The Army plant in Radford discovered it miscalculated the amount of toxins it has released into the environment.
Industries have been dumping more toxins into Virginia’s land, water and air than had been thought for years.
That’s largely because of recently discovered underreporting by the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, which released about 13 million pounds of chemicals into the New River in 2006 — by far the largest discharge in the state.
In its annual Toxics Release Inventory report, Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality this week reported a 19 percent increase in the chemicals released on-site by industries statewide.
Much of that increase was attributed to corrections made after a decade of underreporting by the Radford plant and the company that operates it for the Army, ATK Alliant Techsystems.
After discovering last year that it had been using the wrong calculations to report emissions to DEQ, the plant submitted revised numbers this year that more than quadrupled its totals. That in turn reversed a trend of decreased emissions statewide as shown by previous inventories.
“It does raise concerns that overall the numbers are going up,” DEQ spokesman Bill Hayden said.
However, officials at the Radford plant stressed that the volume of nitrates and other toxic wastes produced from their manufacture of ammunition has not increased as dramatically as the numbers suggest.
“This is not really an increase in actual emissions to the river,” said Phil Lockard, ATK’s environmental compliance manager. “It’s simply that we’ve changed the means of our calculations.”
The 2006 numbers do reflect an increase of about 20 percent. But plant officials said that was because of a manufacturing process no longer in use.
Lockard said that as soon as plant officials discovered the underreporting through an audit last year, they alerted the DEQ and submitted new data using the correct calculations.
Although the Radford plant had been submitting artificially low numbers since the advent of the TRI in the mid-1990s, the Environmental Protection Agency has decided to waive a potential fine of $123,000 because the violations were self-reported.
“EPA appreciates ATK’s willingness to identify and disclose its violations,” Abraham Ferdas, director of the agency’s waste and chemicals management division, wrote in a letter this week to plant officials.
Even though it released 13.7 million pounds of toxic chemicals — more than twice the amount of the second-largest polluter — into the water and air in 2006, the Radford plant is still well within the limits set by the EPA and DEQ for its wastewater emissions, company officials said.
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