CASCADE—Agent Orange was among the herbicides studied at the former Fort Ritchie Army base in 1963, according to U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs documents found online.
The owner of the former Army base property in northeast Washington County, Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT), found out last week that “testing and the use of tactical defoliants/herbicides” were conducted at Fort Ritchie and issued a news release Friday noting that the trust now expects further delays in litigation relating to a 2005 lawsuit.
That lawsuit resulted in a federal judge ordering a halt to further redevelopment at the former Army base in November 2009.
Agent Orange is a blend of herbicides the U.S. military sprayed in Vietnam to eliminate foliage that provided cover to its enemy during the Vietnam War, according to a Veterans Affairs website.
William Hofmann, senior property and environmental services manager for COPT, referred questions on Sunday to COPT’s general counsel, COPT Senior Vice President Karen Singer.
Reached at home Sunday, Singer said she had no information other than what was in the news release.
“This all came as a surprise to everybody,” said Dori Nipps, executive director of PenMar Development Corp. “We knew nothing about that testing and so it is what it is. We’ll just have to see how it all comes out.”
PenMar is a state agency that monitors redevelopment of the property, including ensuring guidelines are followed in the historic district of the property.
Questions that arise include when was the testing done, how much was done, how it was applied and where it was applied, Nipps said.
“I think the Army is also trying to figure that out,” Nipps said.
“COPT is working with the Army and PenMar to determine the precise locations and extent of the testing conducted within Fort Ritchie and does not have any further details at this time,” states COPT’s news release at its website, www.copt.com.
COPT owns the 591-acre property on which an Army base was closed in 1998.
Operating on the property are a community center and a restaurant, Nipps said.
Development of the property was stalled due to a court-ordered environmental review stemming from a 2005 lawsuit filed by area property owners Jim Lemon and Robin Biser.
The Army was accepting public comment last September on a draft Record of Environmental Consideration that argued no additional environmental review of the redevelopment project was needed.
Agent Orange testing
The Army disclosed two reports to COPT last week that were related to the testing of herbicides at various military installations, including Fort Ritchie, according to the COPT release.
“COPT was not made aware of the 2006 report, the 1956 report or the prior use of tactical defoliants/herbicides at Fort Ritchie until this week,” the release states.
On Feb. 15, COPT received a study published by the Department of Defense in December 2006, regarding the testing and use of tactical defoliants/herbicides at various military installations in the United States, including Fort Ritchie, the news release states.