Pa. firm hired to assess Fort Detrick pollution

August 20, 1994|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

FREDERICK -- The Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a $3.3 million contract to a Pennsylvania firm to further investigate chemical contamination at Fort Detrick and to find the best way to clean it up.

The yearlong project by E.R.M., an Exeter, Pa., environmental consulting firm, will include installation of monitoring wells at varying depths to determine water quality, said Norm Covert, a base spokesman.

In addition, the firm will obtain soil samples at varying depths for analysis. Testing will be conducted at sites on the 800-acre Area A, which houses the main post, and Area B, a 400-acre tract off Shookstown Road, and on residential wells outside the facility.

Army officials have been working to determine the extent of contamination at the 1,200-acre facility since traces of trichloroethylene, or TCE, were found in the well water of homes adjacent to the post nearly two years ago.

Affected residents have since connected to city water or are using bottled water, Army officials said.

Mr. Covert said Army officials have spent nearly $1 million in an attempt to identify contaminated sites and the source of the contamination. He said studies have confirmed the presence of TCE, a chemical widely used as a degreasing agent and known to cause cancer in humans, in ground water and other solvents in soil.

But officials have not yet determined the source of contamination or the flow of the contaminants. Initially, a pit known as Trench 11, where acids, solvents and chemicals were likely buried decades ago, was thought to the source of the contaminants.

"So far, tests have been inconclusive," Mr. Covert said.

The Defense Environmental Restoration Program -- the Defense Department's Superfund, is providing money for the work, Army officials said.

Actual cleanup of the contaminated sites at Fort Detrick is more than a year or two away, Mr. Covert said.

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