt Open Burning of Toxic Military Waste
May 27, 2016
Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger & Suzanne Yohannan / Superfund Report
On May 26, US Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI-Dem) filed an amendment (S.2943) to the National Defense Authorization Act requiring an independent scientific review of safer alternatives to open burning, detonation and incineration of the Pentagon's hazardous waste munitions. The current practice of incinerating these toxic explosive chemical wastes involves burning in open-air pits, resulting in immediate, downwind and downstream pollution.
Special to Environmentalist Against War
ACTION ALERT!! Act Today to Ask the Senate to Halt Open Burning of Toxic Military Waste
CSWAB (Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger)
WASHINGTON, DC (May 26, 2016) -- US Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI-Dem) filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (S.2943) today requiring an independent scientific review of safer alternatives to open burning, detonation and incineration of hazardous waste munitions! (See detailed story on the "Cease Fire Campaign" below. -- EAW.)
ACTION: Please call your US Senator NOW and urge them to CO-SPONSOR and support Amendment #4293 to Senate bill S.2943!
You can find your senators' contact information here.
Text of Amendment #4293:
AMENDMENT NO.4293 Calendar No.lll
Purpose: To require a National Academy of Sciences study on alternative technologies for conventional munitions demilitarization.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES –
114th Cong., 2d Session
To authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2017 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes.
Referred to the Committee on llllllllll and ordered to be printed
Ordered to lie on the table and to be printed AMENDMENT intended to be proposed by Ms. BALDWIN
At the end of subtitle C of title XIV, add the following:
SEC. 1422. NATIONAL ACADEMIES OF SCIENCES STUDY ON
CONVENTIONAL MUNITIONS DEMILITARIZATION ALTERNATIVE TECHNOLOGIES.
(a) IN GENERAL. -- The Secretary of the Army shall enter into an arrangement with the Board on Army Science and Technology of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to conduct a study of the conventional munitions demilitarization program of the Department of Defense.
(b) ELEMENTS. -- The study required pursuant to subsection (a) shall include the following:
(1) A review of the current conventional munitions demilitarization stockpile, including types of munitions and types of materials contaminated with propellants or energetics, and the disposal technologies used.
(2) An analysis of disposal, treatment, and reuse technologies, including technologies currently used by the Department and emerging technologies used or being developed by private or other governmental agencies, including a comparison of cost, throughput capacity, personnel safety, and environmental impacts.
(3) An identification of munitions types for which alternatives to open burning, open detonation, or non-closed loop incineration/combustion are not used.
(4) An identification and evaluation of any barriers to full-scale deployment of alternatives to open burning, open detonation, or non-closed loop incineration/combustion, and recommendations to overcome such barriers.
(5) An evaluation whether the maturation and deployment of governmental or private technologies currently in research and development would enhance the conventional munitions demilitarization capabilities of the Department.
(c) SUBMITTAL TO CONGRESS. -- Not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to the congressional defense committees the study conducted pursuant to subsection (a).
Cease Fire Campaign Pushes To End
EPA Policy Allowing Open Burning Of Munitions
Suzanne Yohannan / Superfund Report
(April 13, 2016) -- A coalition of environmental, citizens and environmental justice groups is building a national campaign to urge EPA to require the use of alternative destruction technologies instead of open air burning and detonation (OB/OD) when disposing of military munitions, following success in getting the agency to allow alternative methods at a Louisiana site.
The campaign -- dubbed the Cease Fire campaign -- argues that EPA should end reliance on a 1980 regulatory exclusion that allows for OB/OD of waste explosives, which are defined as waste that could detonate or military propellants that cannot safely be disposed of through other treatment methods.
The coalition says that the exclusion for munitions lacks relevancy, as a number of technologies other than OB/OD have been certified by the Defense Department's (DOD) Explosives Safety Board in the past 15 years for safely destroying explosives that are hazardous waste.
EPA is examining the open burning of explosives, the resulting contamination and difficulties in cleanup as well as costs, and is engaged with DOD and other federal agencies to discuss a path forward on how they will address the growing body of information indicating OB/OD is a problem, an EPA source says. "EPA management has decided it is a priority to get our arms around it," the source says.
Among the newer technologies the coalition highlights is supercritical water oxidation, which DOD is using to destroy part of its chemical weapons stockpile under the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program.
