Homebuyer's guide to APG

January 04, 1994

Despite a world of comprehensive warranties, creeping government regulation and compulsive litigation, caveat emptor should still be the watchword of the home buyer. Let the buyer beware, before settling on the new homestead.

Some Baltimore County residents living along the borders of Aberdeen Proving Ground are saying they were not told of the chemical and munitions testing by the Army over the decades in that area.

They are worried about the potential hidden toxic residue from testing next door, and about security around the former test grounds. They are particularly concerned about the open air testing of nerve agents, emetics and other battlefield chemicals through the 1960s.

Stimulated by a federally funded citizens coalition, new residents are raising a lot of questions about the safety of the air and water and soil around APG's Carroll Island and Graces Quarters.

Some homeowners question whether they should have been informed by the sellers or developers, or by the government, of the proving ground's mission and possible environmental contamination.

The Army began this year (1993) to remove unexploded ordnance and equipment and to clean up the chemical wastes left untouched for many years. APG plans to spend $60 million over the next 15 years to complete that task.

However, federal and state agencies have not documented public hazards in the area, while continuing to monitor the environment. Water quality monitoring wells are being installed in the affected areas. Some contamination of ground water from industrial solvents has been found, but none that so far affects residential drinking water.

So what would home sellers have told potential buyers? That they were buying property next to a well-known chemical warfare and munitions testing ground, something a reasonably prudent house hunter would presumably have known already? It's not as if a forgotten, covered over Love Canal was sitting under the housing development.

The Aberdeen Proving Ground Superfund Citizens Coalition may serve a useful purpose in alerting residents to possible problems of living next to an army testing base. Other civic groups are also working to determine if pollution problems exist. These are worthwhile endeavors. At the same time, they should not be raising unfounded alarms or preparing lawsuits on behalf of homeowners unhappy with resale offers on their properties.

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