APG Fighting Old Demons

May 20, 1993

The shoes keep dropping at Aberdeen Proving Ground, wit new charges of mismanagement of environmental programs and cleanup of old pollution dump sites.

A three-month internal investigation this year at the Army weapons testing facility confirmed repeated violations of erosion and sediment control violations, unsafe storage of lawn chemicals at the golf course and leaking underground petroleum storage tanks.

The thrust of this report, ordered by Maj. Gen. Richard W. Tragemann, is that his command needs (surprise!) more money and more employees to avoid further "serious environmental violations." The Harford County base is asking for 13 additional positions and $50 million more this coming fiscal year to bolster its environmental cleanup and compliance efforts.

Importantly, the conclusion of the report by Col. Nicholas Barron is that the environmental management program overall is "fundamentally sound."

There is no finding of a Pandora's box of hidden lethal chemical weapons that could be unleashed on an unsuspecting public, a fear harbored by at least a few critics of APG. No new caches of buried chemical warfare ordnance were found.

Rather, the problems are those that could be expected of a 72,000-acre active military research installation, especially one that long ignored the impact of its chemicals on the environment and often chose simply to bury its toxic wastes or pour them down the drain.

Recent investigations of APG environmental operations have also been conducted by the Pentagon, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Attorney's office. Their conclusions are not yet public. The point is, the in-house study will not be the end of it -- nor should it be. Serious problems will likely not be overlooked by outside agencies, or tied to additional budget requests by the post.

Ongoing problems with sediment runoff, wetlands despoliation and fisheries destruction in building an underwater explosion test pond on the Bush River are a source of continuing citations from the Maryland Department of Environment. It is imperative that the post commander take direct action to correct these obvious violations, and not just write another memo.

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