Plans for Detrick pollution test to be reviewed


FREDERICK -- A 24-member advisory board composed of Army, state and local officials and county residents will meet today to review plans for further testing and cleanup of suspected contaminated areas at Fort Detrick.

The Fort Detrick Restoration Advisory Board received copies of the plan last month. It calls for more ground-water and soil testing and cleanup of "potentially hazardous areas," including Trench 11, where acids, chemicals and solvents were likely buried decades ago, said Norman M. Covert, a Fort Detrick spokesman.

The lengthy document, prepared by Woodward-Clyde Federal Services of Rockville, identified every "known disposal site and every location that is a potential environmental hazard site," including storage areas and loading docks, Mr. Covert said.

The Army and Fort Detrick have been working with state environmental officials to determine the extent of pollution at the 1,200-acre facility since traces of trichloroethylene, or TCE, were found in nearby drinking wells in fall of 1992.

TCE, widely used as a degreasing agent, is known to cause cancer in humans. Amounts found in the wells were double to triple the levels considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Two of the four families whose wells were contaminated are still awaiting hookup to public water.

Plans call for testing and monitoring of ground water and soil at a research building, storage building, a former burn pit, former landfill, three water towers and a car wash in Area A, an 800-acre tract that contains Fort Detrick's main facilities.

In Area B, a 400-acre tract west of Area A that contains Trench 11, plans call for testing at former landfills, where metals, wood and unknown waste were disposed, an ammunition storage area and a skeet range.

Several approaches for the cleanup of Trench 11, including pumping and treating ground water, or excavating the acid pit and trucking the debris to a disposal site off base, have been recommended.

Michael E. Burns, a private environmental contractor who lives near Fort Detrick, said there are good intentions in the Army's comprehensive review of contamination, but the public would be better served by determining the extent of pollution off-site.

"They're looking at the wrong end of the problem," he said.

The advisory board will meet again in February and March before making final recommendations on testing and cleanup to the U.S. Army Environmental Center, which is overseeing the project.

Mr. Covert said about $1 million is available for this fiscal year for testing and cleanup.

Today's meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. in the Conference Center at Fort Detrick and is open to the public.

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