Officials defend 'Superpond,'are unopposed to more study Facility would test effects of underwater blasts on ships, subs.


Aberdeen Proving Ground officials defend the proposed "Superpond" project but add that they remain open to a full environmental review of the proposed test facility.

Army officers and civilians at the Harford County weapons-testing installation last night fielded questions from environmentalists, watermen and residents living near the site proposed for the so-called Superpond. The large man-made pond is to be used for determining whether Navy submarines and ships can withstand the shock of underwater explosions that would be experienced in combat.

"We've done a lot of research," said Col. Roy E. Fouch, commander of the Army Combat Systems Test Activity, the unit that would operate Superpond under contract with the Navy. "That doesn't mean that we are going full speed ahead with this facility at the expense of any environmental damage," he said.

Local lawmakers and others recently accused the Army of rushing an environmental review of the $22 million project, saying that possible effects on bald eagles using the proving ground and on water quality in the adjacent Bush River had not been adequately addressed.

After yesterday's meeting, attended by about 75 people, proving ground officials said they may need to prepare an amended environmental study before proceeding.

The facility, which the Navy wants to begin using in late summer of 1992, would consist of a 920-foot wide, 1,070-foot long, fTC 150-foot deep pond. Full-scale models of submarine and ship sections would be transported to the pond by barge and subjected to "near-miss" explosions to determine the soundness the structures and the sophisticated electronics inside.

"It seems you are going very quickly on the project," said Helen Richick, president of a coalition of community groups in Harford. She said she planned to contact U.S. Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski to ask for a more extensive environmental review.

Other speakers, while acknowledging they did not oppose the project, said an existing environmental study raised more questions than it answered.

Several residents raised concerns about noise from the large explosions that would be set off at Superpond. Proving ground officials responded that there would be no appreciable increase over noise that already is generated by constant testing of tank guns and artillery.

Proving ground officials also reiterated their stance that Superpond would result in an environmental "net gain" because it would remove such tests from Chesapeake Bay and other natural waterways and would result in the creation of about 100 acres of wetlands.

"We get twice the bang for the buck on this job," said James Fasig, an official with the Combat Systems Test Activity.

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