Water supplied to 5 homes near Fort Detrick after toxins are found in wells

November 03, 1992|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,Staff Writer

FREDERICK -- The Army is providing water to five homes near Fort Detrick here after toxic chemicals found on the post also were found in their wells.

Unsafe levels of cancer-causing chemicals were found in the drinking water of two homes, said Michael Sullivan, spokesman for the state Department of the Environment.

Traces of hazardous chemicals also were found in wells supplying three other homes in the neighborhood.

Those wells are being resampled, along with those of 10 other homes nearby.

The homes with contaminated wells are along Montevue Lane, just southeast of Fort Detrick's "Area B." The 400-acre area has an active landfill and an animal-research facility as well as several old disposal sites dating to World War II that are being investigated by state environmental officials.

The homes' wells were tested last month after elevated levels of hazardous chemicals turned up in wells on the post, Mr. Sullivan said. At the state's request, the Army supplied bottled water to five homes over the weekend and parked a 400-gallon water-tanker truck in the neighborhood for public use, said Norman Covert, the fort's spokesman.

One home's water contained 19 parts per billion of trichloroethylene. Another residential well had 18 parts per billion of the same chemical, as well as 17 parts per billion of perchloroethylene, Mr. Sullivan said.

The maximum safe level of either substance in drinking water is 5 parts per billion, according to the federal government.

Both chemicals are common industrial solvents, used in degreasing equipment and dry cleaning. Trichloroethylene is known to cause cancer in humans, while perchloroethylene is suspected of being a carcinogen, Mr. Sullivan said.

Army officials do not deny that materials dumped on the post could have contributed to the neighborhood well contamination, Mr. Covert said, but he noted that a dry-cleaning plant once operated nearby. Mr. Sullivan said the state has not found the source of the contamination.

The discovery of ground-water contamination near Fort Detrick has resulted in the post's second environmental controversy in a year.

State inspectors still are conducting a building-by-building audit of hazardous-waste handling, storage and disposal there. The audit was begun in June because state officials had unanswered LTC questions about the way seven gallons of potentially explosive ethers were improperly stored and then destroyed on the post in January.

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