Fort Detrick outlines 9-year cleanup plan

HAGERSTOWN — The Army is proposing an 8-year plan for cleaning up groundwater contamination at Fort Detrick in Frederick.

A draft plan submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Sept. 1 lays out steps for investigating and, if necessary, remediating pollution that is believed to be coming from decades-old waste disposal pits at the Army installation in Western Maryland.

The document proposes having a remedy in place by February 2019 and a completed response by February 2020. Both EPA and Fort Detrick officials stressed on Thursday that the draft document is subject to change.

They said the investigation into the nature and extent of the contamination would determine what, if any, remedy is needed. The investigation would be completed by September 2015 under the timeline.

“If there is a risk, you have to take action. If there’s no risk, you don’t have to take action,” said Robert Craig, the post’s environmental coordinator.

The investigation mainly targets two industrial solvents — trichloroethylene, or TCE, and tetrachloroethylene, or PCE.

TCE, a known carcinogen, was detected above allowable levels for drinking water in four private wells near the Army installation in 1992. PCE, a suspected carcinogen, has been found in elevated levels in test wells on post.

The pollution source appears to be a largely undeveloped part of the installation called Area B. The Army used a section called Area B-11 for waste disposal from the 1940s to the 1970s.

Army officials said test wells have shown substantial decreases in the chemicals since some disposal trenches were excavated from 2001 to 2004. In May 2010, all disposal areas were capped with low-permeability covers but TCE readings, including at some off-post wells, remain above allowable limits.

The EPA added Area B to its Superfund list of the nation’s most polluted places in 2009.

The Army has provided bottled water or public-water connections to homes with elevated levels of well-water contamination. Five other homes with contamination at the maximum allowable level are on bottled water supplied by the Army.

The Army says it has implemented final remedies at 13 other sites on Area B that were investigated for contamination.

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