Health studies, tests approved for proving ground

August 20, 1994|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Sun Staff Writer

The Army and environmental regulators have agreed to several actions that a Joppa-based citizens' group says will begin to address public health concerns in communities around Aberdeen Proving Ground.

"I think we made major inroads," Helen Richick, executive director of the Aberdeen Proving Ground Superfund Citizens' Coalition, said yesterday, after meeting with officials from the Army and several state and federal agencies monitoring a billion-dollar cleanup at the installation.

The group, with support from attorneys and University of Maryland toxicologists, has pushed for more extensive health studies in response to widespread contamination on the proving ground.

Three studies are planned for this fall:

* State health officials, along with Army and federal health experts, will discuss ways of examining existing databases on cancer, birth defects and other illnesses to determine whether more extensive health studies are warranted.

* The Army will sample an undetermined number of private wells along the populated western border of the 72,000-acre installation for common contaminants, as well as "military-specific" poisons such as those formed in the degradation of chemical warfare agents.

* Army environmental officials will meet with sport and commercial fisherman who use the waters around the base and have reported lesions and other possible abnormalities in some fish. The Army will try to determine how many fish and crabs are consumed from those waters.

Yesterday's meeting was organized by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland, to break a stalemate over a comprehensive health survey demanded by the citizens. The Army says it has not yet found pollutants moving beyond the installation's borders and threatening public health. The citizens say no one has taken a sufficient look.

"We found some common ground in which to continue discussions," said Gary Holloway, a proving ground spokesman. The answer may still be, after looking at all this, that nothing else is warranted."

Regulators have argued that the federal toxic waste cleanup law requires them to find specific "pathways" of public exposure to pollutants before conducting more extensive health studies.

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