FREDERICK — Chemicals dumped decades ago in trenches at Fort Detrick have contaminated the groundwater on private property next to the Army post and ruined the parcel’s development potential, a developer claims in a civil lawsuit seeking $37 million in damages from the U.S. government.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore marks the latest development in a pollution investigation that began in 1988. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated the Fort Detrick dump a Superfund site in 2009.
The Frederick News-Post reported Tuesday on the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday by Waverley View Investors LLC.
Fort Detrick spokesman Nicholas Minecci declined to comment on the allegations Tuesday. He acknowledged that the human carcinogen trichloroethylene, or TCE, was found at levels above the federal drinking water standard in groundwater sampled during construction of a test well on the Waverley View property in January. But Minecci said more sampling is needed to verify the preliminary finding.
Waverley View’s lawsuit says the initial sampling results showed TCE at levels 14 to 42 times the government’s maximum contaminant level. The solvent has long been known to exist at elevated levels in the groundwater beneath Fort Detrick’s Area B, an undeveloped area that includes the disposal trenches. The 93-acre Waverley property is adjacent to Area B.
The lawsuit says another solvent known to have contaminated the Area B groundwater, tetrachloroethene, or PCE, also showed up in the initial sampling of Waverley View groundwater.
Waverley View contends the government failed to properly dispose of Fort Detrick waste, and failed to investigate and address off-site contamination in a timely manner. The claimed damages include more than $13 million in lost property value.
Waverley View says it had planned to develop 732 home sites on the parcel. The developer says builders aren’t interested in the property because of possible contamination.