Toxin found in tested well water Chemical turns up at another property near Fort Detrick FREDERICK COUNTY

December 05, 1992|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,Staff Writer

The latest tests of wells near Fort Detrick in Frederick hav turned up another household whose drinking water contains a toxic chemical suspected of causing cancer, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Toxic and Hazardous Materials Agency has pledged $500,000 to begin investigating soil and ground water contamination on and around Detrick's Area B, said an Army spokesman. The commitment last month to pay for the investigation resulted from the recent discovery of trichloroethylene (TCE) contaminating ground water off the Army base, said Norman Covert, the fort's spokesman.

The 400-acre Area B was used to dispose of biological, chemical and radioactive waste until the post discontinued studies of germ warfare in 1971, according to a 1977 Army report.

TCE, a once-common degreasing agent, and other toxic chemicals have been appearing in test wells at Area B for at least 18 months.

A household well just southeast of Fort Detrick's Area B has 4.9 parts per billion of TCE, said Michael Sullivan, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. The maximum safe level in drinking water is five parts per billion.

Unsafe levels of TCE were found in earlier tests in three wells and a spring southeast of Area B. Traces of TCE and other toxic chemicals were found in six other homeowners' wells.

In the latest testing done two weeks ago, traces were detected in three wells southeast of Area B, but the amounts were far below the federal limits for safe drinking water, Mr. Sullivan said.

The fort has been supplying bottled water to 10 neighboring households since well contamination was first discovered five weeks ago. But Mr. Covert said the Army intended to continue supplying water to only one home from now on, because two of three homes with unsafe levels of TCE in their wells have obtained municipal water.

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