The environmental cleanup of Tipton Army Airfield will be delayed two more weeks, and patience is wearing thin among Fort Meade officials as Howard and Anne Arundel counties wait to reopen it as a civilian airport.
The $2.5 million cleanup of the Fort Meade airfield was to have begun Tuesday, but the Army Corps of Engineers needed more time to plan the 366-acre sweep for unexploded artillery shells, mortars and grenades, said Sara Gracey of Fort Meade's Environmental Management Office.
"The pressure is on them," Ms. Gracey said yesterday. "They know they have to answer if they delay again."
The delay is the latest holdup in efforts to prepare Tipton -- in Anne Arundel County near the southeast corner of Howard County -- for conversion to a civilian airport. The cleanup was to have begun in June and been finished in August, but federal money didn't come through until August.
That postponement, coupled with issues of liability, prompted officials from Howard and Anne Arundel counties to put off opening Tipton as a civilian airport on the planned date of Oct. 1.
Sam Minnitte, Tipton project manager for Anne Arundel County, said it will be at least six months before a lease is signed and about a year from now before Tipton is open for operation.
"It's not good news," Mr. Minnitte said. "The whole reason for our delay was to stay out of the way."
He said he hopes the Army Corps of Engineers can make up lost time by working through part of the winter. Fort Meade officials are negotiating for the off-season work.
Last year, Howard and Anne Arundel counties agreed to lease Tipton from the Army during the cleanup phase and operate it as a civilian field, after the Department of Defense ordered the Army to give it up to cut military spending. The counties would own the airport after the environmental cleanup.
The Army has hired Human Factors Applications of Waldorf to sweep up as many 3-inch mortars, 2-inch rockets, M-9 rifle
grenades and 37-mm to 75-mm projectiles as possible. The first team of explosive experts is to arrive Oct. 23.