Maryland sues Army

The Baltimore Sun

The state attorney general has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Army, alleging that the military branch has failed to abide by a cleanup order for groundwater and soil contamination at Fort Meade.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler filed in August a notice of intent to sue the Army if the site was not cleaned up within 90 days. The lawsuit alleges that the Army did not enforce an Environmental Protection Agency order to perform specific actions and produce a timeline for cleanup.

Gansler said in a statement yesterday that the Army is heading in the right direction by expressing willingness to comply with the EPA order but that a legally binding commitment is needed to protect public health.

Army officials said they were making a good-faith effort to comply with the order and were disappointed by the lawsuit. Tad Davis, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for environment, safety and occupational health, said the Army's project manager met with the EPA on Friday and provided a draft of a timeline for the cleanup.

Davis added that the Army had earmarked $24 million from its budget for Fort Meade. "And we've done a tremendous amount of cleanup there. Those were strong indicators of our intents to follow through," he said.

Fort Meade, established as an Army base during World War I, has been on the EPA's Superfund list since 1998 because of pollutants found there, including cleaning solvents, pesticides, heavy metals, waste fuels and other hazardous chemicals. Recent studies have found groundwater contamination from arsenic and perchlorate, a chemical used in explosives.

Maryland Environment Secretary Shari T. Wilson has said that the contamination at Fort Meade does not pose an immediate health threat.

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