EPA picks Fort Meade site for science center

January 31, 1993|By Peter Hermann and John A. Morris | Peter Hermann and John A. Morris,Staff Writers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to build a $40 million science center and laboratory at Fort Meade that would combine existing facilities in Annapolis and Beltsville.

The 160,000-square-foot facility would be built on 20 acres near routes 32 at 175, said Jim Newsom, deputy assistant regional administrator with the EPA's Region III office in Philadelphia.

If approved, the science center could be the first tenant of an office and research park planned at the military base in Odenton. Col. Kent D. Menser, the garrison commander, announced last month that a Defense Information School, under the auspices of the Department of Defense, would be the first tenant in an adjacent campus for higher education facilities.

The EPA "would fit right into our vision of making Fort Meade an office park for research and education," said base spokesman Don McClow.

County officials lauded the decision, which capitalizes on Fort Meade's post-Cold War transformation from a training base to an administrative and intelligence center.

"The real prize is Fort Meade itself," said Michael Lofton, Anne Arundel County director of economic development. "What it will say to the cost-strapped military is that you've got a great business park close to Washington and Baltimore. I would hope if the EPA goes there, it will be the first of many."

Mr. Newsom said Fort Meade was chosen over the David Taylor Naval Research Center in Lower Broadneck. But before the decision becomes final, state and federal agencies will have a chance to comment on the choice at a 3 p.m. meeting Feb. 9 in the Anne Arundel County Council chambers in Annapolis.

The science center's construction promises to be easier on Fort Meade's wide open spaces and flat terrain than at David Taylor, Mr. Newsom said. The fort also is more centrally located between the facilities that it would replace -- the EPA's 12-year-old regional laboratory on Bestgate Road, and its microbiology and chemistry facility at the U.S. Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville. That would cut down on the commute for employees already stationed at those plants, Mr. Newsom said.

The combined laboratory-science center will investigate potential hazardous waste sites throughout Maryland and surrounding states. It also will monitor the effectiveness of new pesticides, disinfectants and other chemical products.

Some U.S. officials -- including Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Maryland -- hope that the laboratory will begin direct testing of those products. An aide to Mr. Sarbanes, who helped push the new laboratory through Congress last year, said the EPA now relies on manufacturers' test results.

The new facility will ease overcrowding at the Annapolis office.

Mr. Newsom said the new science center will be able to accommodate 220 employees, although he expects only 120 to work there initially.

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