Anne Arundel and Howard counties will become owners of a 20-acre parcel of Tipton Army Airfield at Fort Meade on Oct. 1 -- about two years ahead of schedule.
Yesterday, officials from Fort Meade, the Army Environmental Center and the federal Environmental Protection Agency met to hammer out details of the early transfer and cleanup of pollutants and unexploded shells on the site.
A 41,860-square-foot aircraft hangar, helicopter pad and parking lot are on the site.
The hangar was built in 1974 and used to store solvent and lubricants.
The building, known as Hangar 90, contains asbestos floor tiles and most likely lead-based paint. The helicopter pad and parking lot contain unexploded shells from World War I artillery training.
The Army is giving up Tipton as part of Defense Department budget cuts. Originally, the counties were to lease the entire 366-acre airport from the Army until it cleaned up environmental hazards at the site, probably by 1997. The counties would then become owners of the airport and form a bi-county authority to operate it.
The counties had planned to lease the area to the Army Reserve, but Army lawyers said in May that the Army could not lease property from itself and ruled that Hangar 90 must be turned over to the counties to avoid the conflict, said Sara Gracey, an environmental coordinator at Fort Meade.
Federal officials did not discuss whether the environmental problems would be cleaned up before the transfer, but Army officials are assuring the counties that they will take responsibility for environmental problems caused by the Army that are discovered later.
EPA officials were most concerned about Hangar 90's drainage system because some of the runoff goes into the Patuxent River, said Drew Lausch, the EPA project manager for Fort Meade.