Fort Detrick briefs public on cleanup efforts
Officials see drop in two chemicals found in drinking water
Those efforts — as well as excavating, drilling, and trenching — are working, Fort Detrick officials said Monday during a tour of the Detrick's "Area B" off Montevue Lane, Frederick.
"We believe we're making great progress," said Robert P. Craig, chief of Fort Detrick's Environmental Management Office. "I'm proud of what we've done."
The 400-acre Area B is owned by the federal government, but is off post.
The landfills, some of which are as small as three acres, are part of the original 43 found to be contaminated in 1992 with perchloroethylene (commonly used as a solvent in dry cleaning) and trichloroethylene (commonly used as an industrial solvent), said Joseph Gortea, Fort Detrick's restoration manager.
Officials routinely monitor the contamination, and have seen the levels drop since their cleanup efforts began, he said.
From the 1940s until 1970, the Army base used Area B to dispose of chemical, biological and radiological materials. In 1992, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Frederick County Health Department detected contamination in the wells of nearby residents.
The Army immediately started offering bottled water to residents affected by the contamination, and has been working to clean up the 43 landfills since 2001 at a cost of $43 million, base officials said.
"We knew whatever we had to do, we had to do it carefully to ensure human health and safety," Gortea said.
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Baltimore (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, was on hand to see the Army's efforts on Monday.
"What I see here is the action I want to see," Cardin said. "I really do think we have a game plan. This is a concern, and I think the military acted responsibly. I'm impressed with the leadership at Fort Detrick that said we're going to get this done.'"
Since February 2008, Fort Detrick has been working with the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up Area B.
The groundwater cleanup has been added to the Superfund National Priorities List, a roster of locations where hazardous materials could impact public health and or the environment.
This means that Congress considers the cleanup a funding priority. "Remedies will be implemented to fix the problem," Gortea said. "The Army wants to fully protect human health and the environment."
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