Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said yesterday that she will push for the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to clean up past environmental sins at Aberdeen Proving Ground and to keep the installation in compliance with state and federal anti-pollution laws.
After a morning tour of the Army post, Ms. Mikulski said she was satisfied that the proving ground's leadership is committed to good environmental stewardship and to getting a handle on violations of environmental laws that have dogged it for most of this year.
'Serious' problems cited
In a recent letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Les Aspin, Ms. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat and member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, cited "serious environmental problems" at the 72,000-acre facility in Harford County.
Her letter to Mr. Aspin came 10 days after The Sun reported on an Army investigation that found the proving ground's environmental office to be seriously understaffed and bogged down by poor management.
Ms. Mikulski's letter also cited the need for a more comprehensive plan for cleaning chemical contamination and managing waste at the weapons-testing and research installation. Using the proving ground's massive "Superpond" test facility as a backdrop, Ms. Mikulski said, "I was concerned that they were responding to a crisis at a time."
Superpond, a $22 million, 150-foot-deep man-made pond for testing the effects of underwater explosions on Navy vessels, has been subjected to intense scrutiny from state environmental regulators.
The proving ground has been cited repeatedly this year for inadequate efforts to control sediment and erosion during the construction of Superpond, which is set for completion early next year.
After briefings yesterday from Maj. Gen. Richard W. Tragemann, the proving ground commander, and other Army officials, Ms. Mikulski acknowledged that the proving ground already has an environmental plan that calls for $800 million to be spent by 2005.
'Important first step'
"I believe it's an important first step," she said of the current plan.
In her letter to Mr. Aspin and again yesterday, Ms. Mikulski said she wanted the proving ground to become a "national demonstration site" for innovative environmental cleanup methods.
Ms. Mikulski said the proving ground was fortunate not to be on a "hit list" for reductions or closure, as are many installations around the country.
She said that focusing on innovative environmental cleanup methods would help the proving ground remain viable in the face of the shrinking national defense budget.