APG environment chief reassigned amid U.S. probe

February 17, 1993|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Staff Writer

The head of Aberdeen Proving Ground's environmental protection office has been temporarily relieved of his duties and reassigned to another office, an Army official said yesterday.

Michael F. Flannery Jr., who had headed the proving ground's Directorate of Safety, Health and Environment since April 1991, was notified of the move Friday, Gary Holloway, a proving ground spokesman, said yesterday.

The office oversees compliance with environmental laws, disposal of hazardous waste and dozens of waste-cleanup projects.

The action comes amid three separate probes by the Army and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of alleged environmental violations. Months ago, Mr. Holloway said, Mr. Flannery was told of "some areas his supervisor felt needed to be strengthened."

Meanwhile, the EPA confirmed yesterday that it is looking into allegations that the proving ground stored PCBs and other hazardous chemicals in violation of federal law. Ruth Podems, a spokeswoman for the agency's regional office in Philadelphia, said EPA investigators from Denver had been alerted to the alleged violations by a state inspection conducted last March.

When chemicals are no longer of use and become waste, federal law states that the materials cannot be stored for more than 90 days at designated temporary storage sites before being shipped to other storage facilities or being shipped to a disposal site.

"Some of the drums had dates going as far back as a year," Ms. Podems said.

She said the waste included PCBs and acids.

The proving ground ships its hazardous waste to disposal sites in several states outside of Maryland.

The Sun reported in Sunday's editions that the Army and the EPA were conducting three separate investigations into alleged violations of state and federal rules governing toxic-waste cleanups and other environmental-protection efforts at the huge weapons-testing and research installation in Harford County.

In the article, which quoted official and unnamed sources, the newspaper also reported that the EPA and the Army are investigating alleged delays and deficiencies in the cleanup of leaking underground storage tanks holding petroleum products. In addition, the agencies also are investigating alleged delays in responding to leaking drains and underground pipes carrying industrial waste, and the alleged failure to remove underground tanks containing unknown chemical waste, the newspaper reported.

Proving ground officials have acknowledged four "administrative" violations of the 90-day hazardous waste storage rule in the past year, but they said the infractions were recognized quickly and corrected.

Delays in the removal of hazardous waste, among other issues, prompted a U.S. Justice Department investigation of the proving ground in the mid- to late-1980s. The investigation led to 1989 criminal convictions of three top civilian executives.

Proving ground officials also have insisted that more than a dozen EPA officials from Denver, who visited the installation for nearly two weeks ending early this month, were conducting a routine inspection.

But Ms. Podems, the EPA spokeswoman, said, "We knew that there were potential violations when we went in to inspect" the proving ground.

Proving ground sources say the EPA officials who visited the installation left with "copious" amounts of documents. The sources said the officials planned to return to obtain more documents.

Investigators from the Army and the EPA are questioning officials working in the proving ground's Directorate of Safety, Health and Environment, sources said.

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