The program applies non-incineration destruction methods. Congress created ACWA following years of pressure from citizen advocates opposed to incinerating stockpiled US chemical weapons.
The Cease Fire group points to a 2000 EPA report that reviewed seven alternative technologies evaluated under the ACWA program, with EPA saying all of them had the potential to treat a wide range of waste streams, including energetics.
"Unlike incinerators, these alternatives are designed and operated so that they will not produce dioxin or dibenzofurans, technology providers said," the coalition says on its website.
The group also says that while the alternatives have been evaluated for chemical weapons destruction, many of them are applicable to conventional weapons as well. In addition to supercritical water oxidation, other potential technologies are DAVINCH (detonation of ammunition in a vacuum-integrated chamber), and detonation chambers, the group says. It also touts resource recovery as a cheaper option than incineration.
The coalition is being coordinated by Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger, a citizens group that has long been a watchdog over the cleanup of the Army's Badger Army Ammunition Plant, WI.
The coalition in a goal statement on its website endorsed by dozens of grassroots groups says there are safer alternatives to OB/OD and non-closed loop incineration or combustion of military munitions.
These alternatives must provide an incentive for waste prevention and recycling, and "prevent, to the greatest possible extent the release of toxic emissions and pollutants; and advance the principles of environmental justice by assuring that all people enjoy the same degree of protection and access to the decision-making process," the coalition says in the statement.
A source with the coalition says the group intends to ask for a formal review of alternative technologies to confirm their suitability for military munitions destruction. But the source did not yet know who the group will ask to do the review.
In addition, the source says about 550 people have signed a petition on the Cease Fire website to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that urges her to immediately implement the use of safer alternatives to OB/OD or non-closed loop incineration of military munitions.
The source says momentum for the coalition's push stems from grassroots efforts at Camp Minden, LA, where EPA backed off from its original plan to require open burning of unstable propellant and explosives after a large number of citizens in northern Louisiana raised concerns over impacts to the community from open burning and sought an alternative method.
In response to pressure from citizens, Louisiana officials and US lawmakers, the agency agreed to allow the destruction of the materials through an alternative burn method in a contained disposal chamber.
The situation involved more than 15 million pounds of explosives and propellant abandoned by a demilitarization contractor at a National Guard facility, with EPA seeking quick disposal due to the substantial risk that the propellant would auto-ignite and cause a large explosion.
One environmentalist source believes regulators have gradually been forcing a reduction in the use of OB/OD. While it is not banned, Clean Air Act and Resource Conservation & Recovery Act permits are required, the source notes. DOD at times pushes back against alternatives, but in other places, it has implemented them, the source says.
The Cease Fire coalition recently finished an inventory of sites that are permitted for OB/OD and their annual limits on amounts that can be burned. [See list below. -- EAW.]
In the cataloguing, the coalition found at the upper limit Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center, IN, whose permit allows an annual hazardous waste OB/OD limit of 109.4 million pounds to be burned or detonated as net explosive weight.
The coalition also found that at least seven Army facilities and the Energy Department's Los Alamos National Laboratory, NM, have been operating under interim permit status for decades.
On its website, the coalition points out that if two pending treaties are ratified by the United States, DOD will also need to dispose of stockpiles of cluster munitions and anti-personnel landmines. The United States is currently considering two treaties related to demilitarization.
These are the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and Their Destruction, the coalition says. DOD's inventories of 471,726 tons of cluster munitions and more than 23,000 tons of anti-personnel landmines will have to be disposed of if the United States ratifies the treaties, the group says.
(c) 2016. Inside Washington Publishers
Installation/Facility (Partial list)
Permitted Annual Hazardous Waste Open-Air Burning & Detonation Limit
(In pounds as Net Explosive Weight)
Alliant Techsystems Proving Ground, MN
Anniston Army Ammunition Plant, AL
Blue Grass Army Depot, KY
China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, CA
Clean Harbors Colfax, LA
Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center, IN
Edwards Air Force Base, CA
Fort Polk, LA
Hawthorne Army Depot, NV
Holston Army Ammunition Plant, TN
McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, OK
Radford Army Ammunition Plant, VA
Red River Army Depot, TX
Redstone Arsenal (U.S. Army Garrison), AL
Tooele Army Depot, UT
Working Draft by CSWAB.org and the Cease Fire Campaign, 2016