Construction workers have discovered at least 50 drums of a petroleum-based substance at Fort Meade, the largest number federal officials have reported in five years.
Preliminary tests show that the 55-gallon drums contained a substance similar to waste oil or diesel fuels. The drums were discovered June 15 off Rock Ave near Route 32. Base officials announced the discovery this week.
They said they do not know how long the drums have been at the 50-foot by 100-foot site, which they have fenced off. The drums were buried under about a foot of dirt and had been covered with plastic. They have not been moved, federal officials said.
The site is not near any buildings or base housing, but Environmental Protection Agency officials are investigating whether the drums could have contributed to well water contamination detected in that area, said Drew Lausch, EPA project manager for the environmental clean-up at Fort Meade.
Aerial photos from the 1950s and 1960s show that the site could have been used as an informal dumping ground, Mr. Lausch said.
Within two weeks, the drums will be packed in larger containers and any contaminated soil will be removed, a Fort Meade spokesman said. Investigators from the Army, state and the EPA will study any potential environmental impacts